Splendour In The Grass Day Two Review

Day One | Day Two | Day Three

While Day One of Splendour In The Grass had been full to the brim with amazing music, timetable clashes, and rushing between stages with very little down time, Day Two for me was much more relaxed. I do think there were perhaps a few timetabling issues that could have been handled better, but ultimately this was just a personal preference thing: there wasn’t a whole heap of music I wanted to see during Day Two. It certainly wasn’t a bad thing, as it allowed for time to fully explore the festival grounds and really take in the atmosphere.

So my review will reflect this: I’ll talk about the bands I saw first, then speak briefly of the festival more broadly. Strangely, despite the fact that I saw the least amount of music of all three festivals days, Day Two was probably my favourite day of Splendour, given how much fun it was to just chill out at Woodfordia and also the sheer quality of the bands that I did opt to see.

I knew very little about Sydney band Ghoul going into their first-act-of-the-day set at the Mix Up stage, a behemoth of a tent that generally played host to the more dancey dancey acts of Splendour In The Grass. I went along to their set partly because I’d heard good things about them and partly because they did a co-headline tour with the amazing Collarbones, and it turns out that quite a few people had risen (relatively) early to see them play as well.

And they were very impressive. Ghoul’s live show is one that entertains your mind more than anything else, getting you thinking with some really unconventional techniques and melodies but yet still not losing a sense of accessibility and rhythm. Befitting of the stage they were playing at, they even got some people in the crowd dancing.

While I won’t pretend to be able to name even a single Ghoul song that was played, I certainly intend to start listening to them after witnessing their Splendour set, and they were the perfect way to kick of the second day of the festival.

Following the conclusion of Ghoul’s set we made our way over the the G.W. McLennan tent stage, which as you can probably tell by now is where I spent most of my Splendour In The Grass, to catch the start of fellow Sydney band Guinefowl. I had seen them live for the first time a few days previously, opening for Foster The People, and while they had been cool I wasn’t expecting anything too amazing from their Splendour set.

How wrong I was. As it turns out, not only were Guineafowl my unquestioned highlight of Day Two, but they were also one of my favourite acts of the whole festival, either local or international. They were nothing short of extraordinary, playing a festival-stealing set that I will remember fondly for a long time to come.

Their set was both full of energy and full of amazing songs, which saw the tent fill gradually with intrigued punters to the point where quite a sizable crowd had assembled, which of course only added to the energy and spurred the band on. Lead singer Sam Yeldham (aka Guineafowl himself… I think) was as charismatic as you could possibly want from a frontman, and it seemed that the band as a whole really appreciated the very warm response that their set received.

It’s little wonder that the crowd’s response was so strong when the band played so flawlessly. Well known tracks such as Little Fingers received a huge response, and Botanist saw the entire crowd clapping in rhythm for pretty much the whole song, which I thought was a great effort. In Our Circles was particularly fantastic, as the crowd illustrated perfectly that it’s not only kids who can dance dance dance.

But really it was a set without highlights, because every single track was so damn enjoyable. There was absolutely nothing not to like about this set, and believe me it takes a very impressive performance to get me raving about a local band at a festival with so many huge international bands as Splendour In The Grass. Comparisons with Jinja Safari’s show-stealing (and pretty much career-defining) set of last year’s Splendour are very apt- of all the acts at the festival, I think Guineafowl are the one that won over the most new fans, and their performance deserved nothing less.

In what was a very naive act, I figured that we would have a bit of a campsite chill before heading back to the G.W. McLennan tent about fifteen minutes before The Jezabels and stroll into a mid-tent viewing position. In all fairness I’ve seen The Jezabels six or seven times before, at venues as small as The Toff, and even at festivals I’ve been to they had only ever attracted big crowds, not massive ones. Clearly I underestimated the popularity of the Sydney band.

To say that their stage was busy would be a gross understatement. It was the most packed I have ever seen the G.W. McLennan stage, as a traffic jam formed in all pathways heading towards the stage and the audience seemed determined to set a world record of how many people you could fit under a tent. It was simply mental, and it seems obvious now that the band should have been playing at the Amphitheater and at a later time slot, or at least clashing with some big international acts so as to disperse the crowd.

But hindsight is a wonderful thing, and as it was we were stuck with an absurdly large crowd that I couldn’t really be bothered being a part of given the number of times I had seen The Jezabels live beforehand. We watched a bit of the set from a distance, including the always wonderful Hurt Me and Disco Biscuit Love, but while it seemed that the band were playing flawlessly like they always do, hanging around for their set when we couldn’t actually see the band seemed pretty redundant, so we exited pretty early into the set.

It was a bit of a waste of my ‘I’m So Hard’ shirt though, and I’m not sure everyone quite appreciated the context.

At least leaving The Jezabels early allowed us to secure a pretty decent spot for one of the hottest new bands in the world right now, Foster The People. Despite arriving at least half an hour before their set the tent was already predictably packed, and it would grow into a truly enormous crowd at the conclusion of The Jezabels as everyone made the trek over to the Mix Up tent.

While the wait was far from comfortable, as the crowd steadily become more and more dense and personal space became a forgotten luxury, the moment the band walked on stage all was forgotten. It felt like all of Woodfordia exploded with sheer excitement. It was easily the most intense crowd that I had been a part of so far at the festival, and it was so nice knowing that everyone under the tent was there for one reason and one reason only: to watch Foster The People and to have as much fun as humanly possible.

The band played a set pretty much identical to at their sideshows, but that’s just fine of course, because it would take one crazy fan to go to both a sideshow and their Splendour set. The opening double-hit of Warrant and Miss You was as electrifying as ever, with the latter seeing everyone in the crowd perform our own particular brand of mosh dancing, completely oblivious to everything except Foster The People.

Having seen the band a few days earlier I definitely noticed some patterns in Mark Foster’s banter, but he still seemed as genuine as ever, and the band had to be thrilled at the huge crowd that had assembled. It would have easily been their biggest ever set in Australia. Houdini and Waste were highlights, but really every single song off ‘Torches’ received a huge response from the crowd.

It was the only song that the band played not off ‘Torhces’ that was my personal highlight of their set however. Broken Jaw is just a quintessential festival song, and even though not everyone in the crowd was familiar with it, those that were clearly loved every second. Pumped Up Kicks meanwhile predictably became one of the anthems of Splendour, as the band’s vocals were overshadowed by ten thousand punters for the duration of the song, ironically producing a sound much closer to the distorted verses of the studio song than the band’s live interpretation.

Helena Beat closed Foster The People’s set, and signaled the end of yet another stellar performance from a band who can do no wrong at the moment. I preferred the two times that I have seen the band at indoor headline shows, but that’s just personal preference and for a festival set of this nature Foster The People were just about as close to perfect as you can get.

I really don’t like Architecture In Helsinki, but to their credit they had the Mix Up tent absolutely packed and pretty much vibrating with excitement throughout their entire set, so for everything that I think of them I certainly must admit that they are crowd-pleasers.

I stayed for all of their set and while it wasn’t horrible it was nothing special in my opinion, which is probably just reflective of how I feel about their studio music. Escapee was fun though.

That was about it to be honest for me in terms of Day Two music. There wasn’t really a whole lot of other bands I wanted to see, and spending the night at the bar seemed a bit more of an enticing prospect. While we did make it back to the G.W. McLennan stage in an attempt to catch some of Regina Spektor, in one of the most predictable turn of events ever her stage was completely over-packed, and her gentle music was overrun by the DJs of the Mix Up tent.

It was really unfortunate, but to me Regina Spektor plays music to chill to, not music to wait for an hour in a packed crowd just to hear properly. So, as disappointing as it was, I didn’t see enough of Regina Spektor to warrant writing about it. The scheduling in this case was understandable- I don’t think she would have been very suited to the Amphitheater, but the noise leaking from the Mix Up stage was really disappointing and ruined her set for those watching from afar.

I did make a brief effort to see Rapskallion’s second set of the festival, playing at the Temple Stage, but really it was just more of the same and I retired halfway through their set when some dickheads decided it was worthwhile pushing through the previously relaxed, dancing, and dispersed crowd to get a front spot.

Now seems like a good time to speak more generally about Splendour In The Grass this year given that the review is not even at the 2,000 word mark yet. I haven’t been to any overseas music festivals, but I have been to a fair few Australian ones, and I can say with complete confidence that Splendour is both the biggest and the best music festival that I have ever been to. Biggest not just in terms of size (although for a camping festival it is pretty massive), but also in terms of the quality and quantity of international acts and the sense of grandeur and scope.

The festival grounds are perfect, and personally I’d prefer that Splendour stayed in Woodfordia, even though I know it’s not really an option. The layout is impeccable, with a very decent walk between the three main stages and plenty of interesting sights in between, from the UFO art installation to random pieces of folk art to hipster shopping malls. Equally the facilities were fantastic, with free drinking water available everywhere and plenty of toilets that actually didn’t get too disgusting as the festival wore on.

They may have copped a bit of flak for ticket prices, but really I don’t think there’s much that the organisers did wrong. They just aimed absurdly high- it would have cost a fortune to secure Kanye West and Coldplay for their only shows in Australia, and while there are certainly other acts that I would rather see the money spent on I think the rise in ticket price was pretty inevitable given the scale of the headliners. It will be interesting to see if the organisers take a bit of a different approach next year (ie. slightly smaller acts and cheaper tickets) or continue to shoot for the moon in terms of what an Australian music festival can achieve. What I can say is that even though the festival didn’t sell out, it can’t have been too far away, and all in all there can be no doubt whatsoever that it was a triumph.

The campsite was awe-inspiring, stretching as far as the eye could see in all directions. The inclusion of the Lockerbox service at the campsite was simply fantastic. For a grand total of $30 for the entire weekend you could secure a small locker to store valuables, as well as an outlet to charge your phone, complete with a charger that you could keep afterwards. That’s so cheap and so very very useful, and I really hope this service takes off at other camping festivals. My one top tip to people heading to Splendour next year is to get a Lockerbox, because having a charged phone throughout the festival made such a huge difference in so many ways, even if reception was a bit dodgy.

The atmosphere of Splendour In The Grass was exactly as I remember, and I can give no greater compliment than that. If you kept to yourself you could obviously have a great time with mates with no problems, but of more fun was just wandering the campsite chatting to random people, hearing cool stories, and sharing music tastes via the many iPod speakers scattered about (although a big fuck you to the people who played dubstep 24/7 right near our campsite). Sure there was, as always, a portion of the crowd not interested in the music at all, but it was comparatively tiny and the vast majority of people seemed to strike a great balance of having a good time and seeing some great music. The security, police, and venue staff were a constant presence and even though I’ve heard plenty of people complain about them they seemed just fine to me.

As for the stages, The Amphitheater is simply one of the most impressive venues for live music that I have ever seen, managing impossibly to seem arena-like and maintain a sense of intimacy, with plenty of space both for those feeling like a mosh and those wanting to relax a bit away from the action. The G.W. McLennan tent was also supremely cool, with a gentle hill that was the perfect place to eat meals as well as plenty of space under the tent with amazing acoustics. The sound leak from the Mix Up tent was really the only unfortunate part of the stages setup.

The food stalls were great, with plenty of familiar options such as Grill’d and a ton of much more festivalesque options for those feeling a bit more adventurous. Plus the Mango Hut is just awesome, although the lack of last year’s coconut stand was slightly disappointing. The shops clearly knew their target audience pretty well, and it took a lot of self-restraint to not constantly stop to purchase new things when heading to the stages. Oh and the weather was perfect for me, considering that I’ve never been good at coping with heat at festivals and somehow still managed to get sunburned despite the mild temperatures.

Splendour was, in short, everything that you could possibly want from a music festival.

Despite having only seen a handful of bands on Day Two, I had a fantastic time, which is a testament of the amount of extra-curricular activities available to punters at Splendour In The Grass. This being said, the highlight of my day was most definitely Guineafowl, who blew me away with what was a flawless set. Foster The People had of course been fantastic, and Ghoul won over plenty of punters with their arty and intelligent music. The traffic jams that occurred at The Jezabels and Regina Spektor were avoidable and unfortunate, but far from festival-ruining, and I’m sure that those who went to the effort of securing decent spots had a great time anyway.

It had been one hell of a day, but ahead of us all lay probably the most intense festival day of music featuring some of the biggest bands in the world. It was a feeling of complete contentment that I felt as I drifted off to sleep, thinking both of what we had already witnessed and what was yet to come.

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