Splendour Diary: Day 2 – Saturday 31 July
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JUICE wakes up to a dull repetitive thudding. It isn’t a hangover. Due to Queensland’s liquor licensing laws, no full strength booze can be sold publicly so the drinks here are good natured and I have been swimming in them like a fish to no consequence. Instead a Red Bull truck has pulled up outside the entrance to Tent City and has thrown open its rear end to reveal a mobile party machine. As I join the masses for the communal showers (first hot one since I got here), a crowd gathers and start to throw shapes….
Today looks to be a day of two halves: first half in the Mix Up dancing it up with Two Door Cinema Cub and Delphic; the second spent in the Amphitheatre with Florence And The Machine and The Strokes. I repeat, The Strokes. I have to grab a fish taco just to stop me from hyperventilating. At the Mix Up, people are already spilling out the sides as Two Door Cinema Club is threatening to rip open the seams of the tent. Some smartie has even brought a periscope to gain a better view. It is 2 in the afternoon. Impressive stuff for an Irish band who released their album a mere 4 months earlier.Â
I miss out on The Drums at the Amphitheatre. The NYC band is this year’s most talked up, even topping JUICE’s own Bands To Watch Out For list, but their surfy Smiths-Joy Division beach romp doesn’t float my boat as much as it does everyone else’s. Besides I’m off to meet Matt from Delphic for a spot of hero worship. Yay! As it turns out Matt is a super nice guy who grew up on angst and dance/Radiohead and Prodigy and digs Everything Everything. I feel a musical connection.
The next time I see him he’s on stage with the band launching a full scale attack on their debut album Acolyte. Powering through track after track, ‘Clarion Call’, ‘Doubt’, ‘Red Lights’, it’s when ‘This Momentary’ rings out and lead singer James Cook calls on the blissed out mass: “let’s do something real”, I’m think ‘nothing is as real as this’. And then I’m off, leaving the jangly guitars and euphoria behind as I leg it to interview Two Door’s Sam Halliday. The sea of bodies that assail me on the way out after our chat confirms I’ve missed the end of Delphic’s set – gah! It’s a straight flush of raging Aussie bands – Operator Please, Tame Impala, Wolfmother – at the Amphitheatre so I head there instead.
Ever since the rapid fire pop sparkle of ‘Just A Song About Ping Pong’, Gold Coast band Operator Please has been immortalized in my consciousness as a bunch of amazingly talented boys and girls with a genius knack for a hook. So it’s amazing seeing them commandeering the mainstage, and despite their apparent fearlessness, I even feel a little protective over them.
Trotting out fresh material from second album Gloves, including ‘Back And Forth’ and 80s tribute ‘Logic’, its evident that their musicianship is tighter than ever. Sassy lead singer Amanadah Wilkinson comes across as an Antipodean Beth Ditto, with the charisma and vocal chops to boot. Bassist Ashley McConnell with hisÂ petulant strutting puts him in at a close second. Despite a rousing Destiny’s Child v No Doubt mash up, it’s too bad the home crowd is non-plussed; Operator Please is the warm up for acts to come.
Given the preciseness with which the bands start and end their performance – like clockwork – I make a break for the The McKellan tent. I have an hour to kill and meet DJ Ribut backstage for the Magic Numbers; he’s convinced they’ve lost weight and the certainly don’t have to throw rockstar poses to impress as they run through a back catalogue of greatest hits and numbers from their fresh off the presses album, The Runaways.
Back at the big stage Perth’s finest, Tame Impala is just getting comfortable; the shoe are off, the shadows grow steadily longer and the band’s laconic psychedelic groovery is providing the perfect sundowner soundtrack. Rain had threatened all weekend and for brief moment there was a smattering of precipitation, but even the weather refused to rain on this parade.
Wolfmother is next but I need to go in search of sustenance and a little respite. The last two days have been pretty full on. I’m tempted to luxuriate in the folk musings of Laura Marling and later Band of Horses at the McKellan stage, but rumours are rife of a possible lockdown so I choose to hover nearby with Ribut. We grab an Indian vegetarian dinner, take in some of the sideshows, snap some pix of people in silly outfits and hats and peruse the stalls of vintage clothing and crafts at the Really Small Mall before nipping back up. It’s a wise decision.
Having done the Aussie circuit, fest goers know what to expect of Florence And The Machine and they obviously can’t get enough because even the ample proportions of the Amphitheatre can’t contain us all. Fearing over-crowding and injury guards sealed off the entrances – the Amphitheatre slope is quite steep and it only takes a wrong step by some over exhuberent or inebriated punter to start an avalanche of bodies downwards (We Are Scientists would joke about watching fans roll down hill only to be impaled on the fence at the bottom the next day). It’s only temporarily, but it was the closest Splendour came to hostilities as the melee threatened to break down the barricades. By the time the gates are thrown open once more, I had slipped through the restricted area and entered side-of-stage, an area reserved for artists, roadies, crew, media and vips.
Florence is obviously born for the great outdoors. Her set list is almost identical to that of her February Esplanade Singapore performance, the exception being the inclusion of a new track from her upcoming album, but here in front of a sea of 20,000 upturned smiling faces, Florence is set free. The space augurs well for her sonic histrionics, the flutter of her hands, her flowing white lace dress and cape flutters dramatically in the breeze…. The galactic sparkle of ‘Cosmic Love’ and theatric thud of ‘Drumming Song’ are made for nights like these, and when she exits the stage with the words “This Is A Gift” from ‘Rabbit Heart’ hanging mid-air, you can’t but agree. Florence is a pagan princess, a temptress and we are her minions – awestruck.
It’s a tough sell, even for The Strokes. Absent for the last half decade, dispersed to pursue solo projects, from the capacity crowd, its evident their return is eagerly anticipated; even side-of-stage is standing room only. But I’m not sure the garage rock poster boys feel the same. Sauntering onto the stage, they dive straight into it, kicking out track after track off their last 3 albums. It’s mind boggling how many moment-defining indie club nights were lived out to the insistent strum and howl of ‘Last Night’, ‘What Ever Happened?’ ‘Someday’, ’12: 51’… and now I’m no more than 10 metres away from Nick Valensi! Pant-wetting moment.
Between songs Julian Casablancas, wearing his trademark studded-leather jacket chugs down mineral water and teases the crowd. “FloMo, oh my lord! What a voice!” he exclaims referring to Florence. “No presh.” His nervousness is endearing, the deep laconic drawl a contradiction. Even collectively The Strokes excude cool. Their set is so tight, it damn near looks effortless. Closing with an encore of ‘Juicebox’ and ‘Take It or Leave it’ against a Pacman and Space Invaders backdrop, the words “Game Over” flash repeatedly then fade into black. Sigh. I want to bottle this up, take it home with me and spoon with it.
Splendour In the Grass and lot more bands and festivals are within reach. Just fly over to www.airasia.com and find out where you wanna for your music fix.