SYN Features: Splendour In The Grass 2018 – North Byron Parklands
Splendour In The Grass
North Byron Parklands, 20th of July to 22nd of July
Words by Ben Madden.
Passes provided by publicists.
Ben Madden headed to one of Australia’s most esteemed music festivals for SYN. Here are his personal highlights…
Ahh, Splendour. This was my first Splendour in the Grass, and I’m happy to get this out of the way – I’ll definitely be back. From the headliners, all the way to the opening bands of each day, the lineup was one of the strongest in recent memory, and oh boy did it deliver. Splendour 2018 will go down in history for many reasons, and not just Kendrick Lamar’s historic set.
Not too much happened on Day 0, aka the Thursday. For me, the obvious highlight was Baker Boy. He continues to craft his rise to stardom right before our very eyes, and despite playing an abbreviated set as part of the pre-Splendour Day 0, he enthralled a huge crowd from go-to woah! and left them feeling satisfied. Having dancers come out for Marryuna alone makes his show worth attending, let alone the intensity and ferocity at which he performs for the whole show.
Today belonged to Lorde, and she turned the Ampitheatre into her home, if not for a fleeting moment. It was a set that was anticipated ever since she replaced Frank Ocean at the last minute back in 2015, and she brought the full force of her discography. The crowd was incredibly appreciative, with more than a few members of the crowd reduced to tears throughout the career-spanning performance. It’s easy to forget how young Lorde is, but she’s already established a formidable reputation for herself as one of the world’s eminent pop stars.
However, quite a few first-timers threatened to steal the day away from her. All the way from Nashville, Bully unleashed with a set that made more than a few fans out of first-time listeners (me included). Whilst there wasn’t a huge amount of crowd interaction, there didn’t need to be, with the packed GW McLennan Tent soaking up every moment.
Stella Donnelly is one of the most important musicians in Australia, and has the voice to match it. Hearing Boys Will Be Boys played to a packed audience that was completely silent was an unforgettable moment, and something that will remain with people forever. Make sure you catch her next time she’s playing.
The Presets are back! [You can read SYN’s review of their recent Melbourne sideshow here] Whatever you think of their latest album, Hi-Viz, it was meant to be played at a festival, and it went off. It sounds like they never went away, and the songs from the new album meshed seamlessly with hits like ‘My People’, which was one of my peaks of the entire festival.
DMA’s continue to press their claim to be the best band in Australia. Enough said.
It’s never an easy task opening Day 2. However, Haiku Hands managed to play a set so gob-smacking that people walked away feeling like they’d seen something cosmic. With the polish of a headline set, but the genuine joy of a band who knew they’d just written their ticket to much bigger things, Haiku Hands were the second best act of the festival, for me anyway.
Who beat them, you ask? Vampire Weekend. It’s been a while since we heard from Ezra Koening and the gang, with five years passing since Modern Vampires of the City. However, there’s been an update to the band, with them now performing as a 7-piece. It made for a performance that may just have been the band’s best, and they knew it. Finishing with their traditional closing song, Walcott, people were in raptures. I can’t wait till they fulfil their promise of returning to Australia ‘with a new album.’ Welcome to the new era of Vampire Weekend.
Alex the Astronaut played a mid-afternoon set that might have been the most genuine performance of the entire festival, complete with Powderfinger legend Bernard Fanning (sans beard) coming out to perform. With Ball Park Music’s Jen Boyce on bass, and The Go-Betweens’ Lindy Morrison on drums, AtA’s stocks only continue to rise.
Lil Xan spent 20 minutes trying to find out what a shoey was, which was probably the most entertaining part of his set. One of the few real missteps of the festival. Sometimes, Soundcloud rappers need to be confined to SoundCloud.
Amyl and the Sniffers looked and sounded like they’d been partying all weekend, as had the crowd. Nevertheless, they managed to open up the final day with a powerful set that woke people up, even if they needed a ‘drinks break’ in the middle of it.
Angie McMahon is a star. Her voice filled the G W McLennan Tent to the brim, and there was barely a dry eye in the crowd. Please go see her.
By this stage of the festival, the anticipation for Kendrick was getting intense. I spent the last evening in the Ampitheatre, watching the triple header of MGMT, The Wombats and Kendrick Lamar.
You know the saying 2/3 aint bad? In this case, the 1/3rd was MGMT. You’d struggle to find a band with as extensive a catalogue of hits as they do, and yet they delivered a show that felt much like how the crowd did at the beginning of each day – sapped of energy.
Luckily, The Wombats were next, and they know how to save a festival. In many ways, they felt like the proper closers – complete with confetti, balloons and all. Bringing material from all 4 albums, there’s a reason they’re in Australia so much – they’re a fun time.
Seeing Kendrick Lamar is like staring into the sun. It’s indescribable. We’re watching someone cement themselves as the greatest of all time, one performance at a time. The crowd was at its biggest for the start of Kung Fu Kenny, and he didn’t hold back. Leaving the stage with a ‘I will be back’, it was like a hurricane had swept through the crowd – people didn’t quite know how to react to a post-Kendrick performance world.
Just like that, the festival was over, and we look towards the next one. Thanks for having me, Splendour in the Grass. It’s been real.