• Mark Fraser

Splendour in the Grass...2008’s Splendid Weekend

Splendour in the Grass...2008’s Splendid Weekend

Written by Rachael Spink

I could write this whole review just on Sigur Ros alone but then again I contradict myself by saying no words can describe their amazing performance.

So, let’s go back to the beginning of day one while I summon the words worthy enough...

Saturday morning the sun was out and therefore a lack of gumboots this year which I’m sure was much to the disappointment of retailers in town who had stocked their windows full of trendy designs.

As we walked the dirt road from town I was dredding the usual 100m long pile up of eager bodies at the gate but lucky for us or thanks to better organisation it was straight in and straight to the Supertop to catch much-enthused Tokyo Police Club.

The Canadian foursome have been receiving a lot of attention in the indie-rock scene here for the last year or so and for a band who on album, all their songs average time is two minutes I was interested to see how they played live.

They definitely know how to put on a fun show for a 1:50pm timeslot and I was overall impressed. The audience cheered the lyrics “tokyooo police club” to Cheer It On and singer / bassist Dave Monks seemed at home on stage.

With a bit of time between must-see bands we wondered the fields acknowledging improvements made to this year’s layout. A boardwalk had been laid out alongside the Supertop which was genius had it been raining like previous years as this was the infamous ‘bog-spot’.

More restaurants had been set up near Slate Bar and the thruway between main stages widened. Generally the place seemed… bigger!

Anyway back to the music, literally, as next up was The Music. For a band that I don’t know much about they pretty much blew me away.

With every track a danceable one and their hit Strength In Numbers a huge crowd pleaser I made a mental note to buy their album when I got back home.

The most original, inspiring moment of the performance was the drum solo near the end where all four members played on separate drum sets. At the end I was thanking my friends for leading me to their show and asking when they’ll play again.

After catching Cold War Kids astounding performance at The Forum in 2007 I was pretty hyped to see them again. What started pretty average and with the tempo somewhat slower and/or out of beat thankfully all came together with favourites like Hang Me Out To Dry and Red Wine, Success! and a few songs from a mentioned fourth coming album, which were all received well.

They made a grand finish with Hospital Beds as members from Delta Spirit joined them on stage playing various percussion instruments.

Arriving late to Band Of Horses, I was welcomed by a band of voices at the GW McLennan stage as the whole crowd sang along. As lead singer Ben Bridwell held the mic down to the audience there was a feeling of unity that swept through the tent.

Every element of the performance, from their guitar-heavy swell to Bridwell’s emotion drenched voice was executed with perfection and I left wishing I was going to make it back to Sydney to catch their side show.

Now it was really starting to get cold and everyone was hanging out to see headliners Devo. To fuel our excitement giant letters spelling Devo appeared on stage. The crowd roared as they entered the stage but unfortunately as they got into their set the generation gap was obvious with no one really knowing much of their stuff other than Whip It which they played about half way through and at which point the crowd slowly dispersed afterwards.

It was now the end of day one and time to head back to town and although I’d thoroughly enjoyed the day I couldn’t help but think the best was yet to come.

Everyone always looks a little worse for wear the second day of Splendour but with a back-to-back stellar line up like Saturday's, there was no time for snoozing.

Vampire Weekend was first on the agenda and the New York based, African-pop influenced band were awesome to say the least! They sounded just like they do on their album and they managed to get the whole crowd jumping to their booming vocals, spidery guitar lines and simple drum beats. Lead singer Ezra Koenig cleared up the confusion for all with the lyrics to One and had us all singing along “Blake’s got a new face”.

The smartest move I probably made that day was to stay put in the Supertop and await Liverpool outfit The Wombats. I knew I’d be in for a good show after seeing them at Playground Weekender Festival earlier in the year but had no idea just how popular these lads had become. Winning one of the biggest crowds for the day they opened with Kill The Director and the screams of fans became deafening.

As the band members got sweatier and the banter between songs became more ridiculous the tent packed out beyond capacity but we couldn’t be more happy as they sang Let’s Dance To Joy Division and we all celebrated the irony.

A refreshed Vines took us into the night and I was happy they played a lot of old stuff like Ride, Outtatheway and Get Free. Front man Craig Nicolls unpredictability is usually a main attraction anyway but the tent was obviously full of dedicated fans, old and new and even though I don’t know a lot of their new stuff I happily joined in and rocked out to He’s A Rocker.

Now have I found the words to describe Sigur Ros you ask? Words that come to mind are compelling, hypnotic, mesmerising, phenomenal and breathtaking to name a few.

Honestly this was the BEST live performance I have ever seen at a festival (and I’ve seen a lot). Each song became strategically more intense as I entered what seemed an outer body experience and floated through the ethereal ambience.

Lead singer Jonsi Birgisson’s voice was exquisite and pure and almost unhuman. They lead the audience into a clap-along as confetti exploded off stage and ended playing the crowds heartstrings as loudly as possible. A roar of thanks filled the tent as they took bowel at the end.

Left dazed by their performance we tried to make our way over to The Presets but found everyone shared the same idea as us. Not fussed, as I’ve seen them more times than I can count, we thought it’d be fun to check out the rave at the Doof Mamas stage near the Tipi Forest.

It was like a completely different festival over there, complete with furry raver bell-bottom pants and lollipops. Fun for about five minutes but any longer and I was sure to get a headache.

Rumoured to be their last gig I had to see Wolfmother. I hadn’t seen them perform since 2006’s Splendour, which blew me away and I couldn’t help but wonder what had changed? Their show seemed a little self-indulgent as they wandered off into long jams that left the crowd questioning what was happening.

The guys didn’t really seem ecstatic to be there but still managed to show enough energy to please the crowd with favourites such as Dimensions and Joker And The Thief.

One thing that’s not a rumour is that this was the last year Belongil Fields will be home to Splendour In The Grass as next year it moves to Yelgun about 15 minutes north of Byron.

It was the end of an era, the end of an amazing weekend and the end of a long day packed with incredible music and loads of fun.

Rachel Spink - redbackrock.com

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