We may as well get the obligatory mud mention out of the road first: wading through mire at the new Splendour site was unavoidable this year, but, as usual it was nothing even a standard pair of gumboots couldn't combat.
Day one saw Dune Rats urging all in attendance to scream 'fuck' as loud as possible, because “we're on the radio... Hey mum!” The ecstatic, beach-ball bouncing Super Top crowd were stoked on the mid-afternoon surf as Wavves took to ‘King Of The Beach’. The dude riding in the shaky, crowd supported blow-up boat was literally flying high – until the vessel capsized.
The highlight was Unknown Mortal Orchestra, whose lengthy, 'verb-laden, psych freak-outs captivated the GW McLennan tent. This was by no means a jam band; the group's dynamics were awe-inspiring; and stage manner, endearingly unassuming — even when the crowd decided to sing a chorus or two.
Day two started with Mansfield's Violent Soho sharing a few songs from their forthcoming album, new single ‘In The Aisle’ already proving a hit. Cloud Control, too, had new material to share and singer Alister Wright looked comfortably laid back, despite his guitar refusing to stay in tune.
Unsurprisingly, Empire of the Sun was a trip: choreographed dancers, outlandish outfits, neon, bass, strobe, and capped by Luke Steele dropping his guitar while walking off stage. Nobody expected less.
By day three, the sky had grown overcast and the crowd had grown haggard. A quick walk through the site revealed a man bleeding from the head, a girl crying and two crazed punters wrestling in a mud-pit. These were perfect conditions for FIDLAR. The Californian four-piece opened with ‘Cheap Beer’, which was inappropriate considering the location – a song called ‘Free Beer For Media From 4pm-5pm’ would have been far more suitable.
Everyone had heard about Frank Ocean pulling out, and although some were disappointed, a lot would relish the opportunity to head off early and catch up on that sleep they'd been deprived of for the past three glorious days.
2013 put on an absolute cracker of a Splendour. The sun beat down, the smell of camping was in the air and peeps were ready to get 'brill'. Highlights? Too many. The Presets made you glad to be dancing in the mud. Fat Freddy’s made you feel soulful. Birds Of Tokyo disrobed their commercial rock sound, in favour of a meaty, more festival ready sound that was perfect for smoking a fat one. Then it rained and everyone danced more. Quite simple, really.|
Only 24 hours had elapsed since the pearly Splendour gates swung closed and disgruntled punters had already begun berating the SITG Facebook page. "Why was there so much mud?" says one. "I can't believe we had to queue to get in!" says another. Such complaints hardly seem legitimate; this is a festival renowned both for its ludicrous numbers and its ability to cover everyone (and everything) in a thin layer of gritty sediment. Most festival-goers are prepared to take such hardships in their stride — for the rest, there's always Youtube.
Friday begins badly. Only a few hours into the first day and I've already missed Brisbane stoner-kings Dune Rats' set, due mostly to my own lack of self-discipline and their horrifically-early timeslot. A silent tear for BC Michaels running down my cheek, I headed to the Mix Up tent. This would be my first encounter with Clairy Browne & The Bangin' Rackettes; the elephantine size of the group and elaborate synchronicity of their performance appearing out of place before the modest crowd assembled below. Watching Clairy take hold of the mic stand I decided not to match her swaying moves; with angles like those, my pelvis would surely break.
Eventually I'm dragged to see the Matt Corby Experience, complete with thousands upon thousands of teenage girls in feather headdresses. "You have to write about him!" my friends say. "He's so amazing! He will change your life!" To be perfectly honest, I can't see that happening unless I'm in desperate need of one of his kidneys. As long-haired guitar players go, he is one. As for the performance, the feathered girls were perhaps more interesting.
Polyphonic Spree were on relatively few people's pre-festival radars, but the Rocky Horror rendition delivered by this As-Seen-On-Scrubs outfit drew a crowd rivalling the size of the actual band itself. Yet the chanting of "Damn it, Janet" could not have contrasted more aggressively with the grit-laden, sweat-sodden set with which Flume closed out Saturday night's proceedings.
No one is quite sure how this guy has shot to such a high echelon of prominence, but the widespread acceptance that Flume's debut LP enjoys was on fierce display to those present between the mud-laden folds of the Mix Up tent. Before 'On Top' had even played no standing room remained beneath the tent, let alone in front of the stage itself.
If only James Blake had been as satisfying the following evening. After hearing Blake play the same note for twenty eternal minutes I decided I'd had enough. Clearly I'm not alternative enough to appreciate his craft. Then again, maybe his synth was just broken.