Splendour In The Grass 2018: all the rumours are true – Splendour is a magical, joyous escape

If you’ve never been to Splendour In The Grass before, just know that all the rumours are true. 

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Splendour Photo Team

Stepping into the site is like stepping into another world. For the last 17 years, Splendour has hallmarked itself as a must-be weekend for every music fan, and with a lineup this jam-packed, it was finally time to bite the bullet and experience the festival in all its wintery, well, splendour.
For any first-timer, entering the site can be somewhat overwhelming – they tell you the festival is big, but it’s hard to imagine just how big until you’re walking around, map in hand, trying to get your bearings.
Once the festival layout was memorised, it was time to kick into the music, and the wonderful Didirri was a perfect way to begin. He charmed the almost-packed tent with his combination of sweet acoustic jams and some impressively huge guitar shredding, all topped off by his velvety smooth vocals. Tears were shed and goosebumps were raised during ‘Formaldehyde’. While his vibe was perfectly suited to help those still warming into the festival, in no time he’ll be holding down slots much later in the day.
A huge crowd greeted Wafia at the Mix It Up tent, it took a few songs for her to warm into her set, but once she did she had the crowd right there with her. While the Brisbane teen was getting soulful, Bully were bringing the spunk to the other side of the arena. A modest crowd greeted the band, and while their sound was tight, their lack of energy didn’t do much to hold attention. A more intimate space may have done wonders.
From a cramped BIGSOUND room, to a sold-out Corner Hotel, and now a packed out GW McLennan tent at Splendour, it's been an absolute joy watching Stella Donnelly’s star explode. She’s still as endearingly hilarious and ridiculously talented as ever, only now there’s more people listening. Which is perfect, because her message should be shouted from the rooftops.
Jack River clearly got the “sparklier the better” outfit memo. Playing her first show since releasing her debut album, Sugar Mountain, River’s excitement was contagious, filling the tent with smiling, happy faces. While her entire set was faultless, it was the finale one-two punch of Tal Bachman’s ‘She’s So High’ (one of many fantastic covers that filled the weekend) and ‘Fool’s Gold’ that welcomed soaring sing-alongs.
Cub Sport are always consistently fabulous, and this was no exception. Teasing the crowd with the premiere of a new song called ‘Sometimes’ mixed in with their already much-loved tunes, they left the crowd positively captivated with closer ‘Come On Mess Me Up’.
It was as if the entire festival had crammed on the hill for the first sunset set of the night – held down by DMA’s. As usual, the crowd size did little to faze the trio, performing with the nonchalance we’ve become so accustomed to. Their music seemed as though it was custom-made for the outdoor amphitheatre setting – their breezy, Britpop-inspired tunes floating up the hill. A combination of their cover of Cher’s ‘Believe’ and single ‘In The Air’ were the clear favourites.
Welcoming their set with a violin solo, Angus and Julia Stone were as delicate and mesmerising as ever. Showing off the perfection of their dual vocals, their voices floating effortlessly around the amphitheatre. A stripped-back version of their iconic ‘Big Jet Plane’ saw a sea of phones paint the arena, while closer ‘Chateau’ made use of a confetti cannon.
Khalid’s energy and excitement was contagious from the get-go. From his heartfelt ballads (that saw him sitting on a stool, embracing the crowd) to his most upbeat numbers (featuring four choreographed backup dancers), Khalid transitioned between both with ease. The smooth vocal of ‘Angels’ to the huge party of ‘Young Dumb & Broke’ the clearest example of this.
Lorde is an absolute alt-pop queen, and from the minute she stepped out in all her holographic-metallic glory it was hard not to be swept up in it. Not even a wardrobe malfunction two songs in could stop her force. Accompanied by backup dancers that she joined from time to time, Lorde displayed the star she has become through a set filled with hit after hit. A surprise cover of Powderfinger’s ‘My Happiness’ went down a treat, but it was ‘Green Light’ that had everyone losing it.
Saturday morning and already the festival ground was littered with weary faces and tired bodies, but by midday energies were right back up – at least in the packed out GW tent. Newcomer G Flip kept the crowd clapping and dancing along with her huge pop-meets-R&B tunes, even confidently picking up a guitar and getting behind the drumkit without missing a beat vocally. Clearly overwhelmed by the crowd size, give her a bit of time and she’ll have her live show locked down.
Maria DeVita is an absolute force and WAAX were ready to tear the GW tent apart. Even a less-than-ideal mix that threatened to flatten out their punchiness couldn’t calm their ferocity. Once that was sorted it was hard to be disappointed. With unusual and surprising covers and guests clearly the flavour of the weekend, WAAX brought Bernard Fanning’s ‘Don't Wanna Be Left Out’ to the table.     
Superorganism were as kitschy, strange, and fantastic as we’d hoped. It’s hard to put their live experience into words – they’ve got the hallmarks of catchy, pop music down pat but they do it in a way that you’ve never seen before. The eight-piece collective – spread between three backup singers/dancers and three instrumentalists – led by the enigmatic Orono Noguchi, delivered everything they promised and more.
From solo acoustic guitar numbers to full band jams, Amy Shark had the crowd singing, dancing, and swaying along. Announcing that she’d just found out that her debut album had reached #1 on the ARIA Album charts, Shark was clearly emotional. The news led perfectly into her “biggest fuck you song” ‘I Said Hi’. As the sun began to set, and with thousands of people singing her lyrics, it was a huge moment to witness.
Is there a bigger band in Australia than Gang of Youths right now? If anyone was unsure, then the show they put on for the heaving amphitheatre crowd cemented the answer. From the opening chords of the wild ‘What Can I Do When The Fire Goes Out?’, to the groove of ‘Let Me Down Easy’, and the stunning ‘The Deepest Sighs, The Frankest Shadows’, their set was bursting with memorable moments. Dave Le’aupepe – ever the quintessential frontman – sauntered and danced around the stage, leading the crowd in one rousing singalong after the other.
GOY could be seen as a hard act to follow, but Franz Ferdinand followed up with ease. ‘Do You Want To’ kicked things off in ideal fashion – frontman Alex Kapranos a hive of energy and buzz. You could feel things building, expectation growing, and then that all-too-familiar riff rung out across the amphitheatre, with an extended intro for dramatic effect, and the crowd went into a craze. ‘Take Me Out’ was glorious to witness live. Fourteen years later, it still holds strong.
Scottish synth-pop stars CHVRCHES changed the tune of the night, but they didn’t disappoint one bit. Frontwoman Lauren Mayberry delighted the crowd with amusing banter and a powerful vocal performance. Glistening in all their glitchy glory, the band put on a flawless performance, Mayberry’s vocals soaring throughout the amphitheatre.
But all good things must come to an end, and the beginning of day three signalled that our weekend would be closing soon. Although that said, the show Splendour put on for its final day was one for the ages.
Aside from a heaving musical lineup, Splendour also delights with art and activities, and the Forum provided a space for interesting, diverse and important conversations to be had. The third day opened with a screening of Her Sound, Her Story that left a room full of people in tears, yet feeling emotional, empowered, and hopeful. If you get a chance to see the film, you definitely should.
Back to music, Ziggy Ramo has no problem making you feel uncomfortable and ecstatic in equal measure. Sharing important messages about being an Indigenous Australian, mental health, and the treatment of women, he's an important and fantastic storyteller. His smooth flow and energetic dance numbers kept everyone listening.
Over at Angie McMahon’s stage, it was a more sombre affair. But that doesn’t mean it was any less enjoyable. Endearing and mesmerising to watch, her powerful vocals and emotionally-charged melodies had the crowd wrapped in her bubble.
The voice of a politically-charged youth, England’s Yungblud has something to say and he does so with attitude, spunk and power in spades. His stage presence is manic, not standing still for a single second – and you couldn’t wipe the smile off his face as ecstatic fans sang back lyric after lyric.
In her debut, and sole, Australian performance Soccer Mommy was softly spoken and delicately sweet throughout her set. Her stripped-back guitar-led tracks and bright, pop hooks delighted the modest crowd. Middle Kids put on a beautiful homecoming set in front of a laidback amphitheatre crowd. Playing through favourites from their debut album Lost Friends, their music proved to take on a whole new identity in the live setting. The studio can’t capture this feeling.
A surprisingly small but nonetheless absolutely stoked crowd greeted Albert Hammond Jr -- showing off his signature sass to some over-exuberant crowd members between joyful, upbeat tunes. His excitement bubbled over to not one, but two crowd entries. Watching him perform, it’s hard to forget the role he played in The Strokes, but in solo-mode it’s clear he’s become so much more than that history.
Dean Lewis is a wonder to watch perform. His folky-acoustic-pop tunes were perfect for a middle of the day chill out. Littering his set with new, unreleased tracks between his biggest hits, there’s a lot of promise to look forward to when his album is finally released. Singalongs for ‘Be Alright’ and ‘Waves’ were huge, and his cover of Springsteen’s ‘Dancing In The Dark’ with Lewis Capaldi was a brilliant team up.
Hockey Dad were welcomed by a heaving and hyped-up GW tent. The duo was raring to go and it was clear the crowd had been saving their energy for this moment. Bodies smashed together as Hockey Dad raced through their set. A Tim Rogers ‘Purple Sneakers’ team-up sadly went over the heads of most in the crowd, but that didn’t stop Hockey Dad from powering through.
Even with exceptionally frequent visits, Australian fans still can’t get enough of The Wombats and with a live performance this strong, why would they? Even if you don’t have much care much for their studio albums, you still won’t be disappointed live. Playing through the biggest hits from across their discography, the band had the crowd dancing, jumping, and screaming along from beginning to end. ‘Techno Fan’, ‘Let’s Dance To Joy Division’, and ‘Tokyo’ received the biggest responses. Diehard fans weren’t disappointed and those preparing for the next set were still treated.
Then it was time for the man everyone has been waiting for. And he made everyone wait. As the minutes ticked on, the energy in the now full-to-bursting amphitheatre was electric. As soon as the Kung Fu Kenny introduction clip played out on the screens, the hype that had been building for the weekend threatened to explode. There were no clichés here, no theatrics in sight – it was just Kendrick Lamar doing what he does best, and damn is he good at it. With a set mostly filled with tracks from DAMN. ‘ELEMENT’ was an early winner. ‘King Kunta’ saw 35,000 phones shoot into the air, but the ultimate highlight went to the double-dose of ‘HUMBLE’. First Lamar led the crowd through a completely a cappella version – fans not missing a beat – before he kicked the track into gear, performing the song again. He’s powerful, his message is vital, and here it was clear that there aren’t many, if any, that can do what Lamar does.
Highlight: The whole atmosphere – friendly, positive vibes all around.
Lowlight: Why are we still wearing Indian headdresses at festivals? C’mon!
Crowd Favourite: Couldn’t pick one if I tried.