Friday, 31 July 2015

Splendour in the Mud 2015: Day Three

Although weather wise the morning looked promising, I wanted to explore Byron Bay for a bit. So I headed to the bus and jumped on with a bunch of other campers covered in mud, and to sunny Byron we headed! Except it wasn't so sunny. In fact, it pissed down within moments of me arriving. So my day of walking about in something other than mud and gumboots was a fizzer. I did get to sit at a bar and drink Dr Cooper's finest though, which was a nice break from the Extra Dry.

Heading back to the campgrounds after lunch, I spent some time drinking Matilda Bay beer. It's a fine beer, but at 8 bucks a schooner (425ml) it was a bit rich. They had drink cards, so it never felt I was really spending any money, but in retrospect it's fucking expensive.

One of the first things I watched was a talk on energy in the Guardian tent. It was mostly around fracking, which is a big issue in that region of the world. I liked the balance on the panel, but fuck me, the Liberal politician was a cunt. I get it dude, you're facing a hostile audience, but you sir need some media training! You came across as a rude, arrogant, out of touch prick who can't even think for himself. Which is sad because you are a doctor, and a couple of the things you said were worth investigating. But rather than listen to you, I just wanted to punch you in the face.

Anyway, after this I wanted to hear some music and wandered over to the GW McClennan tent to see the Districts. I'd not heard of them before, and they were playing some really nice, bluesy kind of music which was quite enjoyable.

I noticed there was a ARIA "Songwriters in Discussion" in the Guardian tent, so grabbed a beer and sat down to hear Robert Forster talk about his time in the Go Betweens. The GW McClennan stage is named in honour of the other member of the Go Betweens, so this was a fitting talk. He talked about the start of the band, how much trouble they had getting successful, and even did a few acoustic songs.

As that was finishing up, I noticed a large crowd of people standing around in an odd spot. Moving my way to the crowd, I saw what they were cheering at - a naked man covered in mud in a Sisyphean effort to climb one of the many slopes. The "Mud Monster" as he's since been labelled was a highlight of the festival. (This is not my video)

 After the Mud Monster, I went to see the Swamp Monster, CW Stoneking. Such a weird sounding dude, dressed all in pristine white, andamazing Louisiana style swamp blues which seemed appropriate for the accommodations. Unfortunately I don't appear to have any pictures of CW :(

Jamie T was on the main stage, and I wanted to get a good spot to see Blur, so headed back to see him. I really enjoyed him the first time I saw him - I went on a whim after reading an interview in Beat Magazine. He's certainly grown as a performer, and although he's a little less like the Streets and more like other modern British popular music (give me a break - I don't know what to call it!) he still projected a lot of energy for the last night.

But that was totally eclipsed by Royal Blood. I've never seen so much energy from just two people on stage. Consisting of just drums and guitar (and bass guitar at that!) the sound they bring was incredible, and they truly know how to rock. This was probably the best set of the festival in my opinion.

Tame Impala are another Aussie band I am really enjoying, and their set was awesome. After the energy of Royal Blood, they brought it down but it was a very smooth and psychedelic ride, with trippy projections and effects blasting through the speakers. The crowd loved the shoutouts to them, including to the giant Lionel Richie head. (Which I sadly never got a picture of :( )

And then it was time for Blur. I cannot for the life of me figure out why I didn't see them play in Adelaide in 1997. Either they sold out, or I was doing something else (although what that was I can no longer recall!) and I missed them. So, 17 years later, I finally get to see them.

And they were good. They played "There's No Other Way" as the second song, and I lost it! Every song was played well, and I jumped around like a lunatic to one of my favourite bands in the world.

But, if I'm brutally honest, I was a little disappointed. After the previous sets from Royal Blood and Tame Impala, and the previous night with Florence, they just didn't seem to match the energy of the other performers. I know a lot was to do with my own levels of energy too - I went arse up into the mud right before their set so was muddy and wet and sore, but still, there was just a sense of anticipation with them which was never realised.

And I realise with a band like Blur with so many years and so many hits they're not going to play everyone's favourite songs. For a festival, I thought they played a few too many songs from the new album. I loved the songs, knew all the words, but still - it's a festival. They did play their biggest hits of course - There's No Other Way, Coffee and TV, Tender (and yes, I still teared up during it!), Park Life, Song 2. But they missed out a lot from the era I loved them in - Country House was notably missing. And a band with a song called "Pressure on Julian" should know to play it when they come to this country, surely!? ;)

I did, however, see Blur in Melbourne on Tuesday night, and it was a very different gig. The mud, the lack of sleep, the smell, the munted youths, all of that was gone, and I could see them very well and take pictures without fear of dropping my phone in 3 inches of mud. And they were fucking AMAZING! There new stuff was more appreciated by the crowd, and their energy levels were perfect, and they seemed to be enjoying the gig a whole lot more the second time around.
I know I did!

*  *  *

So, that was my first Splendour experience! If it wasn't for Blur being on the line up, I wouldn't have gone. But I'm glad I got to experience it, mud and all. I did have a great deal of fun, and saw some amazing music, which is the whole reason I put myself through this type of thing.

If I ever go again for the 3 days it would have to have a tremendous line up. If I could be guaranteed of no mud it would make the festival much more attractive. I was there for 5 days, and that does take it's toll. Even Womad is exhausting, and that is a come-and-go festival with lots of grass and trees and very flat.

I certainly wouldn't camp at the venue again, unless is was in the most pimped out RV money could hire. Even then, I'd rather park at a nearby caravan park and travel to and from the venue every day. Being able to escape - the mud, the crowd, the incredibly expensive drinks - is definitely something I need in future.

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Splendour in the Mud 2015: Day two

Second day didn't have rain, but the rain from the night before made everything even muddier.

After returning from what would become a ritual of heading to Byron Bay for breakfast, I caught Dune Rats on the main stage. These guys are always a lot of fun. "We know all you cunts are on drugs so we brought a couple of distractions!" they cried out. There were scores of beachballs, those blowy wind men, and a guy in a zorb ball running on top of the crowd. The band would later encourage zorb ball guy to get naked and run around on stage.

You can see from the photo that any hope of sitting down nearly anywhere close to the stage without getting muddy had vanished, so I wandered up the hill. After Dune Rats, The Smith Street Band were on the main stage. I'd never seen them before, but their Aussie political rock attracted what they called the biggest crowd they've ever had, and they appeared very happy to be playing Splendour.

I retired to the tent for some refreshments and just to escape the mud a little. The Grates sounded great from the tent, and I'm kind of sorry I missed them. Getting off my arse was difficult, but Pond were playing the main stage so I headed back to see the band which is one of my favourite Aussie bands of the last decade. I love their psych rock sound and it was fun stomping around in the mud to them.

The Church were up next in the GW McClennan tent, so I trudged over. I'll admit it, the Church are a band I knew little about until fairly recently - oh sure, I knew Unguarded Moment and Under the Milky Way, but that was about it - thought they were kind of one hit wonders really. I know, I was wrong. Their set was great, full of classic Church songs. They said they had only one song left and launched into Under the Milky Way, and then said they were going to do one more BUT they didn't play Unguarded Moment, which I was devastated about.

But at least that gave me a head start to get back to the main stage to see the Dandy Warhols, in one of their only performances in Australia! Except it was pretty below par. The sound mix was very muted, you could barely hear Courtney's vocals, and there was very little energy from the band. Which was sad, because they have been brilliant the last two times I saw them.

Geri and myself managed to get a pretty good spot to see the Wombats. I had heard only a few songs, and whilst they're ok, it's not really my thing. The morose, depresing lyrics juxtaposed with happy melodies has been done to death recently. And I'm still confused as to why so many kids would choose to take ecstasy to the band, but there were lots of munts about, like the girl who power hurled right next to us...

Final set of the night was Florence and the Machine. It looked like EVERYBODY was there to see her, as the whole amphitheatre was rammed packed with people. But my gosh! What an amazing performer. So much energy! She runs out onto stage and dives almost immediately into the audience, singing to one girl, making her festival no doubt, and then bounding back and forth without dropping a single spectacular note. She also pulled a guy up on stage who was wearing a wedding dress to dance with her, which was hilarious! I thought I would take more photos, but I was just awestruck by her stage presence.

And so day 2 of Spendour ended on very much a high.

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Splendour in the Mud 2015 - Day One

In a year of firsts, my Splendour In The Grass experience was the first proper camping festival experience, complete with mud and wellies!

First of all, thanks to Geri for being my tent partner for the weekend. It's great going to a show and have someone to talk shit to and laugh at all the inappropriate munts. And considering I was staying in the workers area and not actually a worker, I felt pretty chuffed I never got asked if I should be there or not. *ninja*

On the first night, we just chilled out to some comedy and drank some very horrible mid-strength beer. Seriously, Australia is fucked in the way it nannies it's beer drinkers. I like strong beer, because I can drink a few, be pissed, and then simply STOP. Just because others can't do that, doesn't mean I should be punished. Anyway, here's a "Nicolas Cage in a Cage" jumpy castle.

On the second day, I started early and headed to Byron to see what all the fuss was about. It's got a great laid back vibe and a nice beach and all, but it's not really different to any other rural-ish seaside town in Australia. After breakfast, I returned to the North Byron Parklands and plodded up to the main Amphitheatre Stage. It was still grassy at that stage, so I sat down and enjoyed Ecca Vandal, who I would compare to No Doubt. She did this cool mashup of Tricky's version of Public Enemy's Black Steel and Missy Elliot "Freak On" which got a good cheer.

After she played, I went for a wander and saw Genghar. This was their first time in Australia and they were alright. A bit RadioHead-ish, and a bit boring to be honest. I wandered back to the main stage to catch Marmozets, who were fucking rockin'! They reminded me of Hole at first, mostly because there was a skinny blonde girl on stage screaming at me. Musically though, they sounded like early Black Sabbath - and literally as I thought that they broke out into a cover of Sabbath.

DZ Deathrays were up next, and played some great hard rock, including a great cover of Daft Punk, which was unusual to hear in guitars, but great fun.

After these guys, I decided to go for a walk to get a drink, take a piss, and see if I could discover anything weird or fun. I found whatever the fuck this is. I'm pretty sure the music playing was Lionel Richie.

I wanted to see San Cisco tosee what all the fuss was about. San Cisco were ok, but they did sound like every other Triple J band from the last 5 years. Given the size of the crowd though, they are very popular, and the age of the crowd has made me label that music "Jailbait Pop". Feel free to steal that. I started to feel a little like a dirty old man, and decided I wanted to walk up the hill, because it was there and I stupidly thought the line up to the bar would be shorter. It wasn't, but the view is great.

They were followed by the Rubens, who were OK, but a bit of a dip in energy after San Cisco. So, and speaking of old men, Johnny Marr was on next, so I trekked over to the GW McLennan tent. 

Oh. My. Gosh! It wasn't the Smiths, but who cares, it was Johnny Fucking Marr! I didn't really know what to expect from Johnny Marr to be honest, but was incredibly entertaining and a consummate performer. I even got emotional to the Smiths songs.

After grabbing some food, I watched Spiritualised. I thought I knew more of their stuff, but I did really enjoy what I heard. It was very soulful, bluesy and almost psychrock at stages. 

My energy levels were draining fast, and it started to spit a little, so I wandered over to Of Monster and Men in the hope of finding a good spot to sit and chill before Mark Ronson. No dice as the main area was packed. OMAM were really quite folksy and not really what I wanted to hear at that time of the night, and the rain started getting heavier and I discovered my rain jacket was called that only in name, and offered very little in the way of water protection.

As an  aside, this is the second time I have gone to see Mark Ronson and it has pissed down with rain. I'm starting to think it's him.

Because I had two more days to go, I thought I'm not going to miss Blur because I'm all sick and shit because I stood in the mud and rain, and besides, I had seen Mark Ronson before, so I bailed to the tent. I heard a few Mark Ronson tracks from the tent, but it was raining pretty heavily by then, with the pitter patter drowning out most of the sound.

The rain did, however, result in one of the greatest incidents of the first day. Escaping the rain in the hope it would ease up I stood in a little shelter which was the busker stage, where this off tap girl was sitting and being off tap, wearing inappropriate for the weather clothing that only young off tap girls can wear, chatting to people with the abandon of a young off tap girl. Then this super munted guy walks in and plonks himself right next to her, and she starts chatting away to him. This is how the conversation went:
"What's your name?" She chirps.
The guy doesn't answer, just sits there, gurning.
"Wow, you're like, totally off tap. What's your name?" she asks again.
Again, the guy doesn't answer. She turns to her friend and squeals "This guy is so off tap he doesn't even now his name!"
She turns back to him and says more slowly, as if talking to a foreigner or deaf person "What. Is. Your. Name?"
He mutters something, neither of us really hear.
"What do your mum and dad and friends call you?" she asks him, at which point I start laughing.
He still doesn't answer her with anything coherent, so she says "I'm going to start saying boys names and if you answer to one, that's what I'm going to call you. Bill, Trevor, John..." she starts listing boys names. At this point I'm about to lose it completely so I make a move back to the tent.