A few weeks back now – 33,000 exhausted festival goers have returned to their homes, jobs and showers, as Splendour In The Grass wrapped up for another year. This year’s festival will definitely be remembered as one of the best, having hosted the return of Britpop icons Blur to Australian shores for the first time in 18 years, along with remarkable performances from over one hundred other artists, including headliners Mark Ronson and Florence and the Machine.
Two days prior to the festival’s official kick-off over 17,000 people arrived at the North Byron Parklands, travelling from all over Australia to set up the campsites that were to become their homes for the next five nights. Bright eyed and excited, everyone was quick to introduce themselves to their new neighbours, instantly establishing a sense of community within the festival.
The heavens opened for the first few days, causing the entire parkland to deteriorate into mudflats in a matter of hours. Immediately raincoats and gumboots became the most desirable fashion staple, however this didn’t stop a few hundred ornate creatures donning the somewhat impractical, yet stunning outfits they had been planning for months.
The clear trend towards 70s inspired looks encouraged a freedom in the way girls were dressing. Going braless in flowing lace dresses and bright patterns added to the joyful and optimistic festival atmosphere, although the presence of mud drenched cotton flares suggests that a pair of denim shorts or jeans still reigns supreme as the most practical and comfortable festival staple.
Also worth noting was the abundance of glitter that sparkled on the faces of almost every festival patron, with bands like Alpine and Client Liaison seemingly on board this sparkly revolution.
Other acts were more down to earth, with Aussie locals Dune Rats and The Delta Riggs drawing impressive crowds with their effortless cool, both making the most of the eventual sunshine.
On the first night, despite a significant downpour, Mark Ronson brought the funk to a hoard of dedicated fans, joined by an impressive lineup of guests including Andrew Wyatt, Daniel Merriweather, Theophilus London, and Australia’s very own psychedelic prodigy Kevin Parker of Tame Impala. While his set was sure to get the crowds dancing, it was towards the end that Ronson truly earned his place as one of the weekend’s highlights. In a touching tribute he played the raw vocals of Amy Winehouse performing ‘Valerie’ and was visibly moved by the thousands of voices that respectfully sung along in solidarity.
On top of the incredible talents displayed by the musicians throughout the weekend, it was this solidarity among the festivalgoers that really stood out at this year’s Splendour In The Grass. Everywhere you looked people were striking up conversations with strangers or helping each other through the mud and the mosh.
Music: Cuffed & Collared by Bad//Dreems
On day two, as Florence Welch executed her best Kate Bush impersonation to a flood of adoring fans, a few others appeared distracted by a caped man attempting to conquer an enormous tree in the middle of the amphitheatre. As he hung upside down from the highest branch, his eventual success (and safe return) received a roar of support from the crown that challenged the reception of even the events biggest acts.
Perhaps it’s the common love of music or the shared sense of survival one feels when attempting to camp in a foot of mud, but either way there is something about a festival atmosphere that unites people.
As the drying mud heralded the end of another amazing Splendour In The Grass, the crowds came together to celebrate one final performance, that of a band many had been waiting almost two decades to see. It’s difficult to put into words the atmosphere of when Blur stepped onto the stage, jet-lagged and slightly tentative, but when the first notes of ‘Go Out’ began there was nothing but love and adoration in the audience. It took a while to warm up, both the band and crowd seemed a little overwhelmed, but as Blur started into ‘Parklife’, and Damon Albarn asked everyone to forget their tiredness and show him their true selves, the crowd erupted. Through ‘Song 2’, ‘Girls and Boys’ and finally the sensitive choral finish of ‘The Universal’, Blur played a flawless set and perfectly capped off a spectacular weekend.
As the festival finally drew to an end, resembling something of a battlefield, the campground was eventually cleared of its muddy inhabitants. A few inventive punters saw the resulting traffic jam as an opportunity to throw a footy around, taking to the roofs of their cars to do so. It was a much-needed reminder that just because another Splendour In The Grass is over, the fun doesn’t have to end.
Words: Naomi Janes
Photos: Lincoln Jubb