Words by Jacob Burkett & Mark Royters
Day one of any festival is always the most important. You set the scene while expectations decide whether they’ve been hit or missed. With the most crammed, star-studded lineup of all three days, Splendour’s opening day was always going to be a tester, and it passed with flying colours.
— Moshcam (@Moshcam) July 22, 2016
Nothing But Thieves
Although a set on the biggest stage felt a tad awkward at first, with a lot of “who are these guys?” getting tossed around, Nothing But Thieves made a pretty convincing case for themselves being there, treating the crowd with their fresh take on alt/math rock. Whilst hits like ‘Itch’ got people impressed, it was a cover of their biggest influence, The Pixies’ ‘Where Is My Mind’ that truly won the crowd over and was a highlight of the day. Sorry Frankie, but that was the best the song has sounded in years. As soon as Conor Mason began to sing that beautiful refrain, punters from all across the festival converged on the stage and sung along in unison. Perhaps the biggest credit to the band is that they all stayed when the cover finished, eager to see what else that beautiful voice could deliver…
I’ve seen DMA’S a couple of times since their Laneway Festival appearance in January this year. Since then the crowds have gotten bigger, the sing-alongs have become louder, and the sound is better than ever. Touring their debut album Hills End relentlessly has seen the three-piece reap the rewards, and you can’t feel anything other than chuffed for them. Though they’ve undoubtedly improved, their on-stage-presence has remained. Frontman Tommy O’Dell only a muttered the occasional ‘thank you’ while his support stay as deadpanned as Laurie Oakes (not that anyone is phased). The Newtown locals let their dreamy solos, climatic outros and catchy as hell choruses do the talking for them. Tracks ‘Lay Down’ and ‘Delete’ have now well established themselves as absolute anthems, triggering both mayhem and a teary embraces with friends or nearby randoms.
Fat White Family
Fat White Family stepped straight out of a time machine from the 90s and onto the Splendour stage, bringing with them their energetic take on post-punk. The six piece thrashed away on their instruments, creating a crunchy wall of sound and inspiring an army of head-banging. In keeping with the tunes, things quickly got rowdy on-stage as the lead singer, Lias Kaci Saoudi, began throwing food into the crowd, swigging drinks like a madman and quickly removing items of clothing. The crowd seemed expectant of the on-stage antics and ate it up, amping the power of the mosh to keep up with the singer. Lias took it to to the next level by stripping all his clothes off, reveling in the warm Byron weather. We’re proud to present him with the inaugural “Moshcam Most Snapchatted Dick” award. Please keep your clothes on when claiming the prize.
— Moshcam (@Moshcam) July 22, 2016
We’re still working on a snappier name, but English multi-instrumentalist Jack Garratt wins the “Moshcam Making Everyone Feel Bad About Their Own Musical Abilities” award, a prize you can actually brag about to your Mum (sorry Lias, might have to keep yours under wraps). Encircled by keyboards, Kaos pads, guitars and drums, the musician constantly spun around in circles, swapping between the instruments. I would have loved to make some sort of “Jack of All Trades” joke, but he truly proved to be a master of all. Whilst big hits like ‘Worry’ and ‘Breathe Life’ sound good on album and allow his unique voice to take centre stage, the songs become an entirely different beast on-stage, amped up to infinity with heavy drum beats and crazy guitar fretwork. Like Nothing But Thieves and Garratt seemed genuinely stoked to be at the festival and amazed that the crowd were singing every word back at him. He even stopped one song partway through to start again and let the crowd take over singing duties.
— Moshcam (@Moshcam) July 22, 2016
Although we were impressed by The Avalanches’ set at the Splendour Pre-Party, I realise now that they were treating it entirely as a warm-up exercise. Despite playing the exact same setlist, the performance felt fresh and energetic, with the band truly giving the performance their all. The set must have been scientifically engineered for a festival crowd, as it drew an excited response from start to finish, inspiring dance moves ranging from ‘awkward White-person disco’ (for ‘Subways’) to just flat out jumping up and down (for ‘Flight Tonight’) to something indescribable (for the kazoo-laden and Beatles sampling ‘Noisy Eater’). Samples like ‘Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood’ and ‘Like a Rolling Stone’ which were dropped into the songs also became truly special when sung back at the band by thousands of music geeks.
The new vocalists also seemed more comfortable on-stage after performing with the band once before, with the male rapper especially displaying more energy on-stage. Unfortunately he still had to read the lyrics to ‘Frankie Sinatra’ off a phone (despite seemingly everyone else matching Danny Brown’s weird wordplay and phrasing perfectly), but his beefed up stage presence made up for it. Once again, the female vocalist mastered every sample she had to cover (which in case you’re wondering is a fuck-ton), particularly nailing ‘Since I Left You’.
It was always going to be interesting to see the Manchester group’s crowd. They’re pop rock deviants, with frontman Matt Healy proclaiming, “We’re The 1975 and we’re your new favourite band” as he arrived on stage. Screams of the female-front-row-faithful echoed around the amphitheatre, and it was revealed exactly who had come to watch. Mixing it up between singing to his allegiance that were pinned to the barricade, and the camera that boomed him onto the big screen, Healy oozes a swagger that can divide the sexes, but his vocals are something not up for debate. Most of The 1975 tracks fade out with a dreamy loop that the singer harmonises over until the crowd have fallen under his spell – well played indeed.
Does anyone do grunge better than Violent Soho these days? The short answer: No. Tracks from new album WACO are already evoking moshes that their classics have been doing for years, but as the hype train hits full speed the crowd was full of both die-hard devotees and first timers. In saying that, death pits were never going to reach the level you’d get from a sideshow, but when the Brisbanites covered Nirvana’s ‘Breed’ it got awfully close. Lead by a thundering bass line, the homage was filmed by a Seattle local we befriended side-stage, and sent over to Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic (he showed me the message – true story). If that wasn’t crazy enough, watching the entire amphitheatre scream “hell fuck yeah” definitely was. Needless to say there wasn’t a lull, with the band only knowing one intensity level – extreme times 10.
In their true to form blasé approach, the New York City locals were up on stage 15 minutes late. Whether it was due to technical difficulties or not remains unknown, but for one of the most highly anticipated setlists of the festival, The Strokes nailed it and all was forgiven. With a catalogue of indie-anthems that can challenge even the greatest groups, all the big tunes were hit. Songs from the timeless Is This It were scattered throughout, with ‘Someday’, ‘The Modern Age’ and the title track all being received with an applause that almost drained out the signature catchy intros we’ve come to love.
Casablancas entertained with on stage banter that would sometimes veer off on a tangent, to which he’d apologise “Okay I’m going to shutup now, why am I talking, let’s play some fucking music”. ‘Threat Of Joy’ and ‘Drag Queen’ from the new EP made welcomed appearances, with a spacy visual to match the spacy crowd (it was a long, testing day). Yet if there’s anything that can bring life back into even the most drained audience, the intro to ‘Heart In A Cage’ sparked a frenzy. Backed up by cult classics ‘New York City Cops’ and ’12:51’, the set hit tracks you wouldn’t first assume it would. Capped off by ‘Last Nite’, it was a celebration of the captivating-garage-rooted portfolio that The Strokes do best.
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