Photography by Josh Groom
Words by Jacob Burkett, Mark Royters & Peter Stevens
‘Variety’ was the word of the day for Splendour’s hump-day, as we witnessed hardcore outfit At The Drive-In, spacey genre leaders The Cure, and the crazy psych-rockers King Gizzard and The Lizard Wizard. All acts delivered with an on-stage energy that was somehow matched by the crowd.
Continuing our Splendour awards from yesterday’s write-up, Beach Slang frontman James Alex transforms more than anyone when he performs, almost to the point he’s unrecognisable. As he confessed to us in a recent studio session, as well as others, ‘I feel so out of place here, like I’ve been invited to a party I have no business being at’. Yet this awkward, over-polite persona takes a back seat and a charismatic Philadelphia punk is unleashed when he’s on stage. Hitting tracks from their upcoming album, A Loud Bash Of Teenage Feelings, the set was exactly that. A crowd that was both old and young were hit with nostalgia feels that were continuously turned up a notch with every chorus. Combine that with the fact the man handles a guitar better than most of us can hold a pencil, and you’re set for an entertaining show.
In Memory of Szymon
Things took a reflective turn for a tribute show to late musician Szymon with punters abandoning headbanging in favour of hugging and appreciating the beauty of the music. Although it was truly tragic that the musician never had the chance to perform his only album Tigersapp (released posthumously), it was a special experience hearing its lush harmonies and beautiful soundscapes created by those who cared deeply about him and his sound. It was a true credit to the young songwriter’s genius that it took seven musicians and a rotation of guest singers (including Dave Le’aupepe from Gang of Youths, Emma Louise and Little May) to recreate the subtle complexities of his work.
King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard
It’s a huge testament to the Melbourne-based psych band that they managed to create a moshpit as rowdy as At The Drive-In. The band tore through their latest album Nonagon Infinity in record time, matching its breakneck pace and taking no breaks between songs. Like the album, the tracks perfectly blended into each other, making the set feel like one long trip into their trippy world. With a mix of guitars, bass, drums, harmonica and flute, the band created a fuzzy wall of sound which rolled up the hill, enveloping everyone within earshot of the Amphitheater. ‘People Vultures’ was a particular highlight, with the crowd singing along to its manic vocals and instantly recognisable guitar riff.
Gang of Youths
Gang of Youths truly put energy back in indie-rock. Singer Dave Le’aupepe has evolved into the perfect frontman, leaning down into the crowd, standing on the drumkit and jumping around the stage. As he wisely informed us during the set, “The three keys to living a good life are dance a lot, drink a lot and don’t be fucking cunt”. Combined with the passion of his fellow band members, the guys truly ignited the crowd with tracks like ‘Magnolia’ and ‘Vital Signs’ receiving site-shaking cheers. A particular highlight however came in the form of a new track and the candid admission that he had struggled with writer’s block for nearly 12 months before finishing the track, and had worried that he would never again live up to the bar set by The Positions. Luckily, the track banished any fears of inferiority, and got us truly pumped for their new album.
Following a dose of Newtown yesterday from DMA’S, we were given a second hit with Sticky Fingers on day dos. For a set that’s been anticipated since the line-up was announced, the five-piece treated their massive following to one of the most picturesque sets so far. Confetti cannons, a mix of heavy with slow songs, and sing-along choruses that echoed around the amphitheatre all made for a more than memorable set – for both the crowd and evidently the band. Stoked frontman Dylan Frost thanked the crowd with every chance he got, letting it be known he was in awe of the turnout between tracks. Yet their thanks was best showcased when ‘Australia Street’ kicked off. The audience response nearly drowned out the band, with perfectly timed glitter falling from the skies making for a moving moment.
With his soulful, bluesy voice and extended jam style of performance, Michael Kiwanuka inspired some serious hip-shaking throughout the crowd. Kiwanuka is that rarest of beasts; the restrained Guitar-God. Rather than taking centre-stage, falling to his knees and shredding (looking at you Harts), he holds himself back, using his skills to create some seriously complex blues jams rather than face-melters. This did inspire some pretty passionate handclapping and foot-tapping throughout the crowd, particularly during ‘Black Man in a White World’. Not even a poorly timed sewerage truck parked beside the stage could put a dampener on the feel good vibes of the crowd.
At The Drive-In
“I MUST HAVE READ A THOUSAND FACES”, and that was it – one of the most intense songs ever laid down to record (‘Arcasenal’) exploded across the field in a rush of liberating cacophony. At The Drive-In made it known to the post-Sticky Fingers rushes heading away from the Amphitheatre that it’s probably time to reconsider that beer and slice of pizza, as the post-hard-core legends had come to blow our fucking minds with a set that teased between energetic, brooding and straight up chaotic.
Always the unpredictable entertainer with flagrant disregard for stage equipment, frontman Cedric managed to beat the hell out of, then subsequently pick up and throw off the stage what one would imagine to be a quite expensive light, before the second song ‘Pattern Against User’ was up. The set list was entirely taken from their 2000 masterpiece Relationship of Command, much to the crowd’s delight as they made sing-along anthems out of what can often be quite complex vocal structures. Lead guitarist Omar noodled away to let the songs breathe during the breakdowns, transitioning the band into more of a rounded live show than as seen in the past. At The Drive-In are far from a rehash of a previous incarnation, this is a true second coming of the band, starting a new chapter.
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The time had come, it was happening – The Cure had arrived and were ready to settle in for three hours. It was hard to believe that it wasn’t a dream, as they took the stage to the bliss that is the opening melody of ‘Plainsong’ – it became immediately known that the gods were here. Given that they tend to completely mix up every set wildly between each show, it was assumed that after ‘Pictures of You’ followed by ‘Closedown’ that they would be playing Disintegration in full, alas, it was somewhat of a teaser as they proceeded to majestically move through a career-spanning set, with a mixture of album cuts, fan favourites and straight up hits.
For such a lengthy set, the time did not take its toll on the crowd, as the variety of songs, crystal clear sound and the amazing backdrop visuals kept everyone swaying along in complete awe. It became apparent why The Cure’s live sets are so highly regarded, and why they become somewhat of an obsession for certain fans, who go on Grateful Dead-esque pilgrimages to take in as many shows as possible. The last quarter of the set was the definitive crowd-pleaser section, encouraging not only the crowd, but Robert Smith to dance along to the likes of ‘Close To Me’, ‘Let’s Go To Bed’, ‘Lullaby’, ‘A Forest’ (which almost deserves an entire article of its own) and of course, the inevitably perfect ‘Boys Don’t Cry’ closer. This writer now intends to float through the rest of the festival.
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