From the opening one-two (throat) punch of Bully and Marmozets, Splendour in the Grass 2018 got off to a huge start. Bully were up first, working through material from across their two albums and transporting the assembled crowd to a grungy basement in Nashville.
Technical issues unfortunately brought Marmozets to the stage late, resulting in a short set high on intensity. Although it was a shame to get a shortened run time, it injected an almost manic energy into the set, particularly for closing tracks ‘Why Do You Hate Me’ and ‘Major System Error’ which got the circle pits opening early.
Stella Donnelly walked out next to a huge cheer, highlighting immediately the huge and important impact her music has on the crowd. Things started off equal parts powerful and intimate, with Donnelly taking the stage solo for a rendition of ‘Mean to Me’. The rest of the band joined soon after, treating the crowd to tracks like ‘Boys Will Be Boys’ and ‘Grey’, scoring big singalongs and making sure the important lyrics would be lost on no one.
Jack River was next and clearly ecstatic to be treating the crowd to tracks from her recently released debut Sugar Mountain. Despite only coming out last month, it already felt familiar, and tracks like ‘Ballroom’ and ‘Fool’s Gold’ got the crowd amped and dancing. ‘Limo Song’ was a particular highlight and saw the entire tent whistling along to its earworm refrain. Even those who didn’t know it were quick to learn and get involved. Big shoutouts to her family for standing in the front row and distributing Rainbow Billabongs to lucky punters.
DMA’S proved why they’re an Australian festival mainstay next, treating the crowd to all their biggest songs, and expertly blending their softer and rockier material. A three track run of ‘Step Up The Morphine’, Cher’s ‘Believe’ and ‘Delete’ was a particular highlight, and allowed the musical friendship of the 3 core members to shine through.
After some relaxed indie-folk from Lord Huron, who got the crowd slow dancing to recent hit ‘By The River’, the music stopped for an hour of politically-charged rapid-fire spoken word from Henry Rollins. Although he may sound like an odd fit on paper, it was a great addition to the festival, allowing the legendary punk rocker to deliver his thoughts on everything from Trump to travel to interactions with David Bowie and RuPaul. Things got particularly powerful towards the end of the set as Rollins spurred the assembled crowd into action, saying that he had “cleared the lane” but it was now time for us to make the positive changes desperately needed in today’s current political climate. “The future isn’t coming, it’s now” he repeated to passionate cheers.
Lorde closed out the evening with big dance moves and even bigger hits, immediately winning the crowd over with a three-track run of ‘Sober’, ‘Homemade Dynamite’ and ‘Tennis Court’. Even an (almost) wardrobe malfunction couldn’t slow up Lorde’s flow as she continued to tear through hits like ‘Perfect Places’, ‘Royals’ and ‘Green Light’. A cover of Powderfinger’s ‘My Happiness’ was a particularly special moment, adding to the time honoured tradition of classic covers on the Amphitheatre stage. (Shoutout to DZ Deathrays here for bringing out Red Wiggle Murray for a cover of AC/DC’s ‘Highway to Hell’ earlier in the day).
All in all, it was a big start to a huge weekend.