Recently released debut albums was the (incredibly niche) flavour of the afternoon for Day 3, with Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever and Middle Kids kicking things off.
Minus any storms, Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever lived up to their name, treating the Byron crowd to catchy indie-rock tunes like ‘Talking Straight’, ‘Air Conditioned Man’ and ‘Mainland’, and quickly getting people flocking to the stage. With three guitarists/vocalists, a bassist and drummer, the band create an intricate wall of sound live, layering riffs upon each other whilst still ensuring no instrument or voice is lost in the mix.
Although featuring one less member, Middle Kids sounded no smaller than Rolling Blackouts, and even managed to inject a heavier sound into tracks like ‘Please’, ‘Never Start’ and ‘Edge of Town’, the latter of which reached a particularly epic drum crescendo.
PNAU got the party started early with their Amphitheatre set, entrancing a huge crowd with bright lights and even bigger drops. With tracks like ‘Wild Strawberries’, ‘Go Bang’, ‘No More Violence’ and ‘Chameleon’, the band expertly blended old and new and ensured that all heads in sight were banging.
Sampa the Great was up next, ditching her usual DJ set-up for a full band, complete with backup singers. The musicianship behind her gave Sampa a particularly commanding presence as she stood on a raised platform and threw fast bars down at the adoring crowd. Particular highlights came during ‘Black Girl Magik’ when Sampa brought out her sister who had travelled out from Zambia (and who was the inspiration for the song) and a cover of Kendrick Lamar’s ‘Alright’ which got the crowd suitably amped for the headline performance.
After the manic dance energy of PNAU, things took a slightly slower and more psychedelic turn for MGMT, who weaved synth-pop tracks like ‘Little Dark Age’ and ‘Me and Michael’ from their latest album Little Dark Age in with their older hook driven hits like ‘Time to Pretend’ and ‘Electric Feel’. The band’s stage aesthetic was perfectly in tune with this style, with trippy visuals, illuminated plants and a giant inflatable clown head making the whole thing feel like a hallucinatory trip. As to be expected, ‘Kids’ was the big highlight of the set, and given an exciting and entirely unexpected facelift by the addition of a ‘Never Ending Story’ cover in the middle.
The Wombats continued to deliver the hits after this, playing crowd favourites like ‘Let’s Dance to Joy Division’, ‘Tokyo (Vampires & Wolves)’ and ‘Lemon to a Knife Fight’, whilst turning the stage into a frenzy of confetti cannons, dancing wombats and quite possibly the oddest Harley Quinn cosplay ever (someone get that guy to Comic Con asap!)
Kendrick Lamar closed out the festival with a crazy fast-paced set packed with his mind-blowing flow. Whilst his previous album To Pimp a Butterfly, and corresponding album tour, was freewheeling and jazz-influenced, new album DAMN. is tight, concise and immediate – and the performance perfectly captured this. Right from opening track DNA, and its incredible mid-track beat switch, it was clear that Kendrick would show no mercy to the mere mortals attempting to rap alongside him. RIP everyone’s throats.
The Compton master raced through tracks like ‘XXX’, ‘King Kunta’ and ‘m.A.A.d city’ and guest verses from ‘Big Shot’, ‘goosebumps’ and ‘Collard Greens’ with an accuracy and ferocity that left all jaws on the ground and barely gave fans a chance to breath in between.
Although Kendrick’s backing band were buried deep in the wings compared with his last tour, they still proved to be an essential element of the show, with the live drums and bass in particular making each track hit even harder.
Big highlights came during ‘Alright’ and ‘HUMBLE’ when Kendrick temporarily handed control of the set to the audience, and let what sounded like the entire festival temporarily take over vocal duties. Luckily this meant we were treated to a double-dip of ‘HUMBLE’, as Kendrick followed up the audience’s acapella attempt with his version, getting us to sit the fuck down and learn how it’s done…figuratively speaking of course!
By this point the entire crowd was jumping up and down, giving Splendour 2018 the epic sendoff it deserved.