It’s name alone evokes imagery of blissful, languid punters sprawled out across fluffy green hills, drinking in the glorious Byron Bay sunshine. The past few years, however, have not quite lived up to this dreamy expectation – with last year’s knee-deep, mud-swamp making Glastonbury look like a tropical getaway. Mercifully, all that would change for the 2016 edition. I’ve been to Splendour in the Grass many times – it’s the one festival I’ve set aside as purely recreational – but, with my new role at Moshcam, this would be the first time I would photograph the event. Here’s some of my favourite moments I managed to capture over the three days at North Byron Parklands.
These guys were loose. Having drained their clearly substantial rider, Fat White Family staggered out onto the GW McLennan stage and things only got messier from there. Lead singer Lias Kaci Saoudi got nude very early in the set, playing the rest completely naked – much to the delight of no one.
Nothing But Thieves played the sun-soaked Amphitheater early on Friday afternoon. They covered The Pixies, ‘Where Is My Mind,’ making the song sound better than it has in years.
Leon Bridges exudes cool. He’s got dance moves for days, an incredible voice and the kind of confident swagger that makes indoor sunglasses entirely necessary.
Matt Healy welcomed the teeming, twitching throng of teenage girls on the barrier with a modest greeting – “We’re The 1975 and we’re your new favourite band.” Broken promises aside, the band delivered exactly what their frothing fans required – pure, unapologetic, breezy pop tunes.
It’d been over a decade since the Avalanches took to the stage and they did not disappoint. Robbie Chater led the band in a highly energetic set that crescendo’d as the opening strains of Frankie Sinatra had the entire Amphitheater bouncing in unison from the pit to the top of the hill. In fact, I saw several photographers shaking their asses in the photo pit – those beats are so damn infectious.
Alison Mosshart of The Kills is the epitome of a rock-and-roll badass. At the very top of their set she lit a cigarette with quiet, sexy menace, stalking the stage like a caged animal. This moment occurred as she first took to the microphone. She took a deep drag on her smoke, sung the opening lyric, then exhaled. Effortlessly cool. Maybe I should take up smoking?
Hiding out in the shadows and fog, Julian Casablancas of The Strokes tried his hardest to appear uninterested. After a thirty minute delay, the band delivered a shortened but emphatic set that was undeniably dope, and left the crowd wanting more.
Besides Flume, Aussie lads Violent Soho pulled the biggest local crowd. Their thunderous main stage performance from two years ago is still the stuff of legend. They brought their signature chaotic energy and had the mosh pit going insane. Crowd surfers came flying over the top of the barrier like salmon trying to swim upstream – and pretty soon security kicked us photographers out of the photo pit for our own safety.
“Cedric and Omar have a partnership seemingly more sacred than most modern marriages.” Cedric was in a mood tonight. He took out his rage on a helpless ( yet expensive ) stage light – which he ripped from its base and tossed into the photo pit. Sometimes you just need some space to dance. He made the most of the space – hurling himself all over the stage – as captured here by Peter Zaluzny.
Frontman James Alex of Beach Slang wins our award for biggest onstage transformation. From our acoustic session with James last week, where he was the most polite and softly spoken gentleman – to the ragged, dynamic, foul mouthed punk he became on-stage – it was awesome to see him in his element. Although, perhaps the suit and tie was a bad decision on a balmy Saturday afternoon.
This was the special set of the weekend for me. Gang of Youths has been gathering momentum for the past few years and this set seemed to be a glorious culmination of all that came before it. There’s no doubt that bigger things lie ahead for this brilliant live band, but for now, some words of wisdom from frontman Dave Le’aupepe: ““The three keys to living a good life are dance a lot, drink a lot and don’t be fucking cunt”.
Things got deliciously trippy as King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard tore through their latest album in record time, and pulled the festival’s rowdiest mosh. Keep an eye on the Moshcam website for our upcoming concert film of this band’s August headline show at The Metro Theater in Sydney. Stu Mackenzie is a pretty strange dude at times, but him trying to eat his guitar was my favourite moment of the set.
Good vibes all around.
Literally, all around!
Sticky Fingers have an incredible effect on Australian festival crowds. Shit gets crazy. Charismatic frontman Dylan Frost seemed to be enjoying the energy of that amazing Amphitheater.
The Cure’s Robert Smith’s appearance may have aged, but his voice has not. Their three hour set on Saturday night was a masterclass in musicianship. The band was tight, humble and enthusiastic, delivering a nostalgic set chock-filled with classics.
The bitter-sweet final performance by much-loved electro-weirdos The Meeting Tree, saw Joyride onstage without his usual partner in crime, Raph Lauren. Instead, Joyride was joined by a drunken Sam Margin from The Rubens.
You cannot help but love this scruffy, rock and roll world-beater. The fade out loop of Courtney Barnett‘s ‘Depreston’ was a festival highlight.
On the final night on the festival, even the most stable minds went tumbling down an existential rabbit-hole when listening to Icelandic post-rockers, Sigur Ros. Those hypnotic vocals and massive riffs sent the Mix Up tent into a parallel universe.
Tegan and Sara brought the banter as well as the tunes. The soaring vocal harmonies and carefree back-and-forth between the two was a perfect compliment to a sunny Sunday afternoon.
The Preatures played their final show with their original lineup, featuring Gideon Benson, on the GW McLennan stage. They did not hold back. Izzy prowled the stage while the band ripped through those ‘Blue Planet Eyes’ bangers. With a new chapter ahead and a new album in the works – the future looks bright.
Check out the full galleries here:
Josh is the Head of Video and Photography at Moshcam.
He's an award-winning director, editor and photographer based in Newtown, NSW Australia.
He has been shooting live music since 2011 for several publications, both print and online, but primarily Sydney street press magazine, The Music - formerly Drum Media.
A 2007 graduate of AFTRS, Josh has directed music videos for artists including Angus & Julia Stone ('Babylon' and 'Just a Boy'), Birds of Tokyo ('Wild Eyed Boy'), Born Lion ( 'Good Dogs Play Dead' ), The Snowdroppers ('White Dress' and 'Love Letters') and The Rumjacks ('FIstful O' Roses').
In 2008 he won the IF award for Best Music Video and he's received nominations for ARIA and J awards.
In 2016 he won the Best Editing award at Tropfest, for 'Ben's Filming The Movie.'
You can check out his directing and editing website here - http://www.joshgroom.com.au
View all posts by Josh Groom