If there was one thing this year's Splendour In The Grass was lacking in comparison to 2015, it was mud.
The heavens opened up on Friday and stayed open for business all weekend long, as the sun beamed down on to the grassy fields of the North Byron Parklands. Excited revellers lined up with their tickets on Friday morning for another year of food, art and glorious music.
Festival fashion was at an all-time high this year, with glitter and facial jewellery being at the top of the trend list. Across the fields, one could spot LED light-up jackets, pom-pom coats, nipple pasties, overalls, 'Harry Potter' cloaks, onesies and everything in between.
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Does it feel like something is missing? This is correct: flower crowns were, for the majority, given the boot this year. Speaking of boots, it's worth applauding those who came prepped wearing their gum boots after 2015's [literal] mess, but they needn't have worried, because the weather was absolutely crystal clear.
Image © Carl Neumann
There was no shortage of food at all; hungry bellies packed the superfood halls, and there was even a small Grill'd restaurant for burger lovers who couldn't stand to be away from those juicy, little buggers for three days. Doughnut Time made its first Splendour appearance – and their little, mint green boxes were out in full force for sure.
Splendour In The Grass wasn't all about music over the weekend. Splendour In The Craft provided 'crafternoons' for those with cravings to create between sets, and there was the Splendour Forum and the comedy stage. It has been Splendour's mission to create and bloom a festival that celebrates all facets of the arts, and this year's event was no exception.
Image © Carl Neumann
Although this reviewer wasn't able to attend Day One of Splendour, our sources tell us it was a rager of a kick-off. The afternoon began at the Amphitheatre, as the stage towered over the main gathering ground: a familiar sight for Splendour junkies.
Melbourne songstress Alex Lahey kicked off the festivities with her indie vibes and sway-worthy tunes. Over at the Mix Up Stage, Sampa The Great got the party going and The Wild Feathers amped up the GW McLennan Tent.
Throughout the warm day, the music ranged from the chilled-out sounds of Emma Louise to the crazy rough and tumble of Violent Soho, where the mosh pit produced a bunch of sweat and memories for all involved.
Violent Soho - Image © Carl Neumann
The 1975 were met by a squeal of approval from their adoring fans later in the evening, playing the favourites from their newest album [insert 16-word title here] and pleasing long-time lovers with old stuff too. Fresh from their Pre-Party appearance the night before in Brisbane, Years & Years took to the GW McLennan tent to bless those watching with their electro-pop expertise.
The Avalanches (appearing in Australia for the first time in 16 years) and The Strokes closed off day one at the Amphitheatre, and across the parklands, the sounds of Illy, Leon Bridges, Hermitude and Motez echoed and thumped from the main entrance to the camping grounds.
The day ended on a not-so-high note, as traffic leaving the venue was a nightmare. This lead many people to post their rants on social media, almost as if they were blissfully unaware that thousands of people were all leaving one area at the same time. Splendour apologised for the delays on social media the next day, and the show went on.
Leon Bridges - Image © Carl Neumann
Day Two rolled around as the sun rose, yet again, into the clear sky. It was as if Mother Nature was apologising (and then some) for the ankle-deep sludge of 2015 that will most likely go down in history, because Saturday turned out to be not only the hottest of the three days, but the hottest day of the month.
It was PLTS's turn to start the day fresh at the Amphitheatre. Revellers could also head along to Ngaiire at the Mix Up Stage or Montaigne at the GW McLennan tent. For those wanting a slower start to the day, Tipi Forest's 'Playtime' offered a bit of time to “refresh, recharge and relax” from 11am until mid-afternoon.
King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard (say that three times fast) presented an hour of psychedelic-rock-band mastery at 3pm, and Gang of Youths followed suit afterwards. Sticky Fingers attracted an impressive crowd, as they belted out songs like 'Just For You' and 'Our Town', while a pumped crowd sang along loudly. Something that seemed a little off was the volume of the music, and at multiple points during the band's set, the sea of people began chanting “turn it up”, to no avail.
Sticky Fingers - Image © Carl Neumann
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Over at the GW McLennan tent, Ball Park Music, James Vincent McMorrow and Matt Corby provided the goods for the night, each with their own unique stage presence and sound. Ball Park Music were a definite crowd pleaser, especially hyping up the crowd during 'It's Nice To Be Alive', a song that pretty much sums up Splendour as a whole: “Don't stress, that's dumb, I'm here and it's nice to be alive.” James Vincent McMorrow brought things down a notch, but completely blew the roof off the tent with his soaring, effortless vocals and mesmerising music.
Soon after, Matt Corby began his set. It's safe to say this was one of the great moments of the Splendour weekend. Acoustically presented, raw and quite breathtaking, Matt's high notes caught everyone off guard every time, and though it wasn't as high energy and punch-packing as some of the acts up to this point, it didn't need to be.
Matt Corby - Image © Carl Neumann
Pure talent and ethereal vocals are just fine on their own, and this was true for Matt Corby as well. The high point of his time on stage was, of course, 'Brother'. The 2011 song with that famous “ooh, ooh, ooh” had everyone singing along. “I thought you'd all be over at The Cure,” he laughed at one point, looking out into the decently sized crowd packed in the tent.
Meanwhile over at The Cure, the iconic band closed Saturday night with a smashing two-and-a-half hour set, playing 30 of their well-knowns and cult hits to a huge gathering at the Amphitheatre. Opening with 'Plainsong' and closing with 'Boys Don't Cry', the group showed impressive energy from start to finish. As the night came to an end, the mob of people set off only to return for an even bigger day on Sunday, the finale of this year's Splendour In The Grass.
The Cure - Image © Carl Neumann
It came all too quickly, and Day Three seemed to be packed even tighter than the rest of the festival. Single day tickets were an option, and it would seem as though the majority of them were bought for Sunday. It was filled with the talents of Jess Kent, Tired Lion, Little May, Wafia, Marlon Williams, Urthboy, The Internet and more.
City Calm Down, who played in the late afternoon/ early evening, definitely set the mood for the majority of the day. The crowd at the Amphitheatre couldn't help but bop along to their infectious choruses and catchy verses, whether they were down in the mosh pit or sitting way up on the hill.
Image © Carl Neumann
Jack Bourke's husky, low vocals are reminiscent of the legendary David Bowie, and as if he could feel everyone thinking it, the band launched into a cover of 'Let's Dance', which was met with tremendous applause and a wave of people standing up to do just what the song asks.
Tegan and Sara pleased the crowd next, with their adorable stage banter and faultlessly beautiful melodies. Courtney Barnett's set was a rowdy departure from this, as the drums and guitars of her action-packed setlist screamed through the Amphitheatre and a guy crowd-surfed on a fold-out chair for some reason.
Tegan and Sara - Image © Carl Neumann
Boy and Bear attracted a considerable amount of people, as a constant flow of buzzing Splendourites filed in for a good spot on the grass or in the standing crowd. By this stage, the sun had well and truly set, and the stunning lights of the main area lit the open space up.
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While a lot of people were heading to this part of the parklands, a great many were making like salmon and swimming upstream to The Preatures at the GW McLennan tent. Perhaps one of the most fun parts of Splendour, their set was chock-a-block with catchy songs like 'Somebody's Talking', 'Rock And Roll Rave' (a response to lock-out laws and the status of live music) and the highlight of the night 'Is This How You Feel?'. After an hour of jumping and singing, a lot of he Preatures fans headed-on back to the Amphitheatre to catch James Blake, who treated everyone to his ear-candy synths, stems and vocals for an hour.
The Preatures - Image © Carl Neumann
The glorious, classic Splendour moment where the huge crowd converge on the giant hill for the closing act had finally arrived. Finishing off the 2016 event was none other than home-grown producer Flume. The ground was impossible to see from the barrier of the mosh pit all the way up to the Golden View Bar. This was thanks to the insane amount of people who came together for the last hour-and-a-bit of the festival, and Flume's performance was absolutely magical.
He surprised everyone by bringing out some of the artists that feature on his work, as the ambient, aurally wondrous music made everyone in the crowd sway, jump and sweat. Not only did Flume showcase tremendous talent, but also a sense of humbleness. He thanked the sea of people multiple times, talking about how grateful he was to go from being at Splendour as a guest to going as a headlining artist. His kindness towards the audience was the perfect way to end the event, and as the last few tabs of confetti hit the ground, he finished up, closing his set with a “Fuck Pauline Hanson,” before disappearing a second later.
Flume - Image © Carl Neumann
No matter what stage you were at across the weekend, there seemed to be a huge amount of people singing along with practically every artist that played Splendour In The Grass 2016. There's something so beautiful about the uniting of human spirit through the sound of music... Julie Andrews was right. The North Byron hills were definitely alive this year.
Let's hope that Splendour continues to be a stellar, shining example of how music and art can create new worlds and bring even the most unexpected groups of people together.