Saving the best for last – even after that Powderfinger reunion – Splendour 2017 closed out with what very well may be its single best day in years. The quality on offer from start to finish was undeniable, upheld by both locals and internationals who were clearly set on not letting Bernard Fanning own the entire weekend (although he still pretty much does).
It wasn’t surprising that pretty much the entire festival rushed to the GW McLennan tent when Amy Shark was set to perform early in the day. After her “Adore” came in at number two on the triple j hottest 100 the inventive songwriter has been in high demand; here was a chance to show that she much more than just one hit, highlighting a charming artist with a wit as sharp as her surprising cover of Eminem‘s “Superman” and a penchant for expression as blunt as her wry recital of the rapper’s incredibly misogynistic lyrics. “I’ll remember this forever”, Shark beamed to the adoring crowd before ending with “Adore”, leading what was perhaps the biggest non-Ampitheatre singalong of the weekend.
Bishop Briggs sure knows how to match her voice to the intensity of the stomping production that drives monster-pop jams like “Wild Horses” and “River”. The increasingly popular powerhouse vocalist from L.A delivered a set that’s bound to see demand for a return tour skyrocket, taking the Mix-Up and twisting it around her commanding finger as she smashed out meaty, stadium-worthy hooks enhanced by epic beat drops, some of which would put Hudson Mohawke to shame. A cover of Matt Corby‘s “Monday” highlighted her vocal work without the need for any big beats, introducing us to an artist undoubtedly on her way to the very top.
Come 3:30pm almost every person at the festival is struck with the same idea, resulting in an epic march to the main stage for the inimitable talents of Aussie rockers The Smith Street Band, who two years ago emerged as one of the standouts of the three-day festival. “Splendourrrrrrr,” yelled lead singer Wil Wagner, as the band took the stage and got straight into, “Forrest,” playing so hard and loud that anybody still hungover from Saturday had no choice but to perk up.
This was very much a heroes welcome from those remember just how hard they rocked in 2015. In two short years they’ve come a long way, and Wagner expressed his gratitude to the crowd, for which all of us gladly reciprocated. One of the biggest moshes of the weekend formed for, “I Don’t Want to Die Anymore”, with everyone passionately screaming along and thrashing their bodies. The second to last song of the set proved to be one of my [Giselle] highlights of the weekend: “Death to the Lads”, went completely off the rails; streamers, yelling, dancing, jumping…one guy even got completely naked. The pure joy projecting from both the crowd and the band proved why the Melbourne locals have been having such a successful stretch these past few years.
Back to the Mix-Up and A.B Original wasted no time launching into their hard-hitting brand of socially charged hip-hop, described perfectly by Trials halfway through the set: “Our subject matter is fucking serious, but our tracks are baaaaangersss”.
And bangers they sure are, wrapping around the Mix-Up with every thud, scratch and hi-hat, controlled ever so tightly by DJ Dameza, who was stepping in for usual wheels of steel helmer DJ Total Eclipse. The timing couldn’t have been more unfortunate as just days ago the man who hit and killed Elijah Doughty, a 14 year old Aboriginal boy from Kalgoorlie, was found not guilty of manslaughter and sentenced to a shockingly short three years in prison. The teenager’s face was projected behind Trials and Briggs as they would fire round after round of tracks from their award-winning debut album, fuelled by a clear and palpable sense of frustration.
Throughout the entire set Elijah’s image gave power and purpose to the chants of “no justice, no peace”, a refrain which the crowd were more than happy to shout at the top of their lungs. “If we don’t leave you with something to go home and think about, what’s the fucking point?”, asked Trials reiterating what makes them such an important voice in Australian music, falling in-line with the potent political pushback that hip hop has been built upon, evidenced in just about every step they took from the thunderous “2 Black, 2 Strong” to “Dumb Things”, the latter a momentous set-closer for which none other than Paul Kelly was brought out. Their promise to have a “fuck-tonne of friends” through the set was delivered on three times over; in addition to Kelly, A.B got some very valuable boosts from the fantastic Caiti Baker and Dan Sultan, who of course came to sing the hook on hit “January 26”.
Just when many thought nothing could top Smith Street at the Ampitheatre, the next act to join the main stage were Client Liaison, taking things to a whole new level. Decked out in office attire and dressed in very dapper coloured suits, the Melbourne artists transformed the stage into a tropical corporate paradise. As pictures of Australia’s Senate filled the screens, Monte Morgan and Harvey Miller performed the first of many synchronised dances, bouncing in time to, “Canberra Won’t Be Calling Tonight”. Bassist Tom Tilley and guitarist Geordie Miller then joined the stage, and they dug into hit after hit, playing “Pretty Lovers”, “Hotel Stay”, and “Nothing to Lose”. Tom Tilley asked the crowd if they were thirsty, and then proceeded to throw out cans of Fosters. But the excitement didn’t stop there, as icon Tina Arena joined the stage for a huge surprise guest appearance. Together Monte and Tina sang “Sorrento Moon”, and “Teardrops”, both to deafening screams while people ran from the hill to the D-barrier. The set finished with streamers, back up dancers, and a whole lot of 80’s inspired groove as popular tracks “Off White Limousine” and “World Of Our Love” wrapped it all up.
Over in the Tiny Dancer tent, delivering an absolutely outrageous set was Sydney sider Kilter. Kilter wasn’t even on my [Giselle] list of acts to see, but I just so happened to be in the right place at the right time, and boy was it beautiful. Despite the smallish crowd, Kilter turned the tent into a mini night club with his deep electric percussion making everyone drop to the heavy beat. He brought out not one, not two…but three guest appearances! Melbourne artist Lanks joined the stage to sing “Count On Me”, Woodes for “I Hear You”, and Gill Gates for “No Games.” There was banger after banger with, “Fool For You”, “Running Away” and “They Don’t Know Us”, filling the crowd with that extra burst of energy to make it through the night. Walking away I heard one punter say, ‘Kilter is the next Flume’, and well, after that set, who could argue?
Meanwhile filling the GW McLennan tent with blue-eyed soul, Melbourne artist Meg Mac sang as clear and pristine as though she was in the recording studio. Another artist who performed at Splendour two years prior (and on the same stage), Mac herself pointed out how far she’s come since then. The last time she was on this stage she had just released her EP, and now she’s released an album. As she sang, it was easy to see why Australia has fallen in love with her. Soulful tracks like “Every Lie”, “Grandma’s Hands”, and “Never Be” took hold of the audience’s emotions, before the powerhouse “Roll Up Your Sleeves” marked the end of the set.
Waving the flag high as the only U.S hip hop artist on the line-up (no, Yachty doesn’t count) ScHoolboy Q had a lot to deliver on. First off, he drew a crowd that was perhaps even larger than that of the two significantly superior acts after him, bringing a Mix-Up audience over to the Ampitheatre as the main stage switched from retro-loving Client Liaison fans to a sea of topless bodies pushing, shoving, and stumbling around on shoulders.
Q is more straight-forward than his labelmate Kendrick Lamar when it comes to performing live. Give him a DJ spinning hot beats and a mic, and he’s set. Just don’t throw any shoes at him or he’ll get confused; poor Q was pelted with worn shoes from “lit” teens while the crowd begged the emcee to do a “shoey”, the only problem being that Q didn’t know what a shoey was (nor should he) so just threw them all back into the crowd. When we weren’t trying to make him down a “totes cool” mixture of some dudes sweat and beer, he was hitting us with some of the best cuts across his discography, even taking us as far back as “Hands on the Wheel”, though it paled to highlights “Dope Dealer”, “Collard Greens” and “THat Part”.
It was quite entertaining watching almost every single person in the crowd for ScHoolboy Q rush out of the Ampitheatre as soon as the emcee wrapped up with “Man of the Year”, no doubt in a frenzy to catch Grime hero Stormzy tear the Mix-Up to shreds with his dark, aggressive raps. More room for the rest of us; Sigur Rós may not have boasted the largest crowd of the day but unsurprisingly delivered one of the weekend’s biggest highlights.
It’s not easy to put into words just how much of an impact Sigur Rós has live, creating these enormous set pieces of emotion and sound that reach out and draw you in before blasting you with intense swathes of music that truly transcends convention. They are one of the most anticipated and unique bands in the world – always have been, always will be – and their ability to lull you into a false sense of security then whisk you away on a journey no other band in the world can offer is unparalleled. Nothing has changed about that, and here they gave us true ascension as they opened with Takk highlight “Saeglópur” closed with the breathtaking “Untitled 8 (Popplagid)”.
James Murphy sure is odd when he speaks into the mic and half-heartedly addressed the crowd with a “John C. Reilly in Step Brothers” vibe of deadpan dorkiness. “That’s Nancy”, he says while pointing to mega talented Nancy Whang. “She’s very cold. Emotionally…in the heart…dead inside.” It’s a random moment preceding a jaw-dropping version of “Home”, scattered amongst other pops of randomness, which usually consisted of James introducing Pat Mahoney over and over again. It neither added nor subtracted to what LCD Soundsystem brought to their almost-two-hour set to close out Splendour for yet another year, but it did present a funny little juxtaposition between James outside of music and James inside of music.
The James inside of music is suave and earnest; though still holding onto all those eccentricities, you can tell that he takes what he does very seriously, leading the band as they’d calmly navigate the crazy amount of electronics and instruments on stage. They work together to stretch songs long enough into giant, dense layers of organic vs synthetic sound, a battle that’s weighed quite heavily towards electronics. The war helps create the kinds of sonic pockets that’ll swallow you whole and lead you into a trance, hypnotising you into some inescapable rhythm, a state of stupor where you just can’t stop dancing.
Having only 15 songs in a set that long may seem underwhelming, but LCD handle it quite brilliantly. It could have gone either way after a lacklustre opening, particularly taming the funk edges of “Daft Punk is Playing at My House”, a version that didn’t inspire much confidence after the just-as-dull opener of “Yr City’s a Sucker”. The arrival of “I Can Change” as the third song represented a shift though, moving towards bigger, better and more complex pieces that ranged from the depressed downbeat robotics of “Someone Great” to the blissful pop explosions of “Dance Yrself Clean”.
The only right way to cap it all off was the pain and pleasure of “All My Friends”, a song as captivating live as it is on record, LCD very wisely staying faithful to the version we all know, love, and can sing at the top of our lungs. Tens of thousands of people chanting “Where are you friends tonight?” into the night sky while Splendour 2017 begins to fade into the background: nothing beats that.
ScHoolboy Q Set List
Hell of a Night
Hands on the Wheel
Break the Bank
Man of the Year
Sigur Ros Set List
LCD Soundsystem Set List
Yr City’s a Sucker
Daft Punk is Playing at My House
I Can Change
You Wanted a Hit
Call the Police
New York, I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down
Dance Yrself Clean
All My Friends
Words by Chris Singh and Giselle Bueti.