SOUTH EAST QLD surf, music, style, enviro & Politik

Splendour Bender Sees Festival Push Site Capacity To Limit – But It Was Damn Fun!

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Snakes In The Grass … well it could have been considering the frickin heatwave that hit the North Byron Parklands in the middle of bloody winter, likely confusing a few scaled slitherers out of early hibernation.

Yet, not surprisingly, on the way in to the site the only things spotted lurking in the long grass on the hillside peppered with multi-coloured giant letters spelling out Splendour In The Grass were hugging, chanting, laughing colourful punters after that mandatory awesome group shot for their algorithmic social media pages before all things got sweaty and sideways inside the actual festival itself. At least they weren’t chasing spurious Pokemons, so there’s still hope for them yet.

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At The Drive In made a triumphant return to the Australian festival stage, and delivered a scorching set that lit the event up. Powerful, enigmatic, thrilling and explosive at times, they did not disappoint // Phot Ian Laidlaw

At least one person didn’t get through the gate who was walking behind us, due to the fact that they dumped their bag of filthy amphetamine down trouser and onto the ground as sniffer dogs approached – the dogs then confirmed the prize to their blue uniformed handlers, looking more than chuffed at their seizure despite missing their man. Surely at a place like Splendour you should be able to operate for three days without drugs given the sheer volume of solid music, food and social integration going on. Word has it that 323 souls were arrested for drugs and drug related offences as a result of the furry quadrupeds and covert undercover operation.

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It was more like summer for the first couple of days with searing heat, flurries of breeze and spectacular sunsets. For once, the mud was nowhere to be seen and the level of hype amongst the crowd jumped up a notch // Photo Luke Sorensen

With all the pre-entry entertainment going on along the kilometre-long trek from the drop-off point to the main gate, it only got better once actually inside the site. This was one huge gathering of super happy festivalites – around 33,500 each day from Friday to Sunday according to the official punter counterer thingo.

There’s been plenty of people raving on about lots of acts this year, from the Avalanches to The Strokes to Urthboy and most in between, but Saturday truly went mental with Sydney’s Sticky Fingers played on dusk to the main amphitheatre – there were probably ten times more people than the last time they played there in the heat of summer at Falls Festival 18 months ago when they told LiQUiFY afterwards backstage how blown away they were even then to have such an awesome reception.

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Sticky Fingers maxed out the main valley stage arena and put the site into a pedestrian gridlock with their sublime set // Photo Stills In Time

The giant faux fur coat on frontman Dylan Frost certainly helped convey the hedonism of it all for the Splendour crowd on Saturday night, preparing them all for At The Drive In next which was just pure post-hardcore energy powered by all their crazy chords and then finished off with the frenzy of One Armed Scissor and total rock-legend air kicks from singer Cedric Bixler-Zavala. What a unique talent he is.

Speaking of which, emotions spilled over to tears for a throng of sentimental former goths when the likes of Robert Smith stepped out for The Cure’s set headlining Saturday night. At 57 years old, his hair wasn’t that black mop anymore, but a more sophisticated grey bird’s nest, while his vocals and guitar didn’t falter. The sound was spectacular, the set list all encompassing – apart from the omission of Love Cats which had fans perplexed – and he even did a few of his little signature awkward hand swirly dances on stage which brought on bursts of cheers from the loyal gathering who could appreciate just how much fun the band was actually having as well.

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A picture of a guy singing about pictures of you. Robert Smith didn’t falter for a second delivering a spine-chilling 2.5 hour set of Cure classics with a voice that hasn’t changed a bit in almost 30 years // Photo Luke Sorensen

All that fun and the Belgian cookie van selling warm, giant chocolate chip, oat and coconut cookies just inside the entry gate made it all worthwhile for the hours it took to get home via foot, bus or someone’s mum who didn’t mind a midnight run to the middle of nowhere on A Night Like This.

We ducked out just before the chaos hit, with bus services overwhelmed and complete traffic chaos each night. Some people were left stranded for hours in the cool early hours of the morning, waiting for transport out of the event after an unprecedented amount of non-camping festival-goers opted for the shuttle bus options and the drop-off and pick-up circuit.

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The shuttle bus lines to leave the event each day were off the chart, with some punters waiting hours and hours to even set foot on their ride home // Photo Luke Sorensen

With the event gradually growing each year, the speculation is will it stay or will it move on to a bigger venue when its 5-year trial at the North Byron Parklands finishes after the 2017 event. You can’t complain though – a festival that is seeking bigger venues or more facilities due to healthy growth can only be good for live music fans, ensuring a future for big shows and events that are as enthralling as they are spectacular in every sense.

Bring on 2017 and bring on more live music like this!

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The Duke Dumont party in the tent got a little silly // Photo Mitch Lowe
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2017 sees the event in it’s last year of a 5-year trial at the North Byron Parklands. It is understood the event organisers are yet to confirm that the event will have a home after 2017, either here or at a new spot. Crowd figures are rising which is causing some to doubt that the parklands can handle the size of the event // Photo Bianca Holderness

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