Five Things We Learnt At Splendour In The Grass 2018
#1. Pop isn't the enemy anymore.
There wasn’t any mud this year, but there was a hell of a lot of great music to get stuck into. With Splendour in the Grass done and dusted for another year, Adam Lewis takes a look back at the 2018 highlights from Australia’s favourite festival.
#1. Pop Isn’t The Enemy Anymore
It’s welcome, and it’s been happening for a while. The old Us vs Them days, when major festivals were the domain of “serious music fans” (read: male guitar bands and critics’ picks from other genres) are more or less done.
It’s been a slow build, perhaps slow enough to miss, but just look at this year’s acts: Khalid had one of the biggest sets of the festival. Lorde, PNAU and Amy Shark packed the amphitheatre, and Miguel and James Bay both headlined stages with huge receptions.
And that’s not even looking down the bill, where newer Australian acts like Cub Sport, G Flip, Eves Karydas, Mallrat, Dean Lewis, and so many more were playing some of the biggest shows of their careers to date.
Splendour has always had a pop contingent, but this year showed more than ever that pop and indie/alternative are borrowing a lot from each other…and the results were great.
#2. Festival Rock Is Forever
Of course, it’s not a zero-sum game, and Splendour will always have room for a huge mid-afternoon, main-stage guitar throwdown. It’s practically a rite of passage now for big Australian rock acts, and this year saw triumphant sets from some of the best we have.
Skegss, Methyl Ethel, DMA’s, Gang of Youths, Alex Lahey, Middle Kids and DZ Deathrays dominated the festival’s afternoons, pulling massive crowds and playing the kind of big, communal sets that keep people flocking to festivals.
And with bands like WAAX, Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever and Ball Park Music packing the tents, there’ll be plenty more in years to come.
#3. The Aussie Music Love-In Is Now A Splendour Staple
For the past few years, there’s been more and more surprise collaborations at Splendour, to the point that this year, they almost felt expected.
This year, there were “passing-the-torch” moments like Bernard Fanning joining WAAX and Tim Rogers joining Hockey Dad (for their classic singles ‘Don’t Wanna Be Left Out’ and ‘Purple Sneakers’, respectively), and collaborations-in-progress like Skegss with Alex The Astronaut.
And then there was DZ Deathrays, who brought out Murray Cook (the red Wiggle) for a very unexpected, and very fun, rendition of ‘Highway To Hell’, and Dune Rats, whose entire set was based around bringing out friends.
Splendour is becoming the place for bands to do something unusual in front of new fans (and an extended audience through a thousand Instagram stories), and it’s havoc for FOMO sufferers.
#4 Nostalgia Is A Hell Of A Drug
With collaborations becoming more and more expected, something new also came through this year — the nostalgic cover. It’s happened a bit in the past, but this year it felt like a whole suite of turn-of-the-millenium classics leapt from road-trip mixtapes and onto the stage.
And it was our best new Australian acts that took the lead — Jack River (Tal Bachman’s ‘She’s So High’), Alex Lahey (Avril Lavigne’s ‘Complicated’), Alex The Astronaut and Stella Donnelly (Jimmy Eat World’s ‘The Middle’), Sampa The Great (Lauryn Hill’s ‘Doo Wop (That Thing)’), Amy Shark (Wheatus’ ‘Teenage Dirtbag’), and so many more.
Between acts, the house music dug way more deeply into our childhood faves than it had before, too. Millennial pop has been fully embraced.
#5. Splendour In The Grass Goes For Three Full Days (And A Thursday Night)
I mean, of course it does, right? But when we say full days, we mean it. The sun was out all weekend this year, and with most of the punters camping on-site and getting restless by the time the stages opened at midday, there were packed crowds for those opening sets that so often struggle at other festivals.
The GW McLennan tent in particular packed out early, with massive opening sets from Didirri, Angie McMahon, and G Flip — who said it was the best day of her life.
And it wasn’t just that set. Throughout the day, the biggest crowds were found at all different times, and often it was beloved Australian mainstays who pulled the biggest crowds, well before the headline sets. That was certainly true for Gang of Youths and Pnau, who we’d guess came second only to Kendrick’s festival-closing set for sheer numbers.
Splendour is not a festival that waits ’til dark to come alive.
Adam Lewis is a music booker and enthusiast from Sydney. Follow him on Twitter.
Photo credit: Jess Gleeson/Splendour in the Grass