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Splendour in the Grass 2006

Splendour in the mud


17,500 people+rain+an open field = mud, and there sure was plenty of it at this year's Splendour in the Grass at Byron Bay. The wise ones wore gumboots, the rest of us sacrificed our shoes. Although in return we were treated to two days of iconic acts, indie heroes and slightly out-there 60s superstars.

  

Arriving on day one, we wondered how well the new anti-scalping ticketing system would work. There were delays getting in, but that was mainly due to the appalling state of the entrance after heavy rain the night before. The new ticketing system actually worked quite well. Hopefully, the computer and phone based booking system is the system that all festivals will soon be using.

  

After a quick beer, it was straight to the Mix Up tent and Mos Def. It was an early highlight and by the time we got halfway through the set, being completely coated below the knees in mud was suddenly less of a problem.

  

Over on the main stage, the Grates were ripping through their set. Patience was fantastic, as usual, but the set generally seemed to peak too early and felt a bit flat towards the end.

  

During the Grates' set, the mysterious coconut made its first appearance. Passed around the crowd, the coconut came with one simple rule: add a mouthful of whatever you're drinking to the coconut, then take a swig. Not particularly hygenic, but it was an interesting way to meet people.

  

One of the more memorable moments of the first day came during Augie March's set. For some reason Augie March is constantly plagued by technical problems. Late to the stage in the G. W. McLennan Theatre, the band announced that due to the previous bands running overtime they would have to cut their set short. One Crowded Hour was played very early in the set, as if the band were deliberately trying to clear the room of anyone who only came to hear that song. Sure enough, a number of people did leave as soon as the song finished. After that, the set went down hill. The guitar sporadically failed to work, causing delays that frustrated both the band and the audience. The band left the stage, deflated and morose, shortly after.

  

TV on the Radio played early in the evening of the first night and definitely stole the show. The songs themselves are quite good, but the way they structured them into a complete performance was incredible. They managed to build an amazing tension and aura around their performance, and completely took the crowd in with them. They were joined at one stage by the Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs for some extra percussion, which only added to the spectacle.

  

Sonic Youth were, depending on who you talk to, either god-awful or amazing. Having never seen them play live, it was incredible to see them play live. For the archetypal indie band, they had their fair share of ‘rawk and roll' stage moves and were the perfect act to close the first day.

  

Day two, and the weather had improved slightly. At least the rain had gone.

  

The Zutons hit a great vibe early on. Nothing too intense, but engaging and interesting just the same.

  

When Clap Your Hands Say Yeah cancelled their spot at short notice, there was much anticipation about who the ‘mystery' band would be. It was reasonably obvious that it was the Vines, given their run of secret gigs in the lead up to Splendour, yet the general banter in the beer queues threw up names like Silverchair and even the Arctic Monkeys. When the Vines hit the stage no one was quite sure what would happen. Needless to say, any photographers in front of the stage would have been on their best behaviour.

  

Overall, the Vines set was impressive. After such a long absence it was easy to forget just how many of their songs got flogged by the media. The set peaked nicely, and Craig Nicholl performed a very thorough demolition job on the drum kit, while three nervous sound guys stood by and wondered how they were going to fix everything in time for the next band.

  

You Am I put on a blitzing set, which was made even more remarkable given that Davey Lane was reportedly suffering exhaustion and had collapsed on stage at a gig two nights prior to their Splendour appearance. Their set was a mix of old and new, focusing mainly on songs from Hourly Daily, Hi Fi Way and their latest offering, Convicts. The newer material has a lean edge, it's aggressive, but still kicks along with a fairly retro-sounding beat. Tex Perkins was summoned, and duly obliged the band's request to join in for a version of Coprolalia. The set came to a glorious finale, when Tim Rogers put down the guitar and menaced the front rows during Thank God I've Hit the Bottom. Heavy Heart topped off a really satisfying set.

  

Snow Patrol played their usual ‘Coldplay for indie fans' shtick, marking a bit of a subdued lull in the second day's program. Surprisingly, the Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs also sounded a bit flat, and the set seemed to drag on in parts.

  

Wolfmother were, well, Wolfmother, and gave their usual energetic performance, but the most outstanding act at Splendour was undoubtedly Brian Wilson.

  

There was speculation that Wilson would play his latest album in full, the almost mythical concept album, Smile. While there were elements of Smile in the set, the crowd was instead treated to a collection of greatest hits. It was a bizarre spectacle to see so many people, with such diverse backgrounds and interests, all dancing to Good Vibrations.

  

Wilson has had his problems in the past, and his eccentricities are still with him. Wilson hates cigarette smoke, and would often demand between songs, and sometimes even mid-verse, that people put their cigarettes out. However, the ‘finale' was the crowning moment. For some reason, he started singing ‘Row, Row, Row Your Boat' and kept going until everyone joined in.

  

A bizarre way to end a fantastic weekend.

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