The Splendour In The Grass festival was an unusually organised event with an eclectic mix of genres and styles and no obvious flow to the line-up, but what a weekend it was, with many new exciting bands, some old favourites, and beautiful weather all weekend.
The Futureheads were the second band to play, at the far too early hour of 2pm. They played an extremely strong set of many of the songs from their brilliant new album "Decent Days and Nights" which was well received by the audience in attendance. Their angular guitars and four-part harmonies were a fun start to the festival, although they deserved a much later slot. Appearing very happy to be playing in Australia, they even got everyone involved in a sing-a-long with their interesting take on Kate Bush's song Hounds Of Love.
Bizarrely enough, due to the fact that we bought our tickets at the last minute from some friends who couldn't make it to the festival, we seemed initially unable to find any accomodation in Byron Bay, apart from the absurdly over-priced caravan park. But my beautiful and talented wife found a spa retreat on the outskirts of Byron Bay, a 7 kilometre walk from Belongil Field where Splendour was held. So after enjoying The Futureheads we had several hours until the next bands we wanted to see, so we drove back to Azabu for a spa and to prepare for the weekend ahead.
We arrived back at the festival with the plan of just wandering between the different performance areas and catching what we would. Decoder Ring were playing a slightly more uptempo version of their beautiful electronic dreamscapes, with entrancing images projected on the screens behind them, all of which well suited the smaller mix-up tent perfectly.
Mercury Rev were the biggest disappointment of the festival for me, if only because I was expecting better things of them. I really want to like this band, but if this show is indicative of their live shows, then I'll just keep waiting until the day when I am in the same city at the same time as The Flaming Lips . Jonathon Donahue continually pranced around the stage like a ponce, feigning conducting the band who, although very tight and professional, seemed bored and the show lacked any emotion.
The Living End played a really well received show, although guitarist Chris Cheney too often likes to show off his widdly-widdly rockabilly prowess on the guitar (think of a younger Brian Setzer). But the crowd sing-a-long to "Prisoner Of Society" was possibly the most raucous and enjoyed moment of the night.
Ryan Adams was just a boring pratt who annoyed many of the punters with his constant moaning about the sound and he spent much of his time sitting bent over his guitar and regaled us with his prowess at tuning a guitar. After we had wandered off apparently he threw a hissy fit and stormed off stage early.
But being bored and annoyed so quickly with Ryan Adams, we made our way over to see Har Mar Superstar, just out of interest. OK, i get the joke. So it was off to the muddy corner of the Tipi Circle to catch some of the set by Byron Bay dj Scoot@, who played a great set of dance music with a nice touch of guitar loops.
The last band for the first night were the rocking Queens Of The Stone Age who arrived on stage to the strains of "Who's Afraid Of The Big Bad Wolf" and then proceeded to blow away the supertop with a career-spanning set.
We arrived back at Belongil Fields on Sunday for the main reason we had come to Splendour - the trifecta of Doves, Bloc Party and Interpol.
We had already seen Doves in Brisbane on Thursday night where they played an amazing and long show, with lots of friendly bantering with the crowd and they were obviously happy to be back in Australia. Their set at Splendour was like a mini version of this show but was no less enjoyable - it had been at Splendour 2002 that we had first seen Doves, so it was great to hear them under the Supertop again.
As some wandered off for beer or a toilet break, we made our way closer to the stage for Bloc Party. Their blend of indie-guitar-dance music was a fun experience, and even though the band have sold out so many of their shows worldwide, there was still a great sense of joy in their performance. They played many songs from from their debut album "Silent Alarm", and as an inflated beach ball (ubiquitous at these festivals, it seems) bounced on stage, Kele kicked it deep into the audience mid-song, much to the enjoyment of the crowd, who were joining in and singing along.
Finally it was time for Interpol, who played a very cool set, which included some of their more uptempo songs. A special moment was when another inflated beach ball made its way to the stage, only to be ignored by the band and finally retrieved by a roadie.
Interpol were my highlight of the festival, followed closely by The Futureheads, but I also really enjoyed Bloc Party and Doves.
We caught some of the set by The Finn Brothers, Neil and Tim Finn of Split Enz and Crowded House fame, but nothing could live up to the three bands we had just witnessed although the crowd in the Supertop seemed to be enjoying the show.
Moby closed the Supertop, but by that stage we were already on our way back to Azabu for a heated spa under the stars, reliving our favourite moments of the weekend and washing away the sweat and mud.
Special mention must also go out to the Church Of Two Hands And A Chicken who provided a weekend of weddings and exorcisms, preaching and whipping.
Check out radio station JJJ's web site for their Splendour review, full of audience comments and photos.
The gig I'm looking forward to next is Sigur Rós - next Friday.
Doves - Some Cities
Bloc Party - Banquet
The Futureheads - Piece Of Crap
Interpol - Interlude