Guitars, grunge and growls won Splendour in the Grass 2019

There’s a cold-war-esque anxiety that comes with the prevailing discourse suggesting rock music’s flailing relevance. 

The greats often harp on about the authentic wonders of yesteryear, praise Greta Van Fleet’s loyalty to the minor-pentatonic scale and simply reject the thought of a chord strummed anywhere but a Gibson S-G. 

Modern tastemakers opt for the approach that beat makers and optimists hark the herald of a new generation of musical excellence, avoiding the idea that “guitar music” is very much alive and thriving. 

Australia’s most iconic festival, Splendour In The Grass has come and gone yet again. Each year punters await with a palpitating excitement in the lead up to the sensory-overloading spectacle – it’s a symbol of youth, unadulterated jubilance and is the ultimate paradise-like musical oasis. 

This year, the festival assumed monolithic status with headliners Tame Impala, Childish Gambino, James Blake and SZA at the helm.  

There’s no denying Childish Gambino’s set was nothing short of a deeply spiritual, historic experience. SZA cemented her status as RnB’s reigning queen, delivering a set that sent hearts soaring into a glimmering retrograded moon.

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James Blake, What So Not and Hayden James delivered dazzling festival sets that kept all bodies moving amidst the brisk Byron air. 

Hayden James
Hayden James. Credit: Stephen Booth

However, it was quite clear this year, the festival was home to our own homegrown, and international torchbearers for the mighty six-string. 

From gazey dream pop, to hardcore-turned arena rock spectaculars, Splendour in the Grass 2019 proved that in fact, kids are interested in a hell of a lot more than just Ableton. There’s a generation of rock dogs leading the way who made a serious mark in Byron this year – here’s a taste of what they had to offer. 

Day 1 

Wollongong’s Tyne James-Organ kicked off festivities at the legendary G.W McClennan tent on Friday afternoon. Having initially garnered a bubbling fanbase with his caramel-smooth acoustic renditions of massive triple j hits on YouTube, it’s quite clear the Wollongong native has come into his own. 

Leading a band of bleary eyed musos with a confident red-Tele in hand, the singer-songwriter swooned the pack tent with an arsenal of ’80s-tinged indie rock anthems, topping the set off with an intensely bittersweet cover of The Cure’s ‘Friday I’m In Love’. 

Australia’s dream pop renaissance leader Hatchie took to the stage shortly after, in celebration of her universally acclaimed debut album Keepsake. The Brisbane native reeled in a packed tent with tales teen-dreams and hazy eyed longing, oozing with warm chord musings. 

Day 2 

Day 2 saw ’90s heroism take a front seat, with Moaning Lisa emerging in a cloud of swelling shoegaze anthems. Paying homage to their heroes Wolf Alice (who took to the stage later in the day), the Canberra natives offered a charismatic, energetic set that hearkened to the sounds of Slowdive and Sonic Youth with a distinctly modern take. 

moaning lisa
Moaning Lisa. Credit: Aimee Catt

Having cut their teeth across Sydney’s scene for over five years, Dear Seattle’s mainstage appearance was a long, and well deserved performance in the making.

Slinging heart-on-your-sleeve grunge punk that beckons for another tinnie to be slung, for friendships to be solidified in the comfort of a mosh pit, and for lyrics to be yelled with wild abandon, their authentic sound landed in a perfect home amongst those who seek a warm comfort in power chords.

Dear Seattle
Dear Seattle. Credit: Ian Laidlaw

Trophy Eyes are undeniably the greatest rock act this country has produced in the last five years (sorry, Gang of Youths). Last year’s The American Dream saw the band reach greater heights than ever thought imaginable – it all played out like a local music fairytale, except luck and chance played no role – only blood, sweat and the ability to absolutely capture the innermost vulnerabilities of every listener.

Tearing through their set with confidence, frontman John Floreani made it apparent the band were truly ready for a mainstage slot. 

trophy eyes
Trophy Eyes. Credit: Mitch Lowe

Day 3 

Although exhaustion had set in, one of the festivals most impassioned sing-a-longs came in the form of Slowly Slowly’s 2019 single ‘Jellyfish’ – a rolicking throwback anthem that’d send Third Eye Blind to a pitiful grave.

Rock n roll demons Pist Idiots followed shortly after on the mainstage, insighted mosh pits that’d put Download Festival punters to shame. 

Pist Idiots
Pist Idiots. Credit: Ian Laidlaw

Aside from the overwhelming presence of Skegss merch, Psychedelic Porn Crumpets clearly represented the largest merch wearing audience. Their.fanbase isn’t too unlike the King-Gizz army, and the fact that they managed to pack the tent on Sunday afternoon with a rabid excitement is indicative of their looming dominance. 

Watch Pist Idiots at Splendour 2019:

New Zealand’s purveyors of emo-inspired guitar pop, The Beths satiated the hunger of sun-drenched punters, drowning them in a sea of Weezer, Lemuria and Rilo Kiley inspired.harmonies and hooks that’d rival pop greats. 

With another year done and dusted, it’s clear that whilst hip hop continues to dominate and electronic producers show no sign of waning, there’s a clear hunger for guitars, growls and as always, a little bit of grunge. 

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