After an epic day and night of some of the biggest acts in the world, the day dawns bright and sunny and the weather will remain like this for the whole weekend. Playing an earlier than you’d predict set, Cut Off Your Hands are back from the UK and have certainly picked up a UK accent to their music, with Bernard Butler of Suede’s fame’s production work with them definitely adding lush, almost orchestral tones reminiscent as they have promised in recent interviews of the widescreen grandeur of Echo & The Bunnymen at their height.
Gareth Liddiard almost seems to be bemused by his presence at the festival, sitting on a stool in the GW McLennan stage surveying the crowd with a bit of a ‘what am I doing here?’ expression. None the less he ploughs in to a set that is drawn largely from last year’s debut solo album Strange Tourist with stirring renditions of the title track and ‘Blondin Makes An Omelette’. Modern day Australian classics in The Drones’ ‘Shark Fin Blues’ and ‘Jezebel’ probably resonate more with the casual fan in the crowd.
Foster The People are one of the hottest tickets in Australia over the previous week and the LA band draw a huge crowd to a rammed Mix Up tent where admittedly most casual fans don’t seem to know the vast majority of the songs in the set but explode out the tent dancing during their sleeper hit ‘Pumped Up Kicks’. A massive crowd is gathered around the adjacent GW McLennan tent for The Jezabels – in fact half of them can’t get in but it tips the band as being one of the hottest festival drawcards with new single ‘Endless Summer’ hitting the radio recently.
The Grates are re-energised on the back of their recent album which sees them reconvene as a two piece after the mysterious departure of Alana Skyring, but their sound is now filled out by a session drummer and bass/keys player. Oddly this thicker sound reveals the occasional limitation in singer Patience Hodgsons’ voice, perhaps exacerbated by her exuberant on stage behaviour.
In the Amphitheatre The Mars Volta play a set comprised of largely new material, their bowel shuddering bass and percussion attracting an overwhelmingly male crowd who nod along – in time with the music depending on how much they’ve had to drink. Followed by The Living End, they predictably massive crowd with their now thoroughly commercial radio approved sounds giving them huge crowd appeal, ending their set with latest single ‘The Ending Is Just The Beginning Repeating’ Day two is capped off by Janes’ Addiction, appearing under what appear to be two women hung from hooks above the stage like a pair of contemporary Stelarc installations. Perry Farrell and Dave Navarro are like two leering middle aged uncles, playing it up to the crowd and thrilling fans with closing renditions of ‘Been Caught Stealing’ and the seminal ‘Three Days.
Day three dawns another stunner after another cold night, and for the first part of the day the vibe is distinctly laid back, with bands drawn from the more chilled and laid back areas of the spectrum, with the sunshine and lollipops hotly tipped US buzz band Group Love followed by the Blue Mountains pastoralism of Cloud Control. The Vines bring in a far more raucous effort with their set highlight their cover of Outkast’s ‘Ms Jackson’ and a feeling that after much speculation on the future of the band over recent years, they have finally got their shit together. The Panics show that they’re one of the best bands in Australia with a set that draws heavily off their brilliant new album Rain On The Hummingwire, with lead single ‘Majesty’ a fresh highlight of the set, although they aren’t willing to risk leaving out ‘Don’t Fight It’ off 2007’s Cruel Guards prompting a crowd singalong.
There’s a dash to be done from the GW McLennan Tent to the Amphitheatre for the idiosyncratic opening titles of Pulp, as a band many thought they’d never see in Australia again show why they’re beloved of several generations of music fans . Indeed their set is hit after hit for anyone who’s spent more than a few nights picking up in an indie club, with ‘This Is Hardcore’, an arch ‘Sorted For Es and Whizz’ almost meta in its performance as a crowd of sauced and loved up fans sing along. Front man and indeed music icon Jarvis Cocker is as ever sardonic and knowing, with ‘Mishapes’, ‘Do You Remember The First Time’ and a predictably rapturous rendition of ‘Common People’ only tempered by the fact that he dolefully informs us that Pulp may never return to Australia again.
Pulp would normally be more than enough to headline any festival in Australia, but they get to play second fiddle on the line up to Coldplay – every secretary and casual music fan’s favourite stadium band. Not having seen them for over 10 years, it’s a worthy sight just to be reminded what a stadium band like this can command in a performance. Sure it might be commercial indie-lite rock, but it is certainly one hell of a spectacle. The band indulge in a bit of carbon pollution when a series of balloons fall out of the sky like pigeons who’ve just eaten Ratsac, but you can’t help but empathise with the communal love inspired by the fist pumping joy of the crowd as the opening strains of ‘Viva La Vida’ open.
The band can be a bit obvious at times with the lighting wash for ‘Yellow’ wait for it … yellow, but perhaps that is what their true fans expect. A tasteful snatch of ‘Rehab’ is performed in tribute to Amy Winehouse before ‘Fix You’ and the set climaxes with a bombastic ‘Every Teardrop Is A Waterfall’ Chris Martin smashes guitars and paper butterflies that could just as well be Queensland Sunshine Coast creepy crawlies remind us off the bush location. For all the criticisms levelled at it, Splendour In The Grass delivers in bands and location and is undoubtedly one of the best festival experiences in Australia.