There was barely a cloud in the sky when campers rose on the first day of the festival, the brutal heat hitting punters before any music began. With drinks flowing faster (and earlier) than usual, the shindig kicked off at the Amphitheatre with up-and-comer Alex Lahey, who managed to reel in an unexpectedly energetic crowd for a midday slot. The set particularly came alive for ‘Ivy League’ off Lahey’s debut EP, its reverbing solo delighting a tidy crowd of festival-goers.
However, it was English alt-rockers Nothing But Thieves who stole the main stage with their Australian festival debut. Showcasing vocalist Conor Mason’s stunning vibrato, some epic surprise moments took the set to a new level, featuring an acoustic version of ‘If I Get High’ which rendered the moshpit speechless and an emotion-drenched cover of The Pixies’ ‘Where Is My Mind?’ As the Londoners (and Mason) would say, “Let’s ‘ave at it”, and the roaring crowd certainly did.
Fat White Family brought their raucous rock stylings to the GW Mclennen tent, unhinged stage behaviour and nudity in tow. The vibe was cripplingly uncomfortable as frontman Lias Saoudi got his entire kit off on stage, but with absolutely no idea what could possibly happen next – you just couldn’t look away.
One man band wonder Jack Garratt made his debut Splendour appearance, playing a raptous set to a tent of overflowing punters. It did come as somewhat of a surprise, with Jack stopping a few songs in to take a photo to ‘send to his mum and dad.’ Tracks like ‘Breathe Life’ and ‘Worry’ went over a treat, as well as plenty of other cuts from his debut record, Phase.
Just a quick stroll from the Mix Up tent at Tiny Dancer, World Champion were playing a tight set to a small, but cheerful crowd. Their notable earworm of 2015 ‘Avacado Galaxy’ had people singing along, but lesser known tracks filled the breadth of their simple, but fun set.
There was a somewhat sleepy vibe over at the Amphitheatre during the first half of powerhouse rock duo The Kills’ performance. However, the set suddenly skyrocketed to great heights from new banger ‘Hard Habit to Break’ onwards, with the feisty Alison Mosshart owning the stage like a boss and Jamie Hince owning the guitar.
The cheers and squeals that accompanied The 1975’s every move were deafening, but sticking around to catch their set definitely payed off. Matty Healy is an absolutely unashamed, no-fucks-given performer. While the rest of the band are more subtle in their stage presence, the whole set is something to behold. Their music may be somewhat of an acquired taste, but it sure as hell made the insanely large crowd in that amphitheater pretty darn pleased.
Brisbane boys Violent Soho easily took the crown for ‘Best Moshpit’ of the festival, with each circle pit growing in size and intensity as they kicked off with WACO favourite ‘Like Soda’. The new album permeated the set, getting especially rowdy during ‘So Sentimental’. The rockers’ cover of Nirvana’s ‘Breed’ sat cosily among the festival’s suite of well-executed covers, yet things were far from comfortable (and in the best possible way) as the biggest circle pit of the day broke out.
Over at the GW Mclennan tent, It was a welcome return for everybody’s favourite Swedish indie pop band, Peter Bjorn and John. Fairy lights adorned the bodies (and totems) of many, as the band played through a highly energetic set of cuts from latest record Breakin’ Point, as well as some straight up classics (‘Young Folks’ anybody?)
In one of the most anticipated sets of the festival, The Avalanches made their return to the big stage – 16 years after they first emerged. With such a large amount of hype and the type of music which is notoriously difficult to convey live, it was always going to be a tricky performance. A slow burner of a set, it took some time for things to really take off, and as a result there were plenty of punters who didn’t stick around. Those who did stay however, were treated to cuts from Since I Left You and latest record Wildflower, fleshed out by a live band and guest vocalists. Overall it was an enjoyable, but somewhat underwhelming set. With the challenges faced in the lead up paired with uncontrolled excitement from fans and industry alike, it’s understandable that The Avalanches live return didn’t meet the expectations of many – that’s not to say it won’t in the further as touring gets underway.
As the night reached its peak, it was no surprise that festival headliners The Strokes took it home in style. Ace banter from enigmatic frontman Julian Casablancas and a huge smoke and light production fit perfectly into a monster set, with classics ‘Reptilia’ and ‘Someday’ providing plenty of groove. However, a less energetic response to new track ‘Drag Queen’ off their latest Future Present Past EP suggested that more than a few punters weren’t too familiar with it. Despite this, the song still played well, and the frenzy starting to set-closer ‘Last Nite’ was more than enough to send crowds off feeling satisfied and ready for the days ahead.