Winding our way down to the Amphitheatre to enjoy more sun (and an actual breeze), it was certainly a sight to see a group of guys dancing in the empty pit – and that was before Byron garage rockers PLTS played a single note. While dishing out a pretty standard set overall, Kit Bray’s powerful pipes were impressive, with the three-piece warming us up nicely for Harts’ truly magical set.
The Melbourne-based soulster captured hearts (great overused pun right?) a couple of months back at Groovin The Moo, but throw in a bigger stage and insane crowd? Elevated to another level. The shredder ripped into standout tracks including ‘Breakthrough’ and incredibly catchy new tune ‘Peculiar’. Playing the guitar over and behind his head was a classic Harts moment. However, the energy exploded during last track ‘Power’ (another fresh one). The maestro ran across the whole length of the stage so he could see every individual in the crowd waving their hands in the air (with what seemed like all the power in the world).
“You guys don’t mind if I play the guitar for just a little longer, do you?”
Oh Harts, you can play it for as long as you like. Now onto that upcoming album.
Ngaiire’s breathtaking set kicked off Saturday’s festivities over at the Mix Up tent. A diverse crowd of all ages and genders grooved to each track, resulting in an incredibly uplifiting and unifying experience. For the length of the set, the vibe Ngaiire and her band brought to the stage was incredible – her pitch perfect vocals matched perfectly with subtle backup and instrumentation. Even with a set so early in the day, the local act proved to be a clear Splendour highlight.
Seeing people stream from a full moshpit and the Amphitheatre hills was overwhelming, so rounding back after a while to catch American punk stalwarts Beach Slang had the opposite effect. Even during their biggest hit off their first record, ‘Bad Art & Weirdo Ideas’, there just weren’t enough fans in the crowd to get things going. Frontman James Alex’s swagger was nearly a saving grace, rocking his blazer and chinos in the blistering heat and totally getting away with it.
Later that day, it was an absolute privilege to catch one of the most touching moments of the festival, In Loving Memory Of Szymon. Performed by family, friends and special guests, the set was dedicated to the young artist who sadly lost his battle with depression at the age of 23. It was extraordinarily special to watch tracks from posthumous record Tigersapp, as well as other unreleased work interpreted by his family and played live to a wonderfully appreciative audience.
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On their debut Australian tour, Mancunian’s Spring King started circle pits and broke amps – all while delivering their take on rollicking, garage rock. Particular highlights included breakthrough single ‘City’ and the gloriously catchy ‘Detroit’.
Over at GW McLennan, getting ready for his late aftneroon set, was another soul-stirrer that we’ve been holding out for (apart from Harts) in Michael Kiwanuka. A packed crowd provided the perfect opportunity for the British singer-songwriter to properly introduce his sophomore record Love & Hate. While the first few songs at the start were pretty drawn out, that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. A slower arrangement actually lent itself well during ‘The Final Frame’, dripping in melancholy and Kiwanuka’s exquisite touch on the guitar. Yet it was the album singles ‘Black Man in a White World’ (in all its gospel glory) and ‘Love & Hate’ which really got festival-goers off their feet, vibing out to a strong band sound and husky vocal heaven.
The much anticipated set from locals Gang Of Youths was a festival highlight, with the band delivering their brand of anthemic brand of rock in spades. Embracing every inch of his star persona, frontman Dave Leaupepe shimmied across the stage before on many occasions, getting up close and personal with the crowd (or an unsuspecting cameraman!)
With the biggest act on the bill and a three-hour experience on the dark horizon, every square inch of pit and grass was covered by punters restless for The Cure, and we weren’t disappointed. The first three tracks took us on an atmospheric sonic highway that was nicely offset by the unshakeable groove on set highlights such as ‘Friday I’m in Love’, ‘The Hungry Ghost’ and ‘Wrong Number’. Eighth album gem ‘Lovesong’ particularly stood out as a track slowing things right down, adding some sensuality to a four-encore show. While we were hanging for just a touch more interaction between Robert Smith and the crowd, his one-of-a-kind vocals and the rest of the iconic rockers can certainly speak for themselves using the music alone. Over forty years old and still very much alive.
Closing the night at the other end of the Splendour site was Santigold, emerging with the attention grabbing ‘You’ll Find A Way’ before tearing through a set geared towards latest record 99c, but definitely not overlooking classics from her debut and sophomore releases.