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LIVE REVIEW: Splendour in the Grass 2023

Photography by Charlie Hardy

Perhaps controversially, I actually had a really good time at Splendour in the Grass 2022 in spite of the ridiculous amount of mud- even so, I was incredibly relieved to head into Splendour in the Grass 2023 and walk along actual grass.

Splendour in the Grass had a lot to prove this year, after extreme weather led to the cancellation of Friday’s program and transport issues last year. General complications and trepidations towards ticket buying stemming from the residual effects of the pandemic didn't help either. I can confidently say, however, that they absolutely knocked it out of the park.

Our first set of the day (and of the festival!) was indie-pop darling Claire Rosinkranz. The California-based artist is best known for her single ‘Backyard Boy’ from 2019 EP BeVerly Hills BoYfRiEnd- which was definitely one of the highlights of the set, along with set opener 'Frankenstein' (which had some beautiful vocal moments!), and unreleased song ‘Swinging at the Stars’ from her forthcoming debut album which is set to release in October. Claire Rosinkranz was amazing, and having her in one of the opening slots for the festival speaks volumes about the calibre of performers across the lineup- immense talent from beginning to end.

Continuing the indie-pop vibe, we next headed over to the Mix Up Stage to see Australian rising star May-a. From the yearning of ‘Apricots’ to the angst of ‘Sweat You Out My System’ , the set was a non-stop sing-along and a total cathartic release for every sapphic in the crowd. Unfortunately due to technical difficulties, May-a’s set was cut short during her last song- but I don’t think anyone could have left that stage feeling disappointed in the performance May-a and her band delivered.

We popped over to the Amphitheatre for the first time to see Ruel- I was so obsessed with the staging and the movie he played as an intro. His set was so much fun, I absolutely loved ‘Growing Up Is_____’ and how he made use of the uniquely decorated spaces.

The majority of our night after that took place at the GW McLennan tent. iconic Brisbane / Meanjin band Cub Sport delivered a breathtaking performance of ethereal electro-pop, before American alternative rock band Palace took to the stage awash in ocean-blue lights reminiscent of the aquatic themes across their album visuals, playing an incredible set- the stand-outs for me were ‘Give Me The Rain’, and ‘Live Well’, which featured some absolutely gorgeous bass.

Ball Park Music were up next and this was absolutely my festival highlight. The band began with the explosive ‘Hands off my Body’, before moving into ‘Head like a Sieve’, with frontman Sam Cromack standing as close to the crowd as possible as he sang of frustrations both personal and societal. The set was a flawless mix between much-adored indie anthems such as ‘Cherub’ and ‘Exactly How You Are’, and energy-filled tunes that were just made to be on a festival setlist, such as ‘Trippin’ The Light Fantastic’. The set finished on ‘Sad Rude Future Dude’, a tongue-in-cheek imagining of people in the future who have forgone all human connection- and yet in joyful irony, I found myself feeling incredibly connected in that crowd.

After Ball Park Music finished, we headed back to the Amphitheatre to catch what was left of the queen herself, Lizzo, and were of course blown away by her stage presence and incredibly catchy hits, before we headed out of the festival grounds for the night.

Day two started nice and early with the shimmering, hot pink, ‘slut pop’ experience that is Big Wett. Adorned in a dramatic ruffled and rhinestoned coat and armed with backup dancers, Big Wett performed with incredibly infectious energy as she sang her way through her proudly pleasure-focused discography. It’s still early days of the Big Wett project, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Big Wett graced the Splendour stages again- I will absolutely be turning up.

At the same time, Big Wett was tearing it up on the Mix-Up Stage, Naarm’s Teenage Dads were opening up the Amphitheatre, and so after Big Wett finished, we raced over to catch as much of the Dads’ set as we could. Teenage Dads are always so much fun live (I’m a huge fan of the keyboard and synth in their live sets especially!) and this time was no exception. While this has without a doubt been a breakout year for the Mornington Peninsula four-piece, they’ve been active for quite a few years, and have a huge range of incredible songs to show for it. Their Like A Version of The Buggles’ ‘Video Killed The Radio Star’ was my highlight of the set.

Next up we headed to the World Stage to catch electro hip-hop fusion group Tjaka, who were absolutely incredible- I had their song ‘Dancing Mood’ stuck in my head for hours afterwards.

Peach PRC and Royel Otis are some of the best-loved emerging acts in Australia right now and I can see why- from Peach’s glittering and relatable pop to Royel Otis’ dreamy rock that mixes yearning lyricism with honest harmonies and upbeat guitar, both have gained a huge following with good reason, as both delivered a stand-out live performance, with their respective stages filled to the brim with punters who knew every word.

Our next act was the absolutely breathtaking Arlo Parks. Arlo sings in a whispering confession, like she’s telling you a secret close to her heart. Her poetic lyrics are supported with dreamy instrumentals for tremendous emotional effect. She has such great presence, you’d be hard-pressed to find a reason to look away when she is on stage.

Flume, who is an absolute staple of Australian music, was the headliner for night two and amassed a huge crowd for his ten-year celebration extravaganza. On a stage transformed with a sweeping set and joined by special guests including Vera Blue and May-a, Flume played an incredible set of his most beloved hits and remixes, celebrating the key moments in his career so far with flawless performance and an ecstatic crowd in a wonderful finish to the second day of the festival.

Heading into Sunday, it seemed the GW McLennan tent was the place to be. We started the day with Meanjin favourites, Full Flower Moon Band, opening up the stage, and their presence was astounding. Vocalist Babyshakes Dillon moves across the stage exuding power and presence, as the band delivers a powerfully in-sync performance that commands your full attention. Totally hypnotic.

Del Water Gap was up next. I was only vaguely familiar with the Brooklyn up-and-comer prior to Splendour, but absolutely loved his enchantingly heartfelt and interactive set- the intimate confessionals of ‘Ode to a Conversation Stuck in Your Throat’ and ‘Better Than I Know Myself’, were absolute highlights of the day.

We caught Royel Otis once more, who put on a performance so vibrant, you’d never know it was their second show of the festival.

Noah Cyrus was our next act of the evening (although we did end up leaving early to see Swedish pop princess, Tove Lo at the Amphitheatre) and she absolutely stunned. The GW McLennan tent was overflowing, with punters spilling out on every side as everyone crowded in to hear her heart-wrenching songs.

After Noah Cyrus, we headed to the amphitheatre for the rest of the night- although the acts at GW McLennan were so good you could have easily stayed there instead- I would have loved to have caught 100 gecs!

IDLES were a highlight of the night for me, as were Hilltop Hoods- the iconic Australian band had the crowd giving 110% energy as they played through their nostalgic hits.

Mumford & Sons closed out the night with an absolutely enchanting performance that had the massive crowd entranced from the first notes of ‘Babel’, and ended with an encore of ‘I Will Wait’ that had the audience singing together in a moment of earnest connection, the perfect way to close out the festival.

And as Mumford and Sons leave the stage, that’s a wrap on Splendour in the Grass 2023! Thanks so much to Splendour for having me along for the ride, I am so excited to see what next year will bring.

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