Splendour In the Grass 2011

Alister Wright, Cloud Control (Splendour in the Grass 2011)

Alister Wright, Cloud Control (Splendour in the Grass 2011)

A small matter of a re-formed Pulp along with a heap of other more than worthy festival fare saw me make the long trek north. A great birthday present from my family.Day 1 involved dumping things at the campsite and then heading straight to the festival grounds. Checked out Kiwi chick Kimbra first up, who’s collaborated recently with Gotye. A great voice and a packed crowd at the GW McLennan tent (the 2nd largest stage) made it a very decent mid afternoon start to our festival.

The Kills, Splendour in the Grass 2011

The Kills, Splendour in the Grass 2011

Next up it was over to check out late-90s ubiquitous Triple J fodder Jebediah, who are back together and doing their thing again. Knowing just about every song in their set shows how powerful these guys were in radioland back when Of Someday Shambles was released in 1999.

The Kills took to the stage next in what seemed a strange timeslot. Not with a huge following in Australia, and perhaps more famous across the board for the fact that guitarist Jamie Hince is married to Kate Moss, the duo led by singer Allison Mosshart dressed head to toe in black looked out of place in the blazing Queensland sun. Don’t think she enjoyed the heat too much. With a set that was largely one paced and little interraction with the audience, The Kills set will be talked about more for the appearance of Kate Moss at the side of the stage than it will the music of Hince & Mosshart.

Glasvegas, Splendour in the Grass 2011

Glasvegas, Splendour in the Grass 2011

Now. Glasvegas. I’d seen these guys 4 days earlier at the Hi-Fi Bar in Melbourne and they were brilliant. Rough around the edges but put on a great show, and I was really looking forward to seeing them again. Whoa. Train wreck. Lead singer James Allan was clearly off his nut on something, or more likely many things, mumbling and stumbling his way through each song like a man who couldn’t wait to get back to the dressing room and finish what he’d started. When you’re armed with a singing accent that takes a few songs for punters to tune into, added incoherence aint a good thing. It was funny, even enjoyable to the extent when you were wondering with morbid fascination ‘is he going to make it?’. Even UK festival favourite Go Square Go was a shambolic shadow of its Monday night self. Unforgettable, but not good.

Eskimo Joe, Splendour in the Grass 2011

Eskimo Joe, Splendour in the Grass 2011

Australian rock act Eskimo Joe were up next, and, as a band who do little for me when it comes to their recorded stuff, it didn’t strike me as that surprising that they were dull live either. Plenty of recognisable songs, although each one of those sounded the same. When they announced they’d be debuting a new tune for us I figured there could be a change of direction coming up. Nope. Sounded like all the others really. Still, a few hardcore folks from the ‘Joe’s hometown of Perth had made the trip over, they loved it, and whilst it wasn’t awful, it wasn’t anything that had anyone talking in the days that followed.

Things started hotting up in the pit in the half hour before Modest Mouse. Strange really, not the sort of act I figured would have a decent sized crush in the crowd forming but hey, it happened. Pulled the pin on that one and went to watch from the plush confines of the grassy knoll. Good choice. Headed back to the tent to grab a few things for the night session as after a beautiful 25 degree day it was plummeting fast towards zero at Woodford. Coat needed. And hey, perhaps some long pants as well.

The Hives, Splendour in the Grass 2011

The Hives, Splendour in the Grass 2011

Back in time for the 2nd half of The Hives who were as entertaining as Eskimo Joe weren’t. A view from up on the hill was all we could summon this time, with the floor area packed full of keen Kanye West devotees. Just after 10:30pm, the shy retiring figure of Mr West emerged 15 metres above the crowd, surrounded by more smoke than a Bob Marley house party. Ballet dancers, an open stage and Italian renaissance backdrop all formed part of what we were told was Act 1.

Kanye West, Splendour in the Grass 2011

Kanye West, Splendour in the Grass 2011

Part Mr G the Musical, part Rock Eisteddfod, Kanye dished up 3 acts of material spanning his years as one of the pre-eminent hip hop producers and artists of our time. Whilst his rap stuff – College Dropout and Late Registration material was great, the set was too heavy with his more recent foray into ‘singing’ – a Kanye West style of vocal that relies entirely on autotune. To be honest after a couple of tunes of that I figured I was at a Will.I.Am show and was ready to leave. Thankfully All Falls Down rescued me from that fate. A bizarre set, one that saw the man leave the venue before the overcooked PA had wound up, but one that would definitely have people talking on Saturday morning.

Saturday was a more mellow day on paper. The main stage didn’t have a huge deal to interest me (or many others it would later seem, with headliners Janes Addiction drawing only a reportedly modest crowd), so it was time to check out some smaller stages after Glaswegians Dananananakroyd had finished their quite brilliant 45 minute set. A mosh pit hugging face-off was a highlight, and the 6 piece gave a brilliant account of themselves in front of a very decent Saturday post-lunch (or pre breakfast for some) crowd.

Off to the tents next to check out The Jezebels, who had some good press coming into the festival but really left me cold. Couldn’t really hack more than a few songs so buggered off for a bite to eat before braving the dance tent for the afternoon. DJ’s Hoodrat and Dangerous Dan (yep…. DJ names are terrible) gave us some tunes before the bizarrely named Muscles (live) took to the stage. Bizarre not because Muscles is anything unusual, but the addition of (live) in brackets afterwards had me wondering – were all the other acts over the 3 days festival dead?

Muscles, Splendour in the Grass 2011

Muscles, Splendour in the Grass 2011

Looking like a kid who’d got a heap of cash to splurge on fancy props, or one who wanted to upstage his rivals, his setup for an electronic muso was great. Huge illuminated letters, decks, synths and guitar on their own platform, confetti cannons, dancing koalas, I mean really what’s not to like? This was a seriously fun set, though not one that’s going to challenge Oscar Wilde or James Joyce for any literary prizes where the lyrics were concerned. OK, because they’re dead, but also because some of the lyrics were ‘Ice Cream is Gonna Save The Day Again’. But one of the most memorable sets of the festival, a heap of fun in the MixUp tent had by all – especially the topless girl in the middle of the pit.

Off to the McLennan tent for the mellow sounds of Belle and Sebastian vocalist Isobel Campbell. She was joined on stage by ex-Screaming Trees baritone frontman Mark Lanegan. This was a great set, challenging for the artists given the beats from Architecture In Helsinki didn’t do their quiet, largely acoustic set any favours, but both voices complemented each other beautifully. Campbell rolled with the punches, whereas Lanegan wasn’t that impressed, describing parts of their set as disastrous due to being unable to hear. Hey, show must go on and a really appreciative crowd left happy.

British lads Gomez were up next. Seems like they live in Australia these days, touring almost every year. Armed with a bunch of songs that the crowd were more than happy to sing along with, from the opening notes of Bring It On Gomez had the crowd eating out of their hands. Get Myself Arrested from 1998′s album Bring It On was a brilliant highlight.

Regina Spektor, Splendour in the Grass 2011

Regina Spektor, Splendour in the Grass 2011

With her only show anywhere in the world for 2011 being right here at Splendour, Regina Spektor had gathered a crowd far too large for the McLennan tent to see her and her piano. Fans spilled outside the tent on onto the hillside hoping to hear the Russian-born New Yorker’s superb voice. A chilled, haunting and beautiful set was the reward, even when competing with the drums of nearby dance act Pnau, Regina had everybody transfixed.

All in all, Saturday was a great way to conserve some energy before the onslaught of the next day’s mainstage lineup.

Splendour in the Grass 2011

Splendour in the Grass 2011

Straight to the mainstage on Sunday after a bite to eat and a bit of shopping (hey, Radiohead and Clash T-shirts for 2 year olds, how can you resist?), we arrived for a set by the brilliantly named Hungry Kids of Hungary. The Brisbane locals made way shortly after for British rookies The Vaccines, who provided a solid if not remarkable set in front of an ever growing crowd.

Cloud Control, Splendour in the Grass 2011

Cloud Control, Splendour in the Grass 2011

Aussies Cloud Control followed and grabbed the festival by the scruff of the neck. I’d seen them a couple of years ago playing support to Supergrass. These kids have grown up, and their sound and stage presence is something worth seeing. Without their usual bass player – who’d just become a father – the band celebrated by launching a heap of huge coloured balloons, followed by themselves, into the crowd. A 1000 strong group of punters running up the hill and dancing back down was great to watch, and the band seemed to be having a heap of fun. It was contagious.

The Vines, Splendour in the Grass 2011

The Vines, Splendour in the Grass 2011

Things were about to get messy in the pit. The Vines were up and the melodic rock from Cloud Control was a distant memory from the moment Craig Nicholls gave his strat a thrashing. To say The Vines are one trick ponies is perhaps a bit disrespectful to ponies who have a particularly good trick. Some seriously heavy moshing kept things interesting in the crowd when every tune seemed to merge into the next. On one hand, each tune was generally less that a couple of minutes. On the other, that meant they could fit in about 25 of them into the hourlong set. Not really a highlight of the festival. Thankfully, that was still to come.

I’d seen Elbow on Wednesday in Melbourne and they were superb. Mellow, melodic, and with a very engaging and charismatic frontman in Guy Garvey. They were the antithesis of The Vines in every way. Epic tunes, crowd interraction, and an on stage presence that showed why these lads have become festival darlings in the UK in recent years (despite having been around for 20). It wasn’t for some – most likely those who’d smashed themselves to pieces during the previous set – but as the start of a Brit-quadruple-header? Sensational.

Kaiser Chiefs @ Splendour in the Grass 2011

Kaiser Chiefs @ Splendour in the Grass 2011

The Kaiser Chiefs are a live favourite of mine. On record they’re fine, but not mindblowing, but they are one of the great live acts, and certainly worthy of a festival’s evening slot. Ricky Wilson either has ADHD or something very uncomfortable in his pants, as he’s never still on stage and delivers a barrage of Kaiser Chiefs hits one after another. Ruby generates an incredible singalong, Everyday I love You Less and Less is a stellar opener and Oh My God, or as the kids would call it nowadays, OMG, got the place jumping. New single Little Shocks was well received, even though the album itself hasn’t yet set the world on fire.

Pulp, Splendour in the Grass 2011

Pulp, Splendour in the Grass 2011

Pulp. What to say about the incredible folk from Sheffield? Having only been to Australia once, back in 1998, this was epic. With the ultimate frontman and chatterbox Jarvis Cocker pacing the stage like a caged animal who dances strangely, we were in for a treat. A treat that happened to see a band running beyond their timeslot for the first time I’d seen all festival.

Pulp, Splendour in the Grass 2011

Pulp, Splendour in the Grass 2011

Do You Remember The First Time? kicked things off, before Mis-Shapes, Disco 2000 and Babies delivered some killer blows. A 21 year old bloke behind me had asked prior to these set ‘who are these guys? Are they any good?’. After 70 minutes of Jarvis Cocker, he had his answer. Common People closed the set in what looks likely to be their last ever set in Australia. Coldplay’s Chris Martin would later dedicate The Scientist to Pulp and Elbow, saying ‘Bands like them should never split up’.

Coldplay, Splendour in the Grass 2011

Coldplay, Splendour in the Grass 2011

And I’ve ruined what probably wasn’t a surprise. Coldplay were handed the task of closing Splendour for 2011, and in doing so showed why they are the current festival mainstage kings. Not my favourite band by any stretch, but it’s hard to argue that these guys know how to construct a festival set.

Coldplay, Splendour in the Grass 2011

Coldplay, Splendour in the Grass 2011

Hit after hit, a frontman who seemed in a particularly good mood save for a couple of  guitar problems during God Put A Smile Upon My Face, resulting in one smashed Fender, and a bunch of pyrotechnics that would have made every seat on the hill a good one. A great way to close the festival, but nothing in the world was going to top the set I’d just seen by Pulp.

Coldplay, Splendour in the Grass 2011

Coldplay, Splendour in the Grass 2011

The votes? Well, C. Judd, 3 votes obviously.

Oh…..OK

3. Pulp

2. Cloud Control

1. Regina Spektor

But I’ll probably change that again tomorrow.

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