Photo Credit: Ian Laidlaw
Written by: Olivia Poglianich
Winter in Australia is a time where beaches aren’t dotted with hundreds of humans sitting on the shore and the astronomical prices of a seaside cafe meal cool down with the temperatures. But the sun is still strong, the coffee even stronger, and on a really “cold” day, you might have to wear a wetsuit in the ocean. In most parts of Australia, the winter season is still warm enough to enjoy outdoor activities that most countries can only save for the summer. From laying out to work on your sun-kissed tan or catching a swell on your surfboard, winter certainly doesn’t stop the average Australian from spending some quality time with Mother Nature. On the east coast in the quaint surfer’s village of Byron Bay, that also means there’s plenty of time, and good enough weather, for a music festival. Not just any festival, but the biggest one in the country- Splendour in the Grass.
Getting the Lay of the Land
Just 15 minutes north of the sleepy surf town Byron Bay on Australia’s Gold Coast sits the famous grassy venue that Splendor has called home for the past 16+ years. It’s impossible to get bored at Splendour in the Grass because it’s about so much more than just an awesome lineup. Even if you didn’t see a single act, you still wouldn’t have enough time to do all the activities on offer. From arts and crafts to a tent jam-packed with comedic routines, a wine bar, spooky graveyard, and a restaurant row to occupy your time- you can get lost eating, drinking and exploring your way around the festival grounds.
Photo Credit: Miranda Stokkel
There are dozens of shops filled with bohemian clothing, second hand ski suits, galactic and tie-dye festival attire. You could purchase board game favourites like Settlers of Catan or Never Have I Ever for a chilled out afternoon at the campsite. There was even an amazing stand of homemade, custom crowns, and bejeweled hats by a magical woman called Summer that could easily become the next the flower crown craze. She calls them mermaid crowns. They’re eco-friendly masterpieces that don’t use hot glue and she hand picks all the seashells in her works of art from the Australian beaches of her East coast hometown. Check out her creations on her website if you want a one of a kind piece crafted with love from Down Under.
Rimmel offered free makeovers and L’Oreal had a miniature salon for free semi-permanent hair dying. Smirnoff and Captain Morgan both had dance clubs you could weave in and out of between acts, and there was also a silent disco on at almost all hours of the day. The Tipi Forest was another ravey alternative with actual TeePees to sit in and chill out alongside a dance floor set between the trees with an epic, trippy light show.
Every day there were also bikes that circled the campsite giving away free makeup and paperboys handing out the Splendour Daily which was the festival’s very own newspaper equipped with set times, artist bios and interviews, plus a weather forecast and other happenings. You could pop over to a comedy show or learn something new at the science tent. There were even free STI screening tents where they gave away lots of condoms and free advice scattered all throughout the festival, so yes, these guys have really thought of everything.
The Magical Music Moments
Photo Credit: The Guardian
Lorde sang her heart out and sent listeners on an emotional roller coaster. She wore a shiny metallic tracksuit and after laughing off a fashion faux-pas of a near nip slip, she reemerged wearing the same colorful Alien jumpsuit to hop around on stage dancing and belting out her high energy hits like Tennis Courts and Royals. She then got real emotional with fans, sharing the story about how her last time performing at Splendour 5 years ago was the first big festival of her career. She talked of loneliness and unrequited love she’s experienced since then, causing the entire arena to share in all the feels she must be going through in her 21st lap around the sun. But her mood perked up again as she closed the show with Green Lights and even more green confetti.
Kendrick Lamar graced the main stage for his first-ever appearance in Australia, hyping up fans with a mix of songs from Damn and Swimming Pools, while also confusing the crowd with extensive Kung fu cartoon visuals. He had people rapping, swaying, and grooving along until he muted the entire Humble track and a bit too confidently forced the crowd of over 20,000 attendees to sing along to the entire thing without any assistance. Which, ironically, isn’t a humble way to act at all.
There were so many other amazing acts that I haven’t even begun to scratch the surface of all the talented artists who graced the 5 stages at Splendour. A few more stand out acts were the ever talented Wombats who’s performance included hundreds of bouncing balls that got the crowd jumping, Scottish crooner Lewis Caraldi whos raspy voice exuded a lot of emotions, and Hilltop Hoods, a long time Aussie rap group that got the crowd hyped with Comfy Sweater and other classics at the Mix Up Stage.
Photo Credit: Ian Laidlaw
Baker Boys are also great Australian acts who both represent another Aussie success story because they’re native Aboriginals. This means they’re part of the oldest living indigenous culture in the world, thus representing one of the smallest cultures in the music industry.
Pnau, very famous in Australia but better known in the US by his other band Empire of the Sun, also put on an awesome show with crazy visuals and somehow turned the mellow main stage into a giant dance party of thousands belting out his top hits like Go Bang and Chamellion.
Giving Back to The Planet
Splendour is one of the more sustainable festivals out there. The toilets were composting our natural waste, and everywhere you looked there were multiple cans for recycling. There were signs that reminded people not to litter which would really make you feel like an asshole if you don’t oblige, and the organisers banned all plastics from the campsite (so no inflatable couches or beds or plastic throw away gazebos would further waste your festival footprint).
It would be very hard to go hungry at Splendour. Unlike most festivals that jack up the prices of everything on the menu, feasting here was pretty affordable. From poutine fries to Bao with funny names like Notorious P.I.G. or affordable coffees made from an actual espresso machine? and Indian butter chicken on a sandwich for lunch or vegan Greek bacon and egg rolls for breakfast, it’s hard not to gain a few knots in your belt here even with all the walking and dancing.
All in all, it certainly breaks up the year when there’s a winter event on that’s this exciting. We can’t wait to see what Australian summer has in store for festival season!