There were many famed and reported on 'stand out' features at this year's Splendour in the Grass. Obviously the headliners like Marky Mark Ronson, Tame Impala and Florence the Machine were going to be retold and accounted for one thousand times over. Oh, and how bout all the mud hey? But in all honesty, apart from the inspirational set I saw from Ecca Vandal early afternoon set on Friday and a bit of Blur on Sunday, I didn't really venture to the 30,000 capacity arena at all. I was pleasantly distracted by the less hyped acts on Splendour in the Grass had to offer on the smaller Red Bull Music Academy and Tiny Dancer stages, plus of course the dance action at the Mix Up stage.
Simon Lam of I'lls and Chloe Kaul make up Melbourne duo KLO. The two orchestrate soothing, dynamic and fashionable melodies that pleasured my ear holes from start to finish. Highlights like "Under Lie" exhibited Kaul's delicate soulful vocals that pierced through the audience – sending waves of shivers down spines.
Queen Magic makes velvety slow jams perfect for choreographing gentle body thrusts. For his set on the Red Bull Music Academy stage, the Melbourne multi-instrumentalist stood in amongst all of his masterful toys and hypnotised the modest audience falsetto after falsetto. His voice reminiscent of last years Oscar Key Sung but instead of making you all sexually charged, it's more like a warm and fuzzy feeling. Admittedly his kind of outer-space r'n'b is more suited to a dark, dank, dim-lit bar rather than a festival stage but nonetheless he remains one of my most cherished discoveries this weekend.
Brisbane-born Murdoch makes sophisticated minimalistic beats that turn unexpected corners of intensity. Although at first his set was a bit harder to get into; it was a little too sparse and atmospheric to match my pace of the night; within a blink that all changed and everybody had been completely sucked in. "Straws" was one stand out track reminiscent of IDM production. It's no wonder Future Classic have snapped this dude up.
I caught last 20-ish minutes of DFA alumni Nancy Whang at the Tiny Dancer stage and the energy was off the chart. She was laying down tune after tune which saw an eclectic crowd of dancers all surrendering to her choice selections. Overall, she played for 90 minutes, and the fact that I wasn't there to witness the whole set will be my one and only regret this splendour. Please come back Nancy.
Kirkis are a brilliant musical anomaly. Their beats and melodies are wild, irrational and completely undeniable. It's fucking great. At times the tune was dark and deranged, others it was like a future jazz and soul glory hole. The banger "Mirror" is a great example of this. Silent Jay and Jace XL also had a brilliant cameo on stage which contributed to the whole neo soul jazz-aural-jizz in my pants moment.
Earlier on the Red Bull Music Academy stage, Motez was hectic like turbo deep, dark and dirty vibes. From that high energy onslaught I wasn't sure what was going to top that – but then low and behold happened Frank Booker. Total wild card for me personally. This guy has been djing for 20 years and this set epitomised his honed skills 10 times over. His vibe is disco, straight up discotheque, and it was mixed superbly. There was not one soul left on the dance floor not furiously dancing to save their lives.
The Shaolin Afronauts were my absolute highlight. There I said it. The 10 piece mounted the stage in a collection of varying gold and velvet monk gowns and burst into their afro funk - avant grande - jazz - soul - fusion. I'm not always a fan of elongated instrumental solos but every member that took this liberty over and over again were totally justified and just simply incredible. Their stage presence is hilarious and bewitching. It was clear that every person in their criminally modest audience were in awe of what was before them. They're a band I could watch for hours on end and still be entertained.
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Channeling heavy trap, rap, dubstep and break beat vibes, UV boi فوق بنفسجي took this splendour bender audience to a whole other level. In between the Brisbane producer dropping and effortlessly mixing these amped up party tunes – without succumbing to cheap bangers. And while everybody else was lost their shit; UV boi فوق بنفسجي bounced around on stage oozing an adorably cheeky charm. I want this guy at all my parties.
As many people weren't to find out until after they pleasantly endured in between act – Ed Fisher's fine disco funk selections for over an hour – Shlohmo was postponed. This all happened when rapper Allday cancelled last minute, with Shlohmo moving from the Red Bull Music Academy stage to the Mix Up Stage later in the day. But no one seemed to broadcast that too well. But shortly after the conclusions were drawn, he came on with a full band set up. The set list was mostly off his latest record Dark Red and I'd have to say this particular live incarnation gave the record more context and revealed its stunning textual merit. Effectively he moved away from his usual high energy-scape of bangers and party beats, into a more subdued and atmospheric rhythmic industrial jungle. Contrastingly his set later in the night at the Red Bull Music Academy stage was a little less to be desired. He came on stage with 8 or 9 of his moody posse who basically did all the work for him, whilst he walked around looking like he was beyond this. Weird and pretentious vibes oozed from the stage, which would have been fine if the aural aspect was anything to get into. But it wasn't. Just obscure hip-hop and beats that were in no way played to the audience. You almost completely had me Shlohmo. But nah. Almost though.
This year's splendour bender was fucking excellent. Australia's biggest winter festival has many layers beyond the most publicised novelty features like 'Nicolas Cage in a cage' and its blockbuster headliners. Under the surface there's a great selection of emerging or undervalued local and international talent that I feel was the most deserving aspect to write home about.
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