The annual Splendour In The Grass ticket frenzy has been and gone, with the traditional ticketing fuckup somehow surmounting previous years as some fans were wrongly over- or under-charged thousands of dollars in credit card or face value fees. The mess is hopefully being cleared up as we speak – yours truly somehow managed to avoid the clusterfuck in what must have been, pound for pound, the smoothest and least stressful festival purchase experience I’ve ever had – so all we have to look forward to is a few months of planning and then the event itself.
Oh, and the traditional timetable clashes – or, in my case, puzzling over how the timetable itself came together.
In a recent innovation, Splendour have begun releasing lineups for each day of the three-day extravaganza before the tickets go on sale, allowing fans to buy the normal three-day passes or to buy single day tickets if they don’t feel like sitting through multiple days of mud, malnourishment and marijuana. Splendour put out the day-by-day lineups from the start, and with the late addition of Childish Gambino, Hilltop Hoods and some more to the lineup recently, it makes for some interesting reading.
The whole lineup itself seems a strange one, suffering from peaking too early – a big headliner or two, then dropping off in quality pretty quickly. Outkast would have attracted a pretty penny for a one-off Aussie show on their neverending comeback tour, but Two Door Cinema Club as second headliner? They’re fun and catchy as hell, and have done well here before, but with just two albums under their belt – their most recent to be almost two years old by the time Splendour rolls around – are they really worthy of second billing on arguably the biggest and most popular festival in the country? Lily Allen, same deal – her newie Sheezus is out today, in fact, but only two albums previously in 2007 and 2009. A five year old album and an untested comeback LP. Hardly the stuff of festival wet dreams.
The lineup continues down through Foster The People and Interpol, giving stratospheric billing to Vance Joy and RUFUS based on Triple J airplay alone, and trotting out the local festival mainstays to please the crowds whose music taste stretches as far as “whatever Matt and Alex or The Doctor play.” Angus and Julia Stone, Hilltop Hoods, Spiderbait, Illy and The Jezabels get high billing to the surprise of none and yawns of many, but it is further down the bill it gets interesting; Skaters, who got a good run on the Js with their debut album; little-known British electronic outfit Jungle; good billing for Violent Soho, Kite String Tangle, Sticky Fingers and the inclusion of Courtney Barnett and The Preatures who are making waves overseas. All in all, not many risks, a very ‘safe’ lineup – anything with a few requests on ‘Good Nights with Linda Marigliano’ gets a run here, with not much you could call daring.
A few years back, Splendour would be THE festival to take the plunge and bring buzzing artists to our shores for debut visits – Foals, Two Door Cinema Club, Florence and The Machine, Surfer Blood, Howler, Azealia Banks, The Vaccines, The Drums. While Splendour have no doubt boosted the profile of these acts so they now occupy top billing on Aussie festivals now, there aren’t many on the 2014 bill who could be said will be similarly elevated DUE to Splendour in coming years. The mantle of breaking new bands, taking risks, being THE tastemaker festival has long since shifted to Laneway Festival, tapping the likes of Japandroids, Cloud Nothings, Run The Jewels, Jessie Ware, Of Monsters and Men, Yeasayer, Mumford and Sons and more JUST as they were starting to blow up, then bringing them back – to much higher billing and dollars – to Splendour later that year after Triple J plays and global awards.
Splendour 2014 is a solid as heck lineup. The overseas contingent is not as breathtaking as in recent years, but the bands down the bottom of the bill will be worth the price of admission alone. Which begs the next point – how does Childish Gambino score the second-to-last slot on opening night? How does RUFUS get the same on night two, with Vance Joy as the third most important slot? Gambino was first here for the 2013 Big Day Out, consigned to a tiny tin shed to play during the Sydney leg – and while he had people spilling out of the shack in a packed performance, does the internet cult hero rapper have the chops to nail the second last set of the night? Does RUFUS, with one album, deserve the same? Or Vance Joy, even with his #1 Hottest 100 hit ‘Riptide,’ deserve such high billing considering nobody knows any other song than that one (indeed, reports from Groovin The Moo festival state fans come to see Riptide, talk all through the set until it is played, then leave after they’ve snapped the perfect Instagram video).
All seems a bit weird. Splendour 2014 will be a good time nonetheless, and despite what I’ve said above, I’ve got a ticket and am champing at the bit to get there – but perhaps a more spaced out lineup, without such a massive drop in artists after Outkast, might have served better. But what do I know? It’s sold out already so the kids must love it.