The glorious return to Byron Bay for this year’s festival was exciting with the promise of three sunny days, however it took just two hours in to Friday for a passing storm (complete with hail) that lasted only 30 minutes for the festival to be renamed… And so began Splendour in the Mud 2012. Even as the ground turned to slush it certainly didn’t stop three days of fun and great performances. We had hard rock, hip-hop, indie pop and every other style ready to entertain us.
Armed with my hit list of bands I started the day with “the hottest new band in the world” POND, These psychedelic boys really performed with an amazingly effortless sense of swagger and style and kicked things off well for the crazy two-piece rock boy in DZ Deathrays. It’s crazy to hear such a huge wall of sound come from these two. They seriously owned the stage and got hundreds of punters to go ape shit through the half hour pelt down of rain, which kinda made me believe they summoned the heavens to open on us all.
Day One also included, amongst many others, Howler, Bertie Blackman and The Shins and given I had to photograph all the acts, I sadly didn’t get a lot of time to see many of the sets, opting to retire to the Gold Bar to rest.
Now it’s time for one of the main reasons I came, Mr Jack White. Being a fan of most things he has done and knowing he has played a good mix of his catalogue during recent shows, I was really looking forward to this. Smoke in mouth and cool blue lights, he comes out and owns every single person. A mix of his solo record and The White Stripes means everyone is happy. Once my three songs are up, I pack and head to watch some more from the back of the tent. After another handful of tracks, I decide to exit day one (mostly ‘cause my feet and shoulders are aching). Slow streams of people have a similar idea. I hear Seven Nation Army belt out as I head for the couch… Great opening day.
Semi re-energised for Day Two, I walk back to the fields deluding myself that the grounds may have dried a little, only to see they have obviously not. Gumboots were coveted in ways only ever seen with narcotics at a festival. But hey, they were a necessity.
The second day was jam-packed with acts kicking off with The Cast of Cheers then moving onto Shihad, Friends, Band of Skulls, Ladyhawke, Mudhoney, Muscles, Tame Impala and 360 before finally landing in the GW Tent for the much-anticipated, Lana Del Rey.
I am sure the GW tent was packed with half with fans and half with people curious to see how she would perform live. She ultimately performed as though the SNL debacle was behind her, as I witnessed a composed, professional performance. Walking down the front set of stairs to sing to the crowd individually led to a paparazzo-like swarm of ‘photographers’ diving in for a feeding frenzy. I declined. Thank god. She didn’t seem to mind as her minders led her back to the top of the stage to continue her set. I found out later she did a cover of Heart- Shaped Box. Yet ANOTHER Nirvana cover to mixed reviews which, on a side note, initiated Mrs Nirvana’s hilarious Twitter rant about her heart-shaped va-jay-jay.
But I digress…
So. Bloc Party. This was the fourth time the band has played the festival. They probably should have a tent named after them by now. It’s nothing new to them and after a hiatus, they’re back on our shores to play for the masses of fans and drop songs from the forthcoming record. They opened it in classic fashion with songs from their past few records to get the crowd whipped up. It was almost too much to handle for the front rows of adoring girls as the surge of people started to look dangerous and us photographers were escorted out after two songs due to safety fears. A stellar set was not surprising from the London lads and thus drew an end to Day Two of Splendour in the Mud.
The last day began with the, as predicted, sunshine. Feeling exhausted from two full on days I gave myself a little sleep. The mud was still not even close to drying up but it didn’t matter by this stage.
By 4:30pm the grounds were swelling up with people ready to give it one last hurrah. Fun, Yuksek, Metric and Blue King Brown eased me into the evening before heading to one of the most highly anticipated acts of the festival, Ms Azealia Banks. Now, by the time you read this I’m sure you have heard ALL about it. Loved it? Hated it? Either way, whatever the real reason was for the extra short set and haphazard performance, she really did look at ease for the first three songs. Maybe a bit over-awed by the attention she was receiving but still in her element. She no doubt will be back and better next time. Trust me.
So the final acts of the three days were at last upon me and after being told there were to be no shooters for The Smashing Pumpkins, I decided to go for the guaranteed engaging Gossip. Now, I hear by all reports that the Pumpkins played an amazing set but I don’t think Billy Corgan has the charisma of the one and only Beth Ditto. After she quickly points out that this is not the Pumpkins tent and that they were not getting as much money as the band, she burst into 1979 to claps and laughter. As usual I photograph my three songs (some of my favourites), hand back my shooter’s vest, pack my bag and head back to Brisbane to avoid the clusterfuck of traffic that was to sure to follow.
This was truly a great three days of good vibes and performances, matched with the lovely weather (apart from that bloody half hour hell storm). I would love to return again next year to briefly see and shoot another 40 odd acts like this year. I do apologise if my details are vague but shooting and reviewing don’t really work simultaneously now do they?
– Words and Images Courtesy Ian Laidlaw