It could be said that, for the greater part, this year’s Splendour in the Grass was blessed with fine weather and the best a Byron winter can offer – clear, blue skies, warm days and mostly dry nights.
But a wet preceding week and a couple of heavy, though short-lived downpours swiftly turned the high-traffic avenues of Byron Parklands into a slick and sticky mudfest. The tragedy of this climatic quagmire was that about three people among the 30,000-strong crowd actually gave a shit.
Splendour always cops it. It should almost be written into the small print that, yes, it will be muddy, yes, it probably will rain, but everybody always knows this, they come prepared with knee-high rubber and waterproof cladding, and they get on with enjoying a three-day celebration of some of the finest contemporary music the planet has to offer.
The bands embrace the elements, whipping crowds into a frothing, churning frenzy through downpours and belting out tunes to wash away the less than favourable conditions. The irony is, there is something about the challenge, the mud and the rain that makes Splendour thrive. We are all thrown into a Devil-may-care camaraderie, in it together, smiling through the tribulations and having the best weekend of the year, come hell or high water.
Whether it was the absolutely pumping set from Peking Duk, the elements-defying spirit lifting of Of Monsters and Men or the ethereal grace of Florence and the Machine, the lineup of this year’s Splendour in the Grass took one look at clouded skies, felt the raindrops upon its collective cheeks and screamed to the heavens: “bring it on!”
From the outside – the haven of a warm, dry home and the live streams of Triple J keeping you up to date on the musical merriments – you can cast your complacent, conceited opinions. You may think we are all suffering, you may think you are the lucky ones, mud-free, comfortable and only a flick of the switch away from a hot shower, but we defy you. We defy you to say, when you are standing in the Amphitheatre with 10,000 of your new best friends, mud slowly creeping its way up your inner thighs towards your gusset, a deluge cascading down upon your head and Mark Ronson ripping the roof clean off with the most mind-blowing audio assault your eardrums have ever laid witness to, that there is any creature comfort in the whole wide world that you wouldn’t give up for this experience.
The throwback psychedelia of Pond and Tame Impala induced to Woodstock imaginings, Royal Blood and Earl Sweatshirt infused urbanisms into the melee and Xavier Rudd and his United Nations connected us on a deeper level with the spectacular surrounds of Byron Parklands. We didn’t care about the weather; it could have haled for all we cared. We were being transported to other places, beyond temporary discomfort and minor inconvenience. That’s the reality that can’t be captured in photos, that gets overlooked by countless YouTube clips, that cannot be translated through social media feeds.
Sure, a bone-dry, rain-free weekend would have been preferable, but then what would happen to the camaraderie, the spirit of strength in adversity and the crotch-clutching, naked mud diver? The truth is, whether you can believe us or not, there is something we liked about the muck and the mire. We wore the mud smudges across our cheeks like badges of honour, our stained jeans and wrecked shoes as much testament to our weekend revelries as the official wristbands and Splendour selfies. Rain, shine or trench foot, we wouldn’t change a single thing.
So thank you to the amazing Splendour crew, thank you to the custodians of the Eden that is North Byron Parklands, thank you to the bands who brought their magic and blew the doors off, and thank you to the elements, for making Splendour unexpected, unique and unforgettable.
And to all the naysayers and cynics who smirk in the sanctuary of their cosy homes and think how ‘lucky’ they were not to have endured the boggy chaos and discomfort, screw you – because we’ve just had the best damn weekend of our lives.
All photos by David Andreas – www.davidandreas.com.au