Whilst there are many great Australian music festivals that I have thoroughly enjoyed over the past two years (notable mention to Laneway Festival 2014, Falls Music and Arts Festival 2013 and Soundwave 2013), Splendour In The Grass is the standout frontrunner on the Australian music festival scene.
1. The Location
Splendour In The Grass takes place near the picturesque town of Byron Bay which is straight up a hard location to beat. Byron stole my heart back in 2012 when I first attended Splendour at the age of 17 and I have gone back at least twice a year since. Home to a mixture of hipsters, hippies and surfers; this town is laid back to say the least. I would highly recommend exploring the many restaurants and boutiques scattered around the town if you have time before or after the festival. Not to mention the beautiful beach and iconic lighthouse that marks the most easterly point of Australia. The festival site is approximately 15 minutes from the town center and there are shuttles to and from the town running from 11am-12pm for $4 (as at 2013 when I last attended).
The weather in Byron during late July is absolutely gorgeous! You will get cool nights where rugging up is a must, and typical Aussie days reaching 25-30 degrees. Whilst it is predominately sunny, when it does rain, it pours! This means gumboots are an absolute must as Splendour In The Grass quickly turns into Splendour In The Mud. Honestly though, the mud is one of my favourite parts, it adds character to the festival and makes going from one stage to another more interesting to say the least (beware of the sink holes that start to appear by day three)!
2. The Volunteers
Friendly smiles and helpfulness all round, you can tell these volunteers love being there. Because the festival runs over 3 days and volunteers are required to attend for a minimum 4 days the allocation of 20-24 hours each over this period means there is plenty of time for them enjoy and make use of their free entry and camping. This works in the festivals favour as volunteers have a positive disposition and cheerful attitude. I guess working with the headlining international artists playing in the background might also help right?!
3. The Crowd
For me, the attitudes of the attendees play such an important role in the likelihood of me having an enjoyable festival experience. After attending festivals such as Big Day Out 2013 where most of the crowd either (1) did not know or appreciate the acts playing or (2) were so inebriated they barely knew where they were; Splendour comes as a breath of fresh air. I have attended Splendour for two years now (about to embark on my third) and I am yet to encounter any of these characters. In contrast, I have been able to strike a conversations with people in countless settings, whether it be in the crowd waiting for an act or in the bar line, and each time I have been met with enthusiastic, interesting individuals. I found the majority of people who attend Splendour In The Grass were genuinely into the music, laid back and friendly. I also found the degree of pushing in areas closest to the stage to be significantly less than other festivals. For example, I was able to stand front row for headliners Mumford and Sons without too much of a fuss. In comparison, at Big Day Out 2013 a girl I attended the festival with had her ribs broken standing over 10m from the stage during The Killers set… I know, ouch!!!!!
4. The Food
Four words for you… Byron Bay Organic Doughnuts! From memory they are $5 a purchase but are HUGE (aka big enough to constitute a dinner) so I found them to be worth the price. My personal favourite is the cinnamon doughnut but I also highly recommend the chocolate fudge filled option. If you have more self control than I and can drag yourself away from the doughnut stand there are countless food options on every corner. Chinese, Thai, Mexican, Turkish, Japanese, Moroccan, French, the list goes on! Whilst I packed most of my food because it can get very pricey, I can also suggest having Langos, they wouldn’t have been more then $4 and are a great lunch option if you don’t feel like going back to your tent to refuel.
5. The Atmosphere
I know this sounds cliche, but I am not exaggerating when I say Splendour has a ‘vibe’ that I have not seen recreated at another music festival. It is is difficult to explain but the mood is contagious! Waking up to the sound of neighboring tents cooking up a brekky storm, blasting some Triple J tunes and enjoying good company is a refreshing break from the hustle of everyday normality. The campgrounds in particular have a sense of community that (considering they are made up of thousands of strangers) feels safe and comfortable. In a short three days Splendour creates a home away from home and at the end of the festival when people are packing up their belongings, covered in mud, exhausted and sore you will still see smiles on their faces.
6. The Fashion
It’s a fact: Splendour attendees ooze ‘effortless cool’. I could sit and people watch all day at this festival; the male and female attire, hair and makeup is absolutely fabulous! Predominately a combination of boho, vintage, hipster and hippie, Splendour is the place to suss out upcoming trends (eg. Splendour 2012 was all about overalls and dungarees, less then 6 months later I was seeing them everywhere!). Whilst I do not consider myself a fashion expert (at all!) I have complied a Splendour wardrobe guide based upon my previous experience to help you get your outfits ready.
7. And Obviously… The Music!!!
Whilst the consistently epic lineups speak for themselves, there is more to the music on offer at Splendour than its international headliners. Each time I have attended Splendour I have discovered an artist I have never heard of, within a week have downloaded their album off iTunes and kept it on repeat for at least the next month (I am looking at you Flume 2012…)! Splendour also has a knack of predicting the ‘next big thing’ in the industry. Take Lorde for instance – relatively unknown in Australia in July 2013 and scheduled to fill in for Frank Oceans’ cancellation on the Sunday night. A year later she has topped charts around the world, received 17 awards and 53 nominations including a Brit Award for Best International Solo Artist and two Grammy awards for Song of the Year and Best Pop Solo Performance. Splendour has also shot the likes of Australian artists Vance Joy and Flume onto the international stage with both artists performing in consecutive years, the latter years scheduled for later gigs (in Flumes case, a headliner) due to their increase in popularity following their first Splendour appearance. Finally, the diversity of music on offer means you would be hard up finding an individuals whose music tastes aren’t catered for – electronic to pop, rock to hip hop, alternative to country, indie to dance, there is a plethora of styles and genres to immerse yourself in over the three days.
Whilst it is clear the positives of this festival would outweigh most criticisms, this would not be a fair evaluation if I did not point out areas that could be improved in the future. Like many festivals, increasing the amount of available utilities would significantly increase enjoyment for patrons, in particular I found myself wishing there were more water fountains on the festival site, and more showers and bathrooms available on the campsite in 2013. Secondly, Splendour is the most expensive festival I have attended. Whilst I believe it is worth every penny, I do think the ticket price, coupled with the cost of food, camping and travel makes the event as a whole, overpriced. This was one of the reasons I did not attend the festival as a ticket-holder in 2014, I simply couldn’t afford to attend and save for my travel plans in 2015. Splendour is therefore an investment experience, I myself started saving 10 months in advance to ensure I had the necessary funds in my account when tickets went on sale for the 2012 and 2013 events.
Overall, if you are a live music fan I highly recommend putting Splendour In the Grass on your Queensland July itineraries as I believe it showcases the best of Australia’s music festival scene. Tickets sell out quick and usually go on sale early May. For more information visit the Splendour In The Grass website here.
Suitcase And I will be attending Splendour In The Grass 2014 as a Info Crew volunteer, however my opinion is as always, my own.