Colleen Edwards July 30, 2012
Splendour in the Grass is over for another year, with the festival's return to Byron Bay's Belongil Fields heralded in by music and mud.
Many of the acts on the bill have graced the Splendour stages numerous times before and this year it seemed like the festival was notably nostalgic; reunion tours were sprinkled together with new beginnings.
El Paso's At the Drive-In owned the Supertop stage on Friday night, playing one of their first shows since reforming earlier this year.
In one of the highlights of the festival songs from their third and renowned album Relationship Of Command were ripped out on stage. While Cedric Bixler-Zavala and Omar Rodriguez played at Splendour last year in Woodfordia with The Mars Volta, this was a much different show.
Bloc Party also played a reunion show of sorts, with the long-time Splendour favourites again joining forces to play a hit-laden set together after Kele Okereke made the trip by himself last year.
Although they never officially broke up, from all reports things were not particularly rosy for a time there. So it was good to see them all enjoying themselves so much on stage.
… and new beginnings
Billy Corgan may be the only original member of The Smashing Pumpkins left in the band.
And, in a way, it was strange the all-new faces playing their old classics.
However, there was much love in the crowd for the group, with Corgan content to wear a smile on his face – a much different look to his customary scowl of his youth.
Speaking to Wil Anderson at the Splendour Forum tent on the eve of his band's performance, Corgan admitted that at his age, 45, he could only see the band continue in it's current form for only five or so more years.
With a reputation for being 'difficult' and arrogant, it was an older and wiser Corgan who spoke quite openly about his past (musical and otherwise) and how people had perceived him.
The set itself also traversed the decades, with Corgan happy to play the hits, when in previous tours Down Under he was more reticent to do so.
Wolfmother are another band where the lead singer is the only remaining member of the original line-up, but an impressively moustachioed Andrew Stockdale has summoned a talent bunch around him and played a straight-out rock and roll show.
Sounding like they were straight out of the 1960s – tracks from the self-titled debut like Woman, Joker and the Thief and Dimension, and from follow-up Cosmic Egg had the crowd heaving.
Mud, (in)glorious mud
The only major down side through-out the three days was not the weather as such, but the muddy bog the rain (and hail) left behind.
From the first day, people formed a new appreciation for the humble gumboot – at it was the only way to safely traverse the sodden terrain.
Given how flat the grounds were, the mud also made it impossible to find anywhere to sit – resulting in plenty of sore backs and legs.
However, that's pretty much par for the course at festivals.
Food, glorious food
It's something that has been improving for years now, but festival food here has really come of age.
From typical fare like chips, burgers and pies, this year's stalls provided everything from Japanese chicken karaage (or JFC), to Hungarian (langose), Indian curry, Jamaican (salad) and everything in between.
Local produce – Byron Bay Gelati, Byron Bay Gourmet Pies and the Byron Bay Organic Doughnuts (seek them out – they are amazing) – were also popular.
While talking about the food at a festival may seem strange, when you are planning your meal plan for the next day a night beforehand, you know it's something worth tasting (or is that just me?).
Despite being regulars on the festival circuit, for some reason there are still people out there who don't know how amazing Dirty Three are live.
Playing to a relatively small but utterly committed crowd at the GW McLellan Tent on Saturday night – Warren Ellis (violin), Mick Turner (guitars) and Jim White (drums) – proceeded to build new worlds with their soaring instrumentals.
Ellis, looking like a crazed embodiment of a wizard of old, would then take great delight in tearing it down with his completely off-kilter banter.
The side project for Joshua Tillman from Fleet Foxes – Father John Misty – he seemed to be relishing his front-man status.
Thrusting his hips in a manner which was bordering on illegal, Tillman and the band played a brand of alt-country, that while still grounded in folk, sounded far removed from that of the Fleet Foxes.