3 transformative highlights of Splendour in the Grass Day One

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These three performances took us away from the cold, dusty field to somewhere very special.

If you have any friends at Splendour in the Grass this weekend, they’ll probably tell you three things about day one.

Nightfall brought an almost intolerable cold that sent festival hoodie sales through the roof and made the public bonfires particularly popular. There’s an enormous inflatable Kanye West head that greets you as you enter the festival, and that there’s such a feast of great music that it’s tough choosing where to make your next move.

That traffic-stopping voice a strong enough weapon to keep the tent captivated.

Such a cavalcade of artists means your Splendour experience can take on any number of forms, dependent on the music you’re into. For instance, triple j’s great wrap of their highlights reads like they were at a completely different festival to me. And there’s something beautiful about that.

Here are three acts that made fighting through the cold, the dust, the travel, the beer prices and the hordes of people all completely worthwhile on day one.

The first real breathtaking moment of the festival came courtesy of Julia Jacklin. Her sublime voice overtook the GW McLennan tent in the late afternoon, as she offered a nonstop parade of world class, swoon-worthy alt-country ballads.

She proved to be equally arresting completely solo as she is with her very tasteful, unobtrusive band. That traffic-stopping voice a strong enough weapon to keep the tent captivated. When she sang, it elevated everything. We felt like we were better people, inhabiting a better place.

Her cover of The Strokes ‘Someday’ and set closer ‘Pool Party’ showed that Jacklin has connected with a lot of people in the past year or so. She’ll no doubt connect with many more by the time she hits Splendour again in a couple of years.

American indie-R&B/trip hop singer Banks made the most of her nighttime slot in the Mix Up Tent, with a set that blended art, pop, expressive dance and a dash of the avant-garde. She made a grand entrance, appearing deus-like, flanked by two dancers and lit up by a blinding spotlight.

To sing and dance concurrently is the core business of any good pop star. But Banks does both in such leftfield, intriguing ways that she doesn’t feel like any other pop singer. Her songs are dark and mysterious, though sometimes they explode and become big anthems. This makes for an engaging set, as the artist uses her music and performance to expertly take us on an emotional journey.

This set has clearly been meticulously thought out, with the choreography and light show utterly enthralling. But credit must also go to the small team of musicians behind Banks who, in the darkness, skilfully replicate Banks’ appealing avant-pop.

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Father John Misty at Splendour in the Grass 2017. Photo by Russell Privett. 

The final highlight belonged to the larger than life storyteller and cultural critic, Father John Misty. The bearded Josh Tillman led his band through tracks largely taken from this year’s Pure Comedy and 2015’s I Love You, Honeybear with supreme class. He’s one of the truly great frontmen we have right now and he wasn’t afraid to show it off.

There was no controversial comments to colour the set in between songs. In fact there were barely any comments at all from the often outspoken Tillman. Rather, it was a powerful display of beautiful music, a stunning band and over-the-top showmanship.

They open with three cuts from the new album - ‘Pure Comedy’, ‘Total Entertainment Forever’ and ‘Ballad of the Dying Man’ - before leaping into the crowd for an impassioned version of ‘When You’re Smiling and Astride Me’. The tent is probably only half-full, but the pulsing of the band and the antics of the eponymous frontman ensure that everyone who’s there is fully committed.

They play the set fairly straight, not straying too far from the album’s arrangements at any stage, but Tillman’s presence and commanding voice means the Father John Misty live experience is as important as the records.

Now we do it all again. Who knows what thrills await us on Day Two.

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