The acts you need to see (or listen to) at Splendour 2018
The Splendour in the Grass bill is, as always, completely stacked in 2018. There are plenty of highlights on the bill to look forward to if you ‘re gonna be there. And plenty of reasons to tune in to our sister station if you can’t.
But, if you haven’t given Splendour that much thought this year, or if you’re just curious as to what’s going to be going down over the weekend in the North Byron Parklands, check this out.
Kendrick Lamar (Sunday, 10.45pm: Amphitheatre)
Do not try and deny the enormity of Kendrick Lamar as Splendour In The Grass headliner. Yes, there are hundreds of other acts on the bill, but this festival belongs to just one man.
His most recent tour in 2016 was better than the 2014 one. And reports from the ground on his Australian dates so far in 2017 have been more than promising.
“He performs with a hella tight live band, though they are mostly heard and not seen, playing side of stage so Lamar can take the spotlight solo.
“At one point he rose through the middle of the arena floor, to the strains of 'Money Trees', and was joined by sword-wielding ninjas performing acrobatic displays. Later in the show, he manages to 'levitate, levitate, levitate', balancing on top of another martial arts-looking master.”
Look, if you don’t like him, you’re going to have an absolute blast seeing someone on another stage or you’ll at least get a jump on the queue for the bus home. Because everyone is gonna be trying to catch an eyeful of the almighty Kung-Fu Kenny.
Vampire Weekend (Saturday, 10.45pm: Amphitheatre)
Vampire Weekend have not been playing new material at their 2018 shows so far.
This either means we’re in for a complete nostalgia set, as the New Yorkers run through the biggest tracks from their three records thus far, or they’re going to debut a bunch of new stuff at Splendour. I’m guessing it’ll be the former. Dancing shoes on.
For what it’s worth, the band are apparently in pretty good touch, despite their lengthy absence from the live arena and their new look line up.
See some proof of that below:
Hear Vampire Weekend’s set on triple j, Sunday from 12.30pm
Franz Ferdinand (Saturday, 7.45pm: Amphitheatre)
I wish to take nothing away from the power of Scottish indie rock titans Franz Ferdinand, but they’ve been served up a pretty plum spot here, right between Gang Of Youths (who will rival Kendrick – but not beat him – for most popular act this year) and CHVRCHES (who are also well worth seeing).
RELATED: The J Files: Franz Ferdinand
It’s been a minute since we saw Franz in Australia, but reviewing footage from recent shows suggests they’re still just as reliable a force in the live arena as ever and a look a recent setlists tells us that they’re leaning heavily on their beloved 2004 debut.
“As people crowd surf and scramble onto friend’s shoulders, Kapranos surveys the scene with giddy satisfaction, the archduke of disco punk wreaking dance floor chaos once again,” Derek Robertson wrote for The Telegraph earlier this year.
“And so Franz Ferdinand march onwards, the fire burning as brightly as ever.”
Just don’t ask Massive Attack what they think of them…
Hear Franz Ferdinand’s set on triple j, Saturday from 8.10pm
MGMT (Sunday, 7.45pm: Amphitheatre)
Much like Franz Ferdinand, MGMT have the benefit of a bloody strong lead-in act before their show on Sunday evening. After PNAU are done stirring the crowd up in the early evening, all that’s left for the Connecticut duo is to show up, smash out some bangers and let the plaudits rain.
But we know MGMT better than that. We get the feeling that, while there’ll be a bevy of beloved hits scattered through their set, they’ll throw in some curveballs as well. Like I dunno, a cover of the theme to 1984 cult hit The NeverEnding Story?
This set will be elating or confusing and I’m not sure which option is more enticing.
Angus & Julia Stone (Friday, 7.45pm: Amphitheatre)
The diversity of the Splendour line up has always been one of its strengths. But, every now and then, there is an act that kinda covers all bases. Angus & Julia Stone tidily fit that bill this year.
They’re beloved by music fans of all ages and of all proclivities. They’re certainly not universally adored – those who hate on them are pretty fervent about it – but the lovers at Splendour will far outweigh any negative nellies out there.
They topped the Hottest 100 of 2010 and they came bloody close seven years later, as ‘Chateau’ took out third spot. There will be sing-alongs galore at this show and, if you’re a fan, it’ll be pretty damn special.
RELATED: The J Files: Angus & Julia Stone
After selling out massive shows across the country (and the world) over the past couple of years, the Stone siblings’ return to Splendour is bound to be a triumphant one.
I will offer one warning though: there will probably be a lot of gross PDA going on in that crowd. Avert your eyes and enjoy the vibes.
Hear Angus & Julia Stone’s set on triple j, Friday from 8pm.
Angie McMahon (Sunday, 12.30pm: GW McLennan Tent)
It’s funny seeing Angie McMahon billed at 12.30pm on a side stage. Sure, it makes perfect sense in just about every way; she’s literally released three songs in her entire career so far, and her style of introspective indie rock, stirring as it is, lends itself to intimate environs.
But everyone knows that this is the final time we’ll see her relegated to such an early time slot. We know there’ll be an audience of thousands there going bananas for her when she comes on stage. And we know she’ll be playing far later when she makes her inevitable return to Splendour as a rolled gold indie rock superstar in 2020.
Anyway, all that being said, go and see her.
Hear Angie McMahon’s set on triple j, Sunday from 2.30pm
Didirri (Friday, 12.30pm: GW McLennan Tent)
My thoughts on Didirri haven’t changed since I wrote this last year. The guy is still making beautiful, thoughtful music and remains a hugely charming live performer.
One imagines he’ll be at Splendour in 2018 with his band in tow, and that band truly brings a whole new element to his performances. They’re impossibly talented musicians and they offer a perfect complement to Didirri’s emotive, earnest writings.
They also know how to make everything sound huge. On the GW McLennan stage at 12.30pm, that’s gonna come in real handy. Get there early for him if you can.
Hear Didirri’s set on triple j, Friday from 1.50pm.
Soccer Mommy (Sunday, 1.45pm: GW McLennan Tent)
I hear the cries of Soccer Mommy fans who can’t make it to Splendour in 2018 and are furious that Sophie Allison isn’t doing any Australian shows on this run.
This is Allison’s first visit to Australia and, following her excellent debut album Clean from earlier this year, it’s no wonder that there are people absolutely champing to see her.
She’s one of those artists that makes you feel real good about the future of indie rock; intelligent songwriting, killer melodies and the right mix of gnarled and slick guitar lines. Beautiful stuff.
For those who can’t be at Splendour, I wouldn’t worry too much. I’d put significant money on Allison returning to Australia in the next year or so.
The unknown quantity
With an audience of predominantly very young music fans flocking through the festival gates across the weekend, you can never quite tell how an act that was once
Girl Talk (Sunday, 10.15pm: Mix Up Stage)
There was a time not that long ago that Girl Talk was a monumental dance music superstar. In a world obsessed with mashups, his were the best. In a world that loved to party, he threw the ones everyone wanted to be at.
But then he went quiet.
These days, Greg Gillis is making hip hop beats for the likes of Wiz Khalifa and Flatbush Zombies’ Erick the Architect. Will his sets still elicit the same frenzy they once did? Do the kids care? Does it matter?
Hear Girl Talk’s set on triple j, Sunday from 10.35pm
Henry Rollins (Friday, 8.30pm: GW McLennan Tent)
Henry Rollins has been given an hour on Friday night, immediately before a performance from Dune Rats & Friends. This promises to be very entertaining indeed.
Look, it might all go very smoothly. But if I know Dune Rats fans, then I’m pretty sure they won’t be particularly interested in listening to a 57-year-old punk rock legend after they’ve been on the cans all day. And if I know Henry Rollins, he’s not going to tolerate any bullshit from them.
It’s a recipe for pure entertainment of the highest level and I can only hope it delivers. And we can only hope that Dunies pull Hank up on stage to do a couple of songs while they have the opportunity.
Ben Harper & Charlie Musselwhite (Saturday, 10pm: GW McLennan Tent)
While there was once a time that Ben Harper could have headlined Splendour, things are a little different this year. Firstly, this tour is very much tied to the work he’s doing with 74-year-old blues harmonica legend Charlie Musselwhite.
Having seen the Harper/Musselwhite performance the last time they were in Australia, I can genuinely recommend it for blues fans. But don’t go expecting any of Harper’s old hits and don’t be surprised if the kids don’t know who the hell you’re talking about when you rave about his show.
Splendour takes place at the North Byron Parklands from Friday 20 to Sunday 22 July. It’s sold out, but you can hear heaps of it on triple j across the weekend.