Splendour in the Grass 2010

Woodfordia, Woodford, Queensland, Australia

Splendour in the Grass 2010: Richard Ashcroft - the incredible sulk takes a turn for the worst...

Richard Ashcroft - the incredible sulk takes a turn for the worst...

Photographer: Kate Anderson Dannii Leivers on 09 August 2010

Namely 'best weather' - a blissful 30 degrees all three days, 'best headliners' (The Strokes and Pixies), 'best striptease' (Scissor Sisters) and 'best chuck-your-toys-out-the-pram-diva' (Richard Ashcroft). Big Day Out, that attracted stalwart predictables Muse, Dizzee and Lily this year, may be the festival that rules the roost Down Under but without a doubt, Splendour is where the true magic happens.
 
The Joy Formidable’s 'The Greatest Light is the Greatest Shade' is like a beacon that attracts onlookers in their droves to have their ears hammered by the likes of 'Austere' and 'Whirring'. But it’s the unadulterated racket that the trio create during a feedback-drenched 'The Last Drop' that leaves the biggest (and most ringing) impression. By the time Yeasayer take to the mainstage in the amphitheatre, temperatures are soaring and the band take full advantage with their jubilant, playful calypso carnival.

Later Hot Chip play to a bulging MixUp stage who dangle from tent ropes and rave on bins to a meaty version of 'Over and Over' but it’s the Scissor Sisters that provide the day's surprise highlight. There's no Kylie this time round but the band never really needed the help of guest stars to make their muscular pomp, glitter and glam work. Ana Matronic gets hers out during a saucy 'Tits on the Radio' while they play finger-wagging tribute to shelvers everywhere (people who insert speed into their vaginas, Matronic dutifully informs us) with an ecstatic 'I Don't Feel Like Dancing'. When Jake Shears takes his cue from 'Filthy Gorgeous' and strips off butt naked from a string-vest-mankini item it's debatable whether any of us need to see that much of him, but certainly this kind of naughtiness should never be confined to a guilty pleasure.
 
Saturday's revelries are kickstarted by Melbourne's Gypsy and the Cat whose crystalline, woozy keys are weighed down by horribly clunky lyrics ("If I die, please don't cry, I'll be there, by your side..."). It's their first ever festival performance yet they find themselves on the main stage - Nepotism runs rife at Australian festivals with promoters fiercely promoting their own scene. The only complaint about Band of Skulls' whiskey-swilling rock is their tendency to sound like The White Stripes but after they've hauled out 'Cold Fame' and 'Death By Diamonds and Pearls' it seems like a nonexistent gripe. Later The Drums play in baking sunshine which perfectly suits their surging summer euphoria. Their constant prancing, pirouetting and eye-rolling seems a little forced but you can't fault the addictive sunniness of 'My Best Friend', 'Forever and Ever Amen' and 'Book of Stories'. Wolfmother have an awesome keyboardist with a whopping afro who rather than using his hands just decides to jump on and off the keys. But the award for 'best over-the-top-fan-reaction' goes to Florence and The Machine, who draws such a large, hysterical crowd the police are called in 30 minutes before to calm things down. After a disappointing 'shouty' and 'out of tune' Latitude headline set, The Welch pulls out all the stops, appearing in a sparkly white cape, surrounded with enough flowers to stock a florist. And sure, opener 'Drumming Song' is more about her hood billowing at the dramatic moments but throughout her vocals are spot-on. We all know studded leather shits on wispy capes though, and today was only ever going to be about one band. To see The Strokes so on form and so removed from the band that was said to hate each other is something many in this crowd would have probably sold their grannies for a few years ago. And although the band are as static as ever, there's no sense of the usual aloofness embedded in their New York cool and the passion and urgency firing the likes of 'Juicebox', 'Reptilia', 'You Only Live Once' and 'Take It Or Leave It' is breathtaking. Bring on that new album in March...
 
Come Sunday though, never mind Passion Pit's sparkling groove, the explosion of feist and glitter that is Goldfrapp's Allison, a gargantuan greatest hits set from Pixies, including 'Cecilia Ann', 'Debaser', 'Bone Machine' and 'Here Comes Your Man', or the fact Mumford and Sons somehow managed to bag a second-from-top main stage slot despite only having one album of Tesco Clubcard folk. No, the only thing anyone can talk about on the way home is Richard Ashcroft, who as well as bagging the gong for biggest tantrum can also count shortest set ever amongst his accolades. Although the story from the officials is the Mad One's voice gave in half way through opener 'Are You Ready', the petulant way he tosses down his microphone stand and tambourine and disappears after about two minutes suggests it was more to do with frustration at a small turnout owing to simultaneous sets from Pixies and Empire of the Sun. After poor reviews for his ‘United Nations of Sound’ debut maybe he'd be better back on hiatus letting some of the air out of that ego and it's likely those who've ended their festival weekend angrily bottling the empty stage with beer and piss are in agreement.
    
By Dannii Leivers.

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