Splendour In The Grass organisers dish the dirt in must-read new interview
In a career-spanning new interview, the organisers share their favourite (and least favourite) performances, drama behind-the-scenes, and so much more.
Header image by Pat O'Hara.
The role of a festival organiser is ever-illusive, especially if you're someone creating Australia's biggest festival. It's fair enough too, considering there's so much that goes into a festival like Splendour In The Grass that it'll be difficult to summarise in a simple introduction, while I'm sure there's also a few little tricks up their sleeves that they're not wanting to give away, especially in such a competitive, cut-throat market.
However, over the last few days - when Splendour would typically be running - you might've noticed a lot of Splendour In The Grass nostalgia across your feed, with sponsor triple j - for example - going behind-the-scenes of some of the festival's most spectacular moments, whether it's visiting distinct memories from punters and showing never-before-heard performances online right through to an interview with the organisers Jessica Ducrou and Paul Piticco, who have been behind the festival since its inception all those years ago.
The pairing don't do interviews too often, so as you could expect, it's quite a detailed read that captures the highs and lows of the festival, taking us behind a lot of the preparation and planning that goes into the event, as well as its highs and lows in the eyes of the organisers, and what's gone wrong and will no doubt continue to go wrong in future years. It's a mammoth, wide-spanning read that's a must if you're at-all interested in the festival, but for the sake of easiness (and getting it on your radar), we've captured a few of the interviews' best bits for you below.
You can check out the full feature by triple j's Al Newstead here.
The best performances: The pair are quick to shout out a couple of the festival's big acts over the years (The Smashing Pumpkins, Band of Horses, LCD Soundsystem, The Strokes), but it seems that Kanye West takes the cake as their favourite festival performance: "Jess and I were talking about this earlier. It’s the only time I’ve ever erupted into dance watching a show. That doesn’t happen very often."
"One of the best performances I’ve seen. Full stop. There’s a lot to be said about Kanye [but] in that place at that time, he was absolutely at his best."
... and the worst performance: Festival organisers will be quick to shout out their favourite performances over the years, but the least favourite is a little more difficult. In the case of Splendour, however, they're quick to call out the culprits: Ryan Adams and The Verve frontman Richard Ashcroft. They're both very infamous performances in the Splendour canon, the first for playing almost the entire set with his back to the audience because of sound issues, and the latter for storming off stage due to 'sickness', or maybe after seeing the crowd disappear to watch Empire of the Sun somewhere else.
The Chance The Rapper (and Frank Ocean) drama: Cancellations are a natural thing when it comes to festivals, especially those that often bring dozens of acts from international waters to Australia just for one show, and maybe a sideshow or two at that. They've had a few infamous cancellations over the years, however, with Chance The Rapper and Frank Ocean - two huge names in hip-hop - both cancelling headline shows just before their sets, with the former last-minute replaced by Hilltop Hoods, while Frank Ocean would be - famously - replaced by Lorde, who made the show her moment to burst into Australian success.
In the case of Chance, it came down to a last-minute call telling the festival organisers that he won't be leaving his house due to sickness, despite nearly all of his team already being on-ground. "I had my day planned out; everything was just smooth. My phone rings, I look down and I see a name… it’s Chance’s booking agent," recalls Paul. "I immediately did the calculation of what time of the morning it was where they were… I just had this instantaneous bad feeling way before I even answered it."
For Frank, the cancellation came a few days earlier than his set, after playing a Melbourne sideshow that'd be his only Australian show to date. It also came down to sickness, but as the Splendour organisers go on, it was off the back of a somewhat turbulent relationship with the elusive king. "As we try to, we spotted Frank’s talent much earlier than his career had developed so we booked him at a reasonable price," Paul says. "And a day, maybe two days before our announce, the call came that they’d run the budgets and it just wasn’t going to work. They needed extra. There was – let’s call it a renegotiation of the fee.
"We were expecting him and his crew to arrive in the Gold Coast to come to Byron, and they just didn’t. Then the phone rang and the agent said ‘He’s not coming, he’s ill’, which was fine, he was genuinely sick. Then we had to scramble."
The interview also goes deep on the Jess and Paul's favourite year (2010), the drama behind Azealia Banks' near-no-show at the height of her career (and when Splendour happened to use 212 in every promotional material they had), whose on the bucket list for future events (Talking Heads, Fleetwood Mac, Radiohead, Rage Against The Machine), how Splendour proves a catalyst for the career growth of Australian musicians, and so much more.
It's a brilliant, career-encapsulating read that's well worth your time, and again, you can catch it here.
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