Thelma, Foals, Corby + more: Behind the standout sets of Splendour 2019
Overflowing with talent both near and far, Splendour In The Grass 2019 was more than memorable.
All images by Pat O'Hara. Find our full Splendour In The Grass gallery on FACEBOOK.
It’s Australia’s biggest and most anticipated annual music festival that showcases not only the emerging talent residing in our backyard but also the greatest international acts that are circulating our streaming services today. Splendour in the Grass is the one where either you’re wishing you were going or can’t believe that you are. It’s a fantastic weekend that not only celebrates the coming together of musicians and performers, but also incorporates other members of the creative arts industry. Being immersed in such an environment is such an integral part of Australian culture and fully showcases how close we place the arts in our community.
Here are our favourite sets from the weekend just gone.
There is something incredibly moving about Thelma Plum. She has this overarching talent that brings listeners in to hear what she has to say and what she has been through. But what is most noticeable about a Thelma Plum performance, is seeing the number of people in the audience singing her lyrics back to her with confidence. Plum creates this atmosphere for her audience that is simply contagious and makes everyone want to know her and be involved with her music. Her first performance since releasing her debut album Better in Blak, a raw opening up into her vulnerabilities, she moves through it on the GW McLennan stage with ease. Opening with Not Angry Anymore and then on to her other hits, Better in Blak and Clumsy Love, she had the tent overflowing with happiness, perfectly setting the vibe for the rest of the Splendour weekend.
Honourable Mention: When Thelma Plum got the whole crowd singing and dancing along with her cover of Khalid’s Young Dumb & Broke.
Loved by all, it had already been decided that Hayden James would rock the Ampitheatre at this year’s Splendour In The Grass when people first got wind of his debut album, Between Us; an album that prides itself on the collaborations and productions of Hayden James and a number of talented artists. The best way to describe his performance, is that it is as captivating as it is unique, which he completely embodied with his performance of Nowhere to Go with Nat Dunn, which saw him calling on the backing vocals of the Brisbane City Gospel Choir, rounding out the sound and fleshing out how powerful a song it truly is. What was truly moving and made it clear why he was in the amphitheatre was when GRAACE came out and serenaded the crowd under a spotlight for James’ smash hit Numb. It had the whole crowd bouncing and with the addition of a teasing drop, became a mashup of attitude and grace (excuse the pun).
Honourable Mention: The genuine love and talent radiating from the feature artists like Nat Dunn and GRAACE, you could see they were as happy to be there as the audience and their vocal ability was truly raw and honest.
They are an absolute powerhouse of a band and they made this clear to everyone at Splendour 2019. Kicking things off with On the Luna, fans knew that this show was going to be an entertaining one full of explosive guitar riffs and crashing drum solos from one song to the next. They fully embodied the idea of classic rock not leaving the scene any time soon but what was most important about a Foals live show is how much of a rollercoaster it is as the band stays true to the narratives of each track. They keep the crowd entertained with tracks like Mountain at My Gates, Exits and My Number until finally arriving to the stirring emotion-filled number Spanish Sahara, a song known for its vulnerability and dynamic shift changes as it rises and eventually falls. As a band, it’s a given that you should be able to perform in such a way that takes a crowd for a ride, which is exactly what Foals did throughout. They had amped up everyone for the rest of Splendour and definitely have fans wishing for more music.
Honourable Mention: frontman Yannis’ full-on connection with the crowd during Inhaler taunting them until he finally jumped on the barrier, allowing them to get close to him and his guitar. I remember watching from afar, wondering if he was going to get swept into the crowd of adoring fans.
The Tame Impala setlist was probably the best one of the day, which is the only to be expected from this national treasure of a band, driven by music mastermind Kevin Parker. The entire show was an experience that was complimented by an array of lights and shadows moving around the boys as they performed and with the frequent visuals complimenting hit after hit, it was a fantastic way to end the first day of Splendour in the Grass 2019. Parker and the band walked on stage like they were walking into a party where they were the guests everyone had been there waiting for, and managed to grab everyone's attention as they walked in, with a single one-liner: “It’s been a minute!”. Our Freo boys have been busy since we last saw them at Laneway Festival a couple of years back, largely spent running between major festivals like Glastonbury and Coachella, so it’s great to have them back in the country headlining one of our own major music experiences. This one-liner also made everyone freak out as it was very reflective of the first line of their latest hit Patience (has it really been that long?) and many, like myself, were wondering if they were going to kick off with this soothing track. Instead, they drew us in with Let it Happen and the echoes of the crowd made it known that this was a great song choice to welcome them back to Australia.
It was energetic and mesmerizing and almost felt like our very own amphitheatre wasn’t big enough for the massive sound that was being produced. Most of the songs managed to lead into the next making it feel like one big jam session that young music lovers were a part of. There is a real community that comes together for Tame Impala, a band that is so unique yet so humble about their journey as musicians. They ran through their major tracks: Mind Mischief, Elephant, Feels Like We Only Go Backwards, Eventually and as they finished up with New Person, Same Old Mistakes. At one point, Kevin Parker asked for the lights to shine on the crowd so he could go on to say “You all look beautiful!”, and with that the knot was tied on a successful Day One of Splendour in the Grass 2019 and had a mass of people waiting to see what amounts them for the rest of the weekend.
Honourable Mention: The lights and lasers that ran wild with the pounding track of Elephant. Tame were welcomed home and were at full potential when this track came on.
The music of folk singer-songwriter Dean Lewis was appropriately placed at a time that got everyone listening. As the sun went down, Lewis’ genuine nature and raw acoustic talent shone through and brought together a community of music lovers that felt that this could be the highlight of their Splendour experience. Considering he only came to fruition over the past couple of years, you have to hand it to the Sydney folk writer who is probably one of the few Aussie artists that have made it to the mainstage of Splendour at such a quick rate. He quickly went through his array of emotionally provoking tracks like 7 Minutes, Half a Man and Waves before taking the the crowd by storm with his rendition of The Killers’ When You Were Young, a brilliant song to end on that had the whole audience singing while holding back tears from the rest of his set. The vulnerability that comes with a Dean Lewis set is something quite unique and spectacularly different from any other artist. Lewis has definitely made his mark on the Splendour circuit and it won’t be the last we hear of him, that’s for sure.
Honourable Mention: Just being present during Be Alright as the sun goes down really set the tempo and the mood for what audiences at Splendour could expect to see after the crooning of Dean Lewis.
For many, this was the main reason why Splendour-goers bought their ticket in the first place. Gambino’s performance wasn’t just a showcase of his talent as a musician and producer but also as a worldwide icon with a lot to share. The beginning started out like previous shows before with Gambino standing centre stage, statuelike for Atavista, until he comes alive through Algorythm and embodies the energetic poet that has been followed by many for so long now. After aggressively rapping to the audience and getting them hyped, Gambino moved into Summertime Magic and seeing him bounce around the stage made many of us glad there were no broken feet issues occurring this time around. We’ve got to also remember how charismatic a man he truly is and how much of an influence he holds over many, which was immediately present when he told the audience about his two rules: one, love yourself and him and two, no phones because you’re in his church. The whole thing suddenly became very intimate between this godlike artist and the crowd as the platform he was standing on took him metres above the rest, singing to the skies and keeping our focus on him and only him.
There is also something very godlike about Gambino as he preaches words of wisdom, hope and love over his popular tracks and looks down into the eyes of the crowd closest to him. Of course, there was a giant wave of movement as he jumped into This is America and got everyone infected with his groovy moves, including the accompanying back up dancers that were breakdancing and moving to their own beat like they were possessed as if by the This is America music video. The main attraction was continued on as he took the audience through Sober, V. 3005 and IV. Sweatpants until finally coming to the closing number of Redbone, an ending that felt appropriately placed, considering the entire show was one big ball of energetic rap anthems.
Honourable Mention: The two dancers that almost stole the show breakdancing during This is America. It was freestyle but choreographed and somehow felt relatable when we dance to the same track in our living rooms.
There is something subtly impressive about Matt Corby’s talents, as well as his presence on stage. He has the vocal ability and range to hit notes that set the perfect atmosphere for a chilled Sunday of folk music performances. Corby went through his beautiful piano-accompanied tracks, including No Ordinary Life and Resolution and even took us further back to his hit classic Brother, making sure that fans from then and now were there to embrace everything he was offering. You’ve got to hand it to Matt Corby though, he knows how to collaborate with other musicians and apparently Splendour in the Grass 2019 was the perfect opportunity to do so. Firstly he performed his Like A Version cover of Tina Arena’s Chains with none another than Tina Arena herself, which was entrancing itself, like two lovers on stage begging for help from one another. Both of their vocals complimented one another and was beautifully graceful to watch. Then to go even further and to finish his set on such a high, he brought Joyride, Meg Mac, Georgia Nott (BROODS) and Jarryd James together on stage with him to perform Miracle Love. The backing vocals rounded out the whole song like something that had never been done before and truly made the song echo out into the crowd at the very back.
Honourable Mention: The way Matt Corby works with other artists is truly commendable, he doesn’t steal the show but gives and takes and works his voice where it should be and gives light to the other artist he is working with. That change in dynamic and sharing of melodies is something so beautiful that came about with this performance.
To say James Blake was transcending would be an understatement because the man knows how to move a crowd with his music. His crooning vocals somehow managed to intertwine with the various rays of light that bounced around the amphitheatre and fully established what a James Blake show is all about. He pours his heart and soul into his music and shares it with the audience by way of notes jumping from his synth. The whole experience was almost manipulating, somehow you found yourself gripping the shoulder of the person next to you in an embrace that left you both emotionally vulnerable and with a build like the one made up of songs Limit to Your Love, Barefoot in the Park and Retrograde, it’s understandable just how captivating he is as an artist.
Honourable Mention: The total captivation received by many during Retrograde when he sang the famous lyric of “Suddenly I’m Hit”. That, accompanied by the visuals and lights surrounding, seriously made the audience connect with Blake.
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