The sun's heat came out early on Saturday, and so did thousands of eager punters for Wollongong band Hockey Dad to kick off the main stage at day two of Splendour In The Grass. An enthusiastic audience turned up to bounce around in the warm winter sun to the duo's sunny, summery surf pop tunes, helping blow off the cobwebs and hangovers from the night before and kickstart the day in good form.
A simple setup from guitar and drums duo did nothing to dampen the unexpectedly lively and engaging show on the huge stage from a band more accustomed to playing small bars and clubs, but who are clearly growing into (and immensely enjoying) their current foray into festivals and bigger shows.
Splashy cymbals, warm guitars, machine gun fire drums and sweet crooning, lovesick, lovelorn vocals made for an upbeat and immensely fun show, as testified to by the growing crowd which nearly doubled in size over their short set. A mid-set highlight came as drummer Billy took over vocals for a song, preceded by nearly the entire crowd imploring him to down a shoey -- his excuse, being barefoot, was quickly allayed by a helpful skate shoe flung from the crowd into which an entire Coopers was quickly emptied and sculled.
Over on the Mix Up stage, the energy rocketed up a few more levels as zany Melbourne dance-pop outfit Confidence Man ignited the early afternoon with a flurry of synchronised dance moves, revealing outfits and high-energy bangers. The energy of their eclectic, pulsating live show was infectious, their mix of rave, drum & bass and acid house swirling together for an outrageous and intense live experience. Bombastic synths and massive beats were complemented by a live drummer dressed in a long black veil, only his hands and sticks really visible against the black backdrop, as if some disembodied Addams Family-style hands were playing the drums of their own volition.
Co-ordinated booty-shaking, crumping dance moves between the tall lanky male frontman dressed in black jacket and short shorts, and the sweet-as-sugar frontwoman in a lacy frilly white dress, pushed the crowd to join in. Their big singles 'Bubblegum' and 'Boyfriend' obliterated the crowd, as the band were joined on stage by PVC-clad dancers in black veils (who Confidence Man later told HuffPost Australia were just their housemates they had press-ganged into dancing). The group are an act on the rise, armed with a bevy of infectious tunes who you'll be hearing a lot more from in coming months.
But the most bananas set of the day was still to come, as scrappy Brisbane punks Dune Rats tore apart the main stage. Flanked by two giant cartoon hands throwing shaka signs, and a big novelty button marked "do not touch", the band entered the stage on motorbikes. Really. From there, the silliness just escalated. They pounded out their fast, raw and loose punk rock to a huge crowd already forming large dusty circlepits at only 3pm, clearly having the time of their lives as they careened around the stage, bouncing off each other. During pop-punk track 'Six Pack', the band's friends threw out a bunch of giant inflatable beer cans to be batted around the crowd -- only four, an obvious missed opportunity considering the song's name.
Then came out two huge clear plastic balls filled with confetti, the crowd all but disappearing under a canopy of inflatable plastic. It was all security could do to just deal with the unexpected toys, let alone the hordes of kids crowd surfing to the front. A set filled with their big hits -- 'Red Light Green Light', 'Scott Green' -- saw two late highlights when Grinspoon frontman Phil Jamieson came on to sing a cover of his band's song 'Just Ace', joined by Violent Soho guitarist James Tidswell, before a huge singalong finale of big single 'Bullshit'. An insane, incredibly entertaining and wild set from the Brisbane party-starters, who are fast blossoming into one of the country's most popular live bands.
Splendour is one of those places where you blink and you miss something incredible. Like a surprise Powderfinger reunion during Bernard Fanning's set. We caught the start of his performance on the main stage, with a large but mostly curious crowd of young people in front of the Aussie rock icon. Starting off with a pack of solo songs not hugely well received by the young fans, many of whom would have entirely missed the Powderfinger heyday on account of their age, it wasn't exactly the most rousing of welcomes for Fanning. Yours truly had to dash out mid-set to interview a few other bands, but as we waited backstage to chat, the familiar strains of '(Baby I've Got You) On My Mind' and 'These Days' came rising through the air. From where we were, it was disappointing enough to think Fanning was just doing 'Finger songs with his new band. It wasn't until later we heard the band had actually reunited on stage for the first time in years. You win some, you lose some.
We also missed HuffPost favourite Doctor Karl belting out some karaoke.
The surprise highlight set for us so far was from British singer Rag N Bone Man. An imposing figure on stage, we were treated to some unexpectedly beautiful and gorgeous vocals from the big man with the beard and shaved head. A startlingly soulful, bluesy voice anchors the outfit's sound, backed by gospel-like instrumentation, keys, drums and soaring backing vocals. An astonishing voice, at times rooted in gravelly blues and at times sugar-sweet, was almost a religious experience for many, raising hands and swaying in the cooling night air. A truly delightful surprise to stumble upon.
Royal Blood kicked things back up a gear on the main stage, the British rock duo pummelling the evening crowd with the most rousing, punk set of the weekend. Their simple stage setup -- dressed in black and white, with a monochrome backdrop and only the two men themselves with their bass and drums -- belied their thumping, ear-rattling sound. Probably the loudest band to play the festival this year, their thundering live show -- ignited properly by fan favourite 'Out Of The Black' -- warmed up a heaving, pulsing crowd for the night's headliners.
"We've come to fuck with your head," Josh Homme told the crowd midway through the night-closing set, and his band Queens of the Stone Age certainly delivered on that. The band, born in the Californian desert, brought their arid and mind-melting rock to Byron, whipping their fans into full-on frenzy as they pounded through a greatest hits set full of the belting tunes which made them household names. Groovy, slinky and strutting, Queens of the Stone Age's music is made to make you walk a bit taller, inflate your ego just a little, and make you feel just a little bit dirty. On all counts, they delivered -- 'If I Had A Tail', 'No One Knows', 'My God Is The Sun' and huge hit 'Little Sister' came in rapid succession, blitzing a crowd bathed in red stage lights. They've been one of the coolest bands on the planet for almost as long as they've existed, with leader Homme clearly aware of his status as one of the most enviable men in rock and roll. It's a heavy yet immensely danceable sound, full of groove and rhythm, and even more so in a live setting as an entire amphitheatre swayed, stepped and headbanged to the rollicking, arid sound. There are few bands better on the live stage than Queens, and now more than 20 years into their career -- and with a new album on the way in coming months -- there's no sign of them giving up their title just yet.
HuffPost Australia is at Splendour this weekend, taking in the vibe and chatting to the big acts. Keep up with us this weekend on Instagram (@HuffPostAu) and Twitter (@HuffPostAu) for behind-the-scenes access and interviews, as well as on Facebook for a series of Live interviews with big-name acts. Then, stay tuned after Splendour wraps up for our documentary on the festival, featuring interviews with some of the best bands on the lineup, with organisers, and backstage access.Suggest a correction