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Splendour In The Grass 2011: Day Two

w/ Regina Spektor, Gomez, Architecture In Helsinki, The Grates and more


Day two of Splendour In The Grass 2011 would unfold in a similar manner to the first day of the festival, steadily building in quality with a few agonising scheduling conundrums thrown in for good measure. Having experienced heavy traffic out of the amphitheatre even before Kanye West's performance the night before, patrons understood the prudence of planning ahead where their late-night movements were concerned. The big three acts on day two were as follows: Jane's Addiction, Pnau and Regina Spektor in her only performance of 2011. It would be no easy task to choose between them, though, fortunately enough, patrons had an entire day of entertainment yet to decide.

  

Hotly-tipped Ghoul were charged with kicking off day two from the Mix Up tent, showcasing an imaginative indie-experimental approach both dense and entrancing. Their set was marked by winding tangents, as an exercise in gooey, fluid experimental rock unfolded. As a hazy, hangover sound track, Ghoul's endeavours really do hit the spot. By the same token, however, this should gleam some insight into the appeal of their music: it really does take a precise mood to entertain and ultimately accept Ghoul's vivid, fantastical ideas. As an unassuming patron, it's simple enough to find their craft both taxing and polarising. There was little to cling onto aside from the band's impressively tight performance, as Ghoul sought to challenge and test a formidable early turn-out. For anyone who happens to be a fan of sluggish rock and slow-burning, hypnotic musicianship, Ghoul is definitely worth checking out. The rest of us will most likely pick at the set to try and make heads and tails of it all before resigning to confusion. Fair play to Ghoul though: they are refreshingly ambitious and have made admirable progress within the last few months alone.

  

Elsewhere, Kiwis Cut Off Your Hands could be found playing the amphitheatre, their set floundering helplessly amidst a steadfast commitment to back-to-basics rock. It was the first set of the festival to traipse disappointingly bland territory, with the indie-rock outfit's sound in dire need of some radical ingredient. There were some promising signs, including the frenetic Still Fond and Expectations, which delivered a similarly high-octane result. The band's solid impressions were too few and far between, however, as a lack of presence and a very casual display throughout only made matters worse. Despite a relatively successful career to date, Cut Off Your Hands disappointed in a myriad of ways at Splendour, appearing frustratingly blasé before an eager audience.

  

By complete contrast, Glaswegians Dananananaykroyd would supply the amphitheatre with an electric enthusiasm, their professed ‘fight-pop' blasting from the stage with formidable fervor. The band's previous tour of Australia had been disrupted, vocalist John Bailley Jnr having sustained a serious arm injury one infamous night at Sydney's Annandale Hotel. Their Splendour In The Grass set would mark an approximate two-year anniversary of the incident and Dananananaykroyd were in the mood to celebrate, immediately setting the stage ablaze with their frenzied shenanigans. Fittingly, Reboot would open their set, the gravelly roars of Bailley Jnr and Calum Gunn leading the chaos. The dynamic duo were masterful and brilliantly restless in their respective performances, their mics utilised as everything from lassos to jump ropes. In a memorable moment, the entire band would simultaneously collapse to the stage floor, encouraging an enthralled pit to take a similar position on the gravel below. With one swift crescendo, all would rise and reignite the party vibe, Dananananaykroyd's abrasive rock again flourishing nicely. It wouldn't be long until Gunn and Bailley Jnr launched themselves into the crowd, coercing a perimeter of punters into a display of impassioned fist-pumping adoration. "You guys are the worst hairdressers ever!" Gunn remarked, noting stray hands and a newly dishevelled hairdo.

  

Following their own intimate interaction with their fans, Dananananaykroyd would invite punters to get up close and personal with one another, initiating their famed "wall of cuddles". The band would split the amphitheatre pit down the middle, set to command a friendly collision of bodies. Total strangers were forced together and filtered through one another, recalling a gentle emulation of the Star Wars' garbage compactor. With the likes of the irresistible Muscle Memory and fan-favourite Black Wax to close the set, it was hard not to be completely swept up in the band's frivolity. Not only were the sextet accomplished musicians, presenting a precise execution from beginning to end, they imbued the afternoon with an enormous sense of fun in the process. At Splendour In The Grass, the band nailed a killer combination, Dananananaykroyd appearing both intense and intensely likeable.

  

Meanwhile, Fitz and The Tantrums had drawn an admirable crowd over at the Mix Up tent as an outfit unique amidst Splendour's comprehensive bill. The band - fronted by Michael Fitzpatrick and his glorious vocal delivery - exhibited a penchant for retro, Motown elements. In fact, they're a band unafraid to touch upon more than a genre or two, presenting a seamless mish-mash of motown, soul, funk and pop in one deftly entertaining venture. Song for song, Fitz and The Tantrums were crisp, clear and emphatic, the band a beautifully cohesive unit. Unlike far too many of Splendours acts, Fitz and co. revelling in of a risk here and there, embarking on extended outros and jams. Their compositions were frequently found to twist and turn terrifically with no end in sight, an element indicative of a band with both immense confidence and instrumental prowess. Highlights of the set included a couple of surprise covers in Steady As She Goes (The Raconteurs) and Sweet Dreams (Eurhythmics), each brave rendition fitting seamlessly amidst the band's soul, indie-pop aesthetic. In addition, Fitz and The Tantrums also offered many gems of their own making. Dear Mr.President - in both its piano-laced swagger and its ecstatic cries - exuded a disarming cool, whilst the lippy-lecture of MoneyGrabber helped close the set with fanfare.

  

The finale would see Fitz command his audience to sit, much like The Hives and Dananananaykroyd before him. Amazingly, it would be the third time this festival such a request would be made, but the sheer reluctance of those in attendance seem to typify a frustrating element of the set. Disappointingly, support for Fitz and The Tantrums appeared a tenuous commodity throughout their set, as if a strange apathy had swept over the sizeable crowd. Nevertheless, the band put on not only a show that successfully demonstrated the many treasures of their debut album, but one that ultimately proved amongst the best that the festival had to offer. Meanwhile, in another positive spin, day two of Splendour In The Grass was slowly but surely outdoing the first twenty-four hours.

  

As Fitz and co. began to vacate the Mix Up tent, Californians Foster the People were due to appear on the same stage shortly after. The band's reception exceeded all expectations, as punters were pushed well outside the tent in their attempt to catch a glimpse of Foster The People's indie-pop craft. It was an impressive feat for a band with all of one full-length studio album. Typically, the band emerged to a rousing response. An urgent percussive thoroughfare would help kick things off, before the addition of piano would seemingly calm matters. Foster The People wasted no time in casting themselves as technological whiz-kids, effortlessly and comfortably recreating even the finer details of their studio endeavours, their scratchy electronic bleeps and effects working overtime. Mark Foster could be found bleating well-honed pop sensibilities amidst modest grooves in a set that, though entertaining, appeared more or less inoffensive.

  

Such sentiments are derived directly from the band's production, the trio frequently experimenting with a sweeping synth ambiance and an array soothing synthesisers, each used as backdrops for a pursuit of pop glory. Their biggest song, Pumped Up Kicks, seems to sum things up well, presenting wholly enjoyable melody that strives to flourish within a strangely timid, lush setting. The single, predictably enough, elicited a fantastic response from the crowd, with the likes of Call It What You Want and Don't Stop proving equally as successful. Still, there's something a little hollow about Foster The People's casual, frivolous aesthetic and those that want a little more spark or their music to bear teeth should look elsewhere. Ultimately, amidst the band's stellar execution, this would be the only source of conflict for punters. A good set - certainly satisfying - but one that stopped short from being outstanding.

  

The Grates would hit the amphitheatre with brand new material and a new line-up in tow, suggesting rejuvenation within the group. Patience Hodgson was more than happy to confirm as much, tearing up the stage in salacious form. Opener Carve Your Name succesfully energised an eager crowd, as Hodgson pranced and danced to and from every corner of the stage. The Grates' total physical exertion in nailing their alternative rock was certainly impressive, each member tirelessly making the most of the band's return to the festival circuit. As such, their hook-laden catalog flourished well within the festival environment, with Aw Yeah evoking ecstatic all-in cries from the festival, the frenzied yet articulate Hodgson snarling sentiments effortlessly to lead proceedings. Trampoline would prompt a similar kind of rapture from a crowd all-too-eager to entertain Hodgson's requests of ‘Higher! Higher!', as countless pairs of feet were relieved time and again from the harsh stoney floor. In an encouraging sidenote, the band's new material really does sound magnificent live, the likes of Elastica-inspired Like You Could Have It All and Sweet Dreams sounding great. The latter, in fact, would culminate in a soaring, bittersweet climax, securing one of the set's more enchanting moments. It was obvious that Splendour were more than a little into The Grates performance, as Hodgson greeted punters at the barrier. Addressing the festival at large, the frontwoman suddenly stopped short of a complete sentence. "Don't lick my leg!" she exclaimed, lecturing a particularly amorous fan. It might have been a weirdly intimate gesture, though it helped sum up the state of affairs perfectly: The Grates' set of Splendour 2011 was an absolute success as far as the festivals' patrons were concerned, reaffirming the band's place as an irresistible powder-keg of pure indie pop-rock bliss.

  

Speaking of status, it's only been a matter of months since Melburnians Architecture In Helsinki released their acclaimed album Moment Bends and yet enough time - or enough shows, rather - have elapsed since to secure the band a rare kind of prestige: live, Architecture In Helsinki are a sure thing. Splendours' many patrons knew it too, turning out in droves to witness a stellar performance. The band would excel in their performance rich, cohesive electro-pop as the fan-favourites rolled out. The fabulously funky Hold Music emerged a highlight, whereas That Beep, though a sugar-sweet pop gem, will be remembered by most for the band's sudden choreographed dance routine initiated in the song's outro. Interestingly, Architecture In Helsinki boasted that which Foster The People lacked: aside from experience, the locals consistently show great imaginative flair and an approach to pop that conjures true experimentation and originality. Even their cover of Londonbeat's I've Been Thinking About You proved masterful, claiming the first act in a thrilling three part finale. Heart It Races and Contact High would help close one of the best sets of the festival, as Architecture In Helsinki once again proved themselves one of the most thrilling and accomplished acts of the local industry.

  

Should punters have chosen to avoid the ampitheatre in this particular evening, they were in for a real treat. Gomez were playing the G.W. McLennan tent, the alternative indie-rock bunch very casually nailing a straightforward set of friendly tunes. Conducting a dense, jam-packed aesthetic, the most visually striking thing about the band is their Beatles-esque live formation. Not only are Gomez blessed with the inclusion of three stunning vocalists, each are adept guitar technicians in their own right. The recreation of fan favourites comes effortlessly for Gomez, the lazy, country-bop swagger of Get Myself Arrested emerging a real hit with the tent. Here Comes The Breeze yielded similar success with its mid-song hoedown, strangely reminiscent of John Butler Trio's heydays. Gomez provided a fun outing, solidifying themselves as a formidable live act and - much like Fitz and The Tantrums - one of an impressive assurance.

  

Day two of Splendour would close in style, with Regina Spektor playing her only show of 2011 at the G.W. McLennan tent. Though Spektor would produce a warmly evocative experience and a predictably brilliant show, the set was not without its foibles. The most notable fault lay with the predicament of having Pnau's set at the Mix Up tent directly coincide with Spektor's performance. Reports from patrons have suggested embracing Spektor's set from the outskirts of the crowd verged on being completely futile, thanks to Pnau's emphatic dance music engulfing her delicate piano-pop. It was a circumstance both unfortunate and unavoidable, as even those close to the stage recognise Pnau's imposition upon the pianist. Irrespective of potential distractions, Spektor's songcraft still shone and imbued with the festival with a kind of captivating magic. As a writer / performer, you'd be pushed to find anyone as accomplished as Spektor, with the likes of On The Radio, Better, Us and Fidelity instantaneously charming an affectionate following. Spektor navigated her way through each slice of sentimental perfection with ease, crossing from piano to keyboard to electric guitar and even providing her own thigh-slapping percussion when required. She would earn a rousing ovation at the conclusion of her set, prompting an encore. Much is made about encores where festival etiquette is concerned, but as the final act in the G.W. McLennan tent for the day - and as a sublime performer who had swiftly enchanted those in attendance - it only seemed right to hear one more song. Regina Spektor was delighted to re-emerge from the side of stage and granted the audience their wish, before releasing them to the evening awash with contentment.

  

Day two of Splendour In The Grass, aside from the odd hiccup here and there, was a definite success. Band for band, it had surpassed the festivals first impressions, with day three promising much more still. As a festival attendee, life was good, secure also in the knowledge that Coldplay - and maybe even Jay-Z, to an overly-optimistic few - were still on the horizon.

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