Splendour 2016, day one: Shining sun and a shaky Avalanches

Each day of Splendour 2016 is pretty stacked when it comes to the lineup, but it was day one you were anticipating most thanks to The Strokes, The Avalanches and Violent Soho. It delivered for the most part, as JULES LEFEVRE reports. Check out our set report of Friday night headliners The Strokes here, and our full gallery here.

Mud: out, sun: in

SITG D1-22

The hellish mud quagmire of 2015 was a distant memory – it was blue skies all round on Day 1. In fact, it was pretty darn hot for a winter’s day. There were a couple of dust tornados swirling around the Ampitheatre, but that’s a pretty mild complaint seeing as last year you could barely walk without being swallowed by a subterranean mud monster. Swap your gumboots up for a floppy hat – this year is going to be hot.

Years and Years year after year

Their 2015 Splendour performance was marred by technical difficulties, so it was with a far amount of relief that Years and Years made it through their set without a hitch. They absolutely packed the tent as they delivered their brisk cuts of pop. They brilliantly intercut a cover of Katy Perry’s ‘Dark Horse’ with Drake’s ‘Hotline Bling’, bounced through hits ‘Desire’ and the percussive ‘Real’. “I’m so deliriously jet lagged I have no idea what’s going on,” singer Olly laughed. They closed with the epic pop bombast of ‘King’.

The 1975 winning hearts, again

The 1975
Photo by Kylie Keene/FasterLouder

When Matt Healy walked onstage with a cheery “hello everyone, we’re your new favourite band,” he was only half joking. The 1975 are a band that polarise, but it was pretty hard not to get swept along in the fun during their utterly excellent set. This is ’80s pop reimagined for a 2016 audience. Openers ‘Love Me’ and ‘UGH’ were deliriously choppy – the syncopated guitars bounding against the off beat percussion. They drifted into syrupy slow jams with ‘Somebody Else’, and caused a thousand screams when they dropped their previous hits ‘Girls’ and ‘Chocolate’, Healy dragging on cigarettes between lyrics. The biggest was saved until last: the stunning ‘The Sound’ and the gritty pop punk of ‘Sex’.

Homegrown heroes reigned supreme

Violent Soho
Photo credit Kylie Keene/FasterLouder

Mansfield boys made good Violent Soho drew the biggest crowd of the day at their evening set in the amphitheatre. They rose to the occasion, and then some. ‘Like Soda’ and ‘Covered In Chrome’ transformed into festival-commanding monsters. Having spent the better part of the last three years on tour in increasingly larger settings, the set was watertight.

Photo credit: Kylie Keene/FasterLouder

Earlier, the DMA’s gently rocked the stage awake with the swaying arm-in-arm anthem ‘Delete’. In the baking heat of the afternoon delivered some truly special moments – ‘Lay Down’ and ‘Play It Out’ were the blissful high points.

The Kills, uh, killed

The Kills
Photo credit: Kylie Keene/FasterLouder

It’s hard not to be slightly in awe/terrified of Alison Mosshart. She walked on stage, slowly curling cigarette smoke from her nose, and stared down the crowd for a solid thirty seconds before she reached for the mic stand and began dragging it across the stage during opener ‘No Wow’. The set was criminally tight: these two are legends both inside and out of The Kills. It was a special return – guitarist Jamie nearly lost the use of his hand due to a freak accident a few years ago, so every vicious curl of distortion that he unleashed was made that little bit better. There were guitar changes every song, including when he changed axes mid strum during the guns blazing closer of ‘Monkey 23’.

The Avalanches’ shakily return as a live band

The Avalanches
Photo credit: Kylie Keene/FasterLouder

Recreating these complex songs live must be an absolute nightmare – probably one of the reasons that even at their height The Avalanches preferred DJ sets. From that point alone, the fact that they managed to pull these songs off is a massive feat. Robbie Chater had the tough job of orchestrating it all – he stood with a white SG slung around his waist, head flicking back and forth to point and instruct.

However, there was no doubt that something was lacking overall. The mix pulled the instrumentation down to such a point that standing halfway back in the Amphitheatre you were only getting 1/5th of the sound. For lead Wildflower single ‘Frankie Sinatra’, guest rapper Spank Rock held up his phone to read the lyrics, and pretty unexpected for such a highly anticipated set. They gutted ‘Frontier Psychiatrist’, attempting to mash up Gnarls Barkley’s ‘Crazy’ – but the melody didn’t match the chords of ‘…Psychiatrist’, and when you just wanted to shout ‘that boy needs therapy’, there was nothing. For these missteps, there were positives – the intricate weaving of samples was fitted immaculately around the live instruments, and picking apart the samples remains one of the joys of listening to The Avalanches. They closed with the endlessly lovely ‘Since I Left You’ – a fitting cap for such a long absence.

Stay tuned for our Splendour day two wrap.