Violent Soho pulled off their biggest victory lap yet at Splendour In The Grass

Photo by Kylie Keene/FasterLouder

Presented in an unbroken run of glorious sunshine, Splendour in the Grass 2016 was a mixed bag of heritage heroes and rising prospects. Crawl out of bed early enough and you got hothouse post-rock from Gold Class or the silken groove of Ngaiire. For those who love glistening beats, Flume had an amphitheatre full, Feki raised the roof and Golden Features rained down almighty mania on the Mix Up Stage.

In quieter corners lay interesting surprises, including a totally naked Lias Saoudi of Fat White Family, pulling on his junk as he thrashed around to their wicked blues rock. Banoffee took to the stage with backup dancers a la Grimes, while Marlon Williams seemed to be missing something – specifically, his luscious hair. The headliners were more reliable, if not always perfect. The Avalanches tried their best to recreate the dynamic energy of Wildflower live, but stumbled along fitfully. The Strokes triumphed over their obvious interpersonal enmity to deliver a hit-laden dance-athon and Sigur Rós, who should have played the Amphitheatre Stage, brought unearthly beauty to the festival’s closing hour.

The field of music talent was wide and deep, multiple buzzes for every taste, but the real highlights of Splendour were those hardworking Aussie bands that have sweated blood on their way to the top. King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard smashed it out of the park on Saturday afternoon and Friday belonged to Violent Soho. In fact, when Violent Soho were playing, it felt like the whole festival belonged to them.

Photo by Kylie Keene/FasterLouder

The Brisbane boys whipped up a frenzy on the Amphitheatre Stage that was unmatched before or after – a breed of mosh pit carnage that would make Nirvana proud (a comparison explicated with a cover of ‘Breed’). ‘Like Soda’ was the perfect set opener, a few bars of lazy melody to warm the crowd then that ominous thud of bass to signal the coming explosion: Violent Soho went off and so did the audience. Gone were the bobbing torsos of punters swaying on tops of shoulders; the sight of DMA’s set earlier in the day. The whole lower amphitheatre, from the rail to the sound booth, was a feral storm of arms and legs, churning pit circles and bouncing bodies.

The band made its way through a decent slab of WACO – ‘So Sentimental’, ‘Viceroy’, ‘How To Taste’, ‘Blanket’, ‘Evergreen’ – while album art flickered on the stage behind them. Pounding at the bass, Luke Henery swung his ludicrous mane of hair like a hammer and Luke Boerdam sneered into the microphone while upside-down crosses and ominous red stains flooded the massive screen.

“The whole lower amphitheatre, from the rail to the sound booth, was a feral storm of arms and legs, churning pit circles and bouncing bodies.”

Tunes from Hungry Ghost had the same visual treatment; album art in the form of hellfire and skeletons skittering in the background while the band played ‘In the Aisle’ and ‘Saramona Said’ – looking much grimmer, on reflection, than the sound of Violent Soho’s ebullient pop-punk leaning moments. (Meanwhile, however dark the imagery, however wild the amphitheatre raged, the toddlers and babies belonging to the Violent Soho crew hung out side of stage looking almost preternaturally chill.)

That band knows how to open a set, and they know how to close one too – playing a sweaty version of ‘Covered In Chrome’ to the rabidly delighted crowd. Just when you thought there was no one left to dance, Boerdam screamed, ‘Hell fuck yeah!’ and set off a final thundering wave. There were massive signs either side of the stage that read ‘NO MOSHING, NO STAGE DIVING.’ By the end of Violent Soho’s set, those signs were laughably futile. And yet, the intensity of the crowd spoke volumes. Violent Soho may have been third-rung on the bill, but they were the real headliners that day – the most beloved act on the Amphitheatre Stage by a country mile.