Splendour In The Grass 2009 – Part 3


From the sublime to the ridiculous; The Living End.  There are so many things that are wrong before they even play a note; they’ve replaced the late-cancelling Jane’s Addiction, hardly a like-for-like exchange, they have just had The Specials essentially support them, the crowd reaction they get from the crowd as they walk onstage makes you despair for Generation Y and their woeful taste in music and Chris Cheney makes a quip something along the lines that if you want a job done right get an Australian band, something that only endears them more to the audience.  And then they play and it’s the usual awful second rate Stray Cats meet Green Day tunes, as played by grown men in their mid-30s who have never gotten over the fact that they weren’t around in the 1950s.

If there is one good thing that has come out of Jane’s Addiction’s pulling out it’s that the time that I planned to spend watching their whole set can now be spent catching a bit of Sarah Blasko over in the GW McLennan tent.  Whilst anything would be better than having to endure a single second more of The Living End, it’s even more of a godsend when finding out the next day that I miss a cover of ‘Jane’s Says‘ featuring Grinspoon’s Phil Jamieson.  Members of The Living End and Grinspoon on the same stage? I’m just amazed that the world didn’t explode Sci-Fi anti-matter style with the coming together of two of Australia’s worst bands.

But Sarah Blasko eases my woes somewhat. She’s a bit of a guilty pleasure but there’s something mesmerising about her even though, having seen her a few times and having her first two albums, I’m still not entirely sure about her voice.  It has an icy crispness and a pureness about it but sometimes lacks something more emotive.  It’s clinical and there’s no rough edges; almost like it’s too perfect. I stay for a few songs and it’s mostly new stuff from her recently released album, which on first listen sound great, although she also slips in an exquisite ‘Always On This Line‘ before I have to run away and photograph over in the Supertop.  She still hasn’t learnt to dance in the last few years though.   

Sold as Bloc Party‘s only Australian date, their headline slot tonight proves to be nothing of the kind really, with a show the night before at The Great Northern in Byron, a Nova and Soothers (I can remember when no one wanted to be associated with anything Nestle made) sponsored gig in Brisbane the Monday after Splendour and a special Sydney show at the MCA that only Mastercard holders could buy tickets to.  Selling out or buying in? You decide.  It’s fun to photograph I guess.  It’s an energetic performance but nothing to really write home about.  I saw them back in 2005 and was distinctly underwhelmed.  I guess I’m not their demographic but to me it’s an empty and hollow sound.  I wouldn’t quite put it in the Landfill Indie box, I think there’s a little bit more going on that that, maybe not a whole lot more but it’s just not that interesting and the songs have a very by-numbers, predictable feel about them even with all the cleverness that the band seem determined to put into them.

I first saw The Happy Mondays at my first Glastonbury in 1990 (back when it cost £38 to get in and you could buy a ticket the same week of the festival), just as Madchester was peaking.  They were rubbish. Like really rubbish.  Our paths have crossed a few times over the years and it’s always been the same old story, sometimes to embarrassing levels.  But tonight it’s actually fun, even though the lighting is appalling and makes photographing really hard work.  Maybe my expectations were so low they couldn’t fail to be met; maybe I’m just getting nostalgic in my old age.  (Checking out old videos of theirs on YouTube writing this blog is making me feel very old anyway, realising that it was almost 20 years ago).  Shaun Ryder stays in the shadows at the back of the stage, finger in ear, as ever desperately trying to sing somewhere vaguely in tune, although to be fair I’m not sure he gets that close, and so it’s up to Bez to provide the entertainment, which he does spliff in hand for the duration.  I guess you just have to take you hat off to Bez, someone who’s managed to last 20 years in the music industry by being an onstage dancer with a little indie band.  Having expected the worst, it’s a surprisingly nice way to end Day 1. 

All the 2009 Splendour photos are on Flickr and the individual band sets are in the following links:

The Living End
Sarah Blasko
Bloc Party
Happy Mondays

One Response to “Splendour In The Grass 2009 – Part 3”

  1. Daniel says:

    Wow, love the Sarah Blaskoshots… such great portraits

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