Splendour In The Grass 2009 – Part 4

All plans for an early start and a timely return to the festival site don’t materialise. The early start does happen but the time is spent editing Saturday’s photos, then thinking about making a move, waiting for other people whilst they think about it and then think a bit more about it, then have some food, and then give it a bit more consideration. Tough decisions as to whether see/photograph Dananananakyrod or The Middle East are rendered immaterial as their playing times pass by and White Lies also lose out thanks to the heavy traffic encountered en-route. So the day starts at a leisurely 3:15pm, with Friendly Fires’ set in the Mix Up tent.

I’m there having noted the amount of column inches and award nominations that they’ve been afforded but can’t say I’m impressed. Whilst they are badly beset by technical issues during the first three songs, which makes it very stop/start affair, you can’t help but get the feeling that young people will dance to anything.

Make a detour to see Bob Evans for something to do and am surprised that his second song sounds like something off ‘Wish You Were Here‘ and goes on for about 10 hours. At one point he moves over to the side of the stage and is on his knees on the edge playing his guitar with a gaggle of photographers pressed up against the stage and jostling for position to get close-ups. That he’s in near darkness doesn’t seem important to anyone so either everyone has mega-expensive high ISO monsters or they end up with a load of really underexposed photos. Whilst everyone is chimping to see what they’ve got, he strolls back to the middle of the stage and does it again (albeit further back), this time vaguely near some light. Sometimes laziness does pay off.

I will gladly admit that I never, ever ‘got’ Doves. And having seen them play live I think I can safely say that I will never ‘get’ Doves. And you know, that’s ok, because whilst others may sing their praises with all the superlatives under the sun and talk of ‘anthems’, to me they’ll always be plodding, pedestrian indie rock.

The Gutter Twins, however, are a completely different proposition.

It’s been a long while since I last got to see Greg Dulli play live, back when The Afghan Whigs were touring ‘Black Love‘ in 1997 to be exact and also a few years since I last saw Mark Lanegan playing alongside Dave Grohl with QotSA at Glastonbury. And so seeing the Gutter Twins play at Splendour is a really exhilarating proposition, especially when once again Brisbane is denied a festival sideshow from an international band.

Unfortunately the majority of Splendour are showing their true colours and have decided that their time would be better spent watching Grinspoon, so there’s maybe 100 people in the GW McLennan tent 10 minutes before they are due to start. Numbers swell a bit in the end but it’s still a criminally small crowd.

My excitement nevertheless makes up for those missing out, to the point where I forget to change memory cards and then spend half the first song scrabbling around on the floor of the photo pit in the dark trying to find a spare card.

It’s a completely sublime performance, and whilst most attention is no doubt centred on Mark Lanegan, who could sing the phone book and make it sound captivating, it’s very much Greg Dulli’s band and his songs, voice and playing are superb. It’s no surprise really when the Afghan Whigs always were one of the better ‘grunge’ bands around at the time and one whose albums still hold up today when so much of the early-mid 1990’s albums now sound quite dated and unremarkable. As well as songs from their ‘Saturnalia‘ album and recent Twilight Singers albums, the back catalogues are revisited, included magnificent versions of Screaming Trees’ ‘Sworn and Broken’ and the Afghan Whigs’ ‘Summers Kiss’.

It’s a tough shoot though, with the band playing sat down, eyes shut and with music stands and microphone stands in front meaning it’s almost impossible to get an unobstructed sightline. Sometimes when you photograph a band you have a strong idea of what you want to get, and when considering photographing Mark Lanegan I was inspired by some of Steve Gullick’s photos of him but the conditions just conspire against me.

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

Friendly Fires
Bob Evans
Gutter Twins

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