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Live Review: Splendour In The Grass 2023

24 July 2023 | 9:56 am | Emma Newbury

While the Secret Sounds-run festival did not have their best run in the historical rain of 2022, this year’s run has re-solidified why we make Splendour one on the bucket list.

Flume @ Splendour In The Grass

Flume @ Splendour In The Grass (Credit: Charlie Hardy)

More Splendour In The Grass More Splendour In The Grass

As Lizzo says, “It’s about damn time” that we reach another year of the esteemed Northern NSW festival Splendour In The Grass, but this time around, we were not only bringing our tents and swags for the camping area but also the elephant in the room of “will it be anything like the mud show that last year’s fest was?”

This year, held in its usual residence of the North Byron Parklands, the festival put its “Tiny Dancer” stage on the backburn, opting for the Amphitheatre, GW McLennan tent, Mix-up Stage and World Stage.

A series of artists’ pull-outs also made waves in the months leading up, with Slowthai being pulled from the show for surrounding allegations and Rainbow Kitten Surprise and Lewis Capaldi pulling out for health reasons. It was also rumoured that 100 Gecs would be dropping off the dwindling lineup as well after cancelling their Europe tour. However, they pulled through for their Sunday set. Artist replacements included the likes of international act Danny Brown and Aussie acts Ocean Alley and Thelma Plum.

If the rotating artist roster wasn’t concerning to fans, the weather conversation was. Luckily enough, the only rain seen over the weekend was light sprinkles between lunchtime and sunset on Sunday, with barely an umbrella in sight. 

Lizzo @ Splendour In The Grass. Credit: Stephen Booth

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Day 1 kicked off with some performances from emerging Aus acts such as Mowgli, Tseba, and William Crighton as the zombie campers seeking bacon egg rolls for breakfast transitioned into a wave of shiny, sparkly outfits ready for the day. Reggae up-and-comer Goldfang was a treat to see, weaving his Trinidad and Tobago upbringing through tight drums, punchy basslines and, of course, his signature rap style. 

Skegss was another act not to be missed, as longtime bassist Toby Cregan performed his last-ever show, ending a decade of the band’s run as a trio. “I just want to live a simpler, more wholesome life where I can spend more time with family, friends and my dog,” Cregan said over Instagram earlier this year.

Red, blue and white stars lined the amphitheatre screen as the group rounded out their set with an American piss-take tune New York California. Good mate and bassist Brett Jansch from Dune Rats also made a cameo on stage during this tune to support the band, mimicking the live set the two bands did together for Unearthed Live At The Steps back in 2017. 

Past The Music cover artist, RVG made their debut at Splendour in The Grass this year, leading the crowds into the afternoon at the GW Mclennan tent, as pixelated coloured spattered over the screen and complimented their post-punk sound.

Meanwhile, over at the Mix-Up tent, a 15-minute tech delay caused some controversy as MAY-A’s iconic feature song Say Nothing was cut mid-play, leaving fans feeling sympathetic to the rising artist who was not in the wrong. Jack River glowed - literally - in her neon spray-painted dress as she sang through original fan-favs Fools Gold and Sugar, as well as covering Savage Garden’s Truly Madly Deeply and ABBA’s Gimme Gimme Gimme. “Milf!” the crowd shouted at the new mother as she ripped through her set.

Last-minute additions Ocean Alley took to the amphitheatre with some older fan favourites, some of which they admitted they “hadn’t played in a very long time”. The band seemed to know full well the negative impact Lewis Capaldi’s departure from the lineup had formed on fans and chose to tastefully honour the Scottish singer with a cover of Someone You Loved, with Meg Mac joining on stage for this number. Mac also joined in to support OA through their song Partner in Crime. A cute cameo of lead singer Baden Donegal’s baby appeared on stage for Confidence, leaving behind a trail of swooning fans.

Adding to the thrill of last-minute announcements, Danny Brown took Slowthai’s place at the Mix-Up stage, unfortunately not garnering the deserved crowd due to clashes with Brisbane icons Ball Park Music and living legend Lizzo. 

The lady of the night, Lizzo, made headlines for fulfilling a fan’s poster request: “If you sign my ass, I’ll get it tattooed”, as the fan named Bridget eagerly ran to the barrier. In true performer fashion, we saw four outfit changes, an all-black all-lesbian band, and a dance troupe complete with a “bad bitch meditation”, crowd affirmations, and a hell of a lot of flute solos. 

Lizzo poster. Credit: Stephen Booth


Energies still remained high for fellow campers on Day 2, which was inevitably the biggest day in terms of crowd numbers and saw the rise of a year of Splendour that had already exceeded its predecessor. LA-based group Automatic served some 80s new wave realness for the morning, chugging through groovy slap-bass riffs while robotic sci-fi art played in the background. 

By lunchtime, festival goers lazed about on the hill of the Amphitheatre, enjoying the singer with the signature dark bob, Meg Mac. Carrying the theme of artists being pelted with items, a crowd member threw a dildo on stage. “I don’t know if it’s a compliment that someone threw a penis on stage,” Mac laughed, as fans both chuckled and cringed at the weird incident. 

A Splendour app notification hinted at a supposed “surprise” at the amphitheatre at 4:15, which turned out to be a guest appearance from Brissy Y2K Princess Mallrat. This marked six years since the singer’s first appearance at Splendour in 2017. The next in line of succession of the amphitheatre was Benee, with her silly and enigmatic personality sparking the stage as she played through hits such as Green Honda, Snail and Supalonely. She also featured over at Jeremy Zucker’s set to help with her feature in I’m So Happy. Over at the GW McLennan tent, Sly Withers played a tear-jerking cover of Coldplay’s The Scientist to a sea of fans. The boys had a very loyal crowd who clapped and sang at every turn.

As a peach-coloured sky blanketed the electrified greenery of Splendour, Peach PRC took to the Mix-Up stage with an army sourced from both her music and her TikTok fame. The singer, who is known for her unabashed personality, admitted she was going to “drag some people” during her set; however, the drags in question were far too cryptic to turn heads. 

Peach PRC. Credit: Jade Ferguson Photography/Visual Poets Society

After having to pull out of their Splendour slot in 2022, American indie trio Yeah Yeah Yeahs returned to reclaim their throne. “It’s a long time since we’ve been to Australia, and we’re happy to be back.” Lead singer Karen O declared, her tinsel-lined outfit captivating the audience. “I know that sounds really generic, but we’re so fucking happy to be back.” Along with their catchy tunes, the crowd was entertained with some eyeball-themed beach balls and butterfly-shaped pink confetti.

Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Credit: Ian Laidlaw

Flume sliced the midway point of the festival with his exclusive ten-year anniversary show, which featured a series of deep cuts and fan favourites alike. This included his first-ever track, Possum, which was added to Triple J Unearthed all the way back in 2011. While a double DJ deck stint and a little help from singer friends Vera Blue and Tove Lo was quite impressive, fan feedback suggested that perhaps this wasn't a set as engaging as it cracked up to be. 


Australian producer and synthesist Harvey Sutherland was a recommendation for the final day of the musical weekend, as Sutherland took us through some funky synth-driven tunes. For such an early set, the crowd appeared surprisingly colourful, donned in sequins, fur and a sea of sunglasses. 

In terms of big crowds, Royel Otis earned their namesake with arguably one of the biggest audiences seen at the GW McLennan tent all weekend. The overflowing tent could be from the help of the band’s recently garnered TikTok virality from their song Oysters in My Pocket. “Oh well, that’s miles away” could be heard from the voices of punters all the way into the campsite.

An afternoon spent at the Amphitheatre saw Dune Rats perform their iconic Like A Version of The Angels’ song Am I Ever Gonna See Your Face Again, except this time they were joined by a plethora of Aus musos, including Kelly from Totty, Ruby Fields, Jackson from Beddy Rays, and none other than The Angels brothers John and Rick Brewster. Tove Lo also decided to ride the wave of the Hottest 100 LAV that happened recently, performing her cover of Dancing On My Own to the delight of thousands of glimmering phone-camera stars. 

Dune Rats and the Brewster brothers. Credit: Ian Laidlaw

British rock band Idles were as exactly as you’d expect, using their caricature of angry testosterone-rock to split the crowd into two halves and instructing the halves to run at each other. “Fuck the King” was a recurring chant between each song, and the set ended with lead singer Joe Talbot lighting up a dart and drumming to the right of Jon Beavis’ kit. 

Idles. Credit: Charlie Hardy

While Royal Otis took the cake for biggest crowd at GW McLennan, Pnau could be seen doing the same for the Mix-Up tent. The trio provided not only an aurally pleasing set but also a visually pleasing one, with the three members donning fairy-light tuxedos while surrounded by prismatic lasers and vibrant lights. Notably, member Nick Littlemore debuted the group’s Empire Of The Sun vs PNAU mashup, a blend of each half of Littlemore’s career. 

Bringing this year’s SITG to a close was British folk-rock band Mumford And Sons, who strummed through songs such as Believe, Delta, Ditmas, and The Wolf. “You know, we haven’t been here in a while,” admitted lead singer and band namesake Marcus Mumford. “And I think we’re gonna have to come back sooner than later.” He added, hinting at a potential tour on the cards. During the set, Mumford also made a much-needed statement: “I’ve seen some of the best shows I’ve ever seen at this festival.”

Mumford And Sons. Credit: Ian Laidlaw

Minus a few years of hiatus due to covid, Splendour has been around for an odd 22 years, catering to Australia's music creators, tastemakers, and punters and forming the pinnacle of the modern Australian Music scene. “Sigur Ros, 2008. Remember that? No, you don’t.” While yes, the Secret Sounds-run festival did not have their best run in the historical rain of 2022, this year’s run has re-solidified why we make this festival one on the bucket list.

As ticks were added to those metaphorical checklists in fans' minds that night on the grassy lawn of the Amphitheatre, Mumford And Sons serenaded us with the final song, I Will Wait. Bows were had, the warm-toned lanterns were followed home, and we gently tucked Splendourtown to sleep for another year.