I would never have found myself in amidst soggy Jack White fans at the end of a wet first day at Splendour if it hadn’t been for a surprise reissue ticket tucked inside a couscous box and wrapped elaborately in Happy Birthday wrapping paper.
‘Have you felt how the town is coming to life?’ asked a woman I was introduced to on the streets of Byron Bay a few days later. ‘You’re not a fan of wintertime Byron then?’ I asked. ‘I don’t like it when it’s dead. I love this because… because I’m not dead!’ she said.
Whilst true locals might bemoan the anonymity of a busy Byron and welcome quieter winter moments where bumping into familiar faces on the streets is much more likely, the fact remains: Splendour in the Grass brings big bucks to the area. And a bit of a buzz.
So, the day arrived, full of sunshine and the promise of a good line-up.
Buses passed by fast walking ticket holders on the trek out of town, onwards to Belongil fields. Whilst I waited for a friend, a group of girls sashayed past in a calm confidence of orange hair, high belts and eyeliner. Policemen waited by the entrance, sniffer dogs pulling at their leads.
I’ve been to a fair few festivals back in the UK so had some idea of what to expect. But key differences? Wintertime, for a start (the thought of having a festival in winter in the UK seems… well… wrong). And no grassy verges to crash back on and view the music from afar. And considering Splendour is one of Australia’s biggest festivals? It felt tiny (and I loved it for it).
Similarities? Queues for the bar, twinkly lighting when dusk set in, the somewhat tragic casualty of the curled up person who got too messed up to even make it into the festival. And artistic décor that reflected time and energy and the eye of the artisan.
And the rain. That was similar. Because within ten minutes of getting in amongst it, the dark cloud that had followed us into the grounds enveloped the sky and gave birth, raining and hailing down with such ferocity it drove even the mud dancers into hiding. Momentarily.
Glastonbury, eat your heart out.
Or welly sellers (aka gum boot pimps) eat your heart out (because the crowds flocked to their stalls, parting with silly cash to stylishly protect their tootsies from inevitable sogginess of that wet July day).
- Review: Hail the little hidden gems (smh.com.au)