Right, so we’ve had a few much needed months off from the summer festival season- the ringing in our ears is gone, the sunburns have faded as has the horrible shame of hooking up in the mosh after consuming what your friends insisted was only ‘mildly strong MDMA.’ Like fuck. The entire east coast of Australia is indifferently cold, bitterly brisk and as they say, winter is coming… But gird your loins, people! The 12th Annual Arts and Music Festival Splendour in The Grass is back home at Belongil Fields in beautiful Byron Bay. Each year, organisers exceed themselves with the hugely impressive lineup- Jack White, Bloc Party, Smashing Pumpkins, The Shins, Gossip, Miike Snow, Azealia Banks, Lana del Rey, Metric and Mudhoney are the motley crue of headliners and if that’s not enough to whet your musical palette, the visionary wizards at Splendour have astonishingly wrangled post-hardcore hardnuts At The Drive In to play their only international show since the bands tentative regrouping after almost 12 years. What I’d give to have sat in on that pitch meeting- That’s like convincing Oasis to get back together. Kind of… if Oasis weren’t shit. Locally, a mass of Aussie acts such as The Medics, Chet Faker, Gossling, Emma Louise, Muscles, 360, Kimbra, DZ Deathrays and Hilltop Hoods to name just a fraction playing at the 3 day event which is permanently the festival apex of the year, emphatically outshining the year before. I’m not sure if I’m freaking out or just straight frightened.
I’m a bit precious- I like simple things, like clean sheets and shiny hair. I dislike crowds or being physically touched by strangers. Personal space is my jam, which for a music reviewer is ice-cold irony and a big fat cosmic joke. Writing a Splendour Survival Guide is not only for you, but for me too. What I’ve learnt from countless past festivals is that eventually, I’ll have to let loose the small final grasp I have on control. The absolute dumbfounded, mouth open, utterly visceral, wide eyed, complete gravitational consumption I experience when watching bands, whether uber-famous or an exceptional new talent, will always trump the anxiety that creeps up when I unwillingly smell someone else’s body odour.
So you’ve got your Splendour ticket? You lucky fuck. Got some friends going with you? Nice one. Whether you’re camping and running around like a freak off a leash or just popping in for the day, here now is a collection of red hot guidelines to ensure that you outlast the principal leading festival of the year. In my experience, you surely cannot miss bathing in the bitter jealousy of your invidious co-workers come Monday morning. Nothing tastes sweeter.
Prepare to smell.
When camping, the process of cleaning yourself to a vaguely civilized degree of sanitation is a bore – lengthy queues for water, huddling under the tap for your second round of shampooing or conditioning and brushing your teeth with a communal toothbrush eventually grows tiresome. It's liberating, therefore, to make the early decision to abandon all sense of usual decency and embrace the gross. It's only for a few days, after all – consider the shower you’ll have when you get home, satisfyingly scrubbing away grime that has accumulated on your exhausted and ravaged body. If (like me) however, you tediously insist on some level of hygiene, baby wipes are essential. And remember, most festivals have “secret toilets”. They are a Narnia-land of clean, empty, toilet-paper filled heaven. Search around like little explorers in the New World and find these toilets early, abuse them all night and don't reveal their location to ANYBODY. Not even that babe that’s camped out three tents down and has been giving you fuck-eyes since you first erected (hur hur) your sleeping quarters.
Creating a miniature shanty town will not win you friends.
By all means, camp alongside your mates, but aim to avoid the temptation to construct a Waco-style complex with barriers and ropes around it - it's shamefully anti-social, anti-festival behaviour of the worst kind. You may as well have stayed at home, essentially cordoning off any opportunity to meet your weird and wonderful temporary neighbours. What, do you need to express your superiority by having your own personal VIP area? Are you hoarding the last toilet roll on the whole campsite and taking shifts to safeguard it like the Templar Knights defending the Holy Grail? Make some new friends! Be kind and respectful to the people around you, they are probably more interesting than your life-long mate who just graduated with a Masters in Engineering and a Minor in Yawn. Incidentally, if you're thinking about bringing a gazebo to Splendour, perhaps you should consider not coming – You gazebo-owning fool, who the fuck owns a gazebo?
Avoid sparking a war.
Nobody expects to sleep like a baby at festivals and no amount of pillow-muffling is going to save you from the boom of At The Drive In should you opt to turn in for an early night. Therefore, the humble earplug is as essential as they come. Why? Campsites are increasingly becoming hateful battlegrounds between party monsters hellbent on an all-night fiesta and precious little angels exhausted from a long day of music and madness. Luckily, rolling up a bit of sponge and shoving them in your ears can avert these two worlds colliding – If you're on the party side of the great divide, don’t ever censor yourself; this isn’t Year 8 camp with ‘lights out’ at 10pm. If you’re a negative nanna and can’t sleep, get drunk. Like I’m talking Ipswich drunk. You’ll pass out without a care in the world but in the morning, you’re going to pray for sweet death. There’s no time for a siesta, you can sleep when you’re dead; Pace yourself and familiarise yourself with the wonder that is Red Bull.
Leave the flare gun at home.
Okay, so Splendour is back in Byron Bay this year, and surely there will be an abundance of hippies who can work out what direction you’re facing by looking up and reading the stars, but unless you're Bear Grylls, you're going to spend much of your time at any festival utterly disorientated. Phone reception gets jammed, you wander around aimlessly, scoping out the crowd for a small hint of recognition and of course, your phone will ultimately die. Thanks, Apple. Way to make a phone that needs recharging twice a day. A flare gun is an irresponsible option for that daunting instant when you’ve lost your friends in the mosh pit- Nothing says ‘I’m over here!’ like a potentially lethal fire hazard. The doomsday/wheretheeffiseveryone scenario involves putting up your tent, smashing a whole bunch of beers and listening to mind-blowing bands all day, then returning to the campsite only to find a thousand identical abodes have been put up- “Ours is the blue one, no?” A visual marker is outright invaluable, be it a big stuffed Spongebob Squarepants up a pole or a laminated homemade sign emblazoned with something hilariously witty. And no, not the Australian flag. This is Splendour, not Summernats.
There are several reasons to go junk food crazy during a festival. Firstly, it's an irresponsibly delicious way in which to act, which is exactly why you’re there. My personal favourite is the ‘dog on a stick’, or whatever those battered-sausage heart attacks are called. I suss out all the stalls that sell them, make a comprehensive executive decision on which ones look the crunchiest and clean them out. $5 a pop? SOLD. I ate four of them at Soundwave, albeit only to wash away the taste of tepid mid-strength beer. More significantly however, if you carefully eliminate fibre, vitamins and general health, it's possible that your digestive system will seize long enough to avoid the horror of the toilet cubicles on day 3. You can have a well balanced meal when you get home, yeah? And if you're going to bring food along with you, go for treats that still taste good after been squashed in your bag. There’s nothing wrong with baked beans and Deb. My friend spent 5 days at Woodford eating that delectable combo, insisting it was a gastronomical delight. I watched this episode of Jamie’s Kitchen where he suggested cooking a huge pot of chilli before you leave for a festival, alongside crusty bread and an assortment of delicacies perfect to share with friends on a cold night. Don’t do that. I would literally shank someone for that big pot of delicious if I caught a whiff of it on day 2, am I right?
My mum always says it’s not a fashion parade.
Festival fashion is forever reflective of the event itself. Parklife? Fake tan and fluro. Soundwave? Black on black on black. Thankfully, a Splendour in The Grass ticket is the most sought-after of the year, with only a lucky few who committed to refreshing their computers over and over in the hopes of getting through to the “Buy Tickets” page managing to get their hot little hands on one. Therefore, the exclusivity of obtaining a ticket significantly decreases the chance of running into a hefty harem of short-short wearing empty-hearted whores, stinking to high heaven of fake tan, desperation and struggling to stand up straight after peaking too early on Vodka Cruisers. I’m going to Splendour to see my favourite bands, a miss-matched collection of artists I’d never ever otherwise have the opportunity to see, not to attract a mate like some suburban fucking peacock.
Wellies- It always rains. Keep your tootsies warm.
Jumpers- It’s Byron Bay and its winter and its cold.
Anything with animals on it- Animals are awesome.
Cool headwear- Be it an Indian headdress or a beanie.
Bright lipstick- For a splash of colour.
Mankini’s- Keep your bulging genitals to yourself.
Watermelon helmets- How was this ever a thing?
Fake tan- You’re not fooling anyone.
Australian flag attire- Oh, I didn’t realise we were at Big Day Out.
Bad attitudes- Be a hero, not a zero.
Also, have the foresight to bring spare t-shirts ... For some reason guys always seem to lose theirs at festivals. I can only imagine how eternally grateful they’ll be when you point out that it's missing and that you have a spare one.
Right, you’re ready darling! Pack your toilet paper, your chapstick, your flashlight and your best ‘tude, dude. If someone is stuck, help them. Be a nice person and take care of each other. Jump up and down like you’re having a violently aggressive fit and scream along to your favourite bands with 18,000 of your closest friends. Lose your voice, your phone, your smokes and ultimately, a fraction of your dignity. Of course, the final obvious recommendation that is always banged on about- KEEP YOUR FLUIDS UP. Drink plenty of water between sculling overpriced mid-strength cans on offer at the bar. My advice to coincide with that is to never, under any circumstances, go topless wearing a camel-pack back pack with a tube that feeds you water. I don't care how convenient it is, you look like a tool. You realistically don’t need a constant flow of water, you aren’t a biblical Jew wandering the desert and no one is ever really that thirsty. And if you see a tattooed drunk blonde girl applying hand sanitiser like it’s goddamn sunscreen, chances are it’s little ol’ me. Come say hello and buy me a cider- I’m probably broke and can’t find my friends.
Martina Bailey Pitrun - AAA Backstage