Now this thing was immense. Splendour’s brand new Amphitheatre Stage, with its wide base and steep hill, made for excellent views and huge crowds who dropped by to catch big names like Violent Soho, Outkast, City And Colour, Lily Allen and Hilltop Hoods. Definitely worth the hike.
The layout of the festival is working a lot better this year. Though we’re definitely getting our daily dose of exercise, there are few bottlenecks and everything is easy to find. The buses are a LOT closer to the entrance this year as well, and the brand new bowl of an Amphitheatre is the perfect size, allowing you to see the stage from all angles with great sound.
Splendour promoters spent a lot of money and many years trying to get approval to move the festival to its current site at Yelgun. This year we found out why. The natural amphitheatre, used for the first time ever at Splendour 2014 (following its debut at Falls Byron over New Years), is one of Mother Nature's marvels. When full, Zan Rowe described it as a "Cauldron of Humanity".
The popular three-day event, for so long synonymous with its original Belongil Fields venue in Byron Bay — and more recently on secondment to Woodfordia in south-east Queensland — enjoyed a successful second iteration at its new North Byron Parklands home. Last year’s problems of delayed entry and excess mud weren’t in evidence, as scores of music fanatics soaked up a strong line-up of both international and local music, including OutKast, Interpol, the Preatures and Kelis.
Coming to Splendour for their first and only Australian performance since reforming earlier this year, Outkast weren’t just the most anticipated act on the bill, they’re arguably the act on the Splendour bill that felt like a once-in-a-lifetime event. You could feel it in the crowd. Punters were lined all the way up the sides of the mainstage’s impressive natural amphitheatre, ranging from the curious to casual fans to the Outkast faithful for whom their Splendour-exclusive show was the deciding factor in making a Byron road trip.
Unless you’ve got the best will power in the world, it’s almost impossible not to be curious over what went down from 24th to 27th July at the incredibly lush festival grounds at Parklands Byron Bay, especially when such a grand event is headlined by the likes of Outkast, Lily Allen and Interpol.
On a winter’s day that felt more like summer, at least while the sun shone, the festival’s newly appointed natural amphitheatre played host to some of the biggest names of the day, including Interpol, Outkast, the Preatures and the Presets, a diverse selection of artists and genres united by being able to turn the main arena into a throbbing mass of bodies.
Hip hop headliners OutKast topped most fans’ must-see checklists at this year’s Splendour in the Grass music festival but the real star of this year’s show is the festival site itself — and some groundbreaking bush toilets. The sprawling, 660 acre cultural and music events facility known as North Byron Parklands has been born of a harmonic convergence of longtime music industry identities with a keen eye for the environment. The site’s dream team of owners — including Splendour promoters Paul Pittico and Jessica Ducrou and Falls Festival Byron Bay director Brandon Saul — have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on improvements since last year’s rain-soaked stoush.
Two years into a five-year trial that grants approval for three events at the site each year, Parklands’ owners are keen to learn from experience before putting any permanent infrastructure down at their Yelgun property, a 20 minute drive south of Gold Coast Airport and 20 minutes north of Byron Bay Instead, Parklands has become a pop-up city this weekend as more than 25,000 people a day — 17,500 of them on-site campers — pour through Splendour’s gates.
Like Woodfordia, the Woodford Folk Festival’s home on the Sunshine Coast, the environmentally friendly parklands is being tailored to suit Splendour’s needs. Its centrepiece is a splendid, vast natural amphitheatre surrounding the main stage where OutKast thrilled fans last night. The area can hold up to 25,000 people — more than two thirds of the event’s total crowd.The amphitheatre and clean, green improvements made since last year, including hundreds of relocatable composting toilets and new low flow showers, have received the thumbs up from punters and campers in particular.
Trees planted last year — the pilot program saw punters plant 450 trees in less than 15 minutes — have grown to give the site a more mature, bedded down vibe and festivalgoers have been invited to help plant another 2000 native shrubs and eucalypts over the weekend. Plantings are being held each day as part of a joint venture between parklands, Splendour and Brunswick Valley Landcare, with the program culminating tomorrow in National Tree Planting Day.
The site improvements have been overseen by North Byron Parklands general manager Mat Morris, a music-loving environmental scientist who has literally steered the project from the ground up. Waste-water truck movements in and out of the site and the amount of waste the festival sends to Byron Shire Council’s sewage treatment plant (STP) have been dramatically reduced thanks to 240 new state-of-the-art composting toilets and 192 low-flow, gas-fired shower stalls. Combined with six pilot composting toilets built at the site in 2013, Parklands now boasts the most composting toilets at any outdoor event in the country — 246 in total. Designed by Quicksmart Homes, the 100 per cent relocatable low-odour toilets are in keeping with parklands’ mission to sustainably manage water cycles (freshwater and waste water).
The festival hopes to further boost its grey water treatment facility before next year’s event. Future priorities at the site include improved mobile phone network coverage and capacity. Optus, Vodafone and Telstra currently send Cell on Wheels (COWs) units to the site during the festival. Parklands said Telstra had previously committed to installing Optic Fibre to the site but “reneged” on its decision earlier this year. In a statement on its website, the venue says: “Parklands is still in a trial phase and not in a position to invest in permanent infrastructure, but we look forward to working with Telstra on a mutually beneficial plan for the future.”