Splendour In The Grass’ 2020 lineup promises to deliver some bona-fide festival mainstays in The Strokes and Flume, while offering punters rising talents like Grinspoon and Babe Rainbow covering upstarts The Velvet Underground. But you’re not really here to think about this year’s festival, per se: you’re here to see how we think it stacks up against the other editions of the storied event. So, here you go. Our ranking.
The Big Guns: Mumford & Sons, Frank Ocean (replaced by Lorde), The National, Of Monsters And Men
Acts Who Would Blow Up 10 Minutes Later: Vance Joy, Violent Soho, Dune Rats, Fidlar
Where else could Lorde‘s 2013 set go? Who else could not only fill the maw left by one of the most important voices of the decade, but use that slot to establish themselves as an artist of comparable impact? As a teenager? We know now that Lorde would cement herself as one of the most potent talents to hit pop music in a generation, but seeing that royalty assert itself in the North Byron Parklands was special.
The Big Guns: Kanye West, Coldplay, Pulp
Acts Who Would Blow Up 10 Minutes Later: James Blake
There’s little to this other than the fact Kanye West, indisputably the most influential artist of the generation, clobbered Australia with some of the biggest hits in his career. Yes, this is before Yeezus and his decision to tear rap apart and rebuild it in his own image, but whatever. Cop this grainy video of him burning through Power, and then recognise the fact you could have also caught a younger James Blake eviscerating himself over sub-bass warbles for your personal enjoyment.
The Big Guns: Bloc Party, Flaming Lips, Jane’s Addiction, MGMT
Acts Who Would Blow Up 10 Minutes Later: Manchester Orchestra, The Middle East
The first instalment on the list to not come from the last decade, 2009 holds a special place in the heart of PEDESTRIAN.TV’s Matt Hopkins for three reasons: The Flaming Lips, White Lies, and Bloc Party. Creative Director James McManus reckons 2009 was “the fucking best” thanks to the above, plus The Happy Mondays and MGMT. I’m a big enough man to say I would have wilded out to Birds of Tokyo then, too. Universes is a solid album.
The Big Guns: Kendrick Lamar, Lorde, Vampire Weekend
Acts Who Would Blow Up 10 Minutes Later: Lewis Capaldi, Baker Boy, Angie McMahon, Amyl And The Sniffers
If the Pulitzer Prize was also awarded for killer headlining sets, Kendrick Lamar would have two.
The Big Guns: OutKast, Interpol, Childish Gambino, Lily Allen
Acts Who Would Blow Up 10 Minutes Later: Courtney Barnett
Not one, but two PEDESTRIAN.TV staffers had quasi-religious experiences watching OutKast. For deputy editor Alex Bruce-Smith, seeing the duo rumble through their hits capped off her first Splendour experience, while our office manager Vanna O’Brien practically broke her keyboard telling me how she thought they were “spectacular.” Also, I am a sucker for Interpol, so there you go.
The Big Guns: The Strokes, The Cure, Flume, The Avalanches, James Blake
Acts Who Would Blow Up 10 Minutes Later: Sampa The Great, King Gizzard And The Lizard Wizard
“2016 was huge with The Strokes and The Cure,” Hopkins said. Knowing I didn’t personally attend, and my preference for heavy music, he went on to rhapsodise about At The Drive-In and Melbourne’s own High Tension. Sold. Our video gun Jordan Coles agreed, saying “2016 was a vibe. The Cure, Leon Bridges, The Internet and Flume fresh off the album release – good times.”
McManus also referenced Kate Moss, who apparently rolled through the Tree of Life tent to pick up some bits and pieces. Good for her.
The Big Guns: Blur, Florence + The Machine, Mark Ronson
Acts Who Would Blow Up 10 Minutes Later: Meg Mac
Per POPSUGAR Entertainment Writer Hannah Story, the 2015 roster was abnormally perfect. The combo of Florence + The Machine, plus Blur, who hadn’t played here in yonks, plus Mark Ronson nabbing Tame Impala‘s Kevin Parker for his set… Look, I can see the appeal.
The Big Guns: Arctic Monkeys, Bloc Party, Lily Allen, Powderfinger
Acts Who Would Blow Up 10 Minutes Later: Gotye
Arctic Monkeys and Bloc Party, back to back, same tent. That’s the key factor here for group creative projects manager Kylie O’Connell, who managed to sneak in for an era-defining double header.
The Big Guns: The Strokes, LCD Soundsystem, Pixies
Acts Who Would Blow Up 10 Minutes Later: Tame Impala, Violent Soho, Foals
A bit of a changing of the guard here. The Strokes did The Strokes things, but Tame Impala went on to reshape guitar music. Frightened Rabbit also snuck in, and I will take any opportunity I get to praise that band. Tell your friends you love them.
The Big Guns: Brian Wilson, Sonic Youth
Acts Who Would Blow Up 10 Minutes Later: The Presets
Please don’t snitch, but PEDESTRIAN.TV’s Charmaine Viscayno snuck into this one.
“It was a vibe,” she said. I believe her. “Sonic Youth, Brian Wilson, Death Cab, peak The Avalanches, TV on the Radio plus José González,” she said, before sending me a nice, big tick emoji. Mogwai also played, and I wish I could go back in time for them to blow my face off with feedback.
The Big Guns: The xx, QOTSA, LCD Soundsystem
Acts Who Would Blow Up 10 Minutes Later: Mallrat, Julien Baker
Big stomping riffs, atmospheric pop perfection, and LCD Soundsystem, who somehow throw both together. Australia’s scuzzier and heavier sounds were catered by Dune Rats, Luca Brasi, and Hockey Dad. Julien Baker, who is probably my favourite songwriter, also blessed the festival with her heart-rending invocations.
The Big Guns: Jack White, Bloc Party, Smashing Pumpkins
Acts Who Would Blow Up 10 Minutes Later: Flume, Chet Faker, Lana Del Rey, Father John Misty, DZ Deathrays
Honestly, this is where ranking the festivals starts to get hard – so, so many decade-defining acts squeezed into this roster. You could have caught baby Harley Streten before he became the festival juggernaut he is today, too.
The Big Guns: Chance the Rapper (replaced by Hilltop Hoods), Childish Gambino, Tame Impala, SZA
Acts Who Would Blow Up 10 Minutes Later: Too early to tell, hey?
Just a really solid year, hey?
The Big Guns: Moby, Queens of the Stone Age, Ryan Adams, Interpol
Acts Who Would Blow Up 10 Minutes Later: Bloc Party
Again: Interpol. I’m not sorry.
The Big Guns: Coldplay, Placebo, Goldfrapp
Acts Who Would Blow Up 10 Minutes Later: Jet
I must also pay my respects to Placebo, who are among the few acts in Splendour In The Grass history who also played Soundwave.
The Big Guns: PJ Harvey, Jurassic 5, MC5, Franz Ferdinand
Acts Who Would Blow Up 10 Minutes Later: Sneaky Sound System
Kick out the jams, motherfucker.
The Big Guns: Michael Franti and Spearhead, Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks, Squarepusher
Acts Who Would Blow Up 10 Minutes Later: Powderfinger, Something for Kate
Like I said, it’s really tricky ranking these things. Seeing Powderfinger and Something for Kate at the start of their careers and being able to lord that over your fellow Fanningheads and Dempsey stans… Well, that’s priceless, really.
The Big Guns: Supergrass, Gomez, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Doves
Acts Who Would Blow Up 10 Minutes Later: John Butler Trio, Cut Copy
I remember listening to Machine Gun Fellatio when I was a kid. I found out what “fellatio” is some years afterwards.
The Big Guns: Devo, Wolfmother, Sigur Rós
Acts Who Would Blow Up 10 Minutes Later: Vampire Weekend
There’s no reason 2008 should go last, really, outside of the fact one edition of this spectacularly successful festival needs to cap off the list. Oh, there’s also the fact 2008 act The Polyphonic Spree seem to0 committed to their twee-cult aesthetic, so there you go.
As for 2020? We’ll tell you how we find it in July.