I've made my way to several unique Aussie festivals over the past year: electronic Parklife, all-Aussie Homebake, summer favorite Big Day Out, Sound Relief to raise funds for the Victoria bushfires, and last weekend, I attended what has been referred to as "Australia's best festival of the year": Splendour in the Grass.
The festival took place over two days in Byron Bay, located a solid 12 hour drive from Sydney just below the NSW/Queensland border. The little beachside Berkeley-esque tourist town is quite sweet, with its yummy wraps and coffee stands next to boho boutiques and open air bars that pump with music at midday.
On Thursday morning, Paddy and I packed the car (his younger brother, bless his heart, had loaned us his car for the weekend), then started the grueling drive up the coast. I've done this drive a couple times - on the Greyhound bus back from Brisbane in October, and up towards the Gold Coast with Bonnie and her family in November - so I was relatively acquainted with the scenery: turnoffs to the beach, crowded cities bustling with activity, other sleepy towns with not much more than a few restaurants and a petrol station, and of course, The Big Banana at Coffs Harbour (the banana plantations town.)
One unique stop we did make was in Frederickson just outside Kempsey at Fredo's Pies. The roadside sign advertised its 50 pie variations, including kangaroo, chili and pasta, ostrich, and its "famous" crocodile pie, so we turned off to sample the reptilian pastry. It wasn't bad, actually - the skin was about as tough as chicken, but I thought it tasted like fish.
We had a 10-person house waiting for us just outside Byron, but a few of Paddy's friends go to uni in Lismore (30 minutes west of Byron), so we stopped to hang out with them at their uni bar for the night.
The next morning, being that it was Friday, we lazed around the residences for a bit, then hopped back in the car and drove to Lennox Heads, where a yummy fish and chips shop overlooking the beach caught our attention for the next couple hours. The water was freezing, being that it is winter here, but the weather was absolutely beautiful.
The night was pretty uneventful: a few drinks and some munchies with the folks staying at the house (it was basically a Batemans Bay reunion) as we prepared for what was going to be a hectic next couple days.
The festival featured a mix of national and overseas talents, ranging from the Aussie hip-hop and hard rock to dance, acoustic, electronic and DJ sets over five stages on a massive muddy field:
- Hilltop Hoods (who put on a fantastic show Sunday night)
- Bloc Party (fun English dance music)
- Gutter Twins (Aussie acoustic guys; I’d never heard them, but we popped in for a few songs and they’re great)
- the Beautiful Girls (laid-back, reggae-style; awesome)
- Brooklyn duo MGMT (who was actually pretty crap – much too quiet and they seemed to have stage fright)
- Friendly Fires (a great electro party on the dance floor)
- Sarah Blasko (I actually didn’t see her, but apparently she’s amazing on stage)
- Grinspoon (Aussie rock, reminded me of AC/DC)
- Flaming Lips (didn’t see them either, but they’re headlining a tour on Treasure Island in October with MGMT)
- White Lies (young Aussie rock)
- Dananananakroyd (from Glasgow, Scotland – their name combines the Batman theme song with actor Dan Akroyd’s name, haha. I missed their set, but I heard on the radio that they’d split the crowd down the middle, then had everyone hug as many people as they could during the song.)
Since there was a decent size group of us, we set up a meeting spot at the big shows (Hilltop, Bloc Party, Friendly Fires, etc.) at the front left pillar, and then just wandered to check out the different stages. It was a great festival and I really enjoyed a lot of the music, but
Monday was recovery day at the beach just near our Suffolk Park (Byron) house, and then we grabbed lunch in downtown Byron before starting the long trek home. On the way, we stopped at The Entrance on the Central Coast (where the channel enters the Tuggerah Lakes) and chilled out for a bit before continuing back to Sydney.
Now that I’m in my last week in Australia, I’m planning to spend my time at the beach (the weather’s on my side at the moment), at weekend markets with friends, going to one last AFL game, surfing (yeah, I’ve been here for over a year and STILL have not been on a surfboard. Lame) and hopefully having a shrimp on the barbie before I depart my year on holiday and return to my busy American life.
It’s been quite an adventure.