Splendour 2012: Smashing Pumpkins, Jack White Rock Down Under
Newcomers Azealia Banks & Lana Del Rey Hit Rough Spots During Three-Day Festival
The Smashing Pumpkins, Jack White and Bloc Party delivered in a big way during their headline slots at Australia's Splendour in the Grass, which returned this year to its "spiritual home" in the eastern coast beach town of Byron Bay.
Billy Corgan's latest incarnation of his alternative rock group hardly struck a wrong note, as they wrapped the three-day festival on Sunday with a monster set which included classics "Today", "Tonight, Tonight," "1979," a few new tunes and a cover of David Bowie's "Space Oddity."
Only "Disarm" was a glaring omission from the set, though Billboard learned that Corgan scratched it late to stop the show from creeping past the curfew.
Earlier, Jack White had closed the first night of Splendour on Friday with a bang. All the chatter leading up to the set was on which band he would perform with - the all-boy band or the girls. We got a bit of both. Midway through White's set, the backing boys made way for a gang of girls, who all were kitted out in flowing white dresses.
It's been 15 years since the White Stripes formed, and five since Meg White left the duo. But Jack White is right now at the peak of his powers -- full of charisma and classy musicianship, and with a swag of hits at his fingertips. There's very little banter with the audience. But when White played "Seven Nation Army" late in the set, he gave Splendour 2012 one of its first big highlights.
Azealia Banks was in something of a hurry to get her point across. The New York-based buzz act delivered one of Splendour's big moments when she dropped "212" on day three. But at this stage of her career she didn't have much in the bag. And after just 25 minutes, she was done. Banks took to Twitter to lay the blame for her abbreviated set elsewhere. "I'm super sorry about how short my set was at @ SITG. We used the festival's equipment and it wasn't the best gear!" she wrote. Soon after, she Tweeted again, this time writing "Australia showed me majah love! Shoutout to @ triplej @ sitg and everyone else who made it possible!!! I'll be back !!"
Another big talking point of Splendour was the day two performance of Lana Del Rey. A year ago, the American beauty was unknown. Last Saturday, she filled a tent like a veteran. Australians are divided on Del Rey, and her performance at Splendour will keep it that way for a while longer. Her performance of "Video Games" was on the money, but her cover of Nirvana's "Heart Shaped Box" was a mess.
Kurt Cobain's widow, Courtney Love, did not seem to enjoy the rendition either.
Del Rey's onstage movements are few and calculated. And in a moment which played to her bad-girl Hollywood glamour, she puffed on a cigarette. But just for a moment. Gossip's Beth Ditto also lit up during their day three set, but she got hers from the crowd.
The weather across the 12th-annual camping event was glorious. However, a freak hail-shower on the opening day ensured the site was a mud-fest. Organizers spent $46,000 Australian ($48,000 US) on woodchip to manage the thoroughfares. It wasn't enough, as some of the worst affected areas were ankle-deep. Still, no one seemed to mind.
Over the three days, more than 90 acts performed, including At The Drive-In, The Shins, Explosions In The Sky, The Afghan Whigs, Miike Snow, Kimbra and Ladyhawke.
Splendour in the Grass' position in the middle of Australia's winter is unique on the country's festival calendar, and it's a major draw-card to music lovers - and music industry -- from all corners of the country.
This year marked the show's return to the Belongil Fields site in picturesque Byron Bay, after two years in Woodfordia, Queensland.
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