My first Splendour In The Grass experience was back in 2001. We drove down in my friend's brown 1980s Corolla listening to a mix tape I had made on a cassette. Music has changed a bit since then, and so has Splendour. When I first started going to music festivals I remember going for the bands and the beer. Now it's not just about selecting a line-up of bands that audiences want to see, but about curating an arts and cultural experience.
I went to Belongil yesterday to see Splendour under construction and got the chance to talk with some of the creative people who pour their imagination and energy into the festival site. Splendour has a serious engagement with art and provides a temporary escape from everyday life. Going backstage at a music festival while it was being built was a little bit magical. Hundreds of people build Splendour: the stages, bars, lighting, sound, forum, recycling, food, mall, arts programs and installations need to be built on site. The site is buzzing with trucks, power tools, and coffee.
The past few years Splendour have had teams of eco-cops and green chiefs roaming about the festival in costume and comically hassling folk and building a rapport with them around waste management and recycling on site. Rather than having security tell people what to do, the punters are involved in the process of respecting the environment they have fun in. They're also building something special this year called The Green Machine - Splendour goers will be asked to feed their cans and recyclables through a big red mouth onto a conveyor belt. The machine will sort and crush the waste into recyclable balls of aluminum, plastic and paper waste. Nifty, eh?
After 12 years, the gang are just getting warmed up, and with the move to Yelgun next year they'll have the space to really indulge their inner freak. As I went about the site I realised there is a sense of creativity, theatre and performance that informs every aspect of Splendour. It'll be just like a wonderland fairy tale. But wear gumboots.