Can I get a drumroll? Drumroll please! Opus is about to join the ranks of media platforms playing pass the parcel with Splendour in the Grass 2022.
When I bought tickets way back in December for SITG, I had every intention of writing a traditional review. A gush, if you will, if you know me at all. To paint a picture of the roiling crowds, of the way the bass would pump with a vibration felt way down deep inside me, of the lights. The lip-puckering, sour taste of sweat on the skin, wicked off by the chill air of sunset in the North Byron Parklands. A picture of the curtain of cold as it settled over the baking heat of day and brought with it the bitterness of a Minjungbal winter night. If I expected mud, I expected it in the fun, splashing, sloshing way that Splendour in the Mud was coined to celebrate: to get a little dirty and a little slimy, mud war-paint drawn upon the face, and a cool glass of overpriced wine to wash it down…
There’s no need, here, to repeat verbatim the clusterf*ck that was SITG2022. It’s been hot off the press at every newspaper, media site, and social media channel since the early hours of that fatefull Thursday morning. Rather, let me paint a different little picture for you.
Cars, bumper-to-bumper, ripping up the grass in a serpentine pattern all the way from the festival gates to the next exit on the freeway. Tents with water views, the surface slick and oily with mud, urine, spilled booze, and floaties that smell too ominous to want to look closely at. Overpriced food, tasting all the more bitter from the dwindling bank accounts of all the campers outsourced to offsite grounds, their pockets a little lighter from the surprise shuttle fair. A five-hour wait in the calf-deep mud as the world spins on into the early hours of the morning, the last act long gone and the campers in the VIP area none the wiser. A cancelled day of shows. Hundreds of dollars of car repairs due after tilling the muddy grounds with the front-end of a hundred sedans. Forty-thousand festivalgoers thinking what else could go wrong, and testing the bounds of the universe’s ability to smite us.
Under-preparedness, understaffing, underrepresentation of support services and an unwillingness to admit defeat. The four horsemen of the Splendour-pocalypse.
The repercussions of Covid-19 have hit every sector differently, but the Aussie live music industry has faced some of the most debilitating. After three years of postponements and reschedules, SITG2022 might have marked the first real glimmer of hope for attendees and artists alike that we might be coming out of the darkness. Instead, a cloud even darker than those behind us rolled across the horizon. On the wind, thick as a whisper, “we’re not out of the thick of it yet.”
The SITG organisers have faced a wave of backlash over their actions preceding, during, and in the aftermath of the event. And while I can understand that there were a plethora of circumstances that combined to make the nightmare of a Venn diagram that was the festival, outsourcing the blame to a sudden change in weather seems to me like the coward’s way out. A festival with 40,000 attendees is no joke and organising an event on that scale takes the kind of grit that the organisers had proven for nineteen festivals in a row. Whether 2022 marked just one bad egg in the basket, or whether the whole carton is rotten, remains to be seen. It will take some extensive band-aiding on behalf of the festival over the coming weeks if we are to see the same turn-out in years to come.
Hi, I’m Steph and I use she/her pronouns! I’m a current Creative Writing PhD student and contributor here at Opus. My favourite genre to write is fantasy, but I also love stretching my writerly muscles with reviews, think pieces, and horoscopes. When I’m not writing for Opus, you’ll probably find me with my nose in a book, nomming on some vegan banana bread, or farming my crops on Stardew Valley.