It all starts with a “sorry, who are you?” moment on the flight to Splendour in the Grass, near Byron Bay. Miraculously seated in the pointier end of the plane, I get chatting with the couple next to me. The flight is full of youthful festival goers, dressed in their Splendour finest - a chatty mix of floral love children, effortlessly hip modelistas and the genuine music fans. These two next to me were more in my camp, with headphones for quiet travel, playing scrabble word games together on a phone. We did the obligatory, ‘so who are you looking forward to seeing’, and we go through our lists - Lorde, Vampire Weekend, Kendrick Lamar. Chat turns to our hotels and I’m told, he is keen to have a quiet night tonight but is required at Splendour tomorrow. Inquisitive I ask why, and it’s explained, “He’s headlining.” Oops! “Who are you?” I gingerly ask and it turns out I’m sitting with Briggs, who regularly joins the Hilltop Hoods on stage. I actually love his music and internally curse at my lack of immediate recognition. Embarrassment aside, we go on to have a great chat and wish each other well in our festival pursuits.
Over the course of three days, 37,000 people descend on the Byron Bay Parklands for the annual Splendour in the Grass festival. With tickets sold out in only 25 minutes, it’s the hottest music festival to hit up right now. I meet my ride at the Ballina airport, the super sleek Arteon, to transport me to the event - I’m definitely doing this one in style. Splendour is becoming increasingly fashion focused and from the moment we hit the parklands it’s game on in the fashion stakes. Girls are wearing everything from the usual suspects of cropped shorts and mirrored shades, to outrageous outfits channeling a more ‘Burning Man’ vibe of envelope-pushing sheer dresses, glittery metallics and face jewels. For guys, it was all about channeling a country meets surf meets messy vibe with many opting for the ubiquitous Akubra-style headwear.
But those truly in the know were making their way to the Chiswick Restaurant’s Splendour in the Grass popup, nestled behind the main stage area overlooking a peaceful lake - equal parts beautiful and relaxing. Flanking the door is the brand new yet-to-be-released Polo beats, a collaboration between Volkswagen and beats by Dr. Dre, which sets the tone for a cool lunch. After an introduction from Chiswick’s head chef Tom Haynes, it was down to business tasting the thoughtfully prepared menu featuring the best ingredients and produce sourced from the local Byron Bay area. After getting started on fried pickles with labneh and Barra-masalata, the highlight is roasted beer can chicken (complete with jus in a beer can!) and Moran Family lamb shoulder, every bit as delicious as its Sydney version.
But back to the beats. After lunch, I sneak out to take a seat behind the wheel in the Polo beats. The interior is spacious, far more so than I was expecting in a Polo and the ‘beats’ red stripe across the dash set a sporty tone. But in this car, it’s all about the music so I crank the volume from the 8.0-inch infotainment display to see what the 300W Beats premium audio system can do. I’m told that from outside the car you hear nothing, but inside it’s like I’m in front of the stage watching DJ Khalid at point blank range!.
Now it’s time to see the real thing, so with my schedule in hand I take a wander to hit the stages and take in the surrounds. It’s easy to get lost meandering through the market stalls, food vendors and pop up shops, especially in the ‘Very Small Suburb’ area (think Spell and the Gypsy Collective, Afends, Allpress coffee, Rimmel and Superdry). Later in the afternoon it seems everyone is keen to pop into the 18 bars dotted around the venue including the Contiki ‘Tiki’ Bar and The Wilds by Smirnoff which are both cranking by then. The headliners of Lorde, Hilltop Hoods and Kendrick Lamar don’t disappoint.
There are many accommodation options on offer at the festival campgrounds, but I’ve opted to head back into town and stay at Elements of Byron. The resort style hotel offers a range of villas and my one bedroom suite is perfect for winding down - a long bath helps me relax after the festival. And it seems the place to be during festival time with a few familiar social media faces and musicians gracing the breakfast buffet for the mornings after.