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Could a smaller, bolder festival be a better experience?

“If you want to be less kind, after the February and March weather events, knowing the site and the long-term weather forecast predicting heavy rain, I don’t think they [the organisers] can say they were caught unaware by the weather.

“There’s a lot of lessons to be learned. I totally understand why they went ahead, after the horror two years they’ve had, but there seem to be shortfalls from management.”

Organizers blamed the weather and staff shortages for long queues inside the festival and waiting for buses, but as Lyons points out – none of these were unexpected. Choosing the festival’s return year in a location that has been inundated with flooding and with well-known hospitality staff shortages across the country, to increase capacity by 15,000 was an odd decision.

Festival organizers canceled the first day of performances at Splendor in the Grass due to heavy rain.Credit:Getty

Splendor’s organizers said in a statement that “the weather exceeded the forecast information we had and that, along with its impact on the venue, did result in loss of expected volunteers and some staff at short notice.

“In light of the region’s conditions at 16 June, Splendor lodged a short notice development application with Byron Shire Council, who were supportive and approved a satellite campground. With regards to local staff shortages, we flew staff in from around the country to supplement.”

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While the public faces of Splendor are local founders and organizers Jessica Ducrou and Paul Piticco, their company Secret Sounds is majority owned by Live Nation – a global entertainment company headquartered in the US that operates some of the biggest music festivals in the world, as well as ticketing company Ticketmaster. Its power across the industry is so immense that politicians in the US have called for it to be broken-up by government regulators.

Knowing that a multibillion-dollar company ultimately owns and operates the festival makes it harder to swallow the line that Splendor needed to sell tickets to another 15,000 punters without seemingly adding commensurate staff and logistical support on site.

The other unfortunate byproduct of the logistical issues is that it is distracted from why so many people copped the mud, the rain and the lines to get on site: the music. An event like Splendor is an opportunity for music fans to see some of the best acts from Australia and around the world, and for emerging acts to showcase their music to international label execs.

On that front, the festival was an exciting showcase of how diverse Australian music is right now, with acts such as Alice Ivy, Northeast Party House, Stella Donnelly, Triple One, The Jungle Giants, Violent Soho and Grinspoon.

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But while the local roster was bold and refreshing, the biggest headliners – particularly those playing at the festival’s biggest stage, the Amphitheater – felt a bit out of step with the global shift away from rock and towards rap and pop. There were only two hip-hop acts on the main stage at prime time, and no female artists after 6pm at the Amphitheatre.

That the festival still sells out and skews to younger audiences, despite the heavy presence of throwback acts like The Strokes and Grinspoon, could be seen as a vindication of the healing. But the reason why Splendor matters so much isn’t because it’s a sellout festival. It’s the biggest statement the Australian music industry makes in terms of what matters and who represents the future of the scene.

The fact that Splendor has survived, and managed to pull off a 2022 recovery despite the challenges, is a testament to everyone involved. But if there’s one thing we’ve learned over the past two years it’s how resilient, diverse and exciting Australian music is right now. Those who wield the most power (and Live Nation is at the top of the list) should reward that resilience and the faith patrons have shown. Even it means a potentially smaller crowd, and hopefully with big-name acts that feel more reflective of where music is at in 2022.

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