Home Music festival Splendor in the grass 2022: Bus chaos, noxious mud and public urination at an ‘incredibly horrific’ time | music festivals

Splendor in the grass 2022: Bus chaos, noxious mud and public urination at an ‘incredibly horrific’ time | music festivals

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JThe chaos started early. Over fifteen hours of waiting – with no food or water – to enter a campsite that was mostly underwater. No staff on site to pass cars. No information from anyone in authority. As news outlets began reporting on the miserable conditions of this year’s Splendor in the Grass festival, the event’s latest Twitter update read, “You won’t see disposable cups in Splendor bars.

Friends of ours who were driving a motorhome from Sydney couldn’t even get through the gates; after 20 hours of driving, with other cars ahead of them in line running out of gas and/or getting stuck in mud, they called a night at 3:30 a.m. and slept in an underground car park in the Woolies.

We were staying at an AirBnB, and as we descended to catch a bus to the venue the next morning, news leaked that the first day of the festival had been canceled – despite assurances hours earlier that it would continue to “rain , hail or shine”. Poor campers who braved a night of on-site watersports were soothed by a few tentpole DJs blasting repetitive beats into their sleep-derived brains.

“The site is affected by weather conditions”: scenes from Splendor in the Grass campsite. Photography: Liam Burke

“Day two is on,” read the cheerful message posted to Splendor’s social media at 9:45 a.m. the following day. “The site is affected by weather conditions! However, don’t let it take your mind. The update described the terrain as “soft” and recommended wellies – but locals tell us stores sold out weeks earlier.

Minimizing the reality of the situation was a constant theme that seemed deceptive at best and borderline dangerous. The festival had been canceled for the previous two years, and heading into the weekend it weathered major last-minute lineup changes and a liquor license controversy. Friday’s dropped roster included headliners Gorillaz and the Avalanches. It is understandable that the festival wants to recover as much money as possible.

The party line was that there was a completely unpredictable weather event over 50 years. But Byron was underwater only a few months ago; there was an obvious risk in hosting 50,000 bettors on the field.

Scenes from Splendor 2022
“Understating the reality of the situation was a constant theme.” Photograph: Liam Burke – boss of Splendor in the Grass

At 9.45am on day two, Saturday, we were warned to be prepared for bus delays – with some mega-pumped Splendor social media advice: “Carpool or taxi are also great options!” It was particularly infuriating: Splendor had sold bus tickets in advance, priced at $20 a day – they had a literal tally of how many buses they had to provide. It would have cost us $304.70 to take an Uber XL to our bus stop.

Yet we persevered. I was preparing for The Strokes to be replaced by a local slammer and Tyler the Creator to be replaced for a jumbotron screening of The One Where Ross Asks Out Rachel – but the sun was threatening to break through the clouds and the wind had picked up. is extinguished with a dull roar, so that the spirits have not yet been carried away. Who knows, we might not even be strip searched at the entrance. Optimism is one hell of a drug.

Nathan Jolly (second from right) and his friends before leaving their AirBnB on Saturday.
‘Optimism is a hell of a drug’: Nathan Jolly (second from right) and his friends before leaving their AirBnB on Saturday. Photo: Phoebe Loomes

By mid-afternoon it became apparent that the buses would not arrive for hours. It took energy drink V and their merciful party bus — complete with an onboard DJ, free glitter makeup, and drag queens handing out designer hats and beach balls — to bring people to the festival. But they weren’t allowed to drive the bus on the pitch: Splendor was officially sponsored by a competing energy drink, the one that claims to give you wings. Wings would have been useful: some musical tents were inaccessible due to the sewer-smelling streams that clustered around them.

When we finally arrived, Splendor organizers were struggling to contain the chaos. As we got off the party bus and strolled down the street, a member of staff yelled at us to “get off the fucking road”, instructing us instead to wade through the deep mud so as not to block non-existent buses.

Once through the gates, there was no way to enter the park without wading through a slippery mix of mud, vomit and piss, a knee-high bog of horror that smelled of death and you wished. People were openly pissing in the mud between the food stalls – which raises some additional health and safety questions.

'Bog of horror.'
‘Bog of horror.’ Photo: Jason O’Brien/AAP

As we walked towards the main stage areas, I passed by people coming out. I saw tears. I saw blood. We turned to Splendor social media for advice. “We are all here for the love of music! Be patient, be kind and be careful.

We had Gold Bar tickets, which promised shelter from the storm for an extra $220 per person. Alas, Splendor oversold those tickets – and the queue to get in was over a hundred meters long. When we told a security guard that we had paid for access, he told us to “queue or Kiss my ass– angrily shouting the last two words.

We ditched the Gold Bar, and it turns out we didn’t miss the Avalanches – but instead of the bunch, it was an avalanche of humans, sliding and falling down the steep muddy hill, that noxious mud on their faces, in their eyes and in their mouths.

Scenes from Splendor 2022
A punter wades through deep mud. Photography: Matt Jelonek/Getty Images

The situation for the buses leaving the site on Saturday evening was even worse than on the outward journey: queues of seven hours for some, people only returning home at dawn. Their stories littered the comments under brightly lit photos from the fun-filled day that were posted on Splendor’s official Instagram feed. “We got home at 6am after the bus disaster!!!!! I’ve ruined so many people’s day!!!” wrote one person. “Queuing for a bus at 12 and by the time I type it’s 4:20 and I’m not even close to the end :(” wrote another. And, from a third: “No water for 3 hours Couldn’t get to bathroom because we were crammed in like sardines 0 communication from all staff Freezing cold We know there are queues and festivals aren’t always glamorous, but it was incredibly gruesome for everyone involved.”

The Strokes ended at the stroke of midnight. It was reported that people were still waiting at the site at 4am – along with hordes of others – for buses they had already paid for.

“We hear you and we understand your frustration with our bus services last night,” the festival posted on Instagram on Sunday, blaming the shortage of bus drivers for some delays which they say affected around 1,000 people. Their statement said 90% of bus customers were offsite at 3.30am after the festival ended at 2am – but in the comments below, people who were there called these claims a “serious understatement” and “absolute bullshit”. Splendor in the Grass did not respond to Guardian Australia’s request for comment.

Natalie Mikkelsen waited five hours with her 16-year-old daughter for a bus to Murwillumbah on Saturday evening. They had left the festival before 11 p.m. and missed the Strokes in an attempt to beat the crowds – but did not return to Burringbar (10 minutes by car) until 4 a.m. “They can’t control the weather, but they just don’t have the infrastructure in place…and they didn’t have enough buses,” she told the Guardian. “There was no communication…it was just dark…it was cold, people were hungry and thirsty.”

My daughter waited 5 hours for a midnight bus, no food or water, ankle deep in mud. Back at 6am! Thousands waiting with her. No organizer in sight. She and her friends won’t go back until day 3 or 4. @BreakfastNews #splendourinthegrass

— Jo (@joywunjo) July 23, 2022

We bailed out long before that – at 9 p.m. – after seeing just one group, Violent Soho. They played an excellent set of greatest hits, with nearly every song sung to them at the highest volume; all the frustrations of the weekend expelled in an energetic “hell fuck yeah”. Many punters were determined to have fun – and news broadcasts some of them even succeeded.

Festival-goers get to the music on Saturday.
Festival goers enjoy the music on Saturdays. Photography: Matt Jelonek/Getty Images

Not my friends and me. Our bus to Byron was like a war hospital. Bloodied, muddy, shocked people sitting in silence with stares a thousand yards away, shaking their heads now and then. No one spoke; the only sound was that of quiet rage. We did not return for the third day.