I Love Nancy Whang: A Splendour In The Grass review via the most ignored artist on the lineup
July 29th 2015
The 15th anniversary of Splendour in the Grass occurred over the weekend – by now, you’ve heard all the stories.
A sloppy, sprawling tent city to rival the favelas of Sao Paulo; mud that coated the festival site like bad cologne on that guy who constantly wears a pink Ralph Lauren polo; and an hour and a half set from Blur that put a 45 year old British expat in cardiac arrest.
FBi favourites Tame Impala, Client Liaison and Alpine all impressed with high-energy shows that embarrassed most Broadway musicals. The weekend also saw swelling comebacks from high profile Australian rock acts The Church, The Grates and The Rubens.
Soaking moshpits were hungrily organised around splintering sets from DZ Deathrays , The Smith Street Band, and Bad//Dreems, whilst the festival’s electronic faction were enthralled with incredible sets from Total Giovanni, Hayden James, GL and UV Boi. Weekend highlights came from gospel space pop star Spiritualized and the shredding Philly rock foursome The Districts.
But the exact encapsulation of what Splendour in the Grass was about, was Nancy Whang.
She is absolutely everything for some, but just another name for others. A central figure in the early days of DFA Records, a member of LCD Soundsystem and the Juan McLean, Nancy Whang has been a pioneer and entrepreneur in her field of dance and pop music. But stuck with an hour and a half set, competing with Florence & the Machine and Flight Facilities in the butthole of the festival site, the odds against Nancy Whang were higher than the average Peking Duk attendee.
It didn’t matter – Nancy Whang stood her ground with an unrelenting DJ set of disco, skewed synth-pop, and dreamy electronica. Her talents are terrific; there’s a reason she’s so revered. She stood in fierce concentration, black hair tangled in clusters, glancing screens flipping and churning around her. Flipping from vinyl to vinyl, eyes darting between decks and audience, she’d bop her head in agreement. It was a subtle set from an expert who doesn’t have to berate her crowd with commands of “CAN YOU FEEL IT SPLENDAAA?!”
Nancy Whang quickly established herself as incredible. She’s an engrossing actor, dedicated to maximising the painfully short time she has at her disposal. However, it’s the actual crowd there that makes her so exciting to witness. There’s a smorgasbord of freaks, geeks, nerds and weirdos; from acne-splashed lads scamming cigarettes, to mums and dads spending a few precious hours away from the kids, to dumbstruck hippies. She sucks in their attention the same way the mud consumes their feet – like a festival sized black hole.
All weekend throughout Splendour, I saw huge efforts to make the festival feel unique, inclusive and memorable. And in a small, neatly occupied tent, in the furthest part of this carnival, I saw that goal achieved – probably not where the organisers expected it to. A mere DJ, humbly bubbling through an exuberant mix, managed to capture what this whole sprawling festival was about, and assumedly had hoped to accomplish.
In the same period of time it takes to watch Beetlejuice, I decided that I loved Nancy Whang.
I loved the fact that she knew exactly what she was doing, that she loved what she was doing, and that she was doing it better than anyone else that weekend.
I loved that she brought such a weird crowd who loved her as much as I did, if not more. I loved that she played so much strange and wonderful music.
I loved that she managed to impress and persevere, even when playing against two of the biggest names in music that start with F.
I loved that she made it possible to appreciate electronic music so easily.
I loved that she made an hour and a half at Splendour in the Grass such a superb time.
I love that a lot of people are going to remember that night.
I love Nancy Whang.
We all love Nancy Whang.
I hope she comes back next year.
Ryan Saar hosts FBi’s 100% Sydney music show, The Bridge, on Tuesday nights.
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