Regular readers of LTBT will know that I’m quite fond of the laneway festival. One of the things that it’s grown into is a genuine two festivals in one, quite an achievement for an event that would be lucky to crack 10,000 attendees.
Confused? I’ll explain.
Not once in the 10 or so hours that I spent at the festival last Saturday did I go see a band on the (newly relocated) main stage. Didn’t need to. And it’s not like I was only going to see the most obscure acts at the festival, it’s just that there’s so much depth to the lineup that there was always something more appealing for me to see. Meanwhile, at the ‘other’ festival within laneway, you can be sure that a significant chunk of the crowd made it to the main stage for Vance Joy in mid afternoon and found no reason to leave until the end of the Jezabels at festival close. Each to their own I say, but to be able to pull this off so effortlessly (the Main Stage was effectively ‘quarantined’ from the festival via distance) is a grand achievement.
So let me begin.
Whilst I had best intentions of getting along to see the so-cheesy-it’s-great Client Liaison I didn’t make it to the site until the start of the noise-rock of Drenge on the Moreland St Stage(Previously the main stage). And what a start it was; these two kids make a helluva racket and have a great guitar sound and stage presence. It’s not hard to imagine them playing to much bigger crowds very quickly. Keep an eye on ‘em.
Ducking down to the Future Classic stage we caught a fair chunk of Autre ne Veut’s synth pop while taking shelter under the trees (with a fair chunk of the current attendees, feck it was hot). After seeing a couple of minutes of The Growl while going to the bathroom (a bit black keys-ish, a bit blah) we were getting up to go and check out Youth Lagoon when El-P and Killer Mike aka Run The Jewels literally burst on stage and started spitting out high velocity verses. Instantly, the crowd at the stage swelled as the punters took no notice of the heat to pack in the front for one of the highlight sets of the day. Party hip-hop and a great stage presence meant that we danced along to the whole set. Massive win with some genuinely humorous moments: “to be like Run the Jewels you gotta go down the invisible Jewellery store and get yo self a 36 inch chain” spouted the visibly chainless EL-P before commanding “if you got 36 inch chain around yo neck MAKE SOME FUCKING NO-ISE’! Gold.
After this we scooted up the hill for a profoundly different experience – Savages. Almost 10 years after it became cool for every new band to say how they were influenced by Joy Division, and well after the post-punk ‘revival’ had come and gone, this ultra-intense all-girl band released by far the most jarring and authentic (yet still modern) version of the style. Their live set was similarly outstanding. Dressed all in black on a black stage they let their songs and stage presence do the talking as they whipped through a high-intensity set. Another highlight.
After a not-so-quick bar stop we positioned ourselves on the hill to catch ex-pats Cloud Control perform their new material. 2013 album Dojo Rising was a great release, easily as good as their first record, and on seeing them live it was instantly apparent that the few years they’ve now had in London have also sharpened them (further) as a formidable live prospect. Playing a smattering from both records, with the new material amply rewarded and old favourites like Gold Canary (with the Butthole Surfers interlude) turning the crowd inside out. Great band, great live sound, great energy. Yet another highlight (you can see where this is going…!)
After this, the gang split up a bit. Some went to see Chvrches, who were apparently great after an early sound blow-out, some went to see Mayor Quimby aka Mount Kimbie, who also got a top wrap and a big crowd apparently. As for me, I needed my garage rock’n’roll fix from Parquet Courts, who tore the roof off the place with a number of cuts from their excellent ‘Light up Gold’ record from 2013. The Master of my craft / Borrowed Time double was a contender for song of the festival, until they turned ‘Stoned and Starving’ into an epic jam. High energy ‘Light up Gold’ towards the end of the set and it was beer cans in the air and a grinning crowd.
With the seemingly impossible task of lifting the party even higher, Jagwar Ma stepped up to the Future Classic stage and rocked. The. Shit. Yet another epic 2013 release, delivered with energy and style and sending the crowd into a frenzy with their Screamdelica meets Pills Thrills n bellyaches vibe. Is it the third summer of love??! Somehow, we tore ourselves away to catch a bit of Kurt Vile who put in a vastly improved effort to his Meredith gig a few years ago before heading back for the boy wonder Jamie xx (Other friends who were watching Haim said they were ho-hum). Words can’t capture how much this dude can work a crowd. It’s brilliance to watch and I reckon that in a thick field of great live bands, a 23 year old playing records would have been many people’s favourite act for the day. He started with some disco and then took the crowd through a deep, dark, hard, smoke-filled set that was interspersed with some of his bigger tunes from the last couple of years (Gil Scott Heron remixes, the XX reworking of You got the love). You could have spent all day on the future classic stage and called it a win, the crowd here were in an absolute lather after such a stream of great music. Four Tet stepped up and took it even further, but I ducked off after a couple of songs to catch some of Frightened Rabbit.
I have a theory on ‘Alternative Universe’ bands, and Frightened Rabbit are one of those. In the same way that in an alternative universe, Okkervil River would be as huge as the Shins, Frightened Rabbit should be as big as, I don’t know. Mumford and Sons. They’ve steadily gone about releasing a stream of excellent records, always been a live act that inspires raw excitement, and it was a well deserved stage-closing slot on the river stage. They are in incredible form, and belted out epic tune after epic tune – Holy, Old Old Fashioned, The Modern Leper, Fast Blood. Fuck it, with anthemic songs like that they could be U2 (maybe if the songs weren’t about things like depressing, meaningless sex and throwing yourself off bridges…). It’s bemused me that they’ve found more success with ‘The Woodpile’, which I reckon is a pretty average song in their exceptional back catalogue, but each to their own – and I’m damn happy for them. A FR set is all of the highlight.
At this point I ran out the door a bit early – Four Tet and Jamie XX were playing an after party at Boney in town and I wanted to get there before the rest of Melbourne did. Unfortunately the rest of Melbourne had other ideas and we had to wait until rather late for the line to disappear before making it in at about 3am to find them playing a back-to-back club set that was every bit as bangin as you’d expect.
Was there anything that wasn’t a highlight? The App wasn’t working and on show day was still saying ‘schedule coming’ (I just received an update request today, some 3 days after the festival). I tweeted at the organisers the day before the show but never received a reply, even though they found the time to retweet a steady stream of “Wooo Hooo, I’m going to Laneway” tweets… Bar lines were longer than last year and verging on too long at times, but on the whole it was yet another well planned and well executed event.
Epic fun. Highly Recommended.