Laneway: Things that Happened

St. Jerome’s Laneway Festival hit a new venue this year, making Fremantle the place to be on Saturday. In the interest of journalistic integrity, I feel it’s important to mention that this was the first music festival I attended in about 3 years after a traumatizing experience in which I was pressed up against a stranger’s erection for half an hour in a mosh pit (I really hope that guy went and saw a doctor because that can’t be good for his circulation) so I feel about as qualified to review this as a dental hygienist reviewing an Opera, but let’s push on regardless.

I got to Laneway somewhat later than I’d intended to after a surge of spontaneous and inexplicable vomit caused me to miss the bus. I arrived, pale, dizzy and in a slightly nauseous haze but nonetheless excited to participate in one of the country’s most anticipated music festivals. The first act I saw was Vance Joy, recently crowned King of the Hottest 100. He was a nice match for the afternoon sunshine, a chilled out guy with a chilled out guitar. Perfect act for standing in front of with a beer, admiring his delightful melodies and watching the outfits go by. Sadly for Vance, the crowd wasn’t terribly excited until he busted out ‘Riptide’ at the very end, but he held his own armed with charm and solid singing voice.

The next act I feasted my eyeballs upon was Frightened Rabbit, who I knew nothing about until I saw their set because I’m a musical ignoramus, but I knew that a lot of people were quite keen to see them, and with good cause. The Scottish band (who I have since Googled) were energetic and remarkably tight, keeping professional while at the same time managing to include some entertaining banter with their adorable accents. These guys are an excellent band and I particularly liked that song which the internet tells me is called ‘Keep Yourself Warm’.

After Frightened Rabbit retreated I took a break to sample some of the festival cuisine, of which there were a great many options that all seemed pretty exciting and varied. Considering that I’d driven the porcelain bus earlier that day I decided to avoid a lot of exotic, spicy foods on offer and get a donut. It was a really seriously good donut and its sugary crispiness made me feel much more optimistic about the entire situation even after the horrendous queue that I understand to be an integral part of the music festival experience.

I caught a good chunk of Danny Brown’s set as I assimilated the donut into my person. He’d attracted a large crowd that nearly spilled out from the Park Stage to the Ferris Bueller Stage, and had definitely inspired the best dance moves of the entire festival. Unfortunately, the jubilant crowd didn’t know his hit ‘Smokin’ and Drinkin’’ as well as he may have hoped, resulting in the most awkward audience singalong of the day. Still, Brown pushed on, and the crowd’s enthusiasm made up for their inability to remember a phrase of three repeated words. I found this particularly enjoyable, a result I’m sure of both Danny Brown’s flair for performance and the heavy clouds of marijuana smoke that surrounded the stage.

Next up was one of the festival’s biggest drawcards, Haim. I made the mistake of going to the bathroom before their set (I could’ve grown a beard in that line) and just made it in time just as they hit the stage. As a result of my failure to secure a spot for myself hours beforehand, I spent the majority of their set being shoved by strangers trying to either escape from or delve deeper into the crowd. I mostly glimpsed the band from behind peoples’ heads but what I saw was glorious. Haim were like some sort of sorceress clan, their manes flowing majestically in the Fremantle breeze, bewitching the crowd with their musical prowess. At one stage one of the sisters said they’d just ‘jam’ for a moment, before descending into some seriously wicked Zeppelin-style shredding. There was also a mad drum solo at one stage. As a live act, Haim prove themselves not only as catchy pop-wizards but also seriously skilled musicians.

Next up was Chvrches, who were much more relaxed than Haim in terms of performance style but were still aurally magnificent. The lead singer, Lauren Mayberry, sounds exactly like what a child would imagine angels sound like. These guys are always excellent on the radio, and are even more powerful live. They had a great balance of songs that were dance-able and songs that were just seriously beautiful to behold.

Following Chvrches was everybody’s favourite Kiwi overachiever, Lorde. Despite my standing miles away from the stage, I was mesmerised by Lorde’s dancing. She tends to gesture with her music, with an overall effect that blends the characteristics of a rapper, drag queen and interpretive dancer. Basically, she sings with her whole body. It’s awesome. She also sounded amazing, to nobody’s surprise. It was a bit of a shame that she had only a backing track instead of a band, but she was something to behold regardless.

I managed to glimpse part of Cloud Control’s set, which seemed to feature some pyrotechnics involving a guitar shooting sparks, but at that stage I was unsure whether or not I was hallucinating as a result of my physical condition to begin with and whatever drugs I had inadvertently inhaled second hand. After seeing some spots that definitely weren’t supposed to be there, I decided to call it a night.

Laneway had a really excellent line up which made it impossible to choose between the four stages. I was saddened by missing Savages and a couple of other really great bands as a result of said sweet line up, but I suppose as festivals go it’s a pretty good problem to have. It was set up fairly well, with each of the stages only a short walk from each other and the new venue meant that there weren’t the same problems to do with space and gatecrashers that I’m told occurred last year. I still don’t think it was as good as sitting in a hot bath eating cheese due to the crowds and the queues and general douchebaggery that occurred as a result of those two things, but those factors are obviously particular to music festivals in general rather than Laneway itself. And to be fair, few things are as good as sitting in a hot bath eating cheese.

Sophie Joske


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