Another astonishingly prescient lineup announcement in October leads to another blazing hot day spent in Footscray bugging out to a raft of killer sets as Laneway cements itself as one of the country’s best festivals. While not faultless (more shade, a closer stage and a lower douchebag count would be nice), festival organisers yet again find ways to make what was already excellent, even better and only part of that is down to the music selections.
This year kicks off with a cheesy set of electro from kitsch-tastic duo Client Liason who have ditched the props and drawn the focus to their songs and their peerless production sheen. While not the scene-stealing show of last year's Golden Plains, electro-pop in the early slot suits the assembling crowd (and a noisy core fanbase) just fine.
Looking like a RHCP covers band and sounding like a ticked off Real Estate, the muscular indie pop of Bel Air is manna to the shade-huddled crowd. What they lack in vocal chops they make up for in imaginative song construction and smart way with riffs that promises great things down the track.
Lucky for those worrying about calories from many varied and competitively priced beer and food options available, the Dean Turner Stage is not far shy of a kilometer from the entrance. One round-trip to see Mt Warning's opening set of grittily euphoric blues and you’ve earned yourself another cider. The trio plays as though they done a few dozen round trips already today and seem to draw their energy from a deep inner well. Singer Mikey Bee’s American twang, Springsteen punches and chiseled handsomeness is only the first weapon in the band’s possession and their set makes for a nice gearshift from the rest of the bill.
|Autre Ne Veut, whatever it means, he really means it. (Photo: Carbie Warbie)|
With shipping containers, cranes and passing trains behind them, the River Stage is a perfect setting for the country chug of Cass McCombs. Playing mostly new material, McCombs’ warm, languid tones and delicate hooks make his set a sheer joy, especially when he ups the volume and the noodling guitars take on a menacing edge, resulting in raucous cheering and new fans.
Kirin J Callinan - again gently battling his mic stand - this time in make up, a mullet and Ken Done outfit, tears through a brilliant set to a core group of fans and several hundred stunned onlookers. “This next song is called Halo. It’s from my album Embracism. If you don’t have it…fuck you,” he jokes, but not without that lingering sense of unease that threads through his best work.
Back at the Future Classic Stage Run the Jewels provide the most aggressive fun anyone could ask for. Arriving to Queen’s We Are the Champions, and cries of “make some motherfucking NOISE Melbourne!” El-P and Killer Mike’s blistering tag-team rap is full of the edgy theatre that the best shows boast. Enough of the crowd knows when to shout the song titles back (“do dope fuck hope!”) to keep things exciting for newbies and the band themselves are clearly having a sweaty good time.
Sweating over some very different sounds is Youth Lagoon, yet another artist whose profile has rocketed since their last visit. A master of textures and a writer of bizarre and wonderful hooks, highlights from last year’s Wondrous Bughouse album litter the set. While the album is a rewarding listen on headphones, here, the mewling textures are fodder to chat over for much of the audience, though once the choruses arrive we’re hooked.
Up the hill at the Moreland Road stage it’s time to ramp things up. Savages are looking elegantly vampiric
and archly focused on their intimidatingly exciting set. Opening with Shut Up they move like a gang none of us
will ever be cool enough to join, their music is cavernous yet immediate and
songs like She Will, No Face and the
searing, closing Husbands mark theirs
as a high point of the day. Seeing the band walking amongst the crowds later, people
look and point but no one seems brave enough to approach them.
|Savages, lethal...as long as they're not in direct sunlight (Photo: Carbie Warbie)|
In sharp contrast, Dick Diver act as though they’ve come over to play a house party, laughing and joking with the audience from the get go. Head Back gets a rowdy response with only a brief and warmly echoed political diatribe (“Fuck Chris Pine!”) from singer Rupert Edwards breaking the laconic swagger. It’s hard to dislike a man playing what many bands would regard as one of the gigs of their life, dressed in Rip Curl board shorts. Gap Year, Calendar Days and the closing Alice epitomize the easy charm missing from every other band today.
As the sun crawls across the sky, punters jealously guard shady spots and while Cashmere Cat’s dulcet piano, swooping vocal effects and buzzing hi-hats appeal, the pulsing party jams of Unknown Mortal Orchestra draw the sundazed punters into their orbit. Alligator, Ffunny Ffrends and a blazing take on So Good at Being in Trouble emerge out of extended flurries and squalls of psych guitar jams and perfectly calibrated effects settings. Being this good and Kiwi, it’s amazing we haven’t given them an ARIA yet.
|Parquet Courts, the noisiest highlight of the Festival (Photo: Carbie Warbie)|
There is little change in personnel along the front barrier by the time Parquet Courts launch into the set of the day. Blasting through the first four tracks from their Light Up Gold album, half the audience are soon gleefully screaming out lines like “Socrates died in the fucking gutter!” into each others faces while the other half smile in bemusement. Stoned and Starving generates the most noise, and several fresh Parquet Courts t-shirts are spotted before the day is out.
Despite sound problems that bite into a good fifth of their set, Chvrches nevertheless deliver a show resplendent in some of the best sound and visuals of any of the day’s acts. Closing with The Mother We Share, a sense of icy perfection lingers after the final chord dies and is replaced by loud affection from the crowd.
Earl Sweatshirt draws a massive crowd, who he then proceeds to gently diss, with the aid of DJ Taco. While his album Doris is full of inspired rhymes and production, live Earl relies on brief bursts of songs that he swiftly moves between, most around two minutes long. It’s disappointing when comparing it to the seething energy of last year’s Odd Future show.
Down at the River Stage, home of the languid rocker, Kurt Vile is emitting good vibes that entrance all that hear him. The songs are glorious but the man himself remains frustratingly enigmatic. Behind dark glasses, a thick curtain of curly hair and an emotionless voice, Vile switches from acoustic to electric as he eases his way around his glorious Wakin’ on a Pretty Daze album, with help from one of the most hirsute bands in recent memory.
A crowd far more vocal in their appreciation of a band can be found about eighty-two miles away at the Dean Turner stage, watching Haim. Almost unfeasibly exciting, talented and with the most ardent crowd of the day, the Haim sisters chat easily with the crowd between dishing out stellar pop tunes. The Wire garners one of the day’s loudest responses and by the end of the set the crowd is comprised of dancing circles of friends.
For those unable to get close, several screens are situated at intervals between the stage and the rest of the festival. Despite having woefully latent sound, the screens prove popular and help to spread the crowd, most of who are now here to see Lorde. Flipping her hair and gesticulating wildly, Lorde interprets the songs as she sings them. Choice covers of Son Lux’s Easy and the Replacements’ Swingin’ Party go down well, but the set is built around her hits which are nearly drowned out by the vocal appreciation of her fans.
As the night takes over and sunnies and hats are put away, the absence of any trouble, sunburned punters or drunken shenanigans is notable. Closing the Moreland Road Stage, Warpaint stand stoic, bathed in purple and red lights as they introduce the crowd to their most recent record. Love is to Die is a clear high point and a mysteriously sexless cover of the legendarily sensual I Feel Love is a low. While a smart band of producers, their songs come across as disappointingly inert, despite the talent that went into their creation.
|Four Tet, pushing buttons, getting results (Photo: Carbie Warbie)|