During a summer that has been plagued by cancelled festivals, it was almost a relief that Laneway went as well as it did. Thousands of punters mostly clad in op-shop finds and body glitter descended upon Silo Park in high spirits for the near sell out show comprising of 33 emerging and established alternative music acts.
For this reviewer, twenty bands in nine hours may have led to two sore feet, but it also captured the fundamental ethos of Laneway- celebrating a diverse array of genres and artists. The line-up of electronica, punk, noise-rock, rap and indie-pop made my eclectic heart sing and meant that I flitted from stage to stage gathering impressionistic thoughts. Safely ensconced in the shade between sets, I scribbled down these gut reactions on the fly eventually filling thirty pages of my notebook. I have selected a handful of them that best captures the hyperbolic atmosphere of any good music festival:
All Seeing Hand: Having previously only seen this band in small clubs or large house parties, I was intrigued to see how their sound translated to the Thunderdome In short, the answer was well. Theoretically a throat singer, turntablist, and drummer that fuse metal and jazz as well as a bunch of other genres often into one song should sound messy, but they impressed with their tight, relentless set that got the 200-strong crowds energies up for the day ahead.
Fidlar: Their unapologetically loud set was a fun way to spend the afternoon, with people kicking up plumes of dust as they jumped along to the bands hooky sound. Lead singer Zac Carper was every inch the swaggering frontman, switching effortlessly between husky screams and a more West-Coast punk style of singing. The audience worked up a sweat in the final song where Carper instructed them to sit down and jump up on his signal. Their songs are about getting drunk, hanging out with your mates, being broke, and trying to get laid. While these topics are not anything new, they make for excellent summer festival fodder-possibly because they describe many peoples festival experiences. In the case of Fidlar, they delivered their songs with such panache that they proved to be a highlight of Laneway.
Thundercat: The virtuosic bassist was the perfect comedown after Fidlar’s rambunctious set. His smooth liquid-jazz sound and silky voice immediately captured the attention of everyone in earshot, and had the crowd swaying in minutes. My knees thanked me for the respite from jumping.
Vince Staples: Already noted for his tight flow and referential beats, expectations were high for Staples. The 22 year old undoubtedly delivered during his set that oscillated between his EP and album. He also bantered with the crowd, offering up sly quips such as “growing up, I hung out with a lot of white people, which is why I feel comfortable here…I listened to NiN and shit.” Standing slightly to the side of the front, I found myself next to Thundercat, who shared a bemused smile with me at the sight of two members of the audience- one dressed as a banana, the other as a hot dog both who were excitedly rapping along with Staples. A memorable show in more ways than one.
Silicon: The Mint Chicks used to spend most of their sets singing anywhere except the stage, and now the brothers have gone solo it’s nice to see that Kody continues to carry the mantel. His set under his latest project Silicon was spent scaling the outside walls of the Thunderdome, landing on the roof of an ambulance for his funky remix of UMO’s Can’t Keep Checking My Phone.
Grimes: The pastel hair and ostentatious platforms worn by some of Grimes audience left me feeling decidedly monochrome. Insecurities aside, Grimes’s performance was anything but boring. With several offerings of her latest album Art Angel being aired, Grimes legitimised many a millennial’s forbidden love of mall-pop without making it sound twee for a beat. Her backup dancers added further texture the fun set of an artist on the cusp of superstardom.
Beach House: As dusk began to fade, and light danced across the water, the ethereally tussled Beach House took to the Cat Cactus stage under a backdrop of LED stars. The band proved to be bewitching as their softly hypnotic sound ebbed and flowed. Songs such as Sparks with its elegantly relentless guitar work evoked a particularly strong reaction from the crowd. It was dream-pop at its dreamiest.
Purity Ring: Quite possibly one of the most underrated acts of the day. A spectacular light show coupled with banging beats and beautifully acerbic vocals from Megan James had the crowd in raptures. Not to mention her Victoriana glam-goth stage attire. A fantastic way to round off Laneway 2016.