Living it up at Laneway 2015

Festival Review: St Jerome’s Laneway Festival
Footscray Community Arts Centre, Melbourne
Saturday 7th February 2015

There are two things I treasure in life…. a solid Sunday session with my mates and hanging out all day in my ugg boots. (These occurrences are generally enjoyed on a grander scale by all present parties when they are mutually exclusive.) On a broader scale, or at least one that involves me contemplating removal of slippers and leaving my house, things that top the Rock-My-World list are live music and hot summer days. And nothing brings those two events together better than a summer music festival.

It’s fair to say that over the years I have racked up A LOT of notches in my festival-going belt. Most festivals leave you with one or two memorable moments- an awesome new band whose set you caught; a particularly hot guy that walked past with his shirt off, etc etc. But every once in a while, the stars align to produce a truly unforgettable festival experience. Such was the case at last weekend’s St Jerome’s Laneway Festival in Melbourne.

My basic understanding of the Laneway Festival philosophy is that they showcase musical acts that will be big in the year to come (or in 3-5 years for commercial radio listeners.) In terms of its target audience, think hipsters. In fact, think lots and lots of beards and then multiply that by three and then you will have some idea of the hirsuteness of the crowd. The festival actually originated in Melbourne’s infamous city laneways, a location that was quickly outgrown as word of the festival’s awesomeness spread, and in 2010 Laneway festival moved to its current location at the Footscray Community Arts Centre along the banks of the Maribynong River. It has also broadened its reach to Australian capital cities, and internationally to Auckland, Singapore and Detroit, USA.

With 15,000 punters showing up to Saturday’s sold out event, it promised to be large enough to secure the big name headline acts in the emerging indie music scene and yet small enough to give the fans a sense of intimacy as they watched their idols perform. On the day, I was able to get up close and personal with almost all of the bands that I saw in a way that I just couldn’t do at the bigger festivals I have attended.

Melbourne’s tardy summer finally decided to kick into gear for the weekend of the festival, with temperatures predicted to soar to 37 degrees. This would normally result an overabundance of sweaty armpits waved in my face, and a chance to chuckle at the passed-out punters who went too hard too fast with the brewskis early in the piece, but happily neither of these summer festival sureties eventuated. We were blessed with cloud coverage for the majority of the day, and even gifted a regenerative breeze and light showers later in the day to help everyone keep their cool.

Gourmet food vans tempted even the most discerning foodies, and the booze was cold, readily available, and not limited to set zones thanks to the 18+ age restriction of the event; so you could enjoy your vodka while you boogied on down with the beards, I mean bands.

As for the lineup- well, believe it or not, I was almost lost for words as to what I experienced. I truly can’t recall a festival I have attended (until now) where I was absolutely blown away by every single act that I saw…. and I didn’t even make it to all the sets that I wanted to see!!

The first act of my day was Mansionaire. Their song “Hold Me Down” made it into my top 10 tracks of 2014, so I was delighted to see them kicking off the lineup at Laneway. The dreamy electronic set delivered by this up-and-coming Sydney 3-piece was the perfect opener to this epic day.

My first unexpected surprise of the day was the powerful delivery and hypnotic Celtic-like melodies of Norweigan act Highasakite. Beautiful!

Another of my top artists for 2014, Benjamin Booker was high on my must-see list for the day. His raspy voice and the sometimes soulful, sometimes grungy New Orleans’ Blues set had the hairs on the back of my neck constantly standing at attention.

The cheeky surfer/stoner rockers, Dune Rats, were undoubtedly the most amusing act of the day. Their onstage antics enticed the crowd to ignore the frequent crowd surfing warnings as they let loose and enjoyed the band’s plethora of catchy hits including Superman, Red Light Green Light, and of course, Dalai Lama Big Banana Marijuana.

With their 2014 debut album on high rotation in my house, Royal Blood were definitely the number one act that I had gone along to see and they certainly lived up to my expectations. Blasting out a frenetic set of pure blues-driven rock, they were also a firm favourite with the packed crowd.

After Royal Blood, I took a hiatus from the rock genre and put on my dancing shoes as I sailed across to check out Future Islands. I had heard about the onstage energy of front man, Samuel T Herring but to witness it live was thrilling. My only wish was that I could have been a little closer to the stage for this set, but I did have my own little patch of dirt within a disused planter box, so I shouldn’t complain too much!

Without doubt, one of the standout performances (and ultimate surprises) of the day for me was Caribou. Canadian artist, Dan Snaith and his 3 fellow band members delivered a solid 45 minute DJ-inspired set that had the packed crowd ebbing and flowing like an ocean. Initially I was concerned about the stage location in relation to the size of the crowd for this act…. However it quickly became apparent that the old factory that formed one bounding wall  beside the stage reverbed the bass in such a way that it felt as though it was pulsating through my veins. In a pivotal moment during the set (I’d like to say it was when they were performing Swim, but can’t truthfully recall), the heavens opened and delivered a light shower across the crowd, heightening the euphoric vibe that electrified the air.

I wasn’t too sure how Flight Facilities were going to top what I had just witnessed, but their ultra-loungy melodies supported by a string a guest vocalists including the sweet songstress Owl Eyes and a guest appearance from festival favourite Vic Mensa, ultimately created a sublime conclusion to the day.

All in all, it was the way that everything came together perfectly…. The weather, the lack of queuing times for entry and amenities, the respectful and happy festival-goers who were totally easy on the eyes, my friends, the gourmet food offerings, and of course, the phenomenal bands. Ultimately though, it was all the little things that added the cherry atop this perfect festival parfait…. the bar security lady that happily reminisced about her wayward youth as we deliberated on our drink selection; fellow punter’s eagerness to share the running highlights of their day whilst waiting in line for the portaloos; or the rolling singalong to Hey! Baby (think Dirty Dancing) as the crowd wandered through the fancifully lit underpass on their way to the exit…. these were the things that made the day truly special and memorable for me.

2015 was my first Laneway experience…. it certainly won’t be my last!

HighasakiteBenjamin BookerRoyal BloodFlight FacilitiesFlight Facilities Crowd

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