Review and pictures by Melissa Tan with additional photography by David Payne.
St Jerome’s Laneway Festival returned to the gates of Footscray Community Centre on Saturday. Walking through the gates at 11, it felt more like a small gathering on a residential road rather the large franchise patron St Jerome would have intended. The crowd dribbled in small droves as the morning went on, but the sun did not. As the afternoon went on, the raging celsius turned the pale, insipid skin of punters down to the colour of their maroon pants, but that probably was no excuse for the widespread feeling of ‘MEH’ from the crowd for the day. It was probably the first time at a festival that I prayed to the gods for someone to smack a bottle or a potato spiral at a security guard, or forbid, even make a small fleck of noise when asked to do so. Claps to #MANINTREE who managed to get his own yellow-taped off viewing spot for Girls/Twin Shadow/AnnaCalvi/Drums, stage a 20-strong police circle, summon more applause than most bands on the day, stage a riot between supporters and police and manage to even score a free lift home in the back of a van. Although this years lineup seemed to be hanging in the shadow of bigger headliners from previous years, there was no shortage of decent acts.
Locals Drunk Mums kicked off the morning. Stage props usually make their cameos past 6pm, but Drunk Mums’ prop/vibe guy made a premature entrance – staggering around in polka dot shorts doing backflips, back-handstands and other tricks for applause. While I’m trying to divide my attention between bad haircuts, Russell from Stillwater who’s singing on lead and their backup dancer fist pumping the air in regular inkrements and occasionally wandering off stage to have a seizure, I remember that their music is actually pretty good.
Fresh off their stadium support slot opening for the Foo Fighters, no surprise DZ drew a pretty big crowd. Being one of the more upbeat bands on the bill, I expected a bit more action from everybody. No strobes, no one getting wet and nobody expressing themselves by wildly flailing their arms in the air or throwing a spin kick or two in the front as per usual DZ shows. Would have been more likely to get a Wall of Death happening at a Seekae gig than in Saturday’s midday crowd. Fuck you crowd participation. I was still content in my three-strong dance battalion at the back. Suddenly a breeze picks up, and things start to get heavy during ‘Cops/Capacity’ and ‘Teeth’. Shane’s hair is flying and Simon’s little arms are making the cymbals hang by a tether. What’s a bassist? m/ m/
I sauntered off along to the Windish Agency stage to catch the end of Total Control’s set. It takes a few moments to adjust to watching these guys play on a stage overlooking the Maribyrnong with people sprawled out on the lawn all the way up the hill – rather than the dark, sticky carpeted habitats they’re used to. The heat is making me giddy, and while I think I could have heard a bit of ‘One More Tonight’, I could be mistaken. Still, it’s not just the ‘supergroup’ plug that’s getting these guys by (ft. members of Eddy Current Supression Ring/UV Race) Daniel Stewart’s deadpan stance has all the errs and graces of Anton Newcombe and all five members of Devo. It’s good.
Hailing all the way from Louisiana, Givers’ feel good tunes inject some much needed energy into the crowd. Frontman Taylor Guarisco’s facial expressions shift quicker than the band’s time changes. I almost get knocked over by several punters and a barefoot pregnant chick who’s left her heschen bag/goon sack in the middle of the groove pit when ‘Up Up Up’ drops.
Laura Marling walks into the bar. Her platinum locks are radiating in the sun. I walk up to her and we start talking about Joni Mitchell’s dulcimer, Steinbeck, and other sad shit. We drink cider and I bask in the glory of being within 1m of her intellectual radius. I then tell her that she should probably make everyone feel better about their existence and go do other things normal 22 year olds do, like be untalented, drop out of an arts degree and smoke crack on Thursdays. She spits in my face. But it’s okay, it’s Laura Marling. This should have occurred, but instead I sit around sipping my de-fizzed Fanta being sad, watching her sit around at the bar, being wise and sad.
Remember those Topshop kids pushing around those bikes? After pinning me to a wall to get a crappy photo of my shirt in return for what I thought was a free disposable camera that worked, the guys remind me that there’s a secret party at 5. I’ve almost forgotten until I’m rudely interrupted halfway through scoffing my Beatbox fries and bundled through a side door along the hill. It’s a cool set up. There’s purple lighting that’s a little too Roxy music, algae and hedges growing out of the walls, and weird stuff pegged to the roof. That doesn’t make it feel any less like walking into an 80’s prom. A prom with Chaz (Toro Y Moi) and Ernest Greene (Washed Out) in his trademark navy yobwave singlet chugging away behind the decks. I sit down on a wooden crate and observe the young ones congregate in corners of the room with their shitty flower headpieces and tractor shoes (WHY ARE CREEPERS BACK?!) and decide it’s best to usher myself back into the open.
The sun’s almost hovering behind the hill as Cults take to the stage. Feel free to bypass my trolling because ‘Oh My God’ and ‘Go Outside’ are catchy tracks. Madeline Folin’s vocals sit between cute and mildly annoying. If you run to the the back of the hill, it sounds like Scarlett Johansson attempting Japanese karaoke. And if you go right up to the back of the hill next to the sound booth, block your ears and squint a little, it’s almost like watching 3x Kurt Vile.
16 year old me is still reeling from Cajun Dance Party days, but I’m quite curious to see Yuck live. Daniel Blumberg steps onto stage in a double denim ensemble and I quietly beg the gods of Mascis and Moore for this to be good. ‘Holed Out’ kicks it off, while mellower ‘Shook Down’ sets the pace for the middle half of the set. ‘Georgia’ is clearly their best song, but everyone is yelling out for ‘Get Away’. Max Bloom’s comments make everyone cringe (“We’re Yuck. Yeah. That’s our band name”), but band banter on the whole is sparse today, so I’ll take anything as endearing.
We wander to M83, and standing beneath the screen halfway down the road is the closest we can get. Oldies like ‘Graveyard Girl’ get a spin, while everyone goes nuts when the hook for ‘Midnight City’ hits. Whether M83 is your thing or not, you can’t really go past frontman Anthony Gonzalez morphing into a raging Phil Collins during ‘Reunion’ AKA. ‘EASY LOVER’
The Melbourne leg of Laneway this year went relatively without trouble, but was there really any main slot really worth kicking down bins or climbing steel barricades for? Good planning and a choice venue has made the last three years at Laneway’s new home accommodating, although installing some form of light in portaloos after 8pm should probably be on next year’s agenda. If you’re from Western parts, you’ll know Footscrayzy is good for ethnic food and not much else. It’s no solace for skinny white kids. However, once a year it turns into a great spot to down cider with the city skyline, palm trees and slew of local and international tunes in view. And for the unengaging minors in the crowd who kept their happy festival feelings tucked into their loafers, you’re the sort of folk that we’ll all have to accept as a part of Melbourne’s ‘landscape’ as much as Laneway Festival. Chill though, I’ve got the whole thing on tape.
The Laneway Festival continues this weekend in Radelaide and Perth, details here – http://www.lanewayfestival.com.au/
Full set of festival photography after the jump