An eclectic bunch of bands and frantic running between spread out stages is Laneway in a nutshell this year. As usual this supply of new and at times painfully hip artists is a brilliant way to showcase fresh talent. While there are some disheartening battles with the venue, it’s not enough to rain on our parade.
The High Highs get our day started with some blissful dream pop, and everyone is just kicking back on the grass at the River Stage. They’ve saved ‘Open Season’ for last, which is as sweeping as expected, but we also love their cover of ‘A Real Hero’ by College. If you’ve seen the film Drive, you’ll know what we’re talking about.
We’re high tailing it to the opposite end of the venue, the Eat Your Own Ears stage, for Snakadaktal. ‘Dance Bear’ is by far and away the crowd favourite, and they have themselves large crowd considering their early time slot, perhaps down to the winning factor of Phoebe Cockburn as leading lady.
We’re not about to miss some classic Henry Wagons banter and his howlin’ country voice. ‘I’m in Love With Mary Magdalene’ kicks off his set with a haunting Western charm. Henry clearly loves playing with the audience, in between songs he dedicates a track to a couple in matching straw hats, then swiftly warns them that their relationship is in fact doomed. The Unwelcome Company (his band) and the Nymphs (his female backing singers/duet partners) can certainly hold their own and are a great accompaniment to Henry and his brilliant madness.
Unfortunately we can’t stay for the whole set, the Rubens are about to start, and we have to climb a mother of a hill to get there. Getting up that hill is only half the battle. The main stage is completely packed, as we try to get as close as we can past the giant screens, we realise the further we go in, the less we’ll see and the less we’ll be able to move. This is a huge problem with the venue, and it makes going to the main stage an off-putting trek. We back it up to watch one of the two huge screens set up in the laneway and the sound is just as good.
We don’t want to objectify anyone here, but the lead singer Sam Margin is an undeniably beautiful man. Flipping his hair out of his face, white shirt billowing in the wind, and the way he pushes his lips against the microphone is pretty sexy to watch. They’re playing a confident set, but are also clearly pleased with their massive turn out. ‘Lay It Down’ is beautiful to sway along to, but ‘My Gun’ is the one everyone wants to sing. They also do a cover of ‘The Seed’ by the Roots with some rap assistance from Seth Sentry, which is a great surprise – and they pull it off with panache.
When we arrive at Polica, lead singer Channy Leaneagh is leaping all over the stage, dancing and swaying and jumping around as the two massive drum kits behind her give it their all. She is nymph-like with her tiny frame and delicate features, but her voice is mighty, especially when the auto-tune effects she puts on it make it echo and layer over each other. ‘Dark Star’ off the album Give You the Ghost is performed with particular passion, and the final song ‘Amongster’ is breathtaking in its layers of vocals and the drums that build until the songs final moments.
Shlohmo is recommended to us during the day so we wander down to the ‘Future Classics’ stage for the first time today. The producer/DJ was a great pick me up, we are quickly swept up in his beats and dancing around under the scattered shade of the trees surrounding the stage. ‘Big Feelings’ off his album Bad Vibes is particularly lovely, as the bird sounds that filter through the beats are so ideal for the outdoor setting.
We’re not sure why Chet Faker is apologising for technical difficulties because he is sounding soulful and majestic. He sheepishly explains that last year he was in the audience for Laneway Festival and never thought he would be performing a year later. He is clearly trying to make us fall in love with him, and his final song ‘I’m Into You’ certainly doesn’t hurt that cause.
Alt-J is a serious drawcard to many punters today and as such, getting back to that dreaded main stage is the nightmare we anticipated it to be. ‘Breezeblocks’ is particularly good, and their angelic harmonies are great and all, but the lead singer looks pretty bored and to be honest, so are we. A solid performance, but not amazing.
Much to our pleasant surprise, the crowd at the main stage has massively dispersed in time for Yeasayer, and we easily make our way close to the band and still have plenty of room to dance. ‘O.N.E’, ‘Ambling Alp’, and ‘Reagans Skeleton’ are going off and no one can control their limbs; everyone is radiating with joy. This is Yeasayer’s second time performing at Laneway festival, and they’re happy to admit this is one of their favourites to perform at. You are welcome back anytime, boys.
We’ve decided on a bit of Flume to start the end of night spot, to finish off with Bat For Lashes. It is absolutely packed at Flume and he wastes no time in getting the crowd moving. ‘Left Alone’ featuring Chet Faker is one of his moodier songs, but it is well suited the dark clouds swirling above us. Flume’s extended version of ‘Sleepless’ is the catalyst for some relentless dancing; this young lad knows how to start a party. We’re sorry to leave, but we can’t miss Bat For Lashes.
Natasha Khan in her rainbow costume is mesmerising and we can barely take our eyes off her. Her black bob bounces around as she shakes maracas and hits every snare beat with her dance moves. She is a pleasure to watch, and that’s before we’ve even gotten to her powerful vocals. She appears most excited when performing new songs from their latest album, The Haunted Man, but still did old material justice with the attention it deserves. Bat For Lashes are a very moving end to our very big day.