Laneway Festival, Melbourne 2012 - Live review, photos

Laneway Festival, Melbourne 2012 - Live review, photos

Laneway Festival
Footscray Community Arts Centre
Saturday 4th February 2012

By Annika & Ariel Katz

Annika: My joy at finding an easy car park within walking distance this morning, was quickly quashed by the arsehole that threw an unfinished longneck past me and into the bushes, showering me in warm lager. 1: It’s litterbug dicks like you that trash the joint, annoy residents and potentially jeapordise the future of this festival site. 2. It was so great to wear eau de Melbourne Bitter. I hope a bird shat on you in large portions throughout the day.

Far from its original digs in the city, St Jerome’s Laneway Festival now seems happily at home in its third year in the industrial-cum-grassy surrounds of Footscray Community Arts Centre. Changes in Melbourne this year included a couple of new stage names—the Moreland stage has now been dubbed the Dean Turner stage; paying homage to the Magic Dirt guitarist who sadly passed away in 2009, while the hill stage is now the Windish Agency Stage; named so to reflect the organisers partnering with that US based agency. It's the latter than is best positioned, with its grassy slope and river serving as backdrop (although lacking in shade, it must be said), while a new DJ-orientated tent—Eat Your Own Ears & Young Turks stage—positioned at right-angles to the car park stage, provided a) a place for people to groove to on the grass and b) a location to direct death stares whilst copping a right ear blast of electronica when trying to watch anyone at all on the Car Park stage. Not a new installment made with audio in mind, that one.

Ghosts Of Laneways Past seem to have had a bearing on today's layout: queuing was kept to a minimum at the bars, a vastly expanded assortment of port-a-loos worked wonders and there was a boosted array of food to choose from, including the much-loved Taco Truck and Beatbox Kitchen. While programming was consistent on the whole, there were a few bands that suffered for being ushered on too early: locals Total Control were vastly underrated at 1pm, and EMA, who played her brand of fierce dirge at 1.45pm to a barely twitching, typically nonplussed Melbourne crowd. When the US singer (aka Erika M. Anderson) tried to rouse a reaction by saying she’d heard that Melburnians loved their live music so much they’d rallied in their thousands to save the Tote, not a “woo” was heard. Except from a nearby youngster who peeped “Where’s the Tote?”

Ariel Katz: With a guy donning a Sparkadia hat front and center, another with a Jesus fish tattoo behind me, florals and facial hair in all directions: the Laneway crowd is sundry and sunned. Canadian electronic/operatic dance trio, Austra, took to the stage dressed in kaftan-y vests with gold accessories, skirts and chains. "We're Austra, from Toronto, and we're very happy to be here!" announced lead vocalist, Katie Stelmanis. And so she seemed. Their touring lineup is filled out with twin backing vocalists Sari and Romy Lightman of Tasseomancy and Ryan Wonsiak of Ze and the Boyfriends, meaning all together they look like an artier, queerer version of Warpaint, but with two boys as a bonus (and I mean that in the very best way possible). The bunch opened with 'Lose It' and 'Shoot the Water', each complete with floating arms and gentle, limp-wristed dance movements. 'Beat and the Pulse' garnered whistles and cheers from the programmed introductory notes and was a highlight, despite the shocking amounts of bass that seemed to be threatening to overwhelm (an issue with this stage all day). 'Hate Crime' was another highlight— Stelmanis holding court, mic in hand, evoking the Goddess of Light the band's name denotes—before they wrapped up with 'Spellwork'. All too short (aka A++, would see again).

A: As I wandered down the hill to the Windish Agency stage, Active Child’s waves of looped harps washed over the sun-touched, lethargic crowd like an afternoon breeze we wished we were having. With a soaring Jimmy Somerville-esque falsetto—flexed from a childhood spent in choirs—Active Child, aka Pat Grossi, looked a tad incongruous in a festival setting, with his ginger buzz-cut, spotless crisp white shirt and broad, quiz show host grin. Playing songs off his 2011 debut album You Are All I See, Grossi and Co. served up slick, ethereal landscapes buoyed by patters of synthetic drum. Think background music for an '80s theme party in heaven -- if heaven was perched on the Maribynong River and looking over distant industrial steelworks.

AK: I like Girls. I like the sadness that seems to pervade the surf in their music. Leading man Christopher Owens has green dip-dyed hair today that looks like he's spent too much time in chlorine. It clashes beautifully with his red jeans, and the pink and white striped shirt that's standing to his right. With bunches of flowers tied to every mic stand on stage, today in the afternoon light, theirs is a bright brand of melancholy. 'Lust for Life' from the band's first album Album, and 'Vomit' from last year's Father, Son, Holy Ghost are on the bill, naturally, as is Heartbreaker. I can't help but think they'd do a really good cover of Ethan Hawke's Reality Bites ditty I'm Nuthin'.

A: When there’s overlapping bands you want to catch snippets of, the long slog between the river stages can be a killer -- at least in this heat. (Monorail next year, organisers?) Down at the Car Park stage, Twin Shadow aka New Yorker George Lewis Jr had his towering trademark coif tucked firmly inside a wide-brimmed black hat. Surely thanks to his time spent in Florida, the waifish hipster maintained his perkiness in the heat just fine, trotting out summery, new wave pop numbers from his much-hyped 2010 debut Forget. Twee Casio keyboards were left to a pouting chick in a pair of pineapple print leggings while the high pony tail wearing drummer bashed his kit with unexpected conviction. Twin Shadow tote cute, radio-friendly tunes with funky bass grooves, but it didn't translate live; a cute overdose pushing them into the cheesy realm. With its jittery synths and repeated laments of “I don't wanna be, believe in love”, 'Slow' stood out from the rest and a new song had the crowd jigging and clapping along, but its no progression from his old stuff. The New Yorker failed to go beyond 80s nostalgia for me. Please, people, you've had your fun, can we please, please get over the 80s now?

AK: Twin Shadow was described by one of the staff at North Melbourne's Auction Rooms, pre-festival, as a "sexy, muscly, Prince-type" with a guitar solo to leave your wife for. I needed to tell you that. Elsewhere, Brian Oblivion and Madeline Follin (and Co.) are long-haired indie pop duo Cults. In a short, '60s-inspired dress, big sunglasses, red lips and a smile Follin is quite intriguing as she stands singing fiercely to their cutesy melodies. They open with 'Abduction' and later play 'Most Wanted', and despite them shaping up as one of the highlights of the day— the band showing a range beyond their years (and peers?)— I sadly depart to go have a chat with The Drums. TheVine's work is never done etc.

A: I caught the tail end of slacker pop outfit Yuck set as they bubbled “You’re making a milkshake of my mind”, from er, 'Milkshake', off their debut self-titled. They're the latest flavour of the month in the UK, nominated, along with Calvi, for BBC Sounds of 2011 (an obvious talent pool for Laneway organiser Danny Rogers who lives in London most of the year). As they segued into 'Get Away' with more lush harmonies, jangling guitars and infectious hooks it’s easy to see why Teenage Fanclub chose these kids for their support last year. They make a good job of channelling Dinosaur Jr and, as their last song kicked off with a fuzz of psychedelic feedback, My Bloody Valentine. It seems indie-shoegaze (and denim) is well and truly having its renaissance.

AK: Standing side of stage before their Laneway slot The Drums' Jonny Pierce gives Jacob Graham a big hug. The long-time friends are joined by Connor, Myles and ex-Youth Group drummer Danny Allen today, and even after frequent visits to Australia, Jonny's flamboyant body twisting and angular shape-pulling is entertaining to watch. They get cracking with 'Money' off Portamento, and 'Best Friend' and 'Me and the Moon' off their self-titled debut, before the "forever" in 'Forever And Ever Amen' gets the call and response treatment, from a crowd that is now absolutely heaving. But it's the once-retired, brought back by popular demand track 'Let's Go Surfing' that gets the partner-on-shoulders treatment.

A: Thank goodness for the Horrors. Although their latest album Skying—which made top five in the UK charts but barely seems to have registered in Australia—offers snatches of Simple Minds and Suede, the garage rockers have found a niche all of their own. With one spindly leg perched like a black pipe cleaner on a speaker stack (probably for balance since he could surely see nothing through his curtain of fringe), frontman Farris Badwan scorned introductions and launched straight into their latest single 'Seem so Far Away'. Next came 'I Can See Through You', its sing-along friendly la la la chorus and resonant keyboards making it easily the most poppy Horrors song to date. Skying featured heavily -- the bittersweet break up song 'Who Can Say' and the shoe-gazey 'In The Way' were the only songs to get a look in off their past two albums. They come to a climax with the epic 'Moving Further Away', topped off by a lengthy wig-out, the guitarist careening around in a haze of long haired grunge while Farris runs his microphone across the amp for a dose of feedback and/or theatrics.

As the sky turned to black and a backdrop of synthetic stars lit up in anticipation of  French snyth-popsters M83, a throng of coloured balloons bounced across the massing, now-sun and ______ sozzled crowd. Kicking off with the intro opening track off their latest double album Hurry Up, We Are Dreaming, Anthony Gonzalez shared vocals with the luscious tones of Morgan Kibby, who—beyond resembling a gothic Kate Bush— nearly stole the show. Forays into 2008 album Saturdays = Youth included 'Kim and Jessie' and 'Couleurs', whose extended build up was polished off by a few heavy metal power chords. Their biggest hit 'Midnight City', which landed in the top five spot of Triple J’s Hottest 100, got the phone cameras out for a sax-offending solo cameo, but alas, the mixing seemed to lack the bigness required when it came to the chorus. And of course, once wrapped the stream for the exits begain.

After the once-controversial shift from the CBD, Laneway's surely settled in to its new home by now. Whether it was the line-up, sleepy weather or attention to past errors, this year's event seemed the most enjoyable yet. While there were no frothing-at-the-mouth, bone fide stars on the line-up today (organisers surely blew that card with Florence, The xx and Mumford & Sons in 2010), the on-ground feel was better for it. In fact, if there was an issue it was that the line-up almost made it too easy to relax. Still, in practice, the 2012 Laneway proved that it's now an essential, recurring destination on the calendar.

Annika & Ariel Katz
profile of Marcus