Another year means another excellent journey around the country for St Jerome's Laneway Festival and 2018 was no different.
Another year means another excellent journey around the country for ST JEROME’S LANEWAY FESTIVAL, and this year was no exception. With stellar sets from the likes of AMY SHARK, ANDERSON .PAAK, THE INTERNET, ODESZA, THE WAR ON DRUGS and more, this year’s festival well and truly outdid itself. Here's our best bits from another stand out year for Laneway!
PUNK PROTEST ANTHEMS ARE TAKING CENTRE STAGE
Melbourne’s CABLE TIES took the stage at Laneway Festival early in the day (even before lead singer Jenny McKechnie had had her post-coffee poo, apparently), but they immediately had a loyal crowd dancing their hearts out to dynamic punk-rock tracks like ‘The Producer’. It was impossible to take your eyes off McKechnie as she stomped across the stage. Then the next act up on the Garden Stage, UK-based pop-punk band DREAM WIFE, kept the female energy coming with crowd favourite ‘Hey Heartbreaker’. Lead vocalist Rakel Mjöll (originally from Iceland) snarled and smirked her way through their electrifying set, flanked by Alice Go on guitar and Bella Podpadec on bass.
But what really set these two stellar performances apart was their powerful, political anthems that had the crowd screaming the feminist refrains of Cable Ties’ ‘Tell Them Where To Go’ and Dream Wife’s ‘Somebody'. Featuring unapologetically loud guitar and rough-around-the-edges vocals, both these tracks deal with the experiences of young women in the music industry. ‘Tell Them Where To Go’ was inspired by Cable Ties’ experience at Girls Rock! Camp, and encourages girls interested in music to “steal your brother’s guitar”. In ‘Somebody’, Mjöll sweetly sung “You were a cute girl standing backstage/ It was bound to happen,” before jumping up on a speaker and leading the crowd in a chant of “I am not my body, I am somebody”. These two epic performances prove punk’s not only not dead, it’s also feminist as fuck.
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LOYLE CARNER'S VULNERABLE STORYTELLING IS CHANGING THE FACE OF HIP-HOP
Over at the Future Classic stage, Loyle Carner’s laid-back, confessional rap was perfectly accompanied by the lazy sunset. He seemed genuinely stoked to see fans singing his lyrics back to him, and even happier to have escaped winter in his hometown of London for a Southern Hemisphere summer. While grime continues to dominate the UK hip hop scene, Carner’s rhymes and samples are the best kind of throw back. His intimate lyrics clearly resonated on an emotional level with a crowd that matched his intensity.
“Oh please, we ain't got no P’s/ Because we spent all our money on some old CDs/ We got some old Jay-Zs, couple ODBs/ Place 'em up in perfect order 'cause my OCD,” Carner chanted, bouncing up and down on the small stage and grinning as he perfectly captured the struggle of the music obsessive. A large part of Carner’s appeal (aside from his poetic lyrical flow and retro hooks) is his lack of pretence. His tracks tell a personal history, and this was entirely apparent on the Laneway stage as he dedicated a song to his mum and talked about a girl he had loved and lost. Like his musical idols, Carner has perfected the art of storytelling to a beat.
BILLIE EILISH AND AMY SHARK PUT US UNDER THEIR SPELL
It can be a real curse getting the early afternoon festival slot. The sun is blaring hot, snobby festival culture has led people to believe that arriving before 3pm is a cardinal sin and, honestly, people are still hungover from the night before, aren’t they? However, for the Sydney leg of Laneway, anyone with the slightest bit of sense knew that missing Billie Eilish and Amy Shark’s sets was, also, a cardinal sin.
Billie Eilish, with the sunlight glaring upon her while she was donning a full on tracksuit, gave 45 minutes worth of electrifying reasons as to why she was one of 2017’s most-hyped artists. Opening with the all-conquering ‘Bellyache’ and bouncing through modern classics ‘Ocean Eyes’, ‘Copycat’ and a ukulele cover of ‘Hotline Bling’, she had a command over the audience that wasn’t matched throughout the rest of the day. It was a command that wasn’t just fans jumping and screaming – it was hypnotic. Thousands of pairs of eyes watched Eilish’s every move as she danced without inhibitions and lead the cult-like crowd to do the same.
The only artist that rivalled this adoration was that of Amy Shark, who played directly after. While Eilish’s lyrical content is as fantastical and wondrous as they come, Shark’s lyrics – that have captured the hearts of the nation since 2016 – are as relatable as they come. And, that just may be why she also had total control of her giant, 2:45pm crowd. There’s a demure, simple energy – she wore a plain white tee and black jeans for God’s sake - to Amy Shark that makes her beyond remarkable. It’s her humility, her casualness and her constant outpouring of love that cements her is one of Australia’s brightest stars.
ANDERSON .PAAK MADE LANEWAY HIS OWN
There was an unexpected hype heading into Laneway about Anderson .Paak & The Free National’s set. Graced with the accolade of ‘a set you have to see before you die’ the day before, it seems that every single person in attendance got the memo and crowded the main stage. Honestly, no one had braced themselves enough for the electricity that Paak’s mere words would send buzzing through the crowd.
There’s something so endearing about an artist that – in the kindest way possible - doesn’t care about what they look like on stage. While he was dressed impeccably, of course, his dance moves just didn’t stop. It was a breathless performance that left everyone involved gasping for more come the end. Paak’s original yet nostalgic approach to hip-hop and funk translated to magic in a live setting. Pure magic. There’s a comfort that exists when every single person around you is jumping up and down to the relentless bass of ‘Glowed Up’ or sliding their shoulders along to ‘Am I Wrong?’ as the sun began to set. It seemed like a true moment – in a festival where everyone, from the crowd to the performers, is so diverse, different and superficially worlds apart, Anderson .Paak’s set was a moment where everyone, in unison, were engrossed into having the time of their lives.
TOKIMONSTA IS THE REIGNING QUEEN OF DANCE MUSIC AND HER SET PROVED WHY
Now, I haven't had brain surgery before, but I reckon if I did, I'd be taking a fair bit of time off. However, for Jennifer Lee, time off wasn't on the cards. Last year, without telling a soul in the general public, Lee aka TOKiMONSTA had major brain surgery and had to complete relearn music (and life in general) again. Last year, she also delivered one of the best albums of 2017 in Lune Rouge. I'm no doctor, but that's insanely beyond impressive and deserves serious, SERIOUS props.
Taking to the stage in Brisbane just after 5pm when the sun was still shining and the vibes were high, TOKiMONSTA delivered a booming, heaving set full of highlights from her extensive back catalogue as well as choice cuts from Lune Rouge, and she couldn't wipe the smile off her face. Dancing and singing along to her own tunes as well as hectic remixes of the likes of A$AP Ferg's 'Shabba', she grooved and bopped along the whole time, all the while absolutely beaming at the adoring crowd in front of her. From lead singles like 'Don't Call Me' and 'We Love', the crowd sang back and danced their hearts out as Lee thanked everyone earnestly for turning out in such force for her show.
Women in music are dangerously underestimated, and if TOKiMONSTA literally having brain surgery, delivering Lune Rouge in all its glory and then embarking on an international tour where strangers in Brisbane are screaming her songs back to her doesn't make her the reigning queen of dance music, I don't know what does. Everyone bow down.
PROGRESSIVE LINE UPS = PROGRESSIVE CROWDS?
One remarkable thing I realised at Laneway was the total absence of dickheads. There were no muzzers dancing with shirts off, there were no fights, there was no aggression at all. In fact, it may have been one of the most well behaved festival crowds I've been apart of in quite some time so it made me wonder: does booking a more left-field line up equate to less dickheads and a generally more respectful vibe?
With bands singing less about getting as fucked up as possible and with music less-focused on big bass drops and more about quality performances and messages of social justice, the crowd the festival attracted was a well behaved, respectful mass of punters who love their live music and want to have a great time for all involved. I'm not saying there's anything wrong with big bass drops (we're an electronic music website, big bass drops are in our blood), but there is an air of hedonism that accompanies music like that that just wasn't apparent at this year's Laneway festival, and it was a noticeably great crowd to be apart of. With the inclusion of the 1800-Laneway hotline for a second year in a row as well and signs all over making the initiative quite prevalent indeed, the knowledge that should we have needed help that it wasn't far away made it all the more comforting to be apart of as well. Everyone says it all year round, but you have got to look after yourselves and your mates at festivals, and this year I felt Laneway really made this a priority for everyone.
Until next year!
Image by Dan Lynch for Purple Sneakers