Review by Bruce Rave
The Laneway Festival hits major cities in Australia, plus Singapore and Auckland. Unlike majors such as Coachella which have become all things to all people, Laneway remains on the edgy end of rock and accessible electronic. It takes place on four stages over the course of one day. With a few exceptions, the lineup remains the same throughout. I hit the February 7 Melbourne event, which sold out to about 15,000 fans. It was extremely well-run and mostly easy to navigate, with bands hitting their stages on time. In order of appearance, here were my highlights.
Benjamin Booker showed why he’s had a buzz from the beginning, with strong guitar, vocals, and presence. Perfect Pussy are intentionally in your face and no matter what you might think of them, I agree with the consensus that they’re better live than on record. Mac DeMarco was the day’s pleasant surprise with his perfectly timed late-afternoon set. He used to be sad and serious, but this show was uplifting with humor. The B3Sci dudes knew what they were doing when they got behind the then unknown band Jungle. Thousands hit up the powerful Jungle show, and not once did I see anyone in the crowd standing still. Following Jungle on that stage would be a real challenge, but Future Islands answered the call with what many felt was the strongest set of the day. The Aussies are well aware of Samuel T. Herring’s Letterman performance last year. Royal Blood destroy wherever they play, and this day was no exception with another strong crowd reaction. Pond are another band that can be counted on to bring the goods and you never know what leader Nick Allbrook will do next. FKA Twigs is low-key for me in terms of her songs, but there’s no denying her live chops. It’s impossible to take eyes off of her. Caribou also delivered supremely with a more club-oriented electro vibe, and the place went wild for their “Can’t Do Without You” hit. Courtney Barnett is from Melbourne, so this was a victorious return for her given her worldwide acclaim. Her band is stellar and she plays a sick guitar herself. I’d give my top prize to St. Vincent, who sports dark hair once again. Her last album made many year-end lists including my own, and now she’s got the Grammy for Best Alternative Album. The live show is a musical and visual firestorm. I’ve gained an enhanced respect for her guitar playing. Her choreography with Toko Yasuda (bass, guitars, synths) is beyond compelling.
There were strong reports on Jon Hopkins, and I didn’t get to see Flight Facilities or Banks as I’d hoped to. We arrived early to check out some of the younger bands. Most were good but none surprised to the point where it seems they’re ready to move to the next level.
I’d like to see this concept go worldwide because festivals need focus if they’re going to continue establishing artists. Laneway did hold a Detroit event in 2013 and are hoping to return.
Reviewed by b3