Laneway Festival 2010

The venue may have changed, but the pleasant vibe that Sydney’s most discerning festival crowd has created in previous years remained, and the SCA provided a pretty backdrop as Portland five-piece Hockey got festival-goers in the right mood with bucket-loads of infectious energy.

Philadelphia Grand Jury
were their pleasingly chirpy selves and The Middle East‘s set featured some really strong moments, like Blood, which was Angus and Julia Stone meets Arcade Fire. While UK’s Wild Beasts falsettoed their way through a faintly disappointing turn, the sassy and stylish Bridezilla (below) were simply divine. In a constantly impressive performance, Heart You Hold and Saint Francinein particular illustrated the combination of songwriting depth and enthralling stage dynamic that has become synonymous with Sydney’s favourite quintet.

If The xx were overwhelmed by the crowd’s fervour at their excellent display, then Mumford & Sons must have been pinching themselves at both the size and the reaction of their audience. “As a nation, you’ve embraced us more warmly than any other country, including our own,” singer Marcus Mumford gushed. Confident enough to throw away Hottest 100 winner Little Lion Man at the mid-point, the Brits’ set may have lacked edge, but was nonetheless a nice mix of upbeat folk and quieter numbers.

Watching anti-folk legend Daniel Johnston (below) is never an entirely comfortable experience, and, dishevelled and singing from a lyric sheet, he cut a fragile figure. However, it didn’t take long for his distinctive vocal and innocent yet melancholy lyrics to lodge themselves firmly in the hearts of fans well aware of his battles with the demons of his mind. When he sang: “That rock ‘n’ roll, it saved my soul,” it was a moment of unforgettable, unparalleled resonance.

As the food queues grew to ridiculous lengths at the back of the site, Sarah Blasko took people’s minds off their rumbling bellies with a beautiful and immaculate performance, Echo and the Bunnymen offered up some hits with typical swagger and then Florence and The Machine (top and below) ripped through the headline slot with gusto. Backed by a band which included a harpist, Florence Welch – all long legs and red hair – prowled the stage as she belted out songs from her lauded debut album with an unbelievably stunning and powerful vocal. Her stage presence too was mesmerising. She bashed a drum, climbed atop amps and struck poses in front of an awestruck audience. By the time she ended with a winning trio of Dog Days Are Over, You’ve Got The Love and Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up) – all of which showcased that lung-busting voice – she had the crowd going apeshit. She may only have one album to her name, but tonight proved that Florence is already a worthy headliner and well on the way to becoming an icon in her own right.