Laneway Festival 2014 Sydney – review

Haim at Laneway by Philip Erbacher

Reviewer Harriet Cheney and photographer Philip Erbacher attended Laneway Festival in Sydney for 

It was hot and crowded and, being a Sunday, the idea of work lingered very close to the surface. With that in mind, every punter that went and partied and jumped up and down when they were told to (even the guy who burnt me with his cigarette) deserves a medal.

But what about the artists? What a super line-up it was. So we decided to give awards to our favourites acts; the ones that made the day triple A+:

004Best mullet and on-stage theatrics
Kirin J Callinan (pictured, left) – in black Adidas trackies, a long sleeve lycra cyclist top and billowing smoke making him hardly visible, the conviction in each stroke of the guitar and deep soaring vocal melody made it seem like Kirin J the Musical.

Most unexpected body-voice combo
King Krule – looking at the flame-headed boy on stage, many questioned whether he’d hit puberty, but when the nineteen year-old Brit opened his mouth to reveal a thunder deep baritone voice layered with feist and attitude, no one had any doubts.

The Best shrimp on the barbie
Dick Diver – They are the sound of a laid back arvo, sitting on the verandah having a beer with mates. Through their lo-fi indie pop filled with Aussie imagery about the third floor of Fitness First and being deadly in Alice Springs, they are doing a community service by filling the John Williamson size hole that Gen Y has felt for two decades.

Daughter Laneway by Philip ErbacherBest in-between song banter
Frightened Rabbit – Scottish. loads of f-bombs. ‘nough said.

Best voice
Daughter (pictured, right) – fairly sedate music, that was completely captivating. In the same vain as London Grammer, the soft emotive beauty of lead singer Elena Tonra’s voice propelled by gentle beats and synth-like guitar riffs makes people shut-up and listen.

Most over-blogged/over-hyped hyped band
Parquet Courts – I have to admit that their garage-y lo-fi 90s vibe grows on me every time I listen to them. They’re tighter than the mass of similar sounding others and their pounding momentum creates an urgency that sustains energy levels and interest. Good to jump around to, but they won’t change your life.

Best time to wear earplugs
Jagwar Ma – the Sydney boys really turned up the bass and the rock elements on their debut album were replaced with beats. It was a sweet set and had everyone dancing, but on that little stage surrounded by sandstone buildings the reverb could leave them ears ringing for days.

Hottest rockstars/ best dance-along/ best sing-along/ most hits in one set
Haim (pictured, top) – it’s like these three sisters were born on stage. They prowled around like it was their living room, had a heavy-jam bonding session a couple of songs in and then Este declared that shirts were for work and that this festival was not work, it was fun, before taking her top off and performing the rest of the set in her bra. Hit after hit they delivered. Sexy, catchy and damn talented.

091Cutest artist in the most disappointing outfit
Chvrches – lead singer Lauren Mayberry (pictured, left) with her cute as a button personality, Scottish accent (again) and signature pure, child-like vocals delivered the upbeat synth-pop seamlessly.

However, her boring navy t-shirt and the set that relied on a light show when it was still daylight, had me thinking that a listen to the album at home was just as good.

Best swag
Earl Sweatshirt – Odd Future’s youngest member totally filled the stage with his presence. What a poet! The ease in which he rolled through his tongue-twisting rhymes and worked the audience with cheeky banter revealed a pretty wise and self-aware nineteen year old.

SavagesBand that you don’t want to mess with
Savages (pictured, right) – This band means business, with gazes so intense they could pierce your heart and an anxious drum pulse so persistent it fueled the vocals with acute urgency. Delivering post-punk gold these chicks know how to shred. If The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo had a sound, this would be it. Definite highlight!

Best antidepressant effect
Cloud Control – They make me SOOO happy. Their 2013 album Dream Cave was one of the best of the year. They had a fantastic energy live and the audience went crazy for the local heroes as they executed a melodically perfect set full of trippy verses, pop-infused choruses and intervals of harder-hitting and apparently mosh-worthy rock.

Best three member orchestra
Unknown Mortal Orchestra – Rock done really, really well. The sound was sharp. Every bass note was audible. No banter, but the music spoke for itself.

Best Way to forget about those aching feet (last band of the day)
Warpaint – Dreamy. Hot. Mysterious. Like Sirens emerging from the misty sea these girls make you fall in love with them. A set featuring much of the experimental, ethereal psych-rock off the new album – Warpaint – their return to Laneway Festival was every bit as alluring.

For heaps more fantastic photos from this year’s Sydney Laneway Festival, including lots of crowd shots (maybe you’ll see yourself), head over to the gallery on our Facebook page.


Words by Harriet CheneyPictures by Philip Erbacher