Laneway Festival 2015 – Melbourne review
Somethingyousaid.com’s Neika Lehman headed to a festival which has come a long way…
In recent years, St. Jerome’s Laneway Festival has become one of the major success stories for the Australian one-day music festival. Its mythologised roots as the little gig that took place one day in a 4 metre wide Melbourne CBD lane (Caledonian Lane if you’re really interested) is now almost inconceivable. Today, St. Jerome’s Laneway in Melbourne draws a hefty crowd. Something around 15,000 punters venture west to Footscray Community Arts Centre (FCAC) for the ten hour-long slog. How time manages to slip by so unnoticed never fails to shock. With four different stages showcasing a broad mix of musicians, it’s easy to not have a quiet moment until the blissful and somewhat surreal train-ride home.
This year, most acts playing were capable of being headliners at any other festival—and here they were side-by-side, and ripe for Melbourne’s pickings. The selection was particularly impressive in terms of quality across genre: indie rock, punk, folk, nu pop, hip-hop and a generous lashing of nuanced electro and DJ’s who mashed it all together. The only downside was the inevitable heart-wrenching clashes. To see Angel Olsen or Mac DeMarco? FKA or Future Islands? Laneway 2015 did a great job of spoiling their guests.
From kick off at 12pm, there were impressive crowds eager to catch Triple J Un-Earthed’s Milwaukee Banks. Straight after was Connan Mockasin (pictured above) delivering a particularly entertaining set as Mac DeMarco and crew dipped in and out of view, flirting their way around the band. If a little blasé in delivery at first, the band tightened up very quickly to showcase the excellent musicianship present in the group. These guys have been touring the globe pretty consistently for the past year, and they give off a subsequent world-weathered vibe. Connan and crew are comfortable enough in their sound to experiment widely whilst live, and give off an air of super-tight band mates who’d be happy to be your mates, thus allowing the audience to laugh along with every insular joke, even when they probably didn’t get the context. Connan was one of the first acts of the day, and arguably one of the best. Behind the aloof stage personas were fantastic musicians across all sides of stage. Although attention is drawn automatically to Connan and Sofia centre stage (the lovely and enigmatic keyboard and percussion player), at every concert my eyes always flit to bass player—he’s incredibly talented and a treat to watch, check him out if they’re around.
From there festival highlights included Perfect Pussy, Flying Lotus, Jungle, St Vincent and Caribou. I regret not seeing Angel Olsen, as Mac was a sea of sweaty bro’s armpits with no view of the stage, and at least sonically, Mac played a more pedestrian performance (outside of his various quips and screams of course). I missed Future Islands, but nothing could have compared with FKA Twigs (pictured below) anyway. Visually stunning, sonically soaring and angelic, this intelligent performance by FKA Twigs was the absolute standout of the day, and for me of 2015 so far.
This girl is something to be reckoned with, and had people around me labelling the set one of the most important they had ever seen. I tend to agree—it’s certainly up there as one of the timeliest socio-cultural performances I’ve experienced. FKA Twigs feels to be mastering the contemporary music scene in all its extensions: choreography (she is a professional dancer amongst other talents), video direction and production, copious Avant-garde collaborations (as well as a pretty stand out advertisement for Google glass), stunning visual presentation, evocative, pulsing lyrics and above all else: a killer modern sound that’s both aware and truly original. Between heavy bass, delicate glitch, industrial thumps and snappy samples, FKA (pictured here at Laneway Sydney) made time stand still. As the front row stood there in overwhelmed silence, some jaws literally dropped. Importantly, FKA stands as one of the few non-mainstream women completely redefining female and feminist sexuality as it stands in popular culture. There is a great sense that FKA is in control of every aspect of her highly sexual, empowered aesthetic, which presents the female body’s expression in bolder, more physically complicated and demanding ways. FKA is a feminist auteur of an increasingly multi-platform music industry, and with every new video, or live performance, she continues to naturally rise as one of the most interesting and important contemporary artists around.
As FKA Twigs closed her set, thanking the audience and excitedly exclaiming that we had been her biggest crowd yet, dusk fell on the FCAC along with the summer rain on the 36-degree day. It was a magical experience, and people walked away beaming, and dancing in the wet.
A major compliment to Laneway was how well organised the day was. No major lines for any of the amenities, a plethora of food to choose from, and the ample green shade from the willows that swayed next to the river made for a scenic, safe, and easy experience. As the sun set over the city’s horizon, people everywhere were that kind of brilliant mood which makes the vibe of summer festivals so enjoyable. Major crowd masses at the two larger stages did make for some potentially absent views of the stage, as well as poor sound quality in parts, but the story of Laneway is having a plan. Decide where you have to be at the front for, and when, and act accordingly around an hour before. If it leads to anything like the experience of the front row for FKA Twigs, it will always be worth it. A standout year for the Laneway story, well done St. Jerome.
Words by Neika Lehman. FKA Twigs photo by Daniel Boud, all others by Katie Fairservice.