Footscray isn’t necessarily the first place you think of when looking for culture. Perhaps better known for best-of editions of The Footy Show’s “Street Talk” than underground arts, the unassuming suburb by the river nevertheless put on a display to be remembered with Saturday’s 2015 edition of St Jerome’s Laneway Festival.
The crowds braved the afternoon heat and, well, the crowds, in a sold-out event that had us madly running from one stage to the next to catch our favourite acts. Scheduling clashes and some serious FOMO meant we rarely saw a set in its entirety, but it was almost a welcome reprieve to the surging masses that were testing the barriers, and our patience, that our attention was split.
As it turned out the worst wait of the day was that to get in, with the enormous line doing all it could to harsh our vibe, but was quickly forgotten once we entered the wonderful little world beyond the gate. Bands from near and far were well represented. Early highlights came via Pond, the psychedelic rockers from Perth with a singing drummer and a stage diving frontman, and London’s Jungle, serving up without doubt the funkiest set of the day, their modern soul mixing with tropical percussion and mambo rhythms.
While the groups definitely stood up, it was a day to celebrate the singer-songwriter, with solo acts leaving the most lasting impressions. Andy Bull played to a huge crowd for an early set, his usually slick and dapper appearance replaced with a backwards baseball cap and cheekiness to boot. He enticed the crowd with promises of Mac DeMarco-style nudity. “I’m about ready to take my pants off. Are you ready for some dick, Melbourne?” Were we ever. While his originals stacked up, it was his dreamy cover of Everybody Wants To Rule The World which was truly special, as was his willingness to have a photo and a chat with some unruly fan-girls afterwards. Ahem. Hi, Andy. You’re so nice.
For all of us feminists out there, we’re proud to say not only was it a day to celebrate the singer-songwriter, but the female singer-songwriter in particular. Angel Olsen’s gorgeous voice was like a lullaby under the Melbourne sun, especially when she told us she loved us and called us sexy little sluts. Down at the Mistletone Stage, Tkay Maidza — in all her Hottest 100 glory — pulled out all the moves, and, boy, can she bust it. Jumping around the stage for her entire set the PYT from Adelaide never missed a beat, serving up perfect delivery in a criminally short set list. Her energy never wavered, with beach balls, brontosaurus stomping and even a surprise super-soaker onslaught from Dune Rats.
Gallery: Laneway Festival 2015 Melbourne / Photos by Nikki Williams
In true Melbourne style, we were sunburned in the afternoon and rained on in the evening, the weather perhaps to blame for the poor sound that stumbled out of the Mistletone speakers once the rains hit. The same stage which saw us vibing to the huge sound of Tkay let down Little Dragon, whose electronic efforts were almost wasted on a crowd that was running for cover. From what we could hear they were offering up all they could, but even their most impressive efforts were lost in the muffled sound.
Another big name who fell victim to sound issues was BANKS. It was breaking our hearts to be a mere 20 feet from one of our favourite performers and not even have to raise our voices to tell each other how in awe we were. It was still enough, however, to acknowledge her as one of the most heavenly and talented artists on the tour.
One artist that avoided any weather problems was local lady Courtney Barnett, whose confident and electrifying performance at the Dean Turner Stage drew a smaller crowd than expected, perhaps due to the conflicting pull of Caribou, a big international drawcard for Laneway Festival this year. Courtney’s mix of guitar thrashing and deadpan vocals were a standout for the small crowd, the sound absolutely holding up to carry the weight of a raucous set.
While some of these acts, as well as festival closers Flight Facilities and catchy indie pop performer FKA twigs, have been competing for the title of Laneway MVP throughout the tour, our 2015 award goes to the stunning, slightly deranged St Vincent. Her closing performance at the Moreland Street Stage saw her hovering across the stage with robotic dance moves, surrounded in mists of every colour. The American singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist was nothing short of mad and mesmerising.
Laneway has been coming up in the festival world for a while now, securing itself as place to go for a quirky, chilled out afternoon of music from every genre. The Australian music scene was met with international flavour and just a hint of Footscrazy, and that ain’t bad.
Not a stringlet in sight, this is the place to be to see real artists in a more intimate setting than some of the bigger festivals. The coolest thing? Any one of these acts had the potential to deliver the set of the day. Thanks a bunch, Laneway and Footscray. See you next year.