Having just taken in cities as far reaching as Singapore and Auckland, it was Rozelle’s picturesque College of The Arts that played host to one of the chunkiest legs of the St Jerome’s Laneway Festival tour on Sunday Feb 6th. Spread out across landscaped grounds and monumental stone structures, the best of the world’s current indie musicians descended on a festival-worn Sydney crowd like a cool refreshing breeze after a heatwave of sensationalised summer nonsense. Oh wait, that WAS the breeze. But as the post-45-degree come down cooled the crowd, the on stage action was even cooler
Australian indie darlings The Holidays, Rat vs. Possum and Worlds End Press set the standard early before the international heavy line up reared its impressive head. Relative newbie’s to the Australian scene, Stornoway, had a solid albeit boutique fan base and won more than a few new hearts with their whimsical blend of textured, pseudo-country, Irish-pub-worthy heartfelt folk pleas and philosophical tangents. I couldn’t help but find myself drawn to the distinctive vocal presence of front man Brian Briggs. As the band’s soaring harmonies were complemented by a chorus of onlookers singing along during closing track ‘Zorbing’, I knew this was not the last we’d see of these fine Oxford chaps.
Approaching the swarming Local Natives crowd and not being able to see or hear a thing, I decided to indulge in the pleasures of the other, less occupied stages. Over at the ‘Car Park’ stage, Jenny & Johnny, aka Jenny Lewis from Rilo Kiley and her similarly talented partner in music and life, Jonathan Rice, were joined by their live band. Seasoned professionals in their own rite, J&J gave an effortless performance of their debut record ‘I’m Having Fun Now’, playing off each other well and making me cringe with cuteness.
Full of enthusiasm and clearly psyched to be on stage, Brooklyn trio Bear in Heaven commanded a strong hold on their captive Clock Tower audience. Crisp, clean and strong vocals from front man Jon Philpot kept the crowds attention alongside ambling synths and dreamy sound scapes. Its power pop meets psych with a hint of Toto and melodics fit for the most iconic of teen movies.
As winds gusted and rains threatened to dampen the summer-clad crowd, there was no shortage of flood or cyclone references on behalf of the international acts. Whilst Beach House were apparently busy throwing tantrums on one stage, Aussie indie kids du jour, Cloud Control, charmed a sizable crowd and provided me with my first of many dance jams of the day. Well executed, familiar and happy tunes were exactly what were called for. It seems their entire crowd thought the same thing, as shortly after, everyone (plus everyone’s friends) reconvened at Two Door Cinema Club. It was a hit fest, with sing-along’s and sparkling dances accompanying their single-heavy repertoire (think Something Good Can Work, Undercover Martyn, I Can Talk).
Escaping once again to free the inner agoraphobe, I wound up at the aptly titled ‘inner sanctum’, just in time to see LA femme foursome Warpaint close a winning set. Anyone doing a David Bowie cover, and doing it well, is alright by me. Add flowery vocals, rhythmic guitars and calypso beats to the mix and you had me at hello. I mean, Undertow.
Punk wonders Les Savy Fav, lead by the abominable Tim Harrington, were the highlight of the day. Brandishing a mop and catapulting himself into the crowd during the first track, it was clear this was one set to see in its absolute full. Ever the entertainer, he spent more of his time cross country (I hear rumours he jumped in a lake the previous day in Melb), than actually on stage. Never ending blasphemous props and costumes ensured all eyes were on him. Is he the pope? Is he a ninja? A Scottish sailor? No… wait, he’s Santa on speed. Or perhaps a bearded Shirley temple riding the good ship lollypop all the way down to Hades?? We don’t care, we just want more. Oh and they play music too? Crazy.
Back in the car park, the dense Foals crowd warmed my freezing booty up a little. On very rare occasions I do enjoy a spot of nonsense physical crowd interaction. This was one such. The drunken girl rubbing up against me would, in any other situation, cause me to hurl a cup of beer in her direction or simply stalk away casting angry grimaces over my shoulder. However, by this stage, sporting a silk onesie that mere hours ago seemed so apt, I welcomed any sign of body warming affection from fellow punters. As for the music emanating from the stage ahead of us, it was typically tight and clever Foals. They delved into their back catalogue as well as most recent album Total Life Forever and performed an engaging, heavily rhythmic set that was a welcome distraction from the ominous beginnings of frost-bite gnawing at most of the crowd’s bare limbs.
Amongst the gathering clouds and wind whipped palm trees set against the elaborate stone clock tower, the temperature plummeted just in time for !!! (surely we all know by now it’s pronounced ‘chk chk chk’) to turn the dance on. Eliciting the help of Holy Fuck to drop some fat synth and proving much more amusing than Cut Copy (playing simultaneously across the grounds), !!! added the last little bit of dynamic indie genius and roaring live performance at the hands of Nic Offer, to a day full of impressive avant guarde sonic purveyors.
Laneway has long been known as the indie tastemaker of festivals, with artists and punters alike who pride themselves on being ahead of the pack in music, fashion and pop culture. If today’s performances are anything to go by, the year of music ahead of us is going to be a big fat bender. Of genres that is. The term “indie” will be as hazy as a Friday night in Kings Cross, minds will be broadened and collaborations will be a plenty.