Live Review: St. Jerome’s Laneway Festival – Footscray Community Arts Centre (04.02.12)

  • Kat Mahina
  • February 6, 2012
  • Comments Off on Live Review: St. Jerome’s Laneway Festival – Footscray Community Arts Centre (04.02.12)

The irony of hosting Melbourne’s hippest festival in the western suburbs will never grow old and while the party has been in its new home for the third year running, some minor teething problems are yet to be eradicated, so let’s get the whinging out of the way first.

The actual set up of the festival site and the sprawling grounds of the arts centre are a God send, compared to the days when Laneway was held in the cramped laneways of the CBD. The Footscray site is well suited to the festival, however on a site that size, the lack of access to drinkable free water is just ridiculous. I recall spotting two different locations for free water taps and, given the heat, the water coming out of the taps when you were fortunate to find them was warm. This was particularly bad on a harsh, Summer day where there was no available shade to shelter from the suns damaging rays.

Which brings us to complaint number two – if you are going to hold a festival where the majority of the site is concrete and it’s 30+ degrees you may want to consider erecting a few shade cloths so your paying punters don’t burn to death or pass out from heat stroke as the heat radiating off the aforementioned concrete intensified the already stifling weather.

Complaint number three was the bad sound quality at the Windish and Eat Your Own Ears & Young Turks stage that made for a few painful listening moments.

Complaint number four was the extreme lateness of SBTRKT’s set with hundreds of people (myself included) opting to leave and battle the crowds at the train station after waiting for over 30 minutes after their scheduled playing time and the band was still not onstage. If there was an announcement made by festival officials as to what caused the delay and the expected duration then I must’ve missed it in transit from M83, which was disappointing, but by no means sullied the overall goodness of the days festivities.

These complaints aside, on the whole the festival itself was a spectacularly fun party full of good vibes, beautiful people and quality bands. There was a plethora of things to see and do with exceptionally quick bar service, short queues for the loos, a great selection of food, market stalls from the Hello Sailor Vintage crew, a sticky carpet museum and the secret Top Shop shenanigans that were going off around the grounds. But for me show day is all about the music and with Laneway easily boasting the best summer festival lineup of 2012 there was plenty to sink your teeth into on that front.

Kicking off the proceedings on the Dean Turner stage were a pack of scruffy haired lads better known as Drunk Mums. I offer big props to all of the men on show day who suffered through the heat in their skinny jeans, with the boys from Drunk Mums still dancing up a storm onstage. They are a very fun band with a crazy tambourinist who burst out of a zipped duffel bag mid way through the set and unleashed his manic dancing on the crowd. Their high energy performance was a great start to the day.

Brisbane “it” boys DZ Deathrays looked every inch the rockstar with their skull banner backdrop and tight black outfits. DZ damn near melted my face off with their intensely energetic show full of sweaty thrashing rock. They are a great festival act with their gigantic sound and confident onstage demeanour and they would’ve been better served with a later time slot more deserving of their talent.

Locals Total Control were an early highlight and I was mesmerised by their riveting presence and post-punk vibe. Comprising members of Eddy Current and The UV Race this super group of sorts are a phenomenal live act with their singer seemingly channeling the spirit of Ian Curtis as he exuded a restless mania that was all encompassing.

New York’s sensitive souls The Pains of Being Pure At Heart spilled their soulful tunes all over the pavement with a set that was enjoyable but not remarkable. Fans of the band were swooning down the front and hanging on their every word, but to me it was more of the same old indie soft pop played exactly like it sounds on record… so I left midway to see what EMA had to offer.

This was a good move as EMA is an incredible performer whose striking emotional atmospherics wowed the crowd. Erika M. Anderson owned it like a boss. Her presence was confident, but not overwhelming and the sheer power of her performance ripped the stage to shreds, making the early start to the day worthwhile.

Louisiana natives Givers were one of the standout acts on the lineup. Having never heard of them prior to their inclusion on the Laneway billing, I had no idea what to expect from their set. I was instantly smitten with their poly-rhythmic jams and twee pop stylings that made for endlessly, bouncy fun. The band were clearly loving their time onstage with all of them jumping around and amping up the crowd into a sweat fuelled dance party. Even with the poor sound at the Windish stage, their set was still incredible. Be sad if you missed it, ‘cos you missed out on something special.

Austra had the crowd up and moving, with their electronic pop sounding a bit better at the festival then it did at their sideshow earlier in the week. The band go to a lot of effort with their appearance and whimsical dance moves and it went down a treat with the audience, who were going off as they played “Lose It” toward the end of their set.

Active Child was a bit hit and miss. I enjoyed his musical meanderings and the wandering nature of his compositions, but music like Pat Grossi’s relies heavily on atmospherics and there was no such vibe present on a balmy afternoon at the Windish stage. In a different setting I believe Active Child would be amazing, but for a fair portion of the crowd once, they’d gotten over the novelty of watching him play the harp, they waited rather impatiently for his Triple J spruiked ‘hit’ before heading elsewhere for the nightmarish evening of timetable clashes that lay ahead.

Portugal. The Man did absolutely nothing for me. Big fans of their laid back psych pop would probably enjoy their live show, but I found them to be an unremarkable live band who played their dreamy pop exactly how it sounds in the studio and they almost put me to sleep on the grassy knoll I was relaxing on.

Cults were hyped across the blogosphere in 2K11 and after witnessing their live show, which is most politely described as bland, I have no idea why they’ve received so much positive press. Madeline Follin’s vocals were less then impressive. They lacked presence and the five piece ensemble played without the cohesiveness of a band.

Leslie Feist has such a revered following that the woman could simply breathe into the microphone and her fans would start fainting with happiness. Her set was centered around newer tracks from her latest LP Metals and at times the noise of the crowd threatened to overwhelm her backing band. Regardless, her audience lapped up every second she was onstage and her innocent yet confident presence always makes for pleasant viewing.

Yuck were another big disappointment as I found their set to be more of the same stock standard indie rock, flawlessly delivered but lacking in that special something that elevates a show from being pleasant to amazing. I dig their 90’s vibe on record, but their live show doesn’t add much to their studio work. However, their catchy hooks were well received by the bigger fans in the audience.

Chairlift‘s set was delayed by a good 15 minutes as festival organisers refused to go ahead until the genius who had planted himself in the top of a tree nearby the stage had gotten down. Rounds of applause broke out as the man was removed from the festival by police and the show was able to go on. Even though their set was cut a bit short, Chairlift wowed their fans with a solid performance. Caroline Polacheck’s vocals were in fine form and the audience happily bopped around to their synth infused tunes.

A large crowd flocked to the Dean Turner stage to witness The Horrors absolutely slaying it with a set that was perfect right from the outset. Having been a huge fan since 2007’s Strange House LP I still find it odd to see the boys minus their gothic garb and gigantic hair but even without the gimmicks which served them well in the beginning, The Horrors are a fierce live act and Farris Badwan’s commanding presence is electric as he dominates the stage with a menacing snarl and confident swagger. His performing prowess put the majority of the other bands on the bill to shame. The sun went down and the stage lights shone as The Horrors ripped through a mad set including fantastic renditions of “Still Life”, “Who Can Say?” and “Mirrors Image”. With a show that good, it was puzzling that The Horrors weren’t in a headlining slot as many weary fans started to make their way home at the end of their set.

By 9pm exhaustion was kicking in but M83 managed to whip the tired audience into a frenzy with a dazzling lights display and epic smoke machine action to boot. Personally, I’m not a huge fan of their sound but could appreciate why the other revellers were loving it as the band gently led us through a serene landscape of emotion with their electronic ambience being a fitting close to another fantastic edition of Laneway.