Last weekend, the Laneway Festival tour completed its last Australian leg with a stop at Perth. With a stellar line-up and perfect weather, the festival cemented its position as one of the best festivals in the country right now. It was a laid back and chilled out affair, with top quality performances, and none of the loutishness you can get at some festivals. Ticket sales were reportedly sluggish for the Perth leg, but by the time The Drums took to the stage in the early afternoon, the event was sold out, and leafy surrounds of the Perth Cultural Centre were thronging with people.
Pains of Being Pure At Heart opened proceedings on the Museum Stage, playing a great upbeat set, drawing songs from their two albums. Since their last visit to Australia, the band seem to have grown in confidence and stage presence; with frontman Kip Berman at his charismatic best. “Heart in Your Heartbreak” was a highlight, with some great guitar work from the band, and a solid vocal performance from Berman. As with all festival sets, it was over all too soon, but hopefully we’ll have the band back on these shores before too long.
Anna Calvi was next to take to the Museum Stage, whilst Cults went about their business on the PICA Stage. After a quick break to find some food, I settled down to listen to Calvi, who sounded fantastic, putting on a really impressive vocal performance which certainly has me wanting to get hold of some of her music.
Chairlift took to the Museum Stage, drawing a respectable crowd, considering they were up against The Drums. The band were entertaining to watch, with bassist Patrick Wimberly doing his best to convince the crowd that, despite the fact it was their last show in Australia, they were a band from Adelaide. Singer Caroline Polachek’s vocals sounded fantastic throughout the set, really bringing an added something to the songs.
British folk sensation Laura Marling was next to take the Museum Stage. After a brief hello, she launched straight into a selection of songs from her three albums. There is a real air of confidence on stage, even when there is a little technical error or some feedback, Marling just throws a wry smile across to the sound desk and continues straight on. Given the shortness of the set, Marling chose to just play through, rather than interact too heavily with the audience. It’s pretty hard to pick a particular highlight from the set, but “Ghosts” and “Alas I Cannot Swim” sounded fantastic.
It was then across to the PICA Stage for Girls, who put on an impressive set. With a great guitar driven sound, the band powered through tracks from their back catalogue. Being back away from the stage a bit, the vocals got a little lost in the mix, which was a shame. But the band’s enthusiasm more than made up for it. Girls were probably one of the highlights of the day for sixties-esque sound, as well as their well-crafted songs; really were the perfect accompaniment for the weather.
I decided to stick around and catch Toro Y Moi who played a strong set, but never completely held my attention. The set did, however, get me thinking I should check out their recorded work, so they must have gotten through to me just a little. The majority of the crowd seemed to be enjoying it, with many taking to the steps surrounding the stage to take a moment to sit down and just enjoy the music.
Up next were band of the moment M83, whose performance pretty much stole the festival. The crowd packed into the space around the Museum Stage all for the chance to hear the hit song “Midnight City”, it seemed. Surprisingly, it wasn’t their encore song, so there was a bit of an exodus once the song had finished, but plenty stayed until the end. Frontman Anthony Gonzalez was a compelling force on stage, working the crowd like a pro. Energetic and compelling from the start, this really was a tour de force performance.
It was then back to the PICA Stage to catch the end of Active Child’s set. The band impressed with their sound, and the harp was an interesting and inspired touch, giving the tracks a bit of a transcendent quality. Pat Grossi’s vocals were impressive, at times delicate, and at others strong and compelling. The band highlights one of the many joys of festivals like Laneway, that you can see bands you have never heard of, and come away having found this great new discovery. I’ve definitely got the urge now to head out and buy the record.
By this point in the day my energy levels were running pretty low, but Washed Out managed to revitalize me a little, with a slightly upbeat set. That, and the sudden and unexpected shower of rain helped, too. The shower did have a quite a few people running for cover, but Washed Out still managed to draw an impressive and attentive crowd.
The enigmatic SBTRKT closed out the festival with an upbeat set, which included an extended version of “Hold On”, one of my favorite tracks from his latest album. The fusion of live drumming with electronic sounds proved to be the perfect way to bring the festival to a close. With the other stages having already closed up shop, SBTRKT had the audience’s undivided attention, and certainly made the most of it, putting on a great performance.
And then all of a sudden that was that; the festival was over for another year. Whilst it may not have sold out before gates opened, I would say that it was definitely a successful day, proving that you can bring large numbers of people together into a festival environment and for it still to be chilled and relaxed. My only grumble was that they ran out of cider. But, in the greater scheme of things, I left a happy man. Here’s to doing it all again next year!