St. Jerome’s Laneway Festival – Footscray Community Arts Centre (05.02.11)

The Laneway Festival has outgrown the tiny back alleys of its humble beginnings and come into fruition at its new home the Footscray Community Arts Centre. The sprawling grounds and grassy knolls were perfect for festival madness, although it was a fair hike between two of the main stages which made it difficult to try and catch sets from all of your favourite bands, who were running a tight schedule with triple clashes right across the board all day. There was plenty of food vans, market stalls and bars to satiate the crowd along with the usual lack of port-a-loos which are never in a sanitary state by the end of the day. Storms and flash flooding wreaked havoc overnight, but fortunately mother nature was kind and the weather remained pleasant for the duration of the event. Unfortunately Rat Vs Possum weren’t brave enough to risk the storm and cancelled their set, which was the only real disappointment of an otherwise kick-arse day.*

The music took off down in the car park with Baptism of Uzi and their blend of psychedelic stoner jams that in short, were really fucking awesome. They have an amazing sound live and riled up the eager punters who’d trooped on in early to support the local artists.

Brisbane boys Violent Soho tore it up with their grungy hardcore rock. Whilst that style of music has never been something I’ve enjoyed, their sound was good, the instrumentation was brilliant and the crowd lapped up their energetic performance.

The loving continued with another ripper set from World’s End Press. Their live reputation is well deserved and it was great to see a massive crowd at the River Stage crammed in and dancing to their infectious disco funk tunes. John Parkinson’s vocals are obscenely swoon worthy and the band members all looked to be having the time of their lives as they manically danced around the stage. Highlights were fantastic renditions of “Faithful” and “Golden Child”. Here’s hoping their debut album isn’t far off.

Brooklyn post-rockers The Antlers wowed the punters with a beautiful, moving set. The songs from 2009’s Hospice are emotionally intense and elegantly constructed and the band managed to create that vibe live with the ambient electronic atmospherics and front man Pete Silberman’s impassion vocal performance. The live versions of “Kettering”, “Sylvia”, “Atrophy” and “Two” were absolutely stunning and the only bad thing was their set finishing early, with the band playing a mere five songs before making their departure.

The sweet alt country tunes of Jenny and Johnny took away the pain of paying the exorbitant prices festivals charge for food and liquor. Jenny Lewis is a charming accomplished performer and the obvious chemistry between her and partner Jonathon Rice made for an engaging set.

There was barely room to breathe as the people packed into the Moreland Street Stage, keen to see the Baltimore dream-pop duo Beach House in action. They were one of the bands I was most looking forward to seeing and they also happened to be the other big disappointment of the day. Victoria Legrand’s distinct vocals were lovely live, but she and Alex Scully aren’t entertainers. They lifelessly played their instruments and whilst songs such as “Norway”, “Walk In The Park” and “Zebra” were all beautifully performed, the band members displayed no charisma or personality while playing which made their set rather boring to watch. It was no different to listening to their music at home, asides from being squashed by the other patrons and having to pay $7 for a tinny of Pure Blonde. Neither of which was enjoyable.

Fortunately the end of Warpaint’s set washed away the blandness with the girls managing to perfectly execute the intricate layered arrangements of their music live. Their sound is so lush and the vocal harmonies were gorgeous. I look forward to catching them in a more intimate setting at their sideshow.

A slight technical hitch delayed the start of Two Door Cinema Club’s set (the band’s equipment was stuck in traffic), but the boys took to the stage with gusto and had the crowd thrashing around to their energetic tunes. They played a very fun show including all the favourite’s from last year’s debut Tourist History, with front man Alex Trimble giving the performance his all.

Yeasayer started with a bang, opening with “O.N.E” and keeping the high energy dance vibe pulsating for the remainder of the set. Tracks like “Rome”, “Madder Red” and “Mondegreen” had the entire Moreland Street stage jumping around in a unified display of bad alcohol induced dancing. Their set was fantastic. They are a phenomenal live act with the band inciting a mass sing a long with their last track, the brilliant “Ambling Alp”. Its bands like Yeasayer that make me sad festival sets are always such brief affairs, as forty minutes with Chris Keating and co. was not long enough.

The last few moments of Les Savy Fav were equally as awesome. Tim Harrington is fucking mental, charging around the stage in an electric performance which included the man stripping off and taking a quick dip in the polluted Maribyrnong River. If he doesn’t die from lead poisoning than I hope to see them in Australia again soon.

Deerhunter blew the crowds away with an intense performance that was completely awe inspiring. They whipped up a massive, enveloping wall of sound and drenched the listeners in a miasma of post-rock ambience that was riveting and sublime to experience. The songs from their latest LP Halcyon Digest were killer live, and the boys ended their show as the sun set with a lot of random noise and distortion. Deerhunter are brilliant. Go see them play. Do it now.

It was tough call choosing between Cut Copy, !!! and Gotye to round out the day, but my enduring love of Wally De Backer won out and the man didn’t disappoint. He opened with new single “Eyes Wide Open” and than played through a great selection from his back catalogue, including “The Only Way”, “Thanks For Your Time” and “Hearts A Mess”. De Backer has such an engaging presence, and it’s still a novelty to see him sing and play the drums. He’s so ridiculously talented and watching the band finish their set with “Learnalilgivinanlovin” as they showered the audience with streamers is an early highlight of the 2011 live scene. Gotye is incredible. Fingers crossed he does a lot more touring this year.

The fun didn’t stop there, with a quick run up the hill to catch Melbourne’s favourite electro-pop sons Cut Copy and their final song of the night. I haven’t been overly impressed with the material on Zonoscope, but I’ve never seen Cutters play a bad show, and jumping around as Dan, Tim and co. played a cracker version of “Out There On The Ice” complete with their breath taking visual and lights display was the perfect end to an obscenely amazing day.

I love you St. Jerome and look forward to imbibing your expensive beer and taking in the sounds of your gourmet indie platter again in 2012.


* Editor’s Note – The band issued this statement about the cancellation of their set: “There was no way we “…weren’t brave enough to risk the storm and cancel(led) their set,” we arrived in Melbourne at 8am after a 6am flight from Brisbane that morning to an extremely disappointing phone call from our manager letting us know that the promoters of Laneway had called and told her that we had been bumped from opening the River Stage due to the over night storm flooding the River Stage area, that had also destroyed the PA that had been set up the day prior, which meant the crew had to go into damage control and hire + install an entirely new system. Unfortunately, this was a job that was impossible to do in a couple of hours, meaning that the new PA wasn’t going to be set up in time for our set. Needless to say we were disappointed as all shit to not be able to play one of our favourite festivals to a home crowd of friends, family and fans that had woken up early to see us open up.”