Words by Lewis Brideson & Sam Kolesnik
Photos by Alex Kwong
According to their site, St. Jerome’s Laneway Festival is about ‘leading new and revered seminal music’, its about ‘what’s fresh’, its about ‘unique settings’, its about ‘music lovers’. As wafty and hipster-accommodating as these nice PR phrases are, I have to agree. It’s spot on.
Harts Mill really does get better each year, once again becoming a welcome offbeat location compared to other festivals due to its industrial vs. water-glistening scenery. Also, our local vendors, supporters and 5/4 Entertainment all deserve a solid back-massage for all they did to ensure all-day-good vibes.
Anyway, I might cut the adjective-stuffed openers and jump into music talk – because after all it really is a music lover’s festival. For this section I’ve recruited Horror My Friend/Archers drummer/music critic wannabe Sam Kolesnik. Between us we kinda covered a range of acts. So here are some of our thoughts – not that it really matters.
LB: Hard Aches
To make up for the lack of local acts this year, we had the Hard Aches flying the Adelaide flag. And thank god for them. Thrashing out their modern take on fuzzy idler punk/pub rock, the duo got comfy on the large stage. Fan boys came running from the gates, jumping at the barrier and yelling every chorus line - #supportyourlocal.
SK: Methyl Ethel / METZ
I caught the second half of Methyl Ethel’s set whilst simultaneously losing the friends that had accompanied me within five minutes of entering the festival. This proved to be a common theme throughout the day. I promise, I really do have friends. I’m just terrible with directions.
Luckily, the Perth-based group provided me and many other early punters with a blissful set of summery, shimmery guitar pop that set the tone for the day. Typical of Laneway every single year, I walked away with yet another band I had no intention on seeing but was highly impressed with.
After spending more time finding friends amongst the sea of people already surrounding the main stages, we left for one of the smaller stages to see what was surely one of the best sets of the day. Canadian noise-rock trio METZ walked on stage with little fuss and proceeded to pummel the quickly growing audience with more fuzz, distortion and discordant noise than was thought humanely possible. Off the back of their excellent second album, cleverly titled ‘II’, they worked the crowd into a frenzy with songs like ‘Acetate’ and ‘The Swimmer’, never relenting for a second despite the sun causing everyone involved to become drenched in sweat.
The crowd was so enamoured by the noise they decided to slam into each other for 30 minutes. I may or may not have started it. Not sorry one bit.
LB: Banoffee / Silicon
Calling out to all her ‘Adeladies’, the sweet/edgy banana-toffee mix that is Banoffee served a tasteful set early on with Oscar Key Sung as backing. Her honey-drop vox atop crunchy 808 samples had people wanting to accept her invitation to go swimming. The next act maybe took this too literally getting awfully close to the water with fence-jumping, boat-hijacking, people-duct-taping, gun-licking lets-get-kicked-off-the-festival behaviour. Make of Silicon what you will and lets move on…
On to Royal Headache in fact, where the party really was.
SK: Royal Headache
Having emerged out of a punk-influenced Sydney garage scene, Royal Headache gained a cult following for their live shows, mostly due to singer Shogun’s erratic behaviour and soulful crooning.
After nodding along to the opening tunes, it took probably three songs for the crowd to repeat the same treatment they had just given METZ. It got wild. Shogun continued to cover every inch of the stage, never content with staying still and the crowd joined him, throwing each other around to the brash sounds of songs like ‘Girls’.
Songs like ‘Garbage’ and ‘Carolina’ proved to be unexpected singalongs with the crowd almost drowning out the band at various points. You’d be hard pressed to say you didn't have fun at this set.
LB: Too many good musicians…
The day at Port Adelaide was also crammed with on-point instrumentation. New Yorkers DIIV reverberated their drowsy indie guitar licks for a welcoming first Australian appearance. Thundercat brought his velvety lotus-flying butterfly-pimping jazz bass to life. Battles pulled out all the stops, delivering their polyrhythmic drumming and hypnotizing buzzing with keyboards slanting and the crash soaring. Most alluring was Big Scary, delving into old and new material with Tom’s ivory twinkling, Joanna’s slick and constantly unique take on drumming, and the pair’s gorgeous harmonies. It will be exciting to see more new music from the pair - one-note keyboard solos, sexy sax and all. Oh yeah and also Grimes of course – enchanting to say the least.
Health had probably the most brutal time clash of the day, for me at least, having to play against Grimes and Battles. It definitely showed with the lack of people gracing the Red Bull Academy Stage. But after losing my friends yet again, I made a solo trek over to see the three-piece perform what was basically a private show.
It’s a shame because it was genuinely one of the most intriguing and intense performances I witnessed all day. Combining noise rock with glitchy electronica, they pumped out insanely huge sounding songs that were dark, experimental and soaked in reverb yet perfect for a dance floor. With a few exceptions, they played a whole heap of songs from Death Magic. At various points, it almost sounded like EDM and metal had a lovechild that burst out of the womb to slap you in the face.
LB: And then some producers…
Lastly, it was the producers skimming low frequencies off the port’s cool surface. Sophie and QT combined to deliver lollipop slash energy-drink bangers and Hermitude ticked all the boxes as always – probably one of the most reliable additions to any festival, they know how to knock it through the roof.
Unfortunately, Flume wasn't at the same level. Regardless of how premixed his set may be or how debatable his song selection was, it was the decibel level that was the problem. Not to be an audiophile, but the drop-hungry cheerers had more gain, egging him on as if he were lining up for goal - ‘carn Flerm’. Incredible visuals and appearances from Kai, Vince Staples and Kucka came close, but no chomp from those new glitch-glass-breaks. A hop over to Hudson Mohawke meant I could have a real boogie.
SK: Final stop - Purity Ring
At this point, I was well and truly exhausted. After taking a seat along the fence as Purity Ring were setting up, I took a breather before chatting with one group about what everyone was seeing next. I reasoned that I was going to see Flume as I would likely never go out of my way to catch him but I should at least give it a shot whilst I’m here. So I did. Alone. It didn’t work out. Sorry Flerm.
But I also didn't intend on seeing Purity Ring. The lighting rig intrigued me though and after returning for a few songs, I couldn't actually physically leave. The combination of slick trap beats, a light-up percussive instrument that would make Adelaide Pipe Guy jealous beyond measure, and a stage full of colourful bulbs proved to be too intoxicating for me and I stood firmly transfixed for the whole set.
It was the perfect way to end the day as the crowd slowly swayed and bobbed to the glassy productions as singer, Megan James, moved in and out of view amongst the ever-changing stage lights whilst filtering her voice through a host of effects. Songs like ‘Obedear’ and ‘Born Again’ had the crowd completely engrossed. When the set ended and the lights turned off, it seemed like the real world had annoyingly crept back and the reality of the end of the day had started to sink in.
Luckily there was still some joy to be had. Like waiting for a train with hundreds of people. Or waiting to buy a ticket at the end of the train stop when hundreds of people realised they'd need one to get out. That was pretty fun. Should’ve brought your Metrocard suckers.