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LANEWAY FESTIVAL @ Esplanade Reserve And West End gets 8.5/10

Wolf Alice

St Jerome’s Laneway Festival 2018 @ Esplanade Reserve And West End, Fremantle
Sunday, February 11, 2018

8.5 / 10

Boasting an even mixture of old favourites and new comers, this year’s St Jerome’s Laneway Festival made its final stop for 2018 on a warm, but not-too warm Perth summer’s day. Now up to its 10th anniversary WA edition, the Laneway tour has become a favourite among many for its conscious choices to skirt the mainstream; favouring less-popular but critically acclaimed musical acts, championing the latest break-out acts of the indie scene and adopting an overall progressive position that is in contrast to the other major summer festivals. As a result, Laneway has become known as one of the friendliest outings and the festival where the least bravado (yes, that includes you, Kirin) and machismo is on show, which was embodied by the 10,000 strong that descended on Fremantle’s Esplanade Reserve for a real good time.

The Big Ones

War On Drugs

This year’s main stage headliner deservedly went to the Grammy award winning The War On Drugs who through no fault of their own they just didn’t live up to the billing. While it was clear that Adam Granduciel’s band were super tight, the outdoor setting lacked the intimacy that his songs deserved and ultimately, it is only fair to term the set as being solid without being remarkable. But even if the quickly dispersing crowd made it anticlimatic, those in front of him were genuinely enthused.

Pond

Pond front-man Nick Allbrook was lively and engaging, leading the group through a selection of choice cuts from last year’s The Weather, as well as old favourites like Giant Tortoise, demonstrating that Pond are just one of those bands that keeps evolving.

Anderson Paak

Anderson .Paak and The Free Nationals’ laid back, funked vibes glistened on the main stage as the sun set. Tunes from the Malibu LP such as Heart Don’t Stand A Chance, Lite Weight and Am I Wrong wrought enormous cheers from the audience, before Paak retreated to previous album Venice’s Luh You for a stunning finale. Everything clicked for Paak; his voice, his band, his use of instrumentals between songs such as the intro to Dre’s Next Episode; everything kept the crowd moving.

Odesza were banging with their tripped beats and melodious singalongs, with stand out tracks Across the Room and Line of Sight. The latter track was the first to feature the ‘drummer boys’, six men armed with snare drums that lit up, who returned periodically to add to the performance’s spectacle in a variety of costumes and staging arrangements.

Bonobo

Bonobo‘s stunning visuals and light show benefitted from the sun vacating the sky. Backed by a full band and a singer, Simon Green and co. attempted to replicate his signature mixture of down-tempo samples with jazzy piano and guitar, which bought a new richness in comparison to his songs’ studio counterparts. Highlights included the beautiful swoon of Break Apart and set finale Kerala.

Father John Misty

J Tillman has been the go to person for the dial a quote generation, and although he may have reached a saturation point in the press, there is no denying that as Father John Misty he has the tunes to back it up. Things started on a high note with I Love You, Honeybear, rounded a honky-tonked version of I’m Writing A Novel, and passed a muscular take on Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings. Tillman spent much of the set amongst smoke and a heavy backlight that made his silhouette appear to be a cross between Jesus Christ and Warren Ellis. Pure Comedy saw Tillman at his theatrical best as he swapped his guitar for a swag of musical theatre gestures before an impassioned The Ideal Husband signalled the end of set that could only have been bettered if it was longer.

Canadian four-piece BADBADNOTGOOD opted not to replicate their recorded material, setting loose on open versions of their tracks, brewing a wicked blend of hip-hop influenced contemporary jazz. Though there were no vocals, the audience were treated to some grade A grooves that often sent all into knee-dropping-head-bops.

The 30 Year Wait

Slowdive

There was a sense of anticipation as Slowdive made their way to the stage. Older fans were rewarded with tracks like Catch The Breeze, which was backed by lights and a video that could induce a seizure, while newer fans were offered the upbeat and swirling Star Roving and Sugar For The Pill. Fan favourite Alison highlighted the vocal interplay among the band. Slowdive were loud, punchy and layered in all the ways that would be expected. Three decades is a long time, but when the indie gods are smiling, good things do indeed come to those who wait.

The New

Laneway’s habit of picking new bands and those who are just hitting their peak continued this year. Hitting a side stage at the sun-drenched hour of 12:55pm did not seem to faze Shame, and in particular it’s lead singer, Charlie Sten, who in a pair of rather questionable, perhaps hastily executed, cut-offs, took it upon himself to rev-up the entire festival’s audience.  While dancing like a young Ian Curtis and prowling the fold backs and stage extensions like a gorilla, Sten sung with the conviction of someone far older, aiding the band solidly through a set that contained highlights One Rizla and Concrete. For the finale, Sten jumped the stage barrier and finished off set finale Gold Hole in the midst of the crowd, before making it back to stage for his last words, “Shame, Shame, Shame, that’s the name.”

Wolf Alice

Likewise, Wolf Alice were an amazingly coordinated and powerful unit, moving from abrasive punk such as Yuk Foo to the melodic pop off Beautifully Unconditional with ease. Though lead singer Ellie Roswell looked a slight figure in her pink slip, she boasted a stellar and dynamic vocal talent that was highlighted when she sat on the front of the stage, receiving cool solace from a sole electric fan, to perform the dreamy Don’t Delete The Kisses. The finale that saw her climb into and above the audience, letting out a gut curdling scream, was a highlight.

Sandy (Alex G)’s bedroom pop translated well into the live arena, with his breezy attitude recalling the slacker heyday of bands like Pavement. Highlights included Harvey, and Boy, which was rolled out after the band found out they had more time than they thought.

Dream Wife

Perhaps the biggest surprise packet of the day was Dream Wife, where vocalist Rakel Mjöll’s cheerleader’s outfit was a perfect metaphor for the band’s youthfulness. The band played with a contagious energy, and while Mjöll may have had her vocals a little low in the mix at times, she has an undeniable star quality, effortlessly changing from seductress on track Lolita to one of the “bad, bad bitches” (a term used by Dream Wife to denote the female fans who they encourage forward into the mosh pit so as it encourage it to be a safe space for all), during F.U.U, where she demanded that she would “cut you up… fuck you up”.

Aldous Harding

Also of great intrigue was Aldous Harding. Dressed all in white and showing no signs of wilting from the setting sun that streamed in, Harding silenced the crowd with her brand of dreamy folk and stunning voice. At times supported by a full band, and others just a pianist, Aldous was full of emotion, posturing and jilting from position to position as if each line she delivered increased a weight upon her. Stand out tracks included Imagining My Man and the title track from her most recent album, Party.

Australian acts

Cable Ties

Melbourne trio Cable Ties declared that they wished to acknowledge the traditional owners of the land and also to recognise that it is stolen land, before their set. And this was the politest that they would be all day, as they cranked out a set of high energy punk tunes that were big in the bottom end and acerbic in all the right places, with vocalist Jenny McKechnie a real force of nature.

Alex Cameron offered a breezy anecdote to the day with his 80s inspired soft rock anthems. Cameron was in fine form and had the assistance of an all-star band that included Jack Ladder on guitar, Holiday Sidewinder on keyboards, (who played the role of Angel Olsen on Stranger’s Kiss perfectly), and saxophonist and part-time stool reviewer, Roy Molloy, who extolled the virtues of his current model’s ability to rise and fall to cheers of ‘extend it!’ from the crowd.

City Calm Down were picture perfect as the night drew in with their polished indie-electro sounds and lead singer Jack Bourke possessing a poise not dissimilar to the late Michael Hutchence. They rolled out up-tempo favourites Border on Control, Pleasure and Control and Your Fix, as well as songs from their forthcoming album Echoes in Blue such as the finale In This Modern Land.

Melbourne’s Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever were far more to the point on stage than their name suggests and made light work of things by whipping through a hot set of melodic indie, hitting the heights with the shimmering French Press from their EP of the same name.

Solo

T$oko

In the beginning there was Perth based rapper T$oko who possessed an energy that most would struggle to fathom at 11:30am, laying down such stand outs as 4th Quarter, where he traded lines with fellow MC Jimmy Drones, and the dazzingly quick rhymes of piano-sampling, jazz tinged finale Hakuna Matata, which T$oko noted was “probably the reason I am here”.

Stella Donnelly

Stella Donnelly followed and wove her way through a set of honest and sometimes tender tracks. After a whirlwind and much acclaimed 2017, Donnelly was as honest and fresh as ever, reminding us that some things will change, and some will always stay the same. “This is so great to (play here),” she said. “My dad is here today to watch me. He took me to Blues and Roots (Festival) on this same park 10 years ago. I was wearing fluro. And a fedora.”

There was such a sense of anticipation surrounding Moses Sumney, that even his being 25 minutes late to the stage could not disrupt. The Los Angeles crooner made for an imposing sight in his loose fitting black robe and dark, round sunglasses, as he and his minimalist, jazz-influenced band made their way through tracks from Aromanticism such as the sublime Don’t Bother Calling, Doomed and Lonely World. Sumney was the smoothest operator of the day without doubt.

TOKiMONSTA offered a real fun party, reading the crowd and dropping her beats accordingly, obviously really enjoying herself with a range of tracks such as Kendrick Lamar’s Alright and her own Put It Down.

Mac De Marco

And of course, there was Mac. Now this was not the first rodeo for Mac DeMarco, who by now is a Laneway favourite. The charismatic singer with a toothy smile played a treasure trove of tunes to a crowd who returned the favour by singing, dacing and goofing along in the afternoon sun. DeMarco swigged from a bottle of Jamiesons, took on and off his signature cap and switched up roles from guitarist to microphone wielding front-man with ease. Freaking Out The Neighbourhood was punchier than on record, and he was joined by members of Dream Wife, The Internet and Moses Sumney for the feel good of moment of the day on finale Still Together.

The Wrap

Fremantle Esplanade is a wonderful location for a festival, with the Norfolk pines and Fremantle Doctor providing the perfect tonics for the often-unavoidable sunburn and heatstroke that comes with other all-day events. The addition of pass outs this year gave punters the choice to leave the site for a sojourn on the beach or to explore the streets of Freo and is an example of how Laneway continually strives to provide attendees with a better fan experience. Realistically however, one didn’t need to leave the site as there were more food vendors on show than there is in a main street in Malaysia and certainly no shortage or variety of bars or drink options available.

Ultimately, Laneway continues to be more than just a festival, and rather exists in a unique spot as both a leader and a fan of music. Its choice of musical acts serves as some sort of seal of approval for bands in the post-physical-release world, whether it be as confirmation of a band’s legendary status, or perhaps an understanding of a band’s cult appeal and, more obviously, a springboard for up and comers.

CHRIS HAVERCROFT & MICHAEL D HOLLICK

Photos by Paul Dowd and Mia Campbell-Foulkes

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