As punters filtered in to Brisbane Showgrounds (2 February) beneath a sky shrouded by clouds, organisers were clearly prepared for the sun’s return, sprinklers hydrating sweat-soaked attendees.
Last-minute buyers snatched all remaining tickets, but you wouldn’t pick it wandering through the venue. The massive space between all four stages completely removed any risk of claustrophobia.
So much, in fact, the event is almost comparable to an adult theme park; think Dreamworld designed for teens, 20s, 30s. Instead of standing neck-and-neck with fellow festival-goers, there’s room to roam, to feel the breeze, to browse the stalls.
Even still, that space very quickly dissipated beneath the under-cover Never Let It Rest Stage. Young talent Clairo looked very ‘the girl next door’, standing sweet in jeans and a tucked-in tee. While lyrically, her innocence shines (opening with ‘B.O.M.D’ – “You’re the boy of my dreams”) her musical production screams years of experience.
The smooth-crooning ‘Get With U’ almost felt like a fluke, but was backed by the equally beautiful ‘Drown’. She maintained the pace (think lounge-bar sway) with fan favourites ‘Flamin’ Hot Cheetos’ and ‘Pretty Girl’.
Her Triple J Hottest 100-shortlisted release closed the set, ‘4Ever’ upbeat, though laced with her iconic lo-fi.Click here for more photos from Laneway.
Fresh off the back of snagging an impressive Australia Day accolade
, Baker Boy asserted his status as ‘one to watch’. I was curious whether his fast-moving lyrics would translate well, live on stage.
Not only did he effortlessly recite the chaotic rapping of ‘Marryuna’ and ‘Cloud 9’, his mere presence (impossibly energetic) seemed to invigorate the music with another layer of frenzy.
Baker Boy - image © Lachlan Douglas
Middle Kids’ frontwoman Hannah Joy wore a freshly bobbed haircut to accompany her natural-born vocals. The worldwide success of 2018 record ‘Lost Friends’ still lingered, fan spanning well beyond the tent.
Though their self-titled EP wasn’t shunned, and rightfully so, ‘Never Start’ just as radiant as later releases. The gorgeous guitar riff of ‘Fire In Your Eyes’ paired wonderfully with Hannah’s trembling notes, ‘Your Love’ etched with its country tinge.
The trio showcased their sombre poetic prowess with grungier new single, ‘Salt Eyes’ (“Friday night, drank a cab sav, at your stupid party, no one danced”). ‘Edge Of Time’ was anthemic, faces upturned to the sky chanting, “Hey, guy, have you got something on your mind? Tick, tock, can I take it for a while?”
Middle Kids - image © Lachlan Douglas
It almost seems greedy, Methyl Ethel bouncing back with an innately likeable handful of singles, even while fans continue to wind from ‘Everything Is Forgotten’. Another album now feels close enough to touch, teased by a couple of unreleased tracks.
Besides the unrelenting power of ‘Ubu’ (forever infectious), ‘Idee Fixe’ was arguably the shimmering highlight, followed closely by the thudding base of ‘Scream Whole’. ‘Twilight Driving’ was disappointedly boycotted from the song list, though the prospect of more new music made for a worthy consolation prize.
Ah, Laneway Festival and its impeccable ability to handpick bands that haven’t yet (but will – they always do, every time) wormed their way into the Australian music market.
Parquet Courts released a brilliant album in 2018, though upsettingly, the crowd was very sparse. Sparse but not still, not a single body was stationary as the band opened the set with the winding ‘Total Football’. They thrashed through ‘Almost Had To Start A Fight/In And Out Of Patience’, guitar twanging in ‘Wide Awake’.
Considering the record’s (titled ‘Wide Awake!’ – aptly named with an exclamation point) excellent production, their stage presence was surprisingly humble; the performance felt far more garage-band than expected. That’s not to say it lacked, quite the opposite. Instead the show was simply infused with stereotypical, ‘no bullsh*t’ punk rock mannerisms.
Rex Orange County - image © Lachlan Douglas
The Brisbane Showgrounds proved the perfect venue for Rex Orange County, fans fleshing out the Good, Better, Best Stage and filling the surrounding grandstands. His experimental blends are wind-down music at its finest, one of the only acts in the line-up where sitting felt most appropriate.
The first three tracks alone were enough to establish the artist as a genre-bending genius: ‘Apricot Princess’ primarily jazz; ‘Television/So Far So Good’ indie; ‘Uno’ hip hop. The audience swooned through the swinging ‘Corduroy Dreams’, and an unexpected cover of Alicia Keys’ ‘No One’ made for an exceptionally magical moment.
Rex Orange County’s vocals are renowned for being ‘interesting’, but listening live was downright mesmerising. “This song was always so well-received, here in Australia,” he announced, closing with mammoth single, ‘Loving Is Easy’.
Gang Of Youths - image © Lachlan Douglas
There’s no denying Gang Of Youths’ superstar status, almost two-years post any release and awarded the headlining set. Beloved frontman David Le’aupepe was screamed onto the stage, dressed in recognisable uniform: head to toe in black.
The show began with emotion-drenched ‘Fear And Trembling’, progressing into post-rock influenced epic, ‘What Can I Do If The Fire Goes Out?’ and onto ‘Atlas Drowned’. Le’aupepe oozed with confidence, very palpably in his element. ‘Magnolia’ never fails to make a memorable impact, heart-warming lyrics chanted by thousands.
The band closed with ‘Say Yes To Life’ as the crowd was drowned in confetti, standing neck-to-neck with festival goers, no room to roam – but no one wanted to.
Gang Of Youths - image © Lachlan Douglas