The Port Adelaide incarnation of Laneway Festival is precious, not simply because it is the first leg of the Australian tour.
At Harts Mill, triple j presenters filmed Instagram stories and posed with punters between shifts behind the mic, and as the summer sun set, a lone bottle-nosed dolphin wistfully surfaced and dived as the refrains of Father John Misty vibrated off into the ether.
It is, though, a festival with such a dastardly packed line-up that the FOMO is strong. We saw what we could and enjoyed every moment.
The Early Bird Catches the Earworms
Billie Eilish at 12:30 in the afternoon? The teen sensation was clearly not accustomed to performing outdoors under the midday sun.
Draped in baggy black cloth from neck to ankle, Billie struggled against heinous technical difficulties but managed to still captivate through the sheer force of her magnetism. Mid-set, while clutching a ukulele, Billie lamented the limitations imposed upon her by backstage bungling; she then unleashed a spontaneous kung-fu flurry to vent her frustration.
Unfortunately, Billie’s set wasn’t the only one marred by complications; Sydney synth-pop purveyor Alex Cameron’s bursts of pop sunshine were interrupted by spine jarring speaker distortion.
While such teething problems diminished as the day progressed, it was a disappointing way to start the proceedings.
While every member of a band is equal, be they a bass player, a drummer or a lead singer, some members are more equal than others; there is just something so special about a captivating frontman or woman. Lead singers like Wolf Alice’s Ellie Rowsell, The Internet’s Syn, Shame’s Charlie Steen and Dream Wife’s Rakel Mjöll.
Ellie came to the stage looking like a hybrid of Red Riding Hood and The Woodsman, wearing a flowing red evening gown while wielding a jet-black six-stringed axe.
On the anthemic ‘Don’t Delete The Kisses’, she alternated between cooing like a French songstress and shredding on the guitar like a metal head.
The charismatic Syn, perhaps this generation’s Lauryn Hill, dropped truth bombs and one-liners about breaking the internet between slinky grooves from 'Ego Death' and earlier releases.
Charlie Steen was perhaps as sleazy and engaging as Charlie Sheen; on the UK punk rocker’s opening track, he was tweaking his nipples beneath his white singlet and passionately kissing bearded men in the front row; by the end of their set, he was shirtless and wielding the mic-stand like Excalibur.
Rakel from London’s Dream Wife, meanwhile, was reminiscent of some ungodly amalgam of a college cheerleader, Harley Quinn and The Bride from Kill Bill.
In a yellow netball skirt and yellow and black crop top, she arched her eyebrows and shrieked her suggestive lyrics, backed by a modern incarnation of The Runaways.
While most acts on the line-up vigorously massaged the ear drums, New Zealand’s Aldous Harding gently soothed them with her enchanting lullabies.
Aldous, dressed in all-white, looked like Annie Lennox and sounded like Joanna Newsom. It was the kind of set that was so hushed that drunken loudmouths were swiftly shamed by the harsh glances of the devoted.
Father John Misty was similarly sedate, although perhaps slightly less captivating; for a man of such overt public opinions, he was remarkably silent between tracks.
Mac DeMarco, while too much of a genre hopper to be defined as folk, exuded much more charisma: he guzzled a beer fed to him by a bandmate as he unleashed a guitar solo, gave impromptu Michael Jackson serenades and induced the crowd to clamber upon the shoulders of their friends.
Pond and The Babe Rainbow, like King Gizzard and Tame Impala last year, brought the new-age vibes, converting Port Adelaide into Byron Bay.
Backed by all the colours of the rainbow, or the chakras, depending upon your perspective, Babe Rainbow played tracks that sounded like hipster-smoothie recipes: 'Peace Blossom Boogy' and 'Secret Enchanted Broccoli Forest'; they also managed to get The Dude from The Big Lebowski to play guitar….or a damn good doppelganger.
Pond’s Nick Allbrook, meanwhile, stood languidly in the yoga asana of tree pose, with one slippered foot resting on the opposing knee, as he sang ‘Sweep Me Off My Feet’.
Laneway is perhaps the most inclusive festival on the calendar. Fans of the 16-year olds like Billie Eilish mingle with survivors of the '90s shoegaze era wearing Dungeons and Dragons t-shirts who attended mainly to see Slowdive.
If you enjoy good music, you can enjoy Laneway no matter what your demographic. Even if you don’t enjoy music, there are river dolphins!