My first Laneway Festival (10 February) experience got off to an interesting start. Before entering the Brisbane Showgrounds I got lost, having to be directed by a friendly staff member to the entrance on the opposite side.
“I’m already out of my depth,” I joked. As I walked under the blistering sun, I had no idea how right I was as Laneway was an ocean of fan favourites and new discoveries.
It’s a shame I missed Brisbane dream-pop artist Hatchie, but I am glad I arrived just in time for London post-punks Shame. The quintet dressed down, with singer Charlie Steen wearing shorts, cowboy hat and an unbuttoned shirt that was drenched in sweat by the end of their set.
The humidity was surely a shock for them, but it did nothing to dull their intensity. Charlie bellowed over the band’s clattering rhythms and whining feedback, climbing into the crowd during their closing song while Josh Finerty fell to the floor and wrestled with his bass.
Another new discovery emerged from the stage in British band Dream Wife. Guitarist Alice Go sliced sharp riffs over the infectious disco rhythms of bassist Bella Podpadec and their touring drummer.
Singer Rakel Mjoll proved a powerful presence, shrieking and wailing her way through the jagged tunes. Rakel dedicated songs to “all the bad bitches here”, but she proved to be the baddest of them all, especially as she screamed over the noisy racket of ‘FUU’, “I’ll f#$@ you up!”
“You might’ve seen me in the press lately,” quipped Miss Blanks. The Brisbane-rapper was in the news for the removal of controversial performer Kirin J Callinan from the Laneway line-up.
If haters had any reservations, she burned them up with her hot set. Joined by dancers, Miss Blanks tore through tracks like ‘Clap Clap’ and ‘Worldwide Pussy’, making fans get low and drawing me closer with each.
Just as I thought she couldn’t peak any higher, Miss Blanks filled the stage with Brisbane rappers to perform the banging ‘Fempre$$ Cypher’. “I’m the queen of this game,” she boldly rapped on ‘Haters’, and after her set she has every right to that fact.
I tried for American (Sandy) Alex G next, but there was minimal shade from the punishing sun and I retreated. I made my way to the tiny Block Party stage for Brisbane rapper Jesswar, whose guest spot in Miss Blanks’ set I was impressed by.
Solo, she has just as much swagger with her furious flow over roof-shaking bass. After bringing the heat, she gave the stage to fellow rapper Aywin – another guest from Miss Blanks’ set – whose vicious rhymes brought a lot of energy.
Jesswar took the mic back, calling for “all the bad bitches please move to the front”, with many rushing to the stage for her closer ‘Savage’ and letting loose.
A surprise gem was American artist Moses Sumney. He opened with ‘Don’t Bother Calling’, plucking his guitar while cooing sweet nothings. His angelic sigh hushed the crowd, making his outdoor set surprisingly intimate.
The trio of musicians backing him added textures, but never overwhelmed the muted funk vibe of ‘Make Out In My Car’. Just like he began, Moses closed alone with ‘Plastic’ finishing by belting a massive high note that drew applause for the gifted performer.
I sought shelter in the stands nearby to rest my aching and cramping legs, missing the action of British rockers Wolf Alice. Once rested, I entered the packed tent for R&B collective The Internet for a smooth and soulful set. Lead singer Syd barely stood still and fans grooved throughout.
Before ‘Just Sayin’’, Syd told the crowd she needed help with the hook, instructing them to put all their anger and frustration into shouting “you f#$%ed up”. Verses bloomed with deep bass and Syd’s smoky voice. When the time came for the hook, the tent erupted with screams, clearly impressing Syd with their energy.
American singer-songwriter Father John Misty has proven unmissable in the past, usually in the hopes of witnessing one of his rants. Instead, he was light on talk, focussing all of his energy on delivering an astounding set, opening with the grand and sweeping ‘I Love You, Honeybear’.
After the folky strum of ‘Total Entertainment Forever’, he and his band launched into the rocking swagger of ‘Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings’, filling the tent with guitar distortion and cries of “Someone’s got to help me, dear”.
He ended on ‘The Ideal Husband’, where he cast off his guitar, leapt in the air and fell to the floor while yelling and swinging his mic around.
With heat affecting everyone, some relief came with the rain. Attendees scrambled for cover and voicing concern when lightning cracked overhead. Thankfully the weather cleared in time for the much-anticipated Brisbane debut of shoe-gaze legends Slowdive.
The British band reunited only recently, gaining acclaim with their first album in 23 years. They sounded luscious from the very first note, making their guitars go from low moans to shrieks.
‘Catch The Breeze’ shimmered into being, all soft boy/ girl vocals, before Neil Halstead stomped on his guitar pedal, leading to flickering strobe lights. Fans were transfixed throughout and barely moving, taking in the dreamy chimes of ‘Sugar For The Pill’.
Smoke filled the stage before singer Rachel Goswell sweetly sung Syd Barrett’s ‘Golden Hair’. She left as the band kicked in, building over eight minutes to a wall of buzzing noise which hummed after the rest of the band exited imprinting itself in our memories.
Exhausted punters began leaving, but those who remained were treated to some fine and hazy Americana from The War On Drugs. Frontman Adam Granduciel unleashed epic guitar solos, his face obscured by his long hair while concentrating on his instrument.
Lyrics were buried under the music, but the band said much more in their music conjuring positively mellow moods in their psychedelic swirls. They finished on the towering, nearly ten-minute song ‘Under The Pressure’, making room for organs, pianos and saxophones across the upbeat track.
A final guitar solo from Adam blasted from the speakers, bringing Laneway to an end for another year. I left feeling tired and sore, and spent much of the next day in bed resting, dreaming of the perfect day I had at Laneway.