Just like every other year, St. Jerome’s Laneway Festival was a total ripper. 36 degree heat did little to dampen spirits (or anything at all) as Melbourne’s Footscray Community Art Centre bustled with a vast legion of excited festival-goers ready to see bands from all four corners of the planet Earth. While pretty much all of the acts we saw were fantastic, here are our top five in chronological order. The accompanying photos were all taken at the Brisbane leg of the festival, so don’t worry if they’re not wearing the clothes you remember seeing them perform in:
Among New Zealand’s forefront of psychedelic musicians stands an oddly-robed, bleach blonde little man with sunglasses shielding much of his face. “It’s just a festival,” he says in his odd infliction, “Just a festival.” The midday crowd need counsel from Mockasin after a mere forty minutes of smooth, sparse chords and storybook harmonies seemed insufficient. He and his similarly oddly-robed five-man band peformed songs from Mockasin’s new album Caramel, as well as some from 2011’s Forever Dolphin Love. ‘I’m The Man, That Will Find You’ evoked a sense of content that verged on smugness from the audience, with the 70s-tinged slow jams proving so easy to groove to that the sun seemed robbed of its much of its power. Mac DeMarco and his band provided harmonies on this track to the audience’s expected delight, and they weren’t half bad either. Absorbtion was unavoidable; everything about the performer, even down to his strangely high pitched voice, was just as weird as it was wonderful.
Okay – while I may not personally like their new album, a festival set is a festival set, and if there’s one thing Pond know how to do well it’s throw a balls-out-grand-spanking festival set. They opened with ‘Waiting Around For Grace’ upon entering the sun-blasted stage; a song that starts as a waltz and ends in a frenzy. The audience knew early that at some point in the set they’d end up dancing, and so widespread dancing (cock rockin’) commenced the minute the first song flared up into a freak-out. A recent scuttle which has seen Pond’s membership shrink to four and a total revolution in who-does-what on stage has affected their sound little. In fact, their ability to play bangers from Beard, Wives, Denim, Hobo Rocket and Man It Feels Like Space Again without the aid of a bass was bewildering. How did it sound so full?! Regardless, they played ‘Giant Tortoise’, ‘You Broke My Cool’, and finally ‘Midnight Mass’’, i.e. the guaranteed recipe for a whopper of a festival show.
FKA Twigs took to the stage as evening crept over Footscray, bringing with it widespread relief as the temperature cooled (it was still really hot though). Changing from one impeccable outfit to another as her sent went on, the British musician displayed to all present that to define her as just a singer is a very sore understatement. Twigs’ fluid movements provoked a general sense of awe as synthetic chords consumed all of those within 500 metres of the main stage. Her dollish vocals garnished the daunting blare coming from behind her, creating the same cerebral eeriness that inhabits her debut album. This was more than a pop show – FKA Twigs presents a fine-tuned, cinematic artistry in her live show that is unmatched by few, if any, of her peers.
As an artist from Melbourne, Courtney Barnett really shouldn’t be in the top five performances of a festival featuring acts from across the globe because she plays here so often. But by GOD she is good live. Barnett and her three-piece band took the stage after Twigs, albeit to an audience about one tenth of the size. She didn’t seem to care though. The posse delivered raw renditions of mostly-newer tracks from her forthcoming album Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit, with her brazen, smokey rasp conjuring a sense of raw lyricism that made her words the show’s center point (as per usual). Likewise, the set was flavoured by harsh, tinny guitars; reassuring punters that even at a major Australian festival The Tote is never that far away. The locality of it all was heartwarming, while the power behind it was consumptive. Everything was clear despite the show’s messy temper. Craftwork.
I wouldn’t even know how exactly to describe Flying Lotus’ music, but ‘really sweet electronic hip hop without any words’ is a start. From the branches of trees, the shoulders of friends, and expectedly, from the ground, onlookers were all but eaten up by this show. Daunting beats oozed from the neon visuals on the stage; both features of the producer’s show traveled in curious rhythm. This combination prohibited indifference; it was an inescapable electronic fantasia from which nobody sought refuge. Beat after beat after beat produced move after move after move as the visuals illuminated the crowd in its various colours and patterns. All of the visuals were fairly simple, too. Stripes and swishes were commonplace but no less fascinating. Basically, Flying Lotus ended the night on a super duper duper high.
Until next year, St. Jerome!