One of the most unique things about St Jerome’s Laneway Festival is the fact that no matter how substantial the event gets, it still manages to stay true to its street party origins – just on a larger scale.
Each year, the folks at Laneway Festival set the bar higher and higher and this year was no exception. While it may seem like following up last year’s headlining Tame Impala (which drew such a large crowd, it felt like the entire festival was pressed together in blissful attendance), this year’s run proved that Laneway is most definitely the people’s festival.
With clear skies and the sun shining almost blindingly upon Melbourne, it was the perfect Saturday setting for a day of great music and greater vibes. As with almost all Australian music festivals, the complete mix of punters was hard to miss. From folks covered in all-black and donning Doc Martens to your groovy tie-dyed jumpsuits and glitter-covered numbers, it was an incredibly lively and colourful scene.
Kicking things off at the Future Classic Stage was none other than Triple J’s rising star, Baker Boy. And ooooooooh boy, did he kick things off. The Aboriginal flag positioned perfectly behind him, the Milingimbi rapper took to the stage backed by his drummer who hyped the hell out of the crowd with his kit. The addition of live drums to Baker Boy’s set instead of completely relying on pre-recorded music brought a whole ‘nother level to his performance, giving him a lot more depth and energy that worked extremely well in a live setting. Opening his set with ‘Black Magic’, Baker Boy acknowledges the traditional owners our land before continuing to heat things up with his remix on Yothu Yindi’s classic ‘Treaty’ and ‘Cloud9’. In between songs, he announces that he’s working on a full-length album before picking up a didgeridoo and freestyling to “catch some breath”. Continuing with ‘Mr La Dee Da’, it’s not until he plays ‘Marryuna’ that the crowd loses themselves to the music. The track came in at an impressive #17 in Triple J’s Hottest 100 last week and it’s no denying that it’s a TUNE.
Way across the edge at The Very West Stage, Byron Bay’s psychadelic-pop outfit The Babe Rainbow are fashionably late (by 20 minutes) to the stage, but their colourful and somewhat coordinated outfits highlight the fashionably and you kind of just end up ignoring the late. Complementing their ridiculously vibrant garb were props of colourful cacti and beach balls that made the rounds in the pit, bouncing from punter to punter – paired with their infectiously chill music, the band managed to create the illusion of a tranquil beach party, ignoring the sweltering heat bouncing off the asphalt and tall buildings surrounding the area.
A new addition to the festival and something you can easily miss if you’re not specifically looking for it was Red Bull Music’s I Oh You’s Block Party – not necessarily a stage but almost like a micro-platform where the likes of Jesswar turned into something completely bigger than itself. While The Babe Rainbow were able to fool punters into neglecting the burning sun, the heat put up too big a fight for Jesswar’s laptop which overheated just two songs into her set. Technical difficulties sure as hell didn’t stop the Brisbane based artist though as she took to rapping acapella-style with the help of a small but humble crowd who danced their sweaty little hearts out. It was an intimate but incredibly energetic setting as Jesswar joined the crowd without missing a beat. With the issues resolving towards the end of her stint, she thanks the crowd and puts all her energy into her latest track ‘Savage’ with such fire that you couldn’t tell if you were hot from the sun or just Jesswar’s mad bars.
Going back to the Future Classic Stage, the theme of completely owning the stage continues as Brisbane’s unapologetic rapper Miss Blanks graces the audience with her charm and empowering presence. Dancing along on-beat with her backup dancers by her side, a large screen behind them displays screenshots of Instagram selfies of Miss Blanks which is quite comical moreso a pretty powerful statement to her following, she’s leading a generation of diversity and pride, to which her online following is a true testament. With fans bouncing along to ‘Drop It Low’ and ‘Worldwide Pussy’, it’s a picture-perfect setting for welcoming progress.
Over the green grassy hills is the Spinning Top Stage, which is absolutely packed with punters bumper to bumper – or perhaps, shoulder to shoulder – for Melbourne’s indie rockers Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever. The band drew quite an impressive crowd as they worked through ‘Mainland’, ‘Sick Bug’, ‘Fountain of Good Fortune’ and ‘Wide Eyes’ to name a few. Their stage presence was effortless in being cool and overall glad-to-be-there, and rather than focusing on doing something out in left field they created a hospitable environment with perfectly executed live music to a sea of burning but content faces.
The Dean Turner Stage near the festival entrance is not hard to miss but it’s when UK four-piece Wolf Alice took the reigns that Laneway met one of the most energetic sets of the day. Lead singer Ellie Rowsell delivered her performance with outstanding vigour, breathing new life into tracks like ‘Don’t Delete The Kisses’ and ‘Space & Time’. The set was surprisingly one of the heavier offerings from Laneway but the delivery and execution was beyond electrifying, backed by the smiling faces of punters leaving the stage at the end.
It’s not an easy feat to follow up last year’s successful run but Laneway 2018 honed in on bettering the overall experience for concert-goers in different ways. An immediately noticeable difference is the fact that this year, there was an abundance of food and drink options and the general placement of stalls and amenities made the event a lot more enjoyable. One can only imagine how the good folks at Laneway will top their game next year!