Charles Darwin most likely didn’t anticipate that the process of natural selection could be applied to the Australian festival circuit some 130 years after his death, and if he did, I’m sure AJ Maddah would have appreciated a warning. While most other festivals have either perished or are perishing, Laneway still manages to sell out in the blink of an eye. Here is why the fun/10 festival wins the whole ‘survival of the fittest’ thing, written in the good ol’ form of a list:
IT DOESN’T RESORT TO BOOKING HAS-BEENS
Having bands like Pearl Jam as headliners is possibly the most effective means in existence of showing the world that your festival is on a flaming collision course towards the ground – surpassing this target only to fall into ‘the ghost of festivals’ past’ – a.k.a. Perth Big Day Out.
But since Laneway did the exact opposite of this, it is probably indicative that they are, and will continue to be, doing pretty well.
Laneway fulfills the initial aim of Big Day Out; which was lost somewhere between Muse and Pearl Jam – or even some time before that. Bands like Scenic, The Growl, Dick Diver and Jagwar Ma comprised the much needed sector of the bill which many Australian festivals are sadly void of; local bands with the potential to break out at any time. This is great for two reasons: firstly, it goes to show that our music scene is alive and well (because apparently some people need reminding of this), and secondly because it’s eye opening. Having never heard Jagwar Ma or Scenic before in my life, I left the festival a fan of both. Lame, I know, but true.
Likewise, I wonder how many people walked out of this years’ Big Day Out having found a cool new Aussie band in Pearl Jam or Arcade Fire.
COOL OVERSEAS BANDS
Similarly, the assortment of international acts was also refreshing. It was nice to attend a festival which wasn’t headlined by prolific festival-headliners Arcade Fire, or, as it pains me to type, bloody-friggin-god-damned MUSE.
Instead, international headliners such as Frightened Rabbit, Warpaint, and Four Tet provided an interesting end to the evening whichever one you chose to attend – unless you went to The Jezabels who are also fun but don’t apply to this subcategory as they are Australian (sorry guys). Many of the overseas acts which Laneway pulled this year had never played in Australia before; making Laneway a must for the people like me who have always wanted to see Warpaint, Kurt Vile, and other newcomers to the land down unda’. Also, it means that we didn’t have to see Crystal Castles play in Australia for the forty-seventh time.
We all know the type; board-shorted suburban party dudes who can’t seem to comprehend the existence of anyone or anything below their eye line, recklessly pushing their way to the front regardless of the human obstacles (festival patrons) which obstruct them. Among their favorite things are ‘summer vibes’, the ‘live music scene’ and as aforementioned, board shorts. All year round.
At Laneway there were very few, if any at all; and it still beats me as to how this came about. Maybe it was too hot to be a human steamroller, or maybe the relatively relaxed atmosphere encouraged the party crews to chill the f*ck out and watch shows from a distance while eating pizza.
I still have no idea exactly how or why the Laneway crowds were so relaxed and respectful – it’s not like there was any lack of alcohol, drugs or any other obnoxious-behavior-inducing substances at the festival. But whatever Laneway are doing, they’re doing it right.
That’s right – the festival is held around an artist commune. So it was really nice watching bands while sitting on a lawn instead of trampled dirt with oddly-grown and sunbaked tuffs of grass everywhere. The only setback in location was that the main stage (the Moreland Stage) was in fact erected in an asphalt Laneway – which is all well and good if the temperature is below 35 degrees, but it wasn’t. This meant that watching bands at this particular stage became an effort; most notably the early afternoon acts such as The Growl. But otherwise, the other three stages had beautiful and well kept lawns on which one could sit, eat, drink and view. Presumably thanks to the artists who live there.
STRONG FEMALE REPRESENTATION
All I can say is YES!
If there was ever an instance that made absurd the fact that pretty much all Australian music festivals are male-dominated, it was Laneway 2014. Acts like Warpaint, The Jezabels, Lorde, Haim, Chvrches, Adalita, Dick Diver, Savages, and Cloud Control comprised some of the biggest and best shows of the festival; revealing to the 15 000 festival patrons the long hidden truth that women are in fact kick-arse musicians too.
This realization only properly hit me while watching Warpaint’s Jenny Lee Lindberg absolutely slaughter her bass parts as though she was born with four strings in her hands; not having to look at her instrument once. It goes without saying that none of the all-female band lacked ability in any way or form as opposed to their male contemporaries. In fact, Lindberg and Stella Mozgawa were probably the tightest rhythm section I saw all day.
It made other festivals look ridiculous; such as the annual sausagefest that is Soundwave. Laneway probably didn’t even have to go out of their way to book bands which include females, because there are so many out there. It’s something that’s a folly issue to begin with, but still Laneway addressed it. And it’s pretty refreshing.
So there you have it. Just some of the reasons why St. Jerome’s Laneway Festival wins the process of natural selection every single year.