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Chicks with guitars, unruly hair and tats totally dominated Laneway 2014. From Haim’s topless show and Lorde’s signature ghoul moves, to Adalita’s inimitable rock prowess, the female-fronted acts truly delivered the goods at the boutique festival’s sold-out Sydney leg.
The Haim sisters proved a powerful drawcard, with plenty of punters assembling on the emerald hill to watch them dish out cut after infectious cut from their debut, Days Are Gone. Despite the blistering heat, fans climbed onto each other’s shoulders and danced fervently to the likes of Forever, Don’t Save Me and The Wire. But Este “Bassface” Haim couldn’t handle it being “hot as fuck out here,” and soon ditched her top to play in a black bra. The Californian babes closed their set with a four-way drum jam and a very satisfied crowd.
Over on the Courtyard Stage, Oz rock royalty Adalita and her “fucking awesome band” drenched her loyal following with the heavy distortion and raw vocals of Trust Is Rust and Too Far Gone. Clad in black and sporting ink, the former Magic Dirt frontwoman wrangled her guitar on the stage floor like a seasoned rock goddess.
Meanwhile, Australia’s adopted golden child, Lorde, emerged through the main stage wings crooning to Bravado, before serving up the one-two punch of Tennis Court and Royals. “It trips me out this song went everywhere, and it started here,” the NZ teen idol said of her universal hit. Between her airborne locks and frenzied choreography, we barely caught a glimpse of Ella Yelich-O’Connor’s fresh face, but she lived up to the hype with her stellar performance.
The lads of Laneway came through with some praiseworthy performances too. Man of the moment, Vance Joy, serenaded fans with his acoustic charm and incited a mass singalong with his Hottest 100-winning track, Riptide. Underestimating his newfound fame, James Keogh even got away with musical murder, defending himself by saying, “the more excited you get, the more you fuck up.”
Jagwar Ma spurred the first signs of a dance party with their brand of psychedelic techno on the Future Classic Stage. The Sydney-based trio dished up feel-good tunes like Uncertainty and Let Her Go, which had a throng of hipsters clad in ’90s throwback threads bopping till sundown. The boys won’t be jumping off that buzz train anytime soon.
The deep, soulful sounds of Britain’s King Krule were a welcome addition to Laneway’s impressive lineup. But with the backdrop of broad daylight, 19-year-old Archy Marshall’s moody music didn’t quite penetrate, though revellers made some effort to jive to his breakout hit, Easy Easy.
Likewise Kurt Vile and his band of Violators left a bit to be desired, with the folk-rock cult leader giving a rather lacklustre performance spent mostly behind his tresses. Hearing becalming gems from Wakin On A Pretty Daze as the sun began to dip behind the hill was delightful, but perhaps not the shadowy setting Vile normally shines in.
Scottish synth-pop band CHVRCHES lifted spirits with an unwavering set, featuring light shows, friendly banter and crowd-favourites Gun and Mother We Share. Onlookers were astounded not only by lead singer Lauren Mayberry’s Polly Pocket size, but her pitch perfect vocals.
Other standouts included UK bands Frightened Rabbit and Daughter, who played back-to-back on the main stages. The hilarious banter from Frightened Rabbit alone was a highlight, with the Scotsmen admitting: “We’ve got bad hair, we’re fat, and we’ve got no hits.”
Cloud Control picked up the tempo of the evening with a string of house party hits like Dojo Rising, Scar, and Promises. The four–piece oozed energy, with frontman Alister Wright setting the neck of his guitar alight and bassist Jeremy Kelshaw dancing on his amps.
Indie darlings The Jezabels made an explosive return to the festival circuit on the main stage, whilst Unknown Mortal Orchestra warmed up the crowd for the final act with the psych-rock glory of Ffunny Ffrends and So Good At Being In Trouble.
Once again proving that the femmes of the festival ran this whole show, Warpaint wandered into the spotlight to close Laneway with complete silence on all other stages. The all-girl headliners demanded undivided attention with their majestic stage presence and ethereal harmonies. Whilst it wasn’t a larger-than-life finale, Warpaint’s wraithlike set still enthralled and sent the audience home floating on air.
Photo by Annette Geneva