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Temperatures have soared and lineups have dropped — summer festival season is well and truly here. After humble beginnings in the back lanes of Melbourne a decade ago, St. Jerome’s Laneway Festival has grown into an international event, as well as arguably becoming one of the most anticipated and acclaimed music festivals in Australia this year.
A quick skim of the lineup might not allow any stadium-filling names to jump out at you, but that’s the magic of the aptly-titled Laneway Festival. With a closer look, one will find a list packed with artists representing an eclectic range of genres—in the scope of hip-hop, electronic, rock, R&B and everything in between.
What ties all the acts together is, perhaps, a loose air of quirkiness. Laneway’s unique mish-mash of artists from the left-field proved a hit, as was seen when the Australian leg of the tour kicked off in Brisbane last Saturday.
Earlier in the afternoon, long-haired locals Dune Rats amped up the arriving punters with their raw garage rock. Songs like F**k It and Red Light Green Light gave the quickly expanding crowd an easy opportunity to jump around and loosen up their limbs.
Meanwhile, Adelaide’s Tkay Maidza stirred up crowds over on the main stage. The 18-year-old rapper bounced around wearing a big smile and oversized white T-shirt, as she seamlessly delivered the fast-paced flow of Switch Lanes and U-Huh.
Following the hip-hop party was more homegrown talent, in the form of Sydney’s Andy Bull. The usually clean-cut singer-songwriter showed fine form in a backwards flat-peak cap, with a quip-happy attitude to match. The daytime crowd lapped up his alt-pop melodies, with highlights Keep on Running, Dog, and his excellent cover of Everybody Wants to Rule the World.
Impressively, and unusually, about a third of the line-up includes women as solo artists or lead singers. Melbourne’s Courtney Barnett busted out her unique blend of garage rock folk pop and delivered with arguably the most mosh-worthy set of the day. Delivered with a flourish of mouse-brown long hair, Barnett’s popular offbeat love song, Pickles from the Jar, and even heavier new single, Pedestrian At Best, proved a hit with the happily head-banging crowd.
An hour later, a very different female singer-songwriter hit the same stage and took the mood to a much broodier place. Hailing from LA, 26-year-old BANKS sauntered around the stage draped in a long black lacy number. Despite initial mic volume issues, she effortlessly delivered haunting vocals over her dark and sultry brand of R&B on a number of songs from her debut LP, Goddess.
Perhaps the most anticipated goddess of the Laneway lot, though, was enigmatic creative mastermind FKA twigs. The main-stage tent was brimming as the 27-year-old English singer-songwriter strutted onto the stage in stilettos and a black outfit comprised of straps, fishnets and chiffon. The watching crowd remained mostly still during the set, eyes fixated upon the former backup dancer’s mesmerising flow of taut limbs. Twigs’ ethereal mix of whispered and soprano vocals shone in her performance of Two Weeks and new single, Pendulum.
For those who preferred to dance away the day, there were plenty of opportunities, no matter what they were into. Over on the Red Bull-presented Future Classic stage, Chicago-based Vic Mensa’s hip-hop flow had many feeling like they were in ‘da club’, complete with a supporting emcee and air horn sound effects. Running back and forth, running on the spot, and leaping at every bass drop, the 21-year-old unleashed an energy on stage which was possibly unrivalled all day. The slow-grinding Wimme Nah started the crowd off on a steady-building high, all the way through to the drop-heavy finale of standout single, Down On My Luck.
For those more inclined to slow-dancing, the breezy, carefree indie rock of Canadian singer-songwriter/infamous on-stage joker Mac DeMarco had the crowd blissfully swaying in no time. The 24-year-old’s slacker style of singing during Salad Days, and the extended yodelling finale of Still Together, painted a perfect ambience under the spattered lights shining from the trio of giant disco balls hanging in the main stage tent.
After standout sets by the elaborate, multi-layered electronic music of local trio Seekae and Canadian composer/musician Caribou earlier in the day, it was the legendary Flying Lotus who brought the festival to a close with a bang and a flash at Brisbane Laneway.
The well-established music producer/rapper brought his experimental electronic music to life with an electrifying visual production. A transparent shroud hung between the LA-based producer’s decks and the crowd, acting as a giant projector screen. Giant flames burned over an undulating futuristic city landscape, like a psychedelic 3D movie experience, during the festival finale of Never Catch Me.
Despite modest beginnings a decade ago, Laneway Festival seems to have reached a peak in 2015, with yet another impressive showcase of front-line local and international artists. Time will tell whether it will maintain its superiority and admiration with punters in the festival circuit next year.
Image: Dune Rats Kept The Mood Loose At Laneway Festival, Brisbane / Photo: Charlyn Cameron