Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Laneway Festival (NB: Not actually in a lane.)

Clock-tower, stage adjacent

Ah Laneway festival. Such wonderful wonders, even despite your mis-leading title - this year, Laneway moved out of the original Melbourne and Sydney “lanes” after the crowd sizes increased, and people started complaining that they couldn’t a) see the bands in the lanes and b) were getting crushed against the walls of said lanes, lanes probably used for dirty late night sex. Despite my (non dirty late night sex) penchant for the funky lanes of Melbourne and Sydney, I’m forced to admit that Sydney Laneway’s new home amongst the old sandstone buildings of the Sydney College of the Arts is pretty damn fine. I mean, who doesn’t like their stages wedged between grand Victorian buildings that once were part of a psychiatric hospital?

The grounds

Compared with Big Day Out a week or so earlier, the atmosphere at Laneway was groovy and vintage. No shirtlessness anywhere. Lots more 80s sundresses. Stacks more Doc Martin boots. And, a whole tonne of chilled out indie popster punters. And then there was the line up: The Middle East! The XX!! (Though unfortunately they were on at the same time as…) Mumford and Sons!!! And finally, the ludicrous number of exclamation mark warranting Florence and the Machine!!!!!

Even if the promoters had promised to throw puppies and chocolate mint biscuits (or at least puppie-shaped biscuits) I couldn’t have been anymore excited for Laneway...

So how did it all turn out?

The morning began with Hockey, a band out of Portland, Oregon, who, like so many before them, have proved that good music comes out of places where it rains a lot. Their set was enthusiastic and energetic, and I especially liked their lead singer’s habit of busting out epic drum solos mid-song. I really think Triple J need to play more than just one single of Hockey’s – the catchy, intelligent "Too Fake". Also, Hockey are tops for having three band members who all look like they come from distinct musical genres: lead guitar from Australian 80s pub rock, lead singer a 70s punk rocker and a beard sporting bassist who looked like “Alan” from The Hangover (ok, so that’s not a musical genre, but that film is so awesome it can be whatever it wants).


After paying a brief and intense visit to the acid-hungover Whitely (who first ragged on Lisa Mitchell – hilarious – and then freely admitted his acid use before yelling “Sniffer dogs!” and diving off side-of stage), we moseyed on over to the Car Park Stage for The Middle East. The Middle East, while musically very talented, played a couple of long, spoken-narrative songs, which kind of broke the crowds’ enthusiasm a little. But other than that, they, and all their instrument swapping, were lovely.

Bridezilla, and we made a push to the front of the stage in order to secure a prime position for Mumford and Sons. A pretty good position we scored, and, in order to hold it and indeed improve upon it for Florence and the Machine, for the next 6 hours, we stood our sweaty, well-packed ground. (Eventually, we got right up against the barricades!)


Mumford and Sons. Were awesome. They harmonised, they wielded a multitude of cool instruments (including their iconic banjo) and played all their well-loved songs, full of folky goodness. And every folky song of theirs was sung with the gracious amazement that this crowd, thousands of kilometres from their hometown, knew every single word. Then the band announced to the crowd that it was lead singer, Marcus Mumford’s birthday. So then we got right into the celebratory spirit and sang him happy birthday. I think he was a little embarrassed.

Mumford and Sons

Several hours and Sarah Blasko and Echo and the Bunnymen later, Florence and the Machine were on. Well, actually, Florence took her time, so the impatient crowd had to start chanting “Flor-ence, Flor-ence” (don’t think this ever helps, personally). Anyway. Florence and the Machine… Were. So. Completely. Amazing.


I do love every note of “Lungs”, and so was perhaps slightly primed to be biased towards this set, but, honestly, this was the best gig I have ever seen. Ever. Really. (And I promise, I generally try to avoid hyperbole [believing it to be the domain of hack car-salesmen and squealing 16-year-old-girls]) BUT, Florence’s incredible lung capacity – amazing. Her vocal range – amazing. The fact that she performed in an electric-blue (best colour ever), bat-wing body suit – amazing. Her stage-wide dancing, aerobics and speaker climbing and jumping in giant gold high-heels – amazing. The Machines’ continual friendly, smiley natures – amazing. Florence encouraging the entire crowd to sing and dance and clap and jump in time together – amazing. As my friend said to me after the set finished: “When I grow up, I want to be Florence.” So do I (and not just so I had have her amazing super-model legs) (though they would be a bonus).

I should probably stop now. I think I’m a little over excited.

xx Esther

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