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Esplanade Park & West End, Fremantle
Sunday, February 8, 2015
Photography by Rachael Barrett
With the absence this festival season of the Big Day Out and Soundwave, St Jerome’s Laneway Festival loomed large on many a music fan’s calendar. Back for the second occasion in Fremantle, Laneway absolutely floats on the Freo vibe.
With a day that was heavily populated with electronic artists, Perfect Pussy sure did stand out. The New York five-piece played brash and loud punk rock with gusto. The heavily tattooed Meredith Graves is a force of nature with a monstrous voice that when belted with full intent, had you swearing that you hear blood dripping down the back of her throat. Drummer Garrett Koloski wore no shirt but had ample coverage as he pounded his kit into submission. The tunes were short and powerful as Perfect Pussy won fans with power over finesse.
Highasakite brought their atmospheric Nordic rock to the Ferris Bueller Stage. It was a rude shock for the pale skinned artists to be greeted with the scorching summer weather, but they soldiered on admirably with a set that was filled to the brim with the anthemic chorus. Pocket rocker Ingrid Havik drew the focus with her purple hair and black lipstick, but it was drummer Trond Bersu with the array of triggers and samples that saw him rarely needing to hit his snare that was the shining light. The tune that had the band loitering in triple j hottest 100, Since Last Wednesday ended a classy set on a high note.
Agnes DeMarco made one of her rare appearances as MC to introduce Angel Olsen as the woman with a voice that will pierce your heart, and she wasn’t wrong. The singer who came to most people’s attention as the backing vocalist on Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy’s last tour was here under her own steam on the back of her lauded record, Burn Your Fire For No Witness. Olsen delved into lesser-known territory with the Brill Building pop of Free and Drunk With Dreams. The four-piece were one of the quietest bands to grace a stage for Laneway, and rewarded the faithful punters with a tasty set of guitar driven folk-rock.
Courtney Barnett continues to be one of the biggest mysteries in the current crop of musicians making a splash. She is incredibly popular (as the throng spilling from the seems at the Mistletone stage reflected) and has managed to do so with an apparent lack of memorable songs. The likeable songwriter, who is rarely seen out of black jeans and a t-shirt showed she’s an adept kick of the beach ball as she does come across as one of the nicest people you are likely to meet. Her song about masturbation, Larry Jr, and the faux country, Avant Gardener, were well received. Barnett is likely to be a festival staple for some time yet.
The mix for Pond wasn’t all it could have been, but they brought the kooky psychedelia they are loved for to a hometown crowd who loved them, all the more for it. Allbrook and co. are a flaming star who continue to soar.
Jungle took to the stage just as the sun was starting to slip behind the tree line which attracted the dancers up off of the lawn and to their feet. The blend of old school funk (including live horn section) and new age electro kept everyone grooving throughout the set but the punters became restless about halfway through, before Jungle managed to recapture their attention launching into crowd favourite, Busy Earning.
Mac DeMarco was introduced to the crowd by his mum who gushed about how talented she thinks he is. As well as channelling the slacker rock vibe of the ’90s, DeMarco showed himself to be a far more adept musician than his goofy persona would imply. Opener, Salad Days, was straight out of the Pavement scrapbook, opening with the finest riff of the day to that point. In his overalls, DeMarco was spoilin’ for a sunburn as his crisp sounding band worked through tunes like The Stars Are Calling My Name and Blue Boy. The middle of the set was less focussed and somewhat shambolic, but DeMarco had clearly been holding something back as he extended his vocal range considerably for the epic Still Together before crowd surfing off to the sunset.
As the weather cooled down, English rockers Royal Blood took to the Misletone stage. The rock’n’roll duo has been something that has fascinated the music industry for years (think The Black Keys, The White Stripes and more recently DZ Deathrays) but after Sunday’s performance it seems safe to say that the rock’n’roll duo crown has been passed on to Royal Blood. They captivated the crowd from the very beginning with an aggressive but composed set smashing Out Of The Black early in the set. As well as being one of the most technically impressive bands of the day, Royal Blood also knows how to work a crowd, keeping everyone on their toes rounding out the set with Blood Hands and Ten Tonne Skeleton.
Californian psychology graduate Julian Rose Banks used her songwritng as a way to make it through her parents divorce. When she arrived on stage with her band as Banks, all dressed in flowing black outfit and gothic presence, the depth of the emotion she feels for her tunes was evident. The dynamic vocalist was backed predominantly by drums and keys as she moved around the stage with a straight back and arms to her side as she powered through songs from her debut album, Goddess. When delivering This Is What It Feels Like and Fuck ‘Em Only We Know, Banks looked like Morticia Adams showing some emotion, before ending on crowd favourite, Beggin’ For Thread.
As seasoned favourites Caribou (Daniel Snaith and friends) took the stage there was a clear indication the building crowd was ready to move. Live electronica and a well orchestrated light show go hand in hand so it was only natural by the time Can’t Do Without You was dropped the crowd erupted into a sweaty bouncing mess. As the sun was closing in on the Indian Ocean the Canadian singer/songwriter charmed his way through recent classics from Swim and One Love keeping the punters captivated and swaying in an electronic sensory bliss.
Her reputation for putting on a stunning live show preceded her and Tahliah Barnett didn’t disappoint when taking to the stage as FKA Twigs. Standing as a single figure whilst percussionists flanked the stage, Barnett danced and gyrated as she brought her tune to life. In the live setting the sounds and samples popped out to add extra inflection to an already impressive collection of songs. Pendulum highlighted a voice that is impeccably controlled with a falsetto that is faultless, with Video Girl displaying the artist’s knack for reinventing the tunes in a live setting. Barnett gave the most assured performance of the night as both a singer and dancer.
While many of the bands were getting by on the strength of their tunes, Future Islands captured the fun and brightness of being a festival drawcard. Samuel T. Herring may have been struggling with a cold, but he knows that as much as people come to hear the bands tunes, they also come to see his overenthusiastic dancing. Herring’s deep vocals and discordant dance steps are anything but textbook as he leads Future Islands through moments of great synthpop like Light House and Spirit. When it was time for the hit to be unleashed, Herring shuffled and shimmied in chaotic fashion to give a fitting visual element to Seasons (Waiting On You) – the song chosen by many as the best of 2014.
Annie Clark makes music that challenges as well as inspires. Her lyrics are obtuse and the arrangements of her songs dense and complex, but in the live setting she is the centre of the circle that is St. Vincent. She would be awarded a Grammy the next day, but you wouldn’t know it as she immersed herself in the music for her all too brief 45 minute set. With a tight black dress and a set of heels that a Julia Roberts character would be proud of, Clark made robotic gestures as she shuffled around the stage during Marrow before commanding the spotlight for a sound bending guitar solo. Theatrical to the last moment, other highlights were Cheerleader and Digital Witness as Clark took the sole focus for a performance that was enigmatic, slightly sinister and possibly unhinged.
Like mosquitoes to an ultra violet light Flying Lotus drew hordes of Laneway lurkers to his visually stunning Layer 3 show. The Los Angeles producer laboured seamlessly behind an active array of textures, patterns and optically challenging visuals. Flylo progressed through most of his recent You’re Dead LP before morphing and departing as his alter ego, Captain Murphy.
Flight Facilities closed off the 2015 Laneway Festival on the Ferris Wheel stage. Cynics might say they just played the CD and moved around on stage for 45 minutes but with no audience interaction nor breaks between songs to prove otherwise they perhaps pulled off the sneakiest DJ set of all time. Folks love ’em though!
It was a school night after all, and folks sauntered off into the darkness with a mindful of work or study the next day, but Laneway again delivered, showing the hallmarks of a great modern era festival.
CHRIS HAVERCROFT, ROY MILTON, DWIGHT O’NEILL & BOB GORDON