ST. JEROME’S LANEWAY FESTIVAL
Esplanade Reserve and West End, Fremantle
Sunday, February 5, 2017
While Falls established itself in Perth this year, it’s safe to say Laneway is still the premier festival for music lovers, and another stellar edition over the weekend solidified its reputation. Freo seems to be dominating the festival market lately, perhaps fittingly so, as the port city has been instrumental in putting WA on the musical map. The city’s prodigal son, Kevin Parker, returned this year – his band Tame Impala finishing up the massive Currents world tour in their home town, with a suitably triumphant festival finale.
Earlier in the day, Parker’s old bandmate and Pond frontman Nicholas Allbrook performed a set of his psychedelic solo material, with only keyboard backing. With flute in hand he greeted the early crowd, who formed a giant donut in front of the stage, in a bid to avoid the brutal sun. Another local act greeting early arrivals was Triple J Unearthed winners Dream Rimmy, who despite their young ages have seemingly mastered a Perth throwback to shoegaze. They were the first act to grace the all new Future Classic stage in front of the Shipwreck Museum, which despite meaning the festival lost the last of its “laneway” era, provided a better viewing space for punters.
Melbourne’s Camp Cope impressed many with their sweet, melodic, indie sound. The female trio are fronted by vocalist and guitarist Georgia Maq, who endeared the crowd – some fans shouting out a request for Footscray Station, an early solo song of hers. She apologised for not being able to remember it, but made up with a great rendition of Lost: Season One.
London’s Nao was an awesome bundle of energy with an incredible, pure voice. With a three-piece nu-soul backing band, she totally owned the stage, spinning and shaking in her African print onesie.
Canada’s White Lung can lay claim to having the most rocking frontwoman of the day in Mish Way. All attitude on stage, she was the epitome of rock chick chic, oozing a Courtney Love vibe with her bleached blonde hair, black sunnies, short dress and torn stockings. She belted out raw, punkish, powerhouse vocals, while guitarist Kenneth William showed off some impressive, fast fret work.
“This song’s about being really hot onstage in Fremantle,” joked Whitney’s singing drummer, Julien Ehrlich. Setup front and centre, he would have been feeling the heat. Ehrlich who also plays with Unknown Mortal Orchestra, counts Levon Helm of The Band as an inspiration, and it shows, as he led his five-piece band through some laidback grooves. His falsetto melodies were pleasant, but the performance didn’t really hit the mark on the big main stage.
Seattle’s cult indie group, Car Seat Headrest were the first band to really get things going. Their short set included two covers – a gloriously faithful, but rocked out version of The Boys Next Door’s Shivers was one of the tracks of the day, with Will Toledo’s voice perfectly suited to Nick Cave’s dulcet tones. Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales was a highlight, as was their Strokesy number Unforgiving Girl. They finished big with the Pixies’ Motorway to Roswell; guitarist Ethan Ives taking over vocals.
For an artist born of viral Facebook videos, there’s a been a lot of hype around Tash Sultana. Not daunted at all, she opened with some heavy reverberations and quickly commanded the biggest crowd of the daylight. You can’t help but be blown away that one person, especially so new to the game, could bring that much power. Her reckless energy flowed through to her animated gestures, which complimented her smooth, silky drawn out vocals of Jungle, bringing her set to an enjoyable close. D.D Dumbo had more people onstage, but somehow less energy. For those willing to get up close and immerse themselves in the show, it was a more subtle, exotic experience. Backed by a bongo drummer and multi-instrumentalist, main man Oliver Hugh Perry conjures some intriguing sounds – but it didn’t quite translate to a festival setting.
The sun had started to fall as UK house man Tourist took to the Future Classic stage. The dapper gent looked fitting in his white linen and navy boat shoes, and had a healthy turn out. It was mellow, but oh so vibey, as reflected in the sea of happy faces. He brought out Too Late fairly early and closed with Run, completing a very kind and undulating soundscape.
While not as internationally heavy as previous years, it was a proud year of Aussie rock, with Brisbane’s Dune Rats and Melbourne’s King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard both continuing to capitalise on their current fame and playing solid sets to big crowds. But it was Gang of Youths that really captured the crowd with an inspired performance. Charismatic singer David Le’aupepe is a born frontman. Bursting with energy, and an impassioned vocal delivery, he’s like a cross between Heath Ledger and Michael Hutchence. He got the girls all fired up with his dance moves and everyone dancing for the brilliantly euphoric Magnolia.
The duo of Briggs and Trials are a winning combination, and A.B. Original provide a much-needed loud indigenous voice in Australian hip hop. They’re also a couple of damn fine rappers backed by some truly phat, golden era style beats. Joined by a backing singer, they brought Drapht out for a track and performed their Like a Version cover of Paul Kelly’s Dumb Things. But it was obvious what they would finish with – thanking the crowd sincerely, they gave a special shout out to Freo for their support of the Change The Date movement, and how much it meant to them, before launching into January 26. To see the support and response all around; it was a special moment.
With her technicolour cape, incredible band and backup singers, Sampa the Great brought an electric jazziness to the Future Classic stage, like unfurling smoke. Her soulful melodies paired with slick lines regarding women, politics or simply love, meant she was ahead of the playing field in cultural and genre diversity.
Glass Animals graced us with their smooth guitar riffs and husky leads but there was something lacking. Gooey felt nice and warm to hear but it wasn’t mixed well and the sound didn’t feel like it was projecting as it should have been. In stark contrast, Tycho sounded fantastic. Showing how electronic-with-live-instruments is done, they put on a clinic, with crisp, clear production and deep, heavy bass sounds. Their downtempo, lush beats were perfect for that point of the night. From behind his keyboards, main man Scott Hansen led his band through soaring post-rock dreamscapes. It was a full production, and as night fell, sublime visuals on the screen behind them really lifted the mood.
Floating Points followed on in similar fashion over on the Spinning Top side stage. The first time English producer Sam Shepherd has brought over his live show, it was an incredibly immersive experience. He was almost hidden behind banks of equipment, and joined by an incredible drummer, as well as two guitars, bass, and a very cool light show. The epic, progressive sounds were reminiscent of Pink Floyd.
Jagwar Ma drew a smaller, but solid crowd of dedicated fans of their super cool psych-rock, big beats and shoegaze experimentation. Many were eager to see Chet Faker’s transformation into Nick Murphy. His new project is markedly different to his previous persona, with Murphy more active onstage, allowing himself to indulge his inner rockstar. After getting a few Chet classics out of the way (Gold, Talk Is Cheap) he moved on to material from his upcoming album, finishing with the epic Stop Me (Stop You). After some tweaking synth mayhem, he climbed back onto his podium to play out the gorgeous piano outro.
Arriving with passing interest to check out Norway’s Aurora, it was quickly obvious how jaw-dropping she really was. She had the power of a natural force and the most perfect pitch. Her dance moves were so natural and not staged like some other female artists’ awkward, dramatic gestures. Hopefully there is much more to come for this beautiful elven fjord pixie.
Finishing up the electronic stage was Mr. Carmack and the man really threw his shit down. Even the most exhausted morsels couldn’t resist getting sweaty to his set jammed with heavy, bassy, trap beats and hip hop tracks. From strength to strength, his exponential energy was rudely cut off out of nowhere. After an unfortunate break due to ‘an explosion under the decks’, he fired back up and made up for lost time, with one of the best sets of the evening.
But it was all about hometown heroes Tame Impala. A huge crowd had gathered and it was a jam-packed hour-long set of their finest material. After acclimatising the crowd with Nangs, they well and truly kicked things off with Let It Happen. The monstrous Elephant was present, and the euphoric strains of The Less I Know The Better floated into the night sky. After the biggest, most successful tour of his career, you could tell this homecoming gig meant a lot to Parker. Eventually was epic as the stage was bathed in a swirling kaleidoscope of colours, before they bid us good night with New Person, Same Old Mistakes which saw a massive explosion of confetti over the crowd, that was like being showered in rainbows. A perfect and fitting end to another great Laneway.
ALFRED GORMAN AND MIA CAMPBELL-FOULKES
Photos by Mikaela James Photography