Laneway Festival @ RNA Showgrounds, Brisbane (01/02/2013)

Image for Laneway Festival @ RNA Showgrounds, Brisbane (01/02/2013)

Beginning in 2004 at Melbourne’s St. Jerome’s Bar as the St. Jerome’s Summer Series, Laneway Festival has grown in leaps and bounds over the past eight years and is now an international event. Kicking off the Australian leg of the tour on Friday, Laneway came to Brisbane on a typically steamy day. Having the festival on a Friday meant it was difficult for many to get to the show until the sun was setting, however many others managed to swing a day off to attend what is becoming one of Brisbane’s premier music events.

Getting to the venue earlier in the afternoon meant a speedier entry than later on and gave this first timer a bit of a chance to explore the venue. The first thing that struck me was the lack of a ‘Laneway’ in the technical sense. The RNA showgrounds is home to the annual Brisbane Exhibition, fondly known as ‘The Ekka’ and is also home to larger events, Stereosonic and Soundwave Festivals. Having just a small area of the venue open meant the day felt a little more intimate and special, with vintage market stalls, plenty of seating and plenty of international food choices making an appearance, along with the Brisbane leg of Free Art Friday, the international art movement, who were giving out stacks of Free Art which quickly ran out quite early in the day.

Heading over to the aptly named Carpark Stage, four incredibly good looking, insanely young men took to the stage with a look of shock. The Ruben’s have exploded on to the Aussie music scene in the last part of 2012 with their self-titled album. On their first tour since being named triple j’s ‘Album of the Week’ back in September, the three brothers, Zaac, Elliot and Sam, along with their mate Scott, couldn’t help but tell the crowd how overwhelmed they were. Turning around to check out the crowd, I could see why – for a three o’clock time slot, the main stage was close to full. Playing their hits My Gun and Don’t Ever Want to Be Found, along with a groovy cover of The Seed 2.0, originally by The Roots, the boys rocked the main stage, pumping the crowd up for what was to come later. With smooth vocals, and a polished sound, this down tempo indie rock group’s future looks bright.

Promoters Eat Your Own Ears have worked with Laneway organisers for the past few years to bring some huge acts to our shores, including SBTRKT, The xx and Django Django. Honouring this effort, a stage was erected this year in their honour, hosting some of the heavier acts of the day, such as The Men, Cloud Nothings and Japandroids.

These bands are heavy and loud, but none could match Brooklyn’s own El-P. The festival’s only hip hop artist put on a huge set, with a slightly unorthodox opening, blasting Phil Collins’ In the Air Tonight to introduce the man himself and his crew, however this was about as soft as it got. With ridiculous bass and ear popping snares, backed up with the occasional guitar lick, reminiscent of 70’s glam metal El-P had the small crowd bouncing in unison, and singing along where they could in the loudest set of the day by far. El-P’s lyrics are perhaps the most important part of his music and while the Eat Your Own Ears stage was set up well for some of the aforementioned bands, the sound was not right for a hip hop gig, and while you could hear his voice, the words were distorted by the time they reached the crowd. It was a little disappointing to hear a lot of his tracks remade to have more of a rock feel to compensate for this, and would have been better placed on a different stage with acoustics that would carry his voice a bit further.

Next stop was a visit to the inaugural Future Classic Stage, bought to Laneway for the first time by Sydney based record label and touring company of the same name, to check out Shlohmo’s unique combination of psychedelic hip hop and trippy, lo-fi, synth-funk. Similar to the likes of UK counterparts James Blake and Mount Kimbie, Shlohmo’s sound feels like you are lying in long grass, watching birds chatter, and immersing yourself in the sounds around you. Set in a small warehouse with UV paint on the walls, the Future Classic stage was seemingly perfect for Shlohmo’s quiet, down tempo feel, however with American indie-punk rockers Cloud Nothings playing on the Eat Your Own Ears stage, set up on the other side of the back wall, it was difficult to hear once again, this time due to reverb from outside.

Eventually giving up, some more exploring bought me to The Zoo Stage, where New York electro indie-pop band MS MR were finishing up their intense-but-atmospheric set. Having only heard a couple of tracks before including smash hit Hurricane, I’m now hooked to their sweeping soundscape, hard hitting drums, and beautiful vocals. The elusive group, who have so far managed to keep their real names secret, have developed a massive following here in Australia with the tiny stage packed to the point where people were hanging off the bleachers set towards the back and spilling out in to the markets in the adjoining space, apparently after leaving UK indie rockers Alt-J’s set once their hits Tesselate and Breezeblocks were played early on.

Just a hop step and a jump away, it was back to the Carpark stage to wait for one of the biggest acts of the day: Flume. Starting his set about 15 minutes late due to a flight delay from Sydney, the youngster had obviously jumped off the plane and straight on stage, still dressed in a smart button up shirt and tailored pants. Quickly apologising, and getting straight down to business, Flume treated the crowd to tracks from his self-titled album, including Insane featuring Moon Holiday’s and On Top featuring T Shirt, along with staple hits Sleepless and Holdin On (which the audience completely lost their minds to), and finishing with his massive remix of Hermitude’s HyperParadise. Drawing by far the largest crowd of the day, Flume’s set was flawless and modern, dropping hints of Kendrick Lamar’s Swimming Pools (Drank) and other recent hits over his own tracks to create a well-rounded set and perfect warm up for those lucky enough to have the energy to attend his massive after party at Oh Hello.

Following on from Flume on the Carpark stage was the eclectic and ambient sounds of another US act, Yeasayer. Returning to Laneway festival for a second time, the boys were happy to be here, tailoring the opening of their set to repeat a sampled ‘Good Evening Brisbane’ with their usual trippy sound. Treating the crowd to a mix of older hits, with a lot of new ones thrown in, the band was a hit with the crowd as always – and although the crowd was not as big as that of Flume’s, the punters were just as loud and just as excited.

But with Chet Faker about to kick off on the Future Classic Stage, I decided to bite the bullet and head over to check him out (along with the rest of the Laneway attendees, apparently). Getting to the entrance to the stage just in time to see security shut the gate due to the room being at capacity level, tensions ran high as punters grew frustrated at the wait, with some mentioning they had been trying to get in for 20 minutes. About 10 minutes later, an influx of people left the stage, grumbling once again about sound issues. This allowed a good deal of the waiting crowd to be admitted to the stage to catch the last couple of songs. Playing an acoustic set, Chet was a little hard to hear, once again due to the band playing next door, Canadian rock duo The Japandroids. who I caught commanding the crowd to Get Fucking Loud as I was trying to get in to Chet’s set. Catching his amazing cover of Blackstreet’s No Diggity, along with beautiful hits I’m Into You and Solo Sunrise, Chet and his band had myself and the rest of the audience mesmerised and close to distraught when he left the stage.

The final – and for many, the most anticipated – act of the day was the infallible Nicolas Jaar. Insisting on setting the stage themselves, Jaar and his band treated the audience to a pre-show show, jamming on stage while saxophones and guitars were tuned, much to the delight of the audience. Opening in his usual atmospheric style, with a haunting saxophone piece introducing a huge set, Jaar took the crowd to another planet with Time for Us, moving onto Mi Mujer and Marks, along with album tracks Problem With The Sun and Keep Me There. Another excruciatingly young artist, this man has amazing talent: using samplers like he was born with them and conducting the other two members of his live band while he was at it.

Laneway is touted as one of the leaders in new and fresh music and this year was, once again, an homage to the organisers ability to pick up-and-coming acts and give them a national launching pad. Next year is expected to be even bigger than before, and I am looking forward to checking out the lineup already.

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