We sent our Co-Head Editor, Ryan Colsey – who’s averse to all things indie musical festivals – to Laneway Festival earlier this year.
Port Adelaide was buzzing in a big way at this year’s St Jerome’s Laneway Festival as some of the best local and international musicians descended on Harts’ Mill to the rapture of six thousand-plus music-goers.
As someone that hadn’t been to a genuine music festival for six years and who had tuned out of Triple J when they refused to include Taylor Swift in the Top 100, I was a tad out of the loop when I joined these revellers.
With an open mind and an even more open wallet, I joined the throng to see what Laneway 2019 had to offer and ended up with a positive feeling that Australian music is headed in the right direction.
The crowd comprised a fair blend of school dodgers, uni students and slightly older hipsters. Considering the blistering January that had just passed, the weather gods were kind and a mild day near the river added to the appeal. My music tastes are somewhat eclectic and while not a particular devotee of indie music, I was up for the experience.
Generally the day delivered; in fact, many acts surpassed my expectations.
The three-stage set-up the venue offered lent itself to the festive ambience, with just the right amount of intimacy to get up close and personal with the performers, while offering space for perusing the sideshows and wandering between acts. The third stage did have some acoustic problems but this didn’t seem to deter the groups from giving their all.
There is no doubt that with British acts such as Rex Orange Country – making their Australian debut and electro genius Jon Hopkins and US performers like Parquet Courts and Clairo, the line-up of international acts was guaranteed to draw a crowd. They did not disappoint.
But the truly cool thing about Laneway Festivals is the predominance of alternate homegrown talent. Sydney’s Gang of Youths, Melbourne singer-songwriter Courtney Barnett, Northern Territory’s Baker Boy, Ruby Fields and many first-timers such as G- Flip and Skeggs, bonded with their audiences in a familiar and unpretentious manner, while still offering cracking professional performances.
It was difficult not to be swayed by the crowd’s fervour which reached the heights with acts such as Baker Boy with his huge stage presence and endless energy, as well as G-Flip who shared the love and showcased her considerable drumming talent in “About You”. Gang of Youths were a headline act for a reason, and talented and skilled musician Courtney Barnett lead the charge of the great female talent showcased at the festival. Representative of this group as well was my personal pick of the day, Ruby Field, with her rendition of the Church’s Unguarded Moment; not only because it was one of the few songs of which I knew the words. Having not been familiar at all with her work prior to Laneway, she can now add another fan to her collection; there’s no doubt that she’s a star on the rise.
In their promo material, the organisers of Laneway, now in its 15th year and going strong, promise to source fresh acts, encourage community involvement and present ‘a live music experience like no other’. Although not quite an indie convert, for me and the thousands of festival-goers this year, they ticked all those boxes.
Words Ryan Colsey
Photos Oliver White
*These views do not necessarily reflect those of Verse
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