FESTS // St. Jerome’s Laneway Festival – 2017 // Footscray Community Arts Centre

To quote Camp Cope, Laneway Festival keeps growing.

After the mini-Laneway Festival practice run last week at Sugar Mountain, we got to experience the real deal this weekend.

Laneway Festival

Speaking of which, Camp Cope were the first band we caught. They had a very simple set up, no bells or whistles, just vocalist Georgia Maq, bassist Kelly-Dawn Hellmrich, and drummer Sarah Thomo with their respective instruments up on stage. While they’ve developed quite a fanbase in their short existence, I caught Hellmrich whisper, “I’m so nervous” as she stepped out on stage. But while they claimed they were freaking out, their messages concerning sexual abuse, anxiety and young love were strong and clear, no doubt helped by Georgia Maq’s fearless vocals. As well as serving up a rowdy set later in the afternoon, Briggs and Trials of A.B. Original also served as MCs for the day, hosting the Welcome to Country straight afterwards.

It was probably a big error of judgement thinking I could simply weave my way out of Tash Sultana‘s set to see Roland Tings down the road at the Future Classic stage. Because you don’t score a number three on the Hottest 100 a few days before to then play to a small crowd. The crowd felt about a kilometre long and as dense as that jungle Tash Sultana sings about. I’ve done easier bush bashes in my day. This girl is a true musician, someone you need to see in an intimate space to experience her whole performance. While the crowd towards the front seemed in awe, the further away from the stage we weaved, the more the atmosphere dimmed and became restless. As complained about in previous years, while the concept of a laneway festival is lovely, it’s just not practical when recreated on the large-scale that it is now. Getting from one stage to another involves schlepping across one long “laneway” after another. And no one wants to stand behind dozens and dozens of people, with no amphitheatre-style slope to calibrate it.

Getting to Roland Tings was a relief after squeezing and apologising my way through that restless Tash Sultana crowd. Luckily, when a loose dance is needed, Roland Tings is the one to call. There’s something so contagious about his boppy dance music, especially nice in the shadey foliage of the Future Classic stage. However, the schlepping was just starting. I then dragged myself up to the Dean Turner stage to find myself in the presence of the genius that is Car Seat Headrest. Every song felt like a journey, helped along by Will Toledo’s long and rambling lyrics. He writes the music (all 13 albums of it) but has a band perform it live, akin to fellow Laneway artist Kevin Parker and Tame Impala.

From serious lo-fi indie rock, to getting uplifted by Tourist, to the total love-in that was Sampa the Great. Punters sprawled across the grass to watch Sampa and her backup singers drop some soulful rapping. Pieces of patterned material stitched up wth rope created a huge homely backdrop to her stage. Partway through the set, two similarly huge canopies passed over the heads of the crowd…before security came over and unceremoniously ripped it up. Bit of a brutal ending to the love-in, but you can only imagine the OH&S issues of all that rope. It didn’t stop us seeing people dotted all around the festivals for the rest of the day wearing bits of the material as capes. HERoes.

Getting deeper into the evening, Nick Murphy played a funky, electronic set – different to his Laneway Festival set as Chet Faker in 2015 which was a much more low-key affair. The crowd was simply too long to get anywhere close to seeing him though, so it was dancing to a screen as the next-best alternative. And then there was one more big schlep to be pulled. We decided to be courageous and make our way back to Dean Turner for some Glass Animals action, before heading right back again to The Very West Stage for Tame Impala. It had to be done, because Glass Animals are peanut butter vibes good and Tame Impala is Tame Impala. Let it happen.

While Laneway Festival doesn’t come without its detriments (if I haven’t made it clear yet, craning your head to see above rows of other punters and all that schlepping is not my favourite), it really has a bit of something for everyone, and they curate a good enough line up for me to get sucked back into going year after year. Can someone host a Big Wide Open Area with Limited Capacity Festival next year?

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