will this festival likely live happily ever after?


St. Jerome’s Laneway Festival @ Sydney College Of The Arts, Sydney NSW Australia 03/02/2019 written by Brendan Lewis.

You remember back when you were in primary school and your teacher had a jar of lollies or chocolate, that when you did something good or answered a question right you’d get said treat (the similarities between training a dog and a young human are uncanny). But then that smartass in your class thinks that just because he can’t see the teacher, that they won’t see him nicking the contents from the jar, then inevitably, spoils it for the whole class? Well, that’s what it’s like for festival punters nowadays, thanks to the rising number of people taking the luxury of a festival too far by overdosing on illicit drugs, forcing loved festivals to be cancelled. Today however, I don’t feel like over-intoxication will be an issue, judging from my previous experiences of this festival and well, seriously, with a line-up like this featuring rising and risen stars of indie, electronic, rock, pop etc such as Camp Cope, Middle Kids, Rex Orange County, Jorja Smith, Courtney Barnett, What So Not and the say yes to life attitude of local legends, Gang Of Youths, this is music that being over-intoxicated would just ruin the enjoyment of and would be a waste!

I must note, that although throughout this review, you may think I’m trippin’ on LSD with my analogies and metaphors, nope, it’s just my wacky imagination folks!...

Upon entering this magical land of music, I’m pleasantly surprised at how approachable and reasonable security are despite the heightened security measures, I mean, even though there’s strictly no food allowed yes, they can actually use common sense to realise of course a type 1 diabetic needs food, a wand and a crossbow on them, in case of an emergency!.... Ok, they might’ve taken the crossbow off me. Now let’s go walk the yellow brick road to the Garden stage for the first magical musical encounter. Two things, first, I actually have no idea if the bricks on the road are in fact yellow or not, and secondly, it’s not a brick road, not even a road at all. Ah yes, now my wobbly ankles remember the abundance of tree roots, gutters, un-even pavements and the incredibly steep hill in which to roll down to the side-by-side Park and Garden stages.

With so many amazing talents to choose from it’s hard to pick where to start, but luckily, Cronulla-based indie-punk chick on P plates Ruby Fields is up on the Garden stage nice and early! Placing Ruby on the bill nice and early was a very smart move because this talented young lady recently scored #9 in the Triple J Hottest 100 for her latest single ‘Dinosaurs’ and judging by the turn out here, Ruby is a lot of punters starting choice! The other reason why putting Ruby on early is a smart move, is simply the fact that her edgy, playful, infectious melodies with grungy, angsty and riff-driven music plus a down-right Aussie attitude goes down bloody-beautifully, to get us all psyched up and keen for the rest of the day!

Ok, let’s see what’s next, hmmmm right, time to find some mystical festival grub before the soulful indie electronic serenity of Mansionair, the fleeting creativity of indie rockers Middle Kids and the candid honesty and power-filled lyrics and musicality of Camp Cope. Usually if I’ve been to a place a few times I can usually recognise key shapes, pathways stairs to fall on my ass on etc, to get a rough idea of where I might be even with my limited sight. But I swear, just to mess with me, the wizards that organise the event changed the layout this year! In my defence, I’m pretty sure there was an accessible toilet in this spot last year…. It’s clearly elsewhere this year. Still, It does seem like the layout has been improved, more of that outdoor flooring stuff where possible to make the ground easier to walk on and less likely for injuries, more pratical, safe and time efficient paths to and from each stage etc, but the downside to this seamingly aesthetically appealing beautiful old college, is that it’s old, and likely built before OH&S Regulations, so although the organisers have done the best job possible making it as accessible as possible, it is still a bit challenging.

The other thing about this beautiful old college, is it is a bit of a labarynth, and although mazes might be fun yes, when you’re on a tight schedule to make it to the next band in time, coming across the same burger stand three times is a tad annoying! Still, we made it to the Future Classics stage for Mansionair, or at least I think so, honestly for all I know we might be at the Park stage…. In Brisbane, oh wait, no this is Mansionair oh good! Mansionair’s trancing melodies, dance beats and serene vocals glide over the crowd, going perfectly with the refreshing breeze to cool us off. Seeing as there’s not much of a gap between Mansionair and Middle Kids’ time slots to skip from the Future Classics stage to the Garden stage in time to secure a safe and suitable spot, I’m relieved that when we arrive at the masses of people gathered for Middle Kids during their first song, people are friendly, respectful and more than happy to assist me with finding my way to a spot at the barrier, which tells me people can’t be too enchanted by substances, surely not! Wow! The early afternoon sun might be melting our skin and taking its toll, but it’s not stopping the masses from jumping and dancing profusely to Hannah’s exquisite vocal melodies wrapped around mesmorising lyrics, and the rest of the bands’ complementing musicality, as well as the bands’ engaging interaction with their audience between songs. What a thrill and musical treat! Can Camp Cope measure up to that I wonder? Ah, yes, they can and they do! The instrumentation might be raw, and at the risk of sounding like a complete troll, repetitive at time, (don’t press the X button yet), Georgia Maq’s fiery soaring vocals rich in emotion, candidly bringing serious issues such as domestic violence, sexual harrasment and racism into focus is truly inspirational, thought provoking and is far from repetitive, and really, if the music was any more than what it is, it’d likely take away from Georgia Maq’s vocal might!

As the sun starts to set, I rest my old aching back and legs on one of the surprisingly many seating options near the Park and Garden stages, like the old nearly-25 year-old bastard I am, before the headliners. While Methyl Ethyl dish out some spacey, hypnotic indie psych-rock, then Rex Orange County serves up some dazzling grooves stunning piano riffs and captivating charisma that the crowd consume brilliantly, I think to myself (what a wonderful world?) no,..... Well yes, but also how today the mix of sound at each stage has been a bit peculiar? I mean, for Ruby Fields on the Garden stage earlier, the sound was loud enough to get jiggy to up close, but I didn’t feel like it was the typical over-bearing loud that makes me thankful I have my custom ear plugs. However, at Mansionair over on the Future Classics stage, the sound was mixed evenly and all sounds were nicely level, but I did need my ear plugs like a typical gig. Then Middle Kids back on the Garden stage, it was right on the border of needing my ear plugs.

Now it’s time to get off my lazy ass and go get comfy at the front for Jorja Smith, Courtney Barnett, What So Not and finally, Gang Of Youths. This now is really the magical creatures of music and where to find them! Jorja Smith bring a smooth blend of electronic, soul and indie that cools off and energizes the crowd perfectly, or at least, would’ve been perfectly if the sound mixer didn’t drench the mix in bass. Now that I’ve shimmied my way along the barrier to be in front of the Park stage for Courtney Barnett, it’s nice that the sound mixer has done a good job with the mix for Courtney Barnett’s sexy rock swagger and indulgent vocal melodies. WHAT THE?! So much for the nice sound mix! Like a wizard casting a sudden terrifying storm, the sound level is shot up dramatically half-way through Courtney’s set! Seriously, is the sound mixer the one on LSD?! Honestly, I’m not really paying attention to What So Not over on the Garden stage, I’m staying here at the Park stage ready for Gang Of Youths….. But I suppose What So Not sounds pretty funky if you’re in the mood for a rave? If you read my recent review of the Gang Of Youths headline show in Sydney last November, you’d have a pretty good understanding that these guys are hailed ‘legends’ for a reason! They know their stuff, and the surging emotional light and energy in both the larger than life music and Dave’s hypnotic potent vocals are sensational, and a true headline-worthy performance not to be missed, even with the sound saturated in bass!

Well, at the end of this magical journey, all I can say is, if people keep treating one another with respect and remember what a music festival is all about (the music) rather than risking the health and safety of themselves and others, than this festival will surely live happily ever after! Or at least I hope so, as Laneway festival is always an event I look forward to!