Review: Laneway 201913 February 2019
Having made its way through Brisbane, Sydney and Adelaide over the past week, the 15th iteration of St Jerome’s Laneway Festival kicked of in Melbourne this past weekend. Previous years have had the Victorian leg of the festival nestled amidst inner Footscray. But gone now are those grungy urban laneways and in are the sprawling parklands of the festival’s new home of Footscray Park. The vast, alternating headline stages set over spacious expanses of greenery stand as a definite advancement for the boutique festival circuit.
The day began unavoidably sodden, grey and windy. With only a slight promise of sun in the afternoon, punters were to experience a rollercoaster of a day. The 2019 line-up nonetheless promised a chance to witness some of live music’s finest. And no amount of questionable weather was going to stop the assembly of Melbourne’s music devotees. International acts such as Rex Orange County, Jon Hopkins, Mitski and Parquet Courts were set to grace our eardrums and move our feet. A similarly solid bill of homegrown talents included the likes of Courtney Barnett, Gang of Youths, G-Flip, Methyl Ethyl and What So Not.
Those brave enough to face the early morning showers would have been thrilled to hear the lush, breezy tunes of opening indie-rock act Charlie Collins and lo-fi dream-rock outfit Yellow Days. Once the drizzle had cleared, a Welcome To Country presentation preceded the appearance of our very own Fresh Prince of Arnem Land; recent festival mainstay Baker Boy. Equipped with a dynamic succession of dance sequences and a sleek gold jacket, Baker Boy initiated what was to be a day brimmed with dancing.
Crowds thronged to see Rex Orange County on the Dean Turner Stage. Being a part of the crowd grooving with hands held high to ‘Loving Is Easy’ was definitely a highlight.
Aussie garage rock legends Skeggs yanked together probably one of the biggest crowds of the day. This Skeggs mosh was certainly not one for the faint hearted, any center of gravity people amongst the crowd had was dissolved as they belted through ‘Spring Has Sprung’ and ‘LSD’.
US rappers Denzel Curry and SMINO kept punters bouncing with their magnetic flow and trap-influenced beats. Curry’s energy surged a mosh of writhing bodies. It was difficult to find anyone standing still.
In complete contrast, Courtney Barnett at the secluded Girls Rock! stage offered a low-key backyard lawn gig vibe. Clouds rolled over during brief song changes and but seemed to disappear when guitar strings twanged. Weird. Her assertion that “I feel safe, singing, in front of you” encapsulated the universal sentiment of safety and respect throughout the festival. Those who didn’t get a chance to see Courtney on the lawn would have seen her rocking around with her ensemble on the Dean Turner Stage later.
Jon Hopkins finished on the Dr. Martens Stage with a set detailed by captivating visuals and mind-meltingly good lo-fi/techno productions. On the other main stage, modern-rock quintet Gang of Youths closed shop with an inspiring and compelling show.
In an era where Australian live music festivals are under increasingly stifling pressure from government reform, Laneway has excelled. It is hard to believe that such a boutique festival only manages to get better every passing year.