St. Jerome's Laneway Festival - Fremantle 8/2/14
I’ve been to enough music festivals to know that there’s something special when numerous acts, take multiple time out of their sets to individually thank by name the creators of the festival. Being in Perth we’re often at the end of a festival run, yet I’ve never noticed so many bands making such a point about how grateful they are for it. Such was the occasion on Saturday when Jerome and Danny were clearly to blame for creating the culturally rich event that is St. Jerome’s Laneway festival.
Compounding how special of an event it was, it came the day after AJ Maddah was interviewed on Triple J’s hack program, speaking bleakly about the future of festivals in Australia, specifically Perth. The move from the Perth cultural centre to the City of Fremantle’s Esplanade Park was a bold step that truly paid off. The area rich with natural beauty and culture framed the festival far better and the ocean breeze only added to the atmosphere.
As a Triple J supported festival, the lineup indeed saw a number of current hype acts, but the bill mixed these with modern, yet proven performers. These included closer Four Tet, Phili-indie lad, Kurt Vile, American rapper Danny Brown and Australian alt-indie quartet, The Jezabels. The real catches for the festival were those acts that exploded in late 2012 and 2013 that were able to join the lineup; Lorde, Haim, Run The Jewels, Chvrches to name a few. Of course on Australia Day, promoters would’ve realised they’d struck gold when they had both the top two places in the hottest 100 on their bill, as well as their lineup contributing 14 songs to the top 100 and another 7 in the 101-200 list. This level of current popularity of course led to a sold-out festival, and of course, given the layout of Laneway and the size restrictions of the grounds, there was congestion in literally every possible space as well as somewhat excessive lines for both food and drinks for most all of the day.
My qualms with Laneway really end their because all the acts that I expected to perform, did just that, and those that I was unsure of – delivered.
In horrid circumstances, POND’s Nick Allbrook stepped in to cover the hole left by Marc Earley in the early set by local lads The Growl. The result was only one The Growl song being played, and the set was largely lead by Allbrook on vocals while Cam stepped back. He made sure to thank the crowd for any contributions to the $28,000 that has been raised to help Marc in his recovery.
Run The Jewels (aka Killer Mike and El-P) brought their high energy to-and-fro style hip hop to the Red Bull Music Academy stage and really managed to engage the crowd and entertain with their inter-song banter. They were followed by Odd Future’s (though he’s not actually signed to OF Records and has his own label within Columbia) prodigal son, Earl Sweatshirt, who was supported by Taco Bennet and Domo Genesis. His laid back style assonance raps managed to work wonders in a festival crowd and his set featured a moments of brilliance (rapping verses to no background music only to have the crowd mesmerised by his unique voice) as he cut his way through the bulk of his album ‘Doris’.
Meanwhile, on the main stage, British crooner King Krule and his band mainly stuck to cuts from their debut LP. I was hesitant to ‘see what his voice would sound like’ and was impressed at his over-the-top drawl really translating well live. ‘Easy Easy’ is really one of the only tracks which has made progress in Australia, but there were plenty of fans digging his other tracks like ‘Baby Blue’ and stuff from his EP. His band do a great job of complementing their frontman, and it seemed as if most of the guitar duties fell to the guitarist as opposed to King Krule. It really was an immersive experience, his songs are so introspective and all of that emotion is delivered in such stark contrast to his seemingly blasé stage presence.
Anyway, it was about this time that a lot of punters went to grab some food, and with so much variety on offer, pizza, Vietnamese cuisine (I think anyway, my lamb seemed pretty Viatnemese-y), Japanese and Paella on offer plus the usual festival fare, they have certainly taken cues from Big Day Out’s newly invigorated food stalls. The bars as well were well-stocked, however the queues were decades of minutes long (for the food as well), too much for some who took their rage and used it to be a little pushy-shovey in jousting for positions.
The late afternoon slots were largely dominated by indie folk and rock bands, including Frightened Rabbit, Dick Diver and Australia’s “Hottest” artist Vance Joy. It could be the extra attention that comes with winning the supposed largest music democracy, but James Keogh’s set was largely “pleasant”, and I liken his winning of the hottest 100 to that of Augie March’s “One Crowded Hour” in 2006. Yet, the massive sing-a-long to ‘Riptide’ was probably a highlight for many.
Kurt Vile played heaps of goodies from his album “Waking on a Pretty Daze”, which was voted among the best albums by many notable publications (NME, Spin, Pitchfork, Rolling Stone etc, etc), but the fact remains that Kurt delivers a different vocal experience live, and is definitely a wired performer.
On the impressive future classic stage (the stage that was literally down a laneway), sponsored by the Red Bull Music Academy (launch pad for Perth’s own Ta-Ku), Mount Kimbie brought their impressive live creation of their music to the punters eagerly awaiting a technical delay. I mean, dudes had 876 different pedals and what-have-you something is bound to go wrong right? Wrong, as soon as this was fixed, Mount Kimbie slowly but surely crafted a mesmerizing set, building in energy and entertainment as the duo (plus the drummer/bassist/keyboardist ring-in) went about trading instruments, positions and beats to the excitement of a crowd who truly appreciated their craft. Their performance reached nirvana when King Krule stepped up from side-stage (where he was ‘chillin’’ with Earl Sweatshirt, Jamie XX and Four Tet) to contribute vocals to ‘You Took Your Time’.
On the Park stage Danny Brown was like a ball of energy bouncing around the stage in signature glasses and cartoon-esque voice, performing with surprising delivery given the physical nature of his show. However he did lack slightly in engaging with the crowd. Not lacking in this department however were LA sisters, HAIM, who were one of the best performers of the event, packing in a jam session, their massively popular songs off “Days are Gone” and showing off some of their multi-instrumentalism and impressive stage presence. They followed Daughter, who were part of a string of female-lead main stage acts that ran through with CHVRCHES and recent Grammy-winner, Lorde. Following their technical issues in Adelaide where they were only able to play one acoustic song, CHVRCHES’ set was surprisingly high energy, but moreover, was aurally very impressive. It’s hard to hear at the best of times at festivals, but when Lauren Mayberry started telling humorous anecdotes in her thick Glasgow accent, it was no easy task.
The biggest come-from-nowhere artist was New Zealand’s (though tradition dictates that now she is successful, she is Australian) Lorde gave a set consisting of exactly what you would expect with massive singles ‘Royals’, ‘Tennis Court’ and ‘Team’. She then deviated and played a new song for the crowd, before moving slowly into a cover version of Kanye West’s ‘Hold My Liquor’ (as she has done at a few other festivals since September). Also, as expected, her unique performance included signature praying mantis moves.
On the main stage I could have been with The Jezabels, but I ain’t missing Four Tet. Oh, lord. I don’t think words can adequately explain. Given, I always find electronic producers are a little subdued on stage and Four Tet was no exception, he certainly slowly became more animated as the set went on to the more bass driven and energetic tracks. His skills in creating his tracks live were immediately evident; But it was his newer material in particular which resonated with the crowd, like ‘Kool FM’ and ‘Parallel Jalebi’ which were played in close succession. It’s also pretty cool to note the huge constantly changing group of other musicians watching the beat master perform, artists from the stage openers Scenic through to Ta-Ku and Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker.
This year’s St. Jerome’s laneway Festival on its new turf in Fremantle proved to be wildly successful, spectacular in its vibes, layout and packed out audience including many younger ones who don’t abide by the man and jumped fences to get in. If this is the future of festivals, I’m happy.
Check out our gallery here or jump on the facebook and tag yourselves in our pictures there!
-Sean Coffey(mostly) & Luke Bartlett(photos and some writings)