St. Jerome’s Laneway Festival - Sydney
- By Shannon Andreucci -
- Mar 08, 2012
A hipster’s almanac is overflowing with uber-chic social events and alt-art affairs. One of these not-to-be-missed jamborees is most certainly the St. Jerome’s Laneway Festival; an annual indie music festival that invites a throng of up-and-coming local and international acts to wow thousands of zealous spectators across Australia, New Zealand and Singapore and share their secrets to Hipsterdom. This year’s stint in Sydney was no exception in the festival’s eight-year history and provided many highlights for those who strolled down its sandstone streets.
American indie rockers Portugal. The Man enjoyed the first bout of prized shade, seizing the Windish Agency stage in the late sunny afternoon with their melodic blend of psychedelic pop-rock. The Alaskan quintet sprinted through their seventh and latest studio album ‘In The Mountain In The Cloud’, with early airings of crowd-favourites ‘Got It All’ and ‘So American’. Regrettably the sound was rather muffled towards the backend of the audience, but having had plenty of radio play on Triple J lately, the fashionable crowd was well aware of the band’s harmonious feel-good gems and blissfully swayed from side to side throughout the entire set.
One of the many festival highlights came courtesy of Twin Shadow. George Lewis Jr.'s stage performance was a truly mesmerising one, and half of the Laneway artist roster was there to witness it, including members of The Drums, Young Turks and The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart. Hailing from Florida, the humble new wave musician single-handedly captivated the crowd with his soulful, dreamy vocals, particularly in standout track ‘Castles in the Snow’. The only downfall of this act is that the melancholic electronica that surrounds Lewis Jr.’s croons are virtually inexistent in the presence of his esoteric live persona, poetic lyrics and velvety set of lungs.
As beautiful as the sandstone backdrop of the Sydney College of Arts may be, ultimately the venue was in no way suitable for prime gig watching. The narrow stretches of concrete space that surrounded each stage made it difficult for punters to move through the thick crowds and get a decent view of each of the bands performing. In the end large clumps of the uber-urban street peeps opted for lazy beers on the luscious grass beds and loud conversations instead.
But for those who did make the conscious effort to burrow their way through hipster-infested crowds, the evening platter of artists were well worth the fight. Although Feist was an odd fit on the synth-heavy line-up, her stomping folk-drenched pop was a welcome breath of fresh air. The Canadian songbird was accompanied by a full backing band, which nicely complimented her star power and gave a wholehearted performance. Leslie Feist enraptured her large audience with comical banter, an invocation of 80’s rockers Bon Jovi, Guns N Roses and Aerosmith and of course, her signature powerhouse vocals. She ripped through fan favourites ‘My Moon My Man’ and ‘I Feel It All’ on her electric guitar and then sailed through much-loved melodies ‘Mushaboom’ and ‘How Come You Never Go There’.
Technical issues plagued Chairlift’s highly anticipated set, but the minor delay didn’t seem to ruffle any feathers in the crowd, who instead rejoiced in hearing 80s synth-pop canons ‘Amanaemonesia’, ‘Handstand’ and Bruises’. The Brooklyn duo – swelled to a four piece for their festival slot – injected throbbing bass lines, bewitching guitars and festive percussion into their performance. On the whole, the live translation of their pop-dreamscape debut ‘Does You Inspire You’ was well executed and equally well received.
Towards sunset, the Carpark Stage was swarmed with The Horrors’ very own cult following, who migrated over to bask in the bleak-pop glory of the lanky, black-clad British posse with proud hair. Performing a string of psychedelic tracks off their widely praised album ‘Skying’, cryptic front man Faris Badwan displayed much haughtiness but questionable sincerity. The band have enjoyed much success from their third album, which spawned standout songs ‘Still Life’ and ‘I Can See Through You’, and they seem dangerously comfortable with the claim to stadium fame that has been forecasted for them.
The sound monster struck again with Toro Y Moi, causing inconvenient holdups to the American artist’s set. But Chazwick Bundick’s fans instantly forgave him once he began sending groovy chill-waves through their blissed-out bones. Opening with ‘Intro/New Beat’ and dishing out fan favourite ‘Go With You’, Toro Y Moi quickly whipped up a dancefloor atmosphere, but his spark eventually fizzled out once punters became bored with the repetitive synth-inflected beats, underwhelming vocals and uninspiring similarity to his record.
Catching the tail of The Drums’ dance-inducing set, it was plain to see the jam-packed crowd had been given a major workout by front man Jonathan Pierce’s flamboyant dance moves and relentless energy. The Brooklyn-based band visibly channels the British post-punk movement in their indie pop noise, with their fan base unashamedly eating up and chanting every infectious lyric and catchy beat.
Some difficult decisions had to be made throughout the day with numerous clashes amongst exceptional acts, particularly between headliners M83, Washed Out, SBTRKT and John Talabot. In the end, this reviewer opted for half of M83 and half of SBTRKT to conclude the exhaustive day’s events and both were undoubtedly successful in entrancing audiences and bringing the festival home. Buzzband M83 was welcomed onstage by an overwhelmingly large crowd, most of who were there to revel in the Triple J Hottest 100-listed anthem ‘Midnight City’ live. The French electro act delivered an epic 80s-inspired set complete with sweeping synths, psychedelic lights, smoke machines, enthralling melodies and a stadium-rock aura.
Similarly, over at the Young Turks Stage, SBTRKT was inciting a wave of flailing arms and head-bopping motions with his post-dubstep pop bliss. Despite a 25-minute delay due to yet another bout of technical issues, the crowd were spellbound by glitchy opener ‘Heatwave’ and lost themselves in the stuttery drum’n’bass tracks immediately. Joining British producer Aaron Jerome on stage, adorned in iconic tribal masks, was sonic collaborator Sampha who provided some hauntingly warm vocals that he filtered through a vocal loop. Together, the experimental pair had their dexterous hands moving frantically from programmed electronics and pounding drums to synth keys and percussion. New arrangements were being crafted every second; it was essentially like ‘live’ remixing. SBTRTK and Sampha delivered the bass-heavy ‘Hold On’ to much appraise but saved their finest remix of Little Dragon’s ’Wildfire’ for last, sending the Laneway lovers home in a euphoric state.
Images by Jason Monaghan
This guest blog complies to Virgin.com terms & conditions.