The Melbourne edition of the down-under festival brought scorching sunshine to a February afternoon
While the UK might be battling off a harsh, freezing winter, over in Australia right now it’s all blue skies and sunny days. Aussie festival season is in full swing, and Laneway is its pinnacle. Spread across numerous cities in Australia, as well as pit-stops in Singapore and New Zealand, the myriad of down-under destinations are treated to a heap of the best musical offerings from across the globe.
Under blazing sunshine, this year’s Melbourne edition brought the festival to the shores of the Maribyrnong River, overlooking the city’s stunning skyline. With a host of familiar British faces taking the trip halfway round the world, and some local big-hitters drawing huge, adoring crowds, Laneway 2018 made for an early but welcome kick-start to 2018’s packed run of festivals.
Bratty-but-brilliant British indie saviours Shame kicked off the day, drawing a bunch of amped-up, headbanging Aussies to their early afternoon set on the Spinning Top stage. Any fears their gloomy, post-Brexit punk might not translate to warmer climes were quickly dismissed, as the likes of ‘The Lick’ and ‘Friction’ took on a scorched new life under the punishing midday sun.
“We are Dream Wife, and this is summertime!” beamed singer Rakel Mjöll as Dream Wife took to the stage. The bouncy punk-pop likes of ‘Fire’ and ‘Somebody’ from their brilliant self-titled album are perfectly suited to fun-filled festivals like Laneway, and even as guitarist Alice Go pretended to cower from the sun, their pasty British complexions battling against Melbourne’s harsh heatwave, it was clear the three-piece were welcoming festival season with open arms.
Celebrating his birthday in style (and with a faceplant into a chocolate cake), (Sandy) Alex G brought his bright indie-rock to Laneway. Skirting between comedic keyboard noises, a brief waltz with a Kermit The Frog toy, and a screamo section to finish, the eclecticism of last year’s ‘Rocket’ LP and Alex’s past Bandcamp releases was brought to life outside Footscray Arts Centre.
A huge crowd then amassed at the Spinning Top stage for local heroes Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever – think the escapist indie-pop melodies of Real Estate, and the motorik basslines of Future Islands, and you’re halfway there. The Melbourne troupe brought highlights from last year’s ‘French Press’ EP, as well as stunning recent single ‘Mainland’, to welcome in the late afternoon.
Fresh off the back of a huge run of arena dates in the UK, Wolf Alice lose none of their potency on the decidedly smaller Dean Turner stage. If anything, that intimacy is where they thrive – whether it’s the snarling ‘Yuk Foo’ or the lilting ‘Bros’ (which remains the ultimate festival anthem), Wolf Alice are even more vital when they’re up close and personal.
Another mind-blowing UK export, Loyle Carner brought his beaming smile and effortless swagger to the Future Classic stage, and received one of the most rapturous responses of the whole day. The adoration was mutual – “I knew Australia was the best country in the world,” he grinned towards the set’s end, “but I didn’t know what the best city was… Melbourne is definitely the best fucking city! Thank you so much!” By way of thanks, he closed proceedings with a brand new poem, amping up excitement for the follow-up to last year’s ace debut album ‘Yesterday’s Gone’.
Another band of local favourites, City Calm Down’s brooding post-punk draws to mind the melancholy melody of The Cure or White Lies, but comes propelled by the kind of basslines that Joy Division and New Order man Peter Hook would be proud of. A moody welcome for the approaching evening.
The revelry was in full flow for Anderson .Paak, who packed out the festival’s main stage ’til the street below it looked like a carnival. One of pop and hip-hop’s brightest stars, his infectious energy made light work of the sun-dabbled, party-ready crowd.
An indie hero in all corners of the planet, Mac De Marco’s headline set brought fun and frolics to see out the day. Modern classics like ‘Salad Days’ nestled up to the more recent likes of ‘Your Old Dog’ from last year’s ace ‘This Old Dog’ LP, leaving Mac’s charming, gap-toothed smile mirrored on the face of everyone in the Laneway crowd.