With pleasantly warm temperatures and a hot line-up, Laneway returned to Hart’s Mill, Port Adelaide on Friday and delivered the goods.
Cable Ties set the tone with the opening slot at the Spinning Top Stage, a highly enjoyable set of catchy songs and politically charged moments pushed along with punchy basslines. While there were some visible nerves for the first show of the tour, the band proved they are one to watch.
Meanwhile, Billie Eilish experienced a few issues over on the mains stage, but of the technical variety. Unphased though, with a confidence and poise that belied her age, she overcame the glitches to deliver an engaging performance highlighting her terrific voice.
Young UK punks, Shame were an early highlight of the day on the stage over by the river. Oozing the kind of rough swagger and attitude that seems to be missing from much of the music scene at present, the set was fast-paced, loud and energetic, and, with plenty of audience interaction, appreciated by the early afternoon crowd. The lads were clearly enjoying their first performance in Australia and, in a nice nod to the local scene, even had some Bad Dreems merch with them on stage.
Back over at the main stages it was all big synth and strains of Joy Division with City Calm Down. While it was a polished performance with some well-crafted songs, the reliance on reverb tended to muddy the sound a little
Dream Wife were the revelation of Laneway 2018, delivering one of the finest performances of the day. Armed with a blistering set of songs from their debut LP, (released only a week previously), the London based rockers were brash, loud and charismatic: riffing on the Spice Girls one minute and threatening to ‘fuck you up’ the next. We were also charmed with a story of how the previous night they had mistakenly scaled the walls of an iconic Adelaide residence based on some misinformation and were nearly arrested. Dream Wife also provided the defining moment of the festival with lead singer, Rakel Mjoll front-of-stage and unapologetically screaming ‘I am not my body, I’m somebody’ into the crowd.
Over on the Hart’s Mill Stage, Amy Shark showcased the mature songwriting that has won her many accolades and fans in 2017. The dominant impression of her set, however, was the passion of her delivery that gave her songs life beyond the recordings.
UK’s Wolf Alice, who also enjoyed fantastic 2017, were a quality inclusion on the Laneway 2018 lineup. Ellie Rowsell is all class, a fantastic frontwoman who commands the stage with a strong presence and a beautiful, arresting voice. The band are a tight unit, with some excellent songs, giving a powerful performance.
Aldous Harding delivered something quite different over by the riverside; dressed in white, for much of the set she remained seated, playing a nylon string guitar with remarkable stillness. It was an affecting change of pace for the day. Harding is a unique presence, with nuanced songs and haunting vocal delivery. ‘Imagining My Man’ was a real treat to experience.
Mac Demarco returned to Laneway, following the triumph of his 2015 outing, having matured as a songwriter with new album This Old Dog to showcase. The energy was a little less manic this time around, but the performance was just as engaging. Mac started the set by introducing the band and inviting the crowd into the show, it created the kind of casual, intimate vibe that made you forget you were at a big festival. As the set moved along the renowned stage antics made an appearance, with Demarco showing off a few handstands. Throughout the performance we also had Anderson .Paak and the Free Nationals sitting side of stage offering scores out of ten for each song. It was a very entertaining set.
POND also made a welcome return to Laneway. In addition to highlights from The Weather like as ‘Sweep Me Off My Feet’, the five-piece delved into the back catalogue and also ran through newly minted single ‘Fire in the Water’, which takes direct aim at Canberra. It was a fun set full of extended psychedelic jams. Frontman, Nick Allbrook was all bounce and energy, jumping around the stage and occasionally from it into the crowd.
Back at the main stage area, Client Liaison won the award for the best staging of the day with a giant size office space, complete with water coolers, crazy costumes and songs to get the early evening party going. This was then complemented on the opposite stage by Anderson .Paak and the Free Nationals with their energetic, crowd-pleasing set.
Over by the river, Father John Misty (Josh Tillman) brought a change of pace with his polished, probing songs rendered with precision by his seven-piece band. Tillman is one of the world’s finest songwriters, and it was a pleasure to have him here for the festival. The performance grew nicely in intensity, particularly with the big crescendo in ‘Holy Shit’ before finishing up with ‘The Ideal Husband’.
With the sun down, recently reformed shoegazers Slowdive followed up on the Spinning Top Stage with a mesmerising set making us glad they decided to get back together after almost 20 years on hiatus. Building on intricate jams and cascading guitar riffs this was a little bit of magic deep into the evening, with ‘Sugar for the Pill’ one of many highlights.
The War on Drugs made for a superb finale to the festival and proved a triumph of programming for Laneway. Having not visited Adelaide before, it was pleasing that, in addition to numbers from 2017’s A Deeper Understanding, the band leant heavily on Lost in the Dream for material, reminding of what a giant that album truly was. While ‘Holding On’ and ‘Red Eyes’ proved crowd favourites, the extended instrumental sections from ‘An Ocean In Between the Waves’ and ‘Under the Pressure’ were the knockouts. Nobody these days does guitar solos quite like Adam Granduciel.
It was a perfect end to a great festival. Well done Laneway!
Written by Matthew Trainor
Pictures by Tessa Manning