The emphasis on homegrown talent was apparent from the line-up announcement for Laneway 2019. For placing such confidence in our local talent, the organisers of Australia’s biggest nationally touring festival should be congratulated. It also made for a bloody great show.
And while other festivals seem unable to avoid the attention of the ‘lineupswithoutmales’ Instagram account, Laneway also continues to program quality female-fronted acts in high volume to great results. As Camp Cope’s Georgia Maq delcared at the end of her band’s set, other festivals should take note: “it’s not that hard”.
Adelaide’s Wing Defence were the prefect opener for Laneway 2019, setting the scene for much of what was to come throughout the day: loud guitars, sing-along anthemic chorus and strong female voices. The band is armed with a great set of songs and clearly developing a nice following, with some hard-core fans at the front and a surprisingly strong audience for the 11:35am slot. Their cover of Spiderbait’s ‘Sunshine On My Window’ was super fun and suited the outfit perfectly, while their Unearthed track ‘Listerine’ was a great set closer.
Kian followed up on the Lion Flour Stage, fresh from Hottest 100 and Unearthed High successes, hitting a pleasant groove to ease into the day. With strong vocal delivery and real stage presence in spite of his youth, it was an engaging set that included a guest spot from fellow Laneway act, Baker Boy (with Kian returning the favour later in the day during the Baker Boy set).
A new feature of this year’s festival was the Girls Rock stage, promoting the female music initiative that has only just launched in Adelaide. The boutique stage, set off to the side of the path leading from the entrance, showcased a range of local female acts over the day, some of them only just starting out. But anyone who wandered there around lunchtime was treated to one of the real highlights of the day: Middle Kids performing an intimate half hour set (ahead of their main performance that evening), away from the big stage to handful of lucky and very enthusiastic punters. It was quite magical.
Judging by the sing-alongs going on during her set, Ruby Fields’ nascent career is only going to grow from here. She has a string of well-crafted songs, a great voice and a genuine personality that shines through from the stage. ‘Dinosaurs’ closed out the set to big cheers from the crowd.
G-Flip also looks destined for great things – another young artist with an authentic stage presence and talent to burn, she switched between keyboards, drumming and bass guitar. The highlight of the set was an all-in drum solo.
Baker Boy lived up to the hype, delivering a searing, dynamic performance. Following in the path of forged by A.B. Original and with a Quincy Jones sense of groove, he sure knows how to work a crowd. He dances, raps, sings and plays Yiḏaki, and all of it with a message and conveyed in two languages. Great stuff.
Camp Cope put together a fine song, but it’s their uncompromising attitude that makes the band something special – calling out sexism and anti-social behaviours in all forms. Summing this up was final song ‘The Opener’, a scathing take-down of sexism in the music industry and with Courtney Barnett guesting on guitar.
It was a different mood over on the other stage with Methyl Ethel. While their sound maybe comes across as a little too Tame Impala-lite, they do hit on an enjoyable groove that was very much embraced by the mid-afternoon crowd.
It was then time for sing-along garage punk anthems with consecutive sets from Skeggs and The Smith Street Band. With their infectious, crowd-pleasing delivery, it’s easy to see why Skeggs have quickly risen through music industry ranks. Meanwhile Smith Street were reliable as always, with high energy and big choruses. Their genre-bending cover of Icona Pop’s ‘I Love It’ was a moment of pure fun.
Over by the stage on the Port River, Parquet Courts were a rare non-Australian act on the Laneway bill, delivering their New York garage rock to the appreciative crowd. The standout feature of their performance was the outfit’s capacity for effective dynamics: a punk wall-of-sound one minute, judicious use of keys the next.
With daylight disappearing, Middle Kids returned for their main set of the day and it was pretty well perfect. Showcasing the songs from their excellent 2018 record Lost Friends that feel like instant classics, there was real warmth in the performance and the crowd loved every minute of it. You don’t get any rock star posturing from Hannah Joy, just a very genuine engagement and a voice that conveys incredible emotional nuance. It’s pleasing that the band hasn’t parted with their beautiful debut EP just yet, with earlier songs ‘Your Love’ and ‘Fire in Your Eyes’ sitting alongside album treats ‘Never Start’, ‘Please’ and ‘Mistake’. The absolute standout though was the Springsteen-esque ‘Edge of Town’.
Courtney Barnett really is a national treasure: an earnest and endearing soul who combines intelligent lyricism with a bluesy Velvet-Underground-meets-electric-Dylan musical aesthetic. Her excellent 2018 album was sampled in good measure in this performance with some earlier gems thrown in. Opening with ‘City Looks Pretty’ followed by the clever ‘Avant Gardener’, Georgia Maq returned to the stage to add vocals to ‘Nameless, Faceless’. Recent single ‘Charity’ really sparkled late in the set.
With Gang of Youths headlining this Laneway, it feels like everything has been building to this moment for the Sydney band. In recent years they have gone from the Exeter, to the Gov and onto multiple sold out nights at Thebby, and now they are the closing act on a major festival stage. Their music simply belongs here: big, sprawling and occasionally epic. Songs like ‘Fear and Trembling’, ‘What Can I Do When The Fire Goes Out’ and ‘The Deepest Sighs, The Frankest Shadow’ were made for occasions like these. It was a fantastic performance from a band in peak form. It’s exciting just to think where they will go from here.
Another great Laneway over and done, with an excellent line-up and enjoyed in pleasantly moderate temperatures this time (following last year’s searing weather). The only sour note of the day was the behaviour of some punters, perhaps not so accustomed to day drinking, who were throwing cans in the air. As Courtney Barnett put it: “That’s pretty fucked up”.
Also, it’s 2019 – can we get rid of the smoking now?
Thankfully, the lasting impression of the day is the great music. This was definitely one of the best programmed Laneways in the history of the event.
The festival tour continues to roll on, with Melbourne today and Fremantle tomorrow. Details available here.
Reviewed by Matthew Trainor
Pictures by Tessa Manning