Tuesday, 5 February 2013

A Laneway Experience

I am borderline obsessed with live music. For me, there is almost no greater feeling on this planet than experiencing a live set by a group of artists who well and truly have their shit together musically. During these magical moments, life can seem infinitely more exciting; and it's usually when the band in question are playing their own headlining gig, as opposed to appearing as part of a festival line up.


Well, for starters, a band's own show pretty much guarantees that they will be playing to a crowd that, for the most part, is only there to see them. Festival crowds, on the other hand, can often be made up of directionless wanderers, making their way from stage to stage to casually check out whoever happens to be playing their hearts out at that particular moment. Often, if they discover that the band of the moment is not really doing it for them, they will refuse to move, instead staying put and chatting with their nearby friend about everything other than the band the rest of us are trying to watch. Believe me, I have mad many festivals ruined because of this alone.

Usually, as festival set will also not feature a full set from the bands and bands you are their to see, so you're really only getting half the experience in a lot of ways. But anyway, to cut a long rant short, I'll sum wrap up the last couple of paragraphs by simply saying that festivals can, at times, suck a massive one.

Thankfully, there are exceptions, with St Jerome’s Laneway Festival being one of them.

Now, allow me to get the minor quibbles out of the way first: Laneway is still, at the end of the day, a summer music festival. And yes, it still attracts thousands upon thousands of hipsters. As for those set times - yes, they will still not be as long as they would have been had they been  playing their own gig. Drink prices, on the other hand, remain exorbitant regardless of the venue you are seeing your band of choice in.
But at the end of the day, all of this is really kind of irrelevant -  Laneway is exciting, because it always feels fresh. There's always bucket loads of new talent to check out.  This is a music festival for true music fans; for those of us who don't buy into the bullshit idea that "new music sucks" or "decent music is sooooo hard to find ", or even the tried and true cop-out "they just don't make 'em like they used to."

Anyone who has ever dared venture even remotely outside the comfortable confines of commercial radio blandness knows all too well that music is just as good, if not better, than it has ever been. And there's a shit load more of it now as well. This point cannot be argued, it's simply fact. Take it or fuckin' leave it.

For those of us who are aware of this very simple and obvious truth, there is no better festival in this country at this particular moment in time than Laneway, a festival that has, for almost a decade now, endeavored to bring exciting, talented, fresh, amazing artists to these shores for our listening and viewing pleasure.

Given this massive endorsement, it almost shames me to admit that last year’s Brisbane leg of the Festival was actually my very first Laneway experience. On that particular instalment, despite less than ideal weather conditions and occasional technical issues, I was won over completely. The bands, the crowd, the whole fucking vibe left every other festival I had been to over the previous couple of years in the dust. It was pure fun, with minimal annoyance. What every festival should be, but most sadly aren't.

So, it goes without saying that a return trip was most definitely on the cards this year. When the day eventually arrived, it did not disappoint.

What follows is not exactly a review per se, but more a *fairly* accurate account of my second Laneway experience, written in the moment, as it was happening... Well, okay not really. I’ve just chosen to present it that way. Clever, eh? eh?? Whatever...

Anyways, here it is: Laneway 2013, from the somewhat hazy perspective of yours truly...

8:52 am

I wake up, feeling positive, happy and alive -  all very out of character. In this instance, it's for two very obvious reasons: 1) I will not be going to work today, and 2) It's Laneway day!

13:30 pm

En route to the Alexandria Street entrance, I am presented with a “courtesy condom” by a nice young lady (surely a great sign of the day to come, right?), before heading over to the nearby ticket booth to make my purchase (nothing like leaving it to the last minute).

Upon receiving my wristband, my friend Kelly and I make our way over toward the front gates in search of a place to sit while waiting for our other friend Sarah, who has just informed us via an angry text message that she had had a slight wardrobe malfunction (nothing on a Janet Jackson-level of seriousness, but something that still needs to be dealt with, regardless).

Within minutes, we are approached by an affable young dude who bears more than a passing resemblance to Carrot Top. Through glazed eyes, this friendly stranger informs us that he has just been evicted from the site, mumbling something about "getting too close to the gates." While the real reasons for his being shown the door can neither be confirmed nor denied, I can confidently say that whatever his drug of choice is this fine Friday afternoon, it seems to be  keeping him in a pleasant enough mind state (he also turns out to fairly accurately represent a large percentage of the crowd I encounter today: fucked up, yet friendly).

13:50 pm

Following the arrival of our wardrobe-malfunctioning comrade, we move over to take our positions in the lengthy wristband and hard-ticket lines.

As we stand patiently waiting to be let through the gates, I overhear the girl infront of me desperately pleading with her male companion to not  hook up with a mutual friend due to the fact that "She's, like, so old. She's like, 30, or something." Kelly, Sarah and I, all in our thirties and already feeling our age in this line up of impossibly pretty eighteen year olds, simply choose to ignore the comment and move on.

Just as the same girl starts to loudly announce her opinion of the new Strokes single ("they are pretty old school"), I am thankfully ushered through the gates, where I immediately direct my attention to the stage up ahead upon noticing The Men are already well into their set.

Given that The Men are one of many "must see" bands for me today,  we decide, at least for now, to hold off on visiting the bar and instead head over to we make our way over toward the "Eat Your Own Ears" stage. The girls wisely find a shady position close to the stage, while I opt against this, preferring a prime position directly in front of the stage (and directly under the blazing hot fucking sun).


14:45 pm

I wait patiently in the line leading to the bar, which does not seem to be moving in the slightest. Kelly walks past and, glancing around,  informs me she will try elsewhere.

15:00 pm

After successfully being served, I head back to find Kelly and Sarah relaxing at table in the shade, directly in front of a bar which currently has no line. Fuck.

15:10 pm

K & S head back in the direction of the "Eat Your Own Ears" stage to check out Snakadaktal. I have no idea who the fuck Snakadaktal are but I kinda dig the name so decide to follow.

While watching the band - who end up being quite fun - the girl in front of me begins shuffling around in her bag for what I already know will be a massive joint. After a short while, she recovers it, wasting absolutely no time in lighting that sucker up, before passing it along to the people directly to her left, some of whom appear to be complete strangers. I wait in giddy anticipation for the one of the care free hipsters to pass it along to be, but as per usual, the joint does not make it over.

15:45 pm

Even without the spliff, by the end of Snakadaktal's set I find myself with a serious case of the munchies. Making my way over to the food stands for a bite to eat, I idiotically decide to give the Spicy Spanish Meatballs a try, because, you know, I wasn't quite hot enough. Much sweating ensues...

16:20 pm

K & S head over to "The Car Park Stage" to check out Of Monsters and Men. I opt for El-P, who is already two or three songs into his set. It matters not though, because what I do catch is so great that it completely takes my mind off the heat stroke.


17:05 pm

I meet up with Kelly, who has now positioned herself in an awesome spot up front of the “EYOE” stage.

We look on as Dylan and Co. from Cloud Nothings tune their instruments, anticipating what will probably be a good, perhaps even great, set...

17:23 pm

I'm fairly certain my face has been completely blown off. I was not prepared for this.

Cloud fucking Nothings incinerate the entire crowd, before putting us back together piece by piece, only to then place every single last one of us into some kind of strange, hypnotic state.

There is now a growing craziness in the air, with a majority of the crowd now resembling a group of escaped criminals from Arkham Asylum. Some random guy in the crowd, apparently on better drugs than I have ever had in my entire life, places his large, Urkel-like glasses onto my face, before patting me on the back and taking off into the massive, bat-shit insane mosh, never to be seen or heard from again.

Somehow, during this crushing, psychotic set, I manage to look over toward the side of the stage to see the unmistakable Silhouette of Brian from Japandroids side of stage smoking a cigarette, reminding me that this day ain't anywhere close to being over yet…

Forty minutes and eight songs later, Cloud Nothings exit the stage, leaving every single soul in the crowd permanently fucked up in the best possible way.

19:05 pm

After a quick retreat to the bar, Kelly rejoins me to wait for a band that, without a doubt, I have been looking forward to seeing the most today: the almighty Japandroids (playing their first Australian show like, ever!).

These excellent motherfuckers are responsible for what is, to my mind at least, far and away the best album of last year. Seriously, listening to Japandroids will improve your shitty fucking life. FACT!

19:40 pm

It has only been minutes since Japandroids hit the stage, but I can now confirm that seeing these guys live will also improve your shitty fucking life! FACT!

With respect to The Black Keys, Sleigh Bells and any other two piece band currently doing the rounds, Japandroids are quite simply the best. I have no idea how two guys can make such glorious noise.  I have always had a soft spot for all things Canadian, and Japandroids are a prime fucking example of why!

While 99.999% of my focus is on the stage at all times, I also try and remember to keep a close eye on my new friend standing next to me, who moments earlier fell into the nearby bushes, only to struggle to his feet, making desperate attempts to keep his balance while appearing to be in serious danger of barfing all over the place at any moment. Aim over that way, buddy. Over that way…

Luckily, the vomit never arrives and as Brian and David bid us a fine farewell, I am grateful and amazed to have just witnessed another brilliant show, while also avoiding the vomit of strangers.

20:30 pm

After another quick trip to the bar, Sarah rejoins Kelly and myself for our final band of the evening - Divine Fits.

20:50 pm

This band that stands before me,  a band containing members from Spoon and Wolf Parade, among others, blow my fucking mind! What is most amazing is that they have only been playing as a band for the better part of a year, yet have the connection and familiarity of a band that have been together a decade.

Let's get one thing straight here: this band are not some whack “supergroup”, nor are they some uninspired "side project". These guys are the real fucking deal!  They are so good, in fact, that even the completely and utterly messed-up individual behind me, who has been standing uncomfortably close for the last ten or so minutes, and who I'm starting to think is preparing to either a) piss down the back of my leg at any moment, or b) attempt to anally violate me, cannot draw my attention from the stage. And that is saying something, because I’m fucking scared to death right now.

Regardless, a close to perfect cover of Rowland S. Howard's brilliant "Shivers" helps me forget my troubles. It’s a rare band that can pull this song off without making me run for the nearest bucket (I’m looking at you, Screaming Jets *shudder*), but Divine Fits easily pull it off.

After nearly an hour, Britt and Dan and Sam and Alex disappear into the night, which in turn signals for me to do the same, slowly making my way in the direction of the after party.

02:00 am

After enduring a club full of Neanderthals in order to catch DJ sets from Japandroids and Yeasayer, (still totally worth it despite the patrons in attendance) Kelly and I make our way from the confines of Alhambra Lounge, stepping into the early morning air as my lame body finally tells me it’s time to call it a night.

And with that, I do...

All that's left now are the rapidly fading memories of another amazing Laneway that will not be repeated in the exact same fashion  again, though hopefully next year will see a similarly great group of musicians hitting our shores. And if that turns out to be the case, than you can pretty much guarantee I will again endure the young, drug-fucked crowds to stand front of stage, anxiously awaiting the next wave of great bands to emerge and play some of the best goddamn fucking music released in 2013.

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