“Is that sweat?” I ask myself, feeling a droplet tickle into the corner of my eye. “Or tears? Surely not tears. There are synchronised dancers onstage. And Banoffee. Definitely sweat. But it’s not that hot. Surely not.”
I was swaying in front of the Red Bull Academy stage, my Cold’n’Flus* kicking in as I watched Banoffee – the first delicacy on offer at the Melbourne leg of St Jerome’s Laneway Festival. It was picturesque at The Footscray Community Arts Centre. The outlines of cranes and a silvery city skyline sat beyond the Maribyrnong River as it rolled by out of reach. Cubic offices dotted the campus and two bridges cut through its centre (I call it a campus because getting from one stage to another required the same dedication and speed walking as reaching a lecture on time. Except, you know, a really bloody good lecture in this instance).
Banoffee was a fantastic start to what would be an unsurprisingly exhausting day. The small but lively crowd were already grooving enthusiastically to her, whilst her synchronised dancers were a worthy addition to her silky pop. Hardcore group High Tension were not so smooth to swallow. They threw incredible levels of energy into their set, resulting in an incredible amount of noise. Frontperson Karina Utimo knew this, thanking the punters for “putting up with us this early in the morning”. A highlight was when Utimo descended into the mosh whilst Jelena from Outright came out literally kicking and screaming for a guest duet.
Ali Barter and band made a chilled yet under appreciated appearance, opening with a stripped-back rendering of ‘Blood’. With its dream-like spaciousness, her music was suited perfectly for the mid-afternoon summer sun. It was indeed quite hot at this point, as frontman of Majical Cloudz Devon Welsh confirmed: “Yes. It’s very warm. I’m sweating a lot already”. A friend earlier described their music as suited to “lying in your room alone” (accurate) but the communal appreciation – from both the excited boppers and relaxed sunbathers – brought something sweet to their set.
I was just in time to catch the end of Japanese Wallpaper. Whilst the love is alive and well across the blogosphere, the physical turn out seemed bored. However, people sparked with the angelic chimes of ‘Between Friends’. He curbed off his set off Resident Festival Mom by instructing us all to drink water and look after ourselves. Bless. By this point I was in a state of perpetual perspiration, a situation that Shamir did not help. He was so, SO fun. Him and his band transformed the area into a disco, with one guy excitedly proclaiming to his mate at its end “I am so glad you brought me here man!”.
The Smith Street Band was an emotional experience, despite the punters’ need to throw things constantly – cans, shoes, each other. “This is the shit you remember forever,” Wil Wagner reflected. Although he was referring to his own view onstage, the devoted calls during ‘Surrender’ and ‘Young Drunk’ were also memorable for us squashed sardines. New material littered Big Scary’s set, with people (read: me) crying tears when drummer Jo Syme announced they had finished recording album number three. They have increased their live crew from three to five for a fuller, lusher sound. The Internet followed. Whilst many folk were a little rowdy at this point, Syd tha Kyd and crew’s breezy R’n’B was well received.
The sun had dipped and the stage lighting was crisp. It was time for the myth, the legend, the enigma. A bow-dazzled Grimes breathlessly powered through her set, throwing herself into a re-inspired cut of ‘Flesh Without Blood’. She was flanked by the aggressive energy of her back up dancers and I was flanked by a happy bubble of fans who said things like “She’s the future of alternative pop” and “aww I love her. YEAH CLARE!!”. By the time I had successfully escaped The Very West Stage without suffocation (Flume fans really need to simmer down) CHVRCHES were well on their way. Their turn out stretched back 200 metres, with even the punters furthest from the stage – bar staff included – grooving. In a moment of true professionalism, Lauren Mayberry’s sang through the first verse of ‘Bury It’ sans a mic connection with same fervour as any other song. The day concluded with the witchy call of Purity Ring. The sheer number of supporters overpowered the flower beds at the Mistletone, with the still moments of ‘Fineshrine’ confirming how hypnotic Megan James was for all. Soaked in sweat, sunblock and sentimentality, I left Laneway in a sea of happy campers.
*I was taking Cold’n’Flus for medical, not recreational, purposes. That being said, attending a festival is a pretty decent distraction from the common cold. 9/10, would recommend.