Festival Review: Laneway Festival – Footscray Community Arts Centre, Melbourne (13.02.16)

Melbourne turned on a perfect summer’s day as a sold out Laneway Festival crowd descended on the banks of the Maribyrnong River for what was nothing less than a spectacular day of music. With a lineup on show sporting the likes of Flume, CHVRCHES, and Purity Ring to name only a few, there was little for the masses to find disappointment in.

Bringing back the feeling of Soundwave festivals past (RIP) was the massive sound of Melbourne’s own High Tension, who despite being one of the only metal acts on the bill still managed to pull a more than respectable crowd to the Mistletone stage early in the day. Early numbers were high across the board through the beginning stages of the day, with Slum Sociable also pulling a more than respectable crowd to their 1:25pm set on the Future Classic stage.

Despite providing organ-shaking levels of bass, Canadian singer/producer duo Majical Cloudz proved to be one of the more awkward acts of the day by virtue of clearly nervous frontman Devon Welsh. Although he is undeniably talented, it would be dishonest to say that the number of ‘uhhs’ and ‘yeahs’ between songs didn’t border on cringeworthy.

Japanese Wallpaper’s set provided what is perhaps the definitive scene for an Australian summer festival: chilled music, drinks in hands, glorious sunshine, and a crowd full of appreciative fans. Similarly, DMA’S over on the DeanTurner stage were leading a massive singalong of their hit “Delete”, a certain highlight of the day.

Now, here’s a bit of a pro-tip for anyone who hasn’t been to Laneway Festival but is considering it for next year: bring enough cash to last you the day. I say this because the organisers were for some reason under the impression that four ATMs (or three, if you discount the broken one) is a reasonable number to cater for however many thousands of people attend the festival. Don’t put yourself through an absurdly long wait in the broad sunlight just to be able to buy yourself lunch, you won’t enjoy it.

On the topic of waiting, the layout of the festival in Melbourne, while certainly unique, I feel needs addressing to deal with the absurd bottlenecking that occurred in multiple places towards the end of the day. The Very West stage in particular was a nightmare, with the contrasting genres of artists such as FIDLAR and Hermitude (who both put on extremely entertaining performances) causing large numbers leaving after the stoner rock group’s set to clash head-on with those arriving to see the electronic duo.

For the inconvenience of having masses moving to and from a stage after a set, there was the benefit of reducing the number of fans who would get to a stage well in advance to see a certain performance, thus denying others the opportunity to be at the front for an earlier performing artist. The perfect example of this were the final two performers on the Dean Turner stage, Violent Soho and CHVRCHES, with the overlay in fans between the two groups being small at best.

Violent Soho’s reputation as a fantastic live band preceded them as the sun set over Melbourne, and the Aussie rock outfit certainly did not disappoint, flying through a 45 minute set that included their latest single “Viceroy”, and was capped off with massive hit “Covered in Chrome”. Matching the huge applause for the Australians’ finale was that for the entrance of Scottish electronic three-piece CHVRCHES, one of the biggest names on the bill and understandably so, given the quality of their performance.

Opening with “Never Ending Circles” and to the backing of a spectacular lights show, the trio showed why they’re one of the leading artists in the electronic music world with a set that showcased their newest album Every Open Eye, with familiar hits “Gun”, “Recover”, and “The Mother We Share” also thrown into the mix. The set wasn’t without fault however, with a technical glitch leaving singer Lauren Mayberry inaudible on two separate occasions, only to return to rapturous applause. The group were all class to say the least, capping off with Mayberry giving her necklace to a fan in the front row who, understandably, was overcome with emotion.

The final performance of the night came from Canadian electronic duo Purity Ring, providing an audio and visual spectacle that was nothing short of stunning. With the Maribyrnong River in the background and grassy sloped banks to the front, those who had made their way over from CHVRCHES and Flume quickly discovered what they had been missing courtesy of a crowd that left singer Megan James noticeably emotional, living up to Melbourne’s reputation as the music capital of Australia.

If you’re a music fan who hasn’t been to a festival for fear of being overwhelmed, Laneway is definitely the festival for you. Barring only a few logistical factors, Melbourne’s 2016 rendition of Laneway Festival was about as close to the ideal festival as one could hope to get. Festivalgoers who didn’t appear to be enjoying themselves were very few and far between, which is a credit to both the organisers and the fans who make such an event possible.