Ah, St. Jerome’s Laneway Festival, we meet again. In this year’s edition of the acclaimed indie music festival, organisers pulled out all stops when it came to righting the wrongs of yesteryear – and have duly redeemed themselves. In 2015, much was made about the mismanagement of crowds, the poor choice of the placement of acts (Hi, Chet Faker), and the serious, rampant overcrowding. This year, however, the festival grounds were expanded, and a fourth stage – the splendid White Room – was added. With a line-up featuring the likes of recently acclaimed synth-pop artist Grimes, indie outfit The 1975, and experimental EDM act Flume, this year’s edition of Laneway proved to be its greatest incarnation yet.
However, Laneway Festival did not go without controversy. Two months ago, acclaimed Adele co-songwriter Tobias Jesso Jr. pulled out of his dates, and was quickly replaced by The 1975. Secondly, much-hyped shoegaze act DIIV pulled out on the day itself, citing a ‘family emergency’. There was also the controversial ‘No Re-entry’ policy – implemented this year – which ruffled the feathers of many festival goers. Thankfully, this did not dampen the spirits of organisers, who took it upon themselves to explain and adjust to changes.
The festival grounds in this year’s Laneway were expanded, giving revelers plenty of freedom to roam around and explore. We also particularly loved the addition of the White Room, a fully air-conditioned stage, which played host to an all-local line-up. Revelers were also spoilt for choice when it came to food, with options such as Sushi, Indian cuisine, and even American-styled Sloppy Joes available for purchase.
We’ve always been an immense fan of Laneway’s policy of nurturing and promoting local and regional talent. By 12.30pm, we were given a taste of the local Laneway flavour, with acts like Filipino band Cheats, Singaporean outfit Riot !n Magenta, and the splendid Hong Kong math-rock band GDJYB opening and greeting crowds at the respective stages.
Moments later we were introduced to Brisbanites Violent Soho, who destroyed us with their punishing, mosh-worthy brand of Alternative rock. In comparison, there was the Jazz-fusion maestro Thundercat, with the acclaimed bassist-vocalist spilling into his calm, funk-filled numbers. Odd Future affiliate The Internet, led by vocalist Syd the Kyd, then captivated audience members with the six-piece’s beautiful, heart-aching, neo-soul tunes.
Singaporean blues-rock outfit Cashew Chemists took to the stage later, taking the opportunity to showcase songs from their latest EP, Previously On. Australian trap musicians Hermitude then threw an epic rave party of sorts; encouraging revelers leave their inhibitions by the door and party hard. At the Cloud Stage, YouTube favorite Shamir Bailey entertained with his sassy, ratchet antics and vocals. American math-rock geniuses Battles conquered The Garden stage later, hypnotizing crowds with their complex signature changes and instrumental flair.
Many soon went to The Bay stage, where British heartthrobs The 1975 performed to a teeming mass of screaming, adoring teenage girls. The recently resurgent dream-pop band Beach House took to the stage moments later, delving into their introspective, kaleidoscopic brand of shoegaze goodness.
The stage soon made way for arguably the biggest act of the night, experimental synth-pop artist Grimes. Last year spelled an amazing year for the Canadian singer-songwriter, with latest offering Art Angels being rated as one of the best releases of the year by critics all over the world. Grimes took to the stage with two backup dancers – echoing the narrative taken by avant-garde singer FKA twigs last year. Performing hits like “Flesh Without Blood”, “Kill V. Maim” and “Genesis” from Art Angels, as well as previous effort Visions, Grimes stunned crowd members when she brought Taiwanese rapper Aristophanes on board for “Scream”. Clad in a pink ribbon and a kawaii outfit, Grimes showed paradoxically, why she is easily one of the biggest rock stars in the world right now.
However, the party didn’t stop there. Glaswegian trio and homecoming heroes CHVRCHES charmed with their infallible synth-laced tunes, while at the Cloud Stage, Hudson Mohawke made the festival grounds bleed with his impeccable, brilliant trap beats.
The time then made way for our two headliners: experimental producer Flume and electronic duo Purity Ring, where tough decisions had to be fought between the two established names. Many soon made the call to flock to The Bay stage, where Flume was performing. The Australian beatsmith appeared onstage in a prism-encased sound booth, and laid down booming bass lines laced with intricate beats – sending festivalgoers into a rabid frenzy. When Flume closed his set with the summer anthem “You and Me” by British house duo Disclosure, the festival grounds went loco and resulted in an epic celebratory rave party of sorts.
Taking cue from last year’s hugely successful Neon Lights Festival, Laneway Festival 2016 chose to end the night with two celebrated electronic acts – the perfect decision by our standards. And while we were standing under the stars, the blinking strobe lights and surrounded by spectacular music, we can’t help but say – St. Jerome’s Laneway Festival 2016, you truly outdid yourself this year.