Review: St. Jerome’s Laneway Festival lights up Sydney College of the Arts in Rozelle (04.02.17)

Sixteen years ago, Sum 41 released an album titled All Killer, No Filler. In late 2016, Laneway Festival made a line up announcement that was pretty much the same thing: all killer, no filler. As the festival made its way to Sydney on the first weekend of February 2017, pretty much all acts went about nailing their sets and bringing some real juicy moments to the Sydney crowd’s weekend.

As I made my way into the festival I was greeted by a table of SPF 50 sunscreen (which for this reviewer was a god send), and the brilliance of Camp Cope. Having severely underestimated how shit Sydney’s traffic is, I only caught the last couple tracks of the Melbourne trio’s set, but from what I saw, they couldn’t have pulled it off any better. Next up was Blue Mountains local Julia Jacklin. As she made her way through her 2016 debut LP Don’t Let The Kids Win, she cruised through album standouts “Pool Party”, “Coming of Age”, and “LA Dream”. With the day off to a fire start, the clouds dissipated, the sunburn began, and I ventured off to test out a couple of the ales on offer.

Having spent more than five years working in a bottle shop, I know the price of beer. And while I understand the liquor licensing in a festival causes a drastic change in the relationship between supply and demand (yeah, a bit of first year uni has stayed with me), paying up to $12 for a single beer is ridiculous. I’m not calling it daylight robbery, but you know, it definitely is. Prices aside, the variety of beers on offer was fantastic (Editor’s note: the craft beer tent was a particularly nice touch, and the ginger beer comes highly recommended).

It was also easier than ever to purchase drinks, food and merch, as event partner Visa made sure that just about all vendors were set up with the tap-and-go payWave ability. While past years would have seen lines down the hill for the ATMs, this year people were able to go cashless, and use their card or phone for the day’s purchases – the options of which were vast, ensuring that lines were always at a minimum, too.

They even provided the option to pay with the new “Visa WaveShades” – sunglasses (!!!) with an in-built pre-paid chip, allowing its user to cover the costs of the day without bringing along their wallet. As the concept is a new one, they were giving guests the chance to win a pair on site loaded with $50, and we saw a few using them throughout the day, often to the look of bewilderment (and/or an impressed grin) from cashiers.

Next up was NAO, as she brought the funk and charm, before American act Whitney played their brand of alt-country. As one of my favourite bands to come through in the last two years, Whitney blazed their way through the forty-minute set, playing fan favourite “No Woman” and my personal favourite “Follow”. It was refreshing to see front man Julien Ehrlich take the piss out of the crowd by telling all couples in attendance that they’ll all inevitably break up soon enough.

Dune Rats were up next as they kept up their search for Scott Green, whilst King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard hit their scuzzy straps almost immediately, with 2016 stand out “Gamma Knife” making an early appearance. Completely forgetting that Car Seat Headrest were playing, I made the devastating realisation that I’d missed them when halfway through Gang of Youths I overheard someone just completely froth on about Car Seat Headrest’s set. With moods slightly dampened, the boys of Gang Of Youths went about fixing my dour mood as they once again tore through the best of their debut album, before finishing on spiritual closer “Vital Signs”. In my opinion, this is an almost impossibly perfect track, one the Sydney locals crush every time.

Having heard raves reviews about the live set D.D Dumbo had put together, I made the quick dash over to the Spinning Top stage. I should have known it was beyond capacity when the entry passage was moving slower than Parramatta Road on a Monday morning (for the uneducated, Parramatta Road is notoriously shit, 24/7). Making my way to the back of possibly the biggest crowd of the day so far, the blaring afternoon sun directly into the crowd’s faces wasn’t agreeing with me, as I made the hard decision to leave four songs in and go have a gander at the food and craft stalls.

As I slowly made my way back, I stumbled across one of my favourite food stalls: ice cream. And I’ll tell you what, if you ever get the chance to try the New Zealand Natural Hokey Pokey ice cream, invest heavily and move swiftly. I’ll reimburse you if you’re left unsatisfied. Not really, but it’s bloody good.

Having just enjoyed quite possibly the best festival food ever, I settled in for Glass Animals’ set over on the Park Stage. Having seen them the week before at the Enmore, I knew the type of show to expect. They went about delivering a mixed bag from both their albums, all the while subtly teaching the crowd how to be a human being. Set closer “Pork Soda” was a near set highlight just as the day slowly turned to night.

Having stuck with my gut, I made my way over to Aurora, who was just beginning what proved to be the most fun set of the day. The Norwegian’s brand of euphoric and honest pop hit the spot as the sunburn slowly made its presence felt on my legs (on a totally unrelated topic, you should definitely check out my sock mark now). Playing a set including “Warrior” and “Runaway”, she closed on the brilliant “Conqueror”. This proved to be my favourite song of the festival.

Venturing over to see Nick Murphy, I’d been looking forward to see the reincarnation of Chet Faker all day. And despite the anticipation, I was left severely underwhelmed. Yeah, he was still brooding and slick, but the mixed response from the crowd left me unsure whether Nick Murphy was going to live up to the heights of Chet Faker.

With the festival entering its closing stages, the ever-reliable Tame Impala went about seducing the crowd with select cuts from all their albums, with “The Moment” a juicy highlight of the hour-long set. As Laneway drew to a close, with Jagwar Ma keeping the party going up the hill with a vibrant, powerful set, I was left wondering how the festival organisers could go about creating a better festival.

In the day since, I’ve come up with nothing. Who knows, maybe next year they’ll book Sum 41 to play their debut album in full.

Live photography by Belinda Dipalo.