Review: The St. Jerome’s Laneway Festival brings noise and life to Port Adelaide’s Harts Mill for another summer

A refreshed sense of vibrancy? A positive outlook on what’s still to come from artists in our own backyard as well as abroad? This year’s Laneway Festival had a lot going for it this year.

In terms of highlights of the 2017 Laneway Festival, let’s start with Adelaide local, Lonelyspeck. Recently welcomed into the TEEF family, Lonelyspeck’s profile has begun to generate some serious momentum over the last few months. On stage, Lonelyspeck has a timid (understandable, given the size of the stage and the set time), but very present charm. When they launch into their set however, it’s one of those experiences where you spend a lot of time looking around, seeking confirmation from others around that, yes, we were witnessing something that good. Expect big things from this talented young producer and vocalist this year.

Chug along through into the later portion of the afternoon and we come across British singer NAO. With a voice that pulls from the depths and, driven by a deep bass kick, punches you straight in the chest, the 29 year old brought a vibrant and deeply soulful energy to the festival stage.

Debut album For All We Know has been out since July, but Laneway has been the first proper introduction Australians have had to NAO’s intense musicality – we were dared to throw ourselves completely into the grooves her ridiculously tight band were orchestrating and so we did, music stank faces in full effect.

Casting attention over to the adjoining stage, Chicago six-piece Whitney took the reins following NAO. A different flavour, for sure, but the band were just as musical and just as talented. I saw this band play a late night show at SXSW last year, purely by chance, and they were one of my highlights of the festival.

To see them having made the jump out to Australia so soon after is always a good sign and watching the band, particularly drummer/vocalist Julian Ehrlich, look out semi-incredulously at the reception the Adelaide crowd were giving them, was even more heartwarming. To travel so far from home, to some cities they one hasn’t been to, and be met with such a warm reception must be such a thrill.

Over at the Spinning Top Stage, the riverside was held down by some stellar artists traversing different genres. From the guttural punk of White Lung to the heroic chaos of our own Bad//Dreems, the pit in front of the stage was quick to be filled with sweaty bodies ready to smash tins. With Luca Brasi in particular, the sing alongs rang out loud, the defiant nature of the Tasmanian rock group seeping in effortlessly as they took the crowd through a now beloved set list.

With the Australian rock torch well aflame thanks to the widespread success of Violent Soho, bands like Luca Brasi have risen up in becoming artists who are held in equal esteem. Rightly so, too.

Changing tune, A.B. ORIGINAL‘s triumphant spin on the same stage opened up a gnarly and ravenous talking point of the afternoon. Crowds hungry for their dose of hip hop definitely got it, while those wanting to sink their teeth into the material of Reclaim Australia in a live capacity couldn’t escape the heat of Trials and Briggs‘ performance, even if they wanted to.

There was no letting up, no softening of a blow – it remained vehemently clear that the duo know how to deliver a message to fans and newcomers, no doubt, alike, without compromising on their sense of fun and entertainment.

Fresh from their sideshow in Melbourne, Glass Animals marked their first visit to Adelaide with a show that had a filled out crowd loving the peanut butter vibes emanating from the stage. Current album How To Be a Human Being has offered up some verifiable ‘bangers’, while their acclaimed debut ZABA remained a classic in the eyes of many; a fusion of both had the audience cheering, applauding and holding pineapples up to the sky as enthusiastically as Dave Bayley‘s own grooves on stage.

Along with some Adelaide debuts, Laneway brought with it some poignant moments for other artists returning to our city.

Gang of Youths for instance, performed one of their last Australian shows here before their relocation overseas later this month.

With Tame Impala‘s ‘hiatus’ looming, the psych-vibes of their headline set would feel even more important to bear witness to.

On the Spinning Top Stage, Dune Rats celebrated album release day, launching The Kids Will Know It’s Bullshit to a crowd already primed for messiness.

Near the tail end of the festival, we were introduced to Nick Murphy, or the artist formerly known as Chet Faker. Whatever name you want to associate him with, his was a set that I had assumed would be quite run of the mill. We haven’t had a full record from him yet and of course, it’s going to be hard to isolate him from the material that launched his career a few years ago. So when Chet Faker tracks made their way into Murphy’s set list, yeah, I thought my initial assumptions were going to be bang on.

Instead, some heavier reworks of what originally was a soul-dripping and intoxicating live show shook me out of the frump and turned my head. I’m not sure what lay ahead for Nick Murphy and his music, but I’m intrigued. Way more than I was originally.

There’s something about the Laneway Festival that makes it a perfect event to be held out in Port Adelaide.

If you grew up in Adelaide’s western suburbs in the 90’s like I did, you’ll remember what it was like when Semaphore was a bustling seaside town and the gorgeous heritage buildings in the Port itself were full of life. Fast forward through years of neglect by new business and a younger demographic seeking new territory to claim, the Port district is now making its way up again. Buildings are being converted into new spaces; new enterprises are taking a punt on the location and enticing customers and punters out from the city – a model that is working and paying off.

This is where the Laneway Festival comes into it. Now a juggernaut of the Australian music industry, the event boasts itself on primo music curation and often, new music discovery. It takes a punt on the loyalty of their festival goers and their open mindedness in exposing themselves to new artists. As this year’s festival tour has shown, by bringing together a good percentage of relative unknowns to a line up boasting well-seasoned Australian favourites, you’ve got a recipe for success.

Live photography by Lauren Connelly.