Live Review: St Jerome's Laneway Festival

2 February 2015 | 2:22 pm | Roshan Clerke

FKA Twigs, Little Dragon and more transported Brisbane to different dimensions at Laneway Festival.

It’s stinking hot and election fever is in the air as crowds wind their way to the new expanded site of the annual Laneway Festival, now taking place inside the actual Brisbane Showgrounds and allowing itself a pleasant sprawl.

On the outdoors Mistletone Stage US noise merchants Perfect Pussy are giving it their all early but fighting a reluctant mix, powerful frontwoman Meredith Graves giving it her all nonetheless.

We head across to the large tent containing the two main stages – not much different in set-up to how Livid used to configure their side stages back in the day –and catch Leeds post-punk outfit Eagulls in full flight, the grooves cool-sounding and unrelenting. Frontman George Mitchell has a big voice (which sounds uncannily like Robert Smith at times) and charisma to match, the five-piece consistently catchy as they pump out a stream of tunes such as Possessed and Lemon Tree.

Dune Rats. Pic by Claudia Ciapocha.

Back over at Mistletone Stage Kiwi psych-pop exponent Connan Mockasin is leading is leading his ragtag, trippy-looking bunch through a stream of equally lysergic music, their songs all strange bendy grooves and languid melodies. The fragile vocals on tracks like It’s Choade My Dear are weirdly soulful, but during other numbers like I’m The Man, That Will Find You it veers very close to soft rock pastiche with the sweet harmony choruses, but it’s never less than interesting.

This Laneway is Eves The Behavior’s first festival tour, and the Gold Coast singer is possibly regretting wearing a pantsuit on stage. The heat inside the Future Classic tent is sweltering, but the 20-year-old is braving it with a confident power stance. She looks diminutive behind a large yellow guitar, but her stage presence and voice are impressively larger than life. It’s when she plays the guitar lines to songs like Zen that she seems most confident, losing the energy on synth-based songs to her twitchy dance moves.

Sohn walks on stage to thunderstorm sounds, wearing a medium-length black robe. We’ll pause here to recognise how ridiculous that is; black robes either come in wizard length or should not be worn at all. The farce is emphasised today as the thought of his sweat levels proves more interesting than his bland take on post-R&B. The Londoner momentarily works Tremors into something worth paying attention to, but the lack of a live drummer retracts from the bouncy energy of Artifice. He spends most of the show complaining how hot it is.

Local punk brats Dune Rats possess probably the most snarling guitars of the day, and draw a large crowd who are totally up for any and all shenanigans that the band can throw at them. A good mosh grows early as they move through a river of catchy nuggets like Superman and Fuck It, and there’s plenty of frivolity between songs which is matched by their ramshackle cover of Violent Femmes’ staple Blister In The Sun. Towards the end of a fun set their track Dalai Lama Big Banana Marijuana (as always) wins most stupid song title of the day award.

The lead singer of Highasakite looks like she’s in the wrong band. Ingrid Helene Håvik is rocking long purple hair, a black Jack Daniel’s singlet, and sparkly shorts. She soon shatters all preconceptions, launching straight into the beautiful opening notes of Lover, Where Do You Live?. It’s a gentle ease into the set, before the drums of Leaving No Traces hit, and the wind picks up for the first time today. It’s like the Norwegians brought stormy weather to match their magnificently overblown pop.

New Orleans-based singer-songwriter Benjamin Booker enters the fray with just his rhythm section in tow and before long is emitting an awesome array of licks and riffs, the spirit of rock’n’roll clearly coursing through his veins. Always Waiting is all angst and pent-up frustration but suddenly the bassist busts out a fiddle and Booker is dancing an awesome jig, the trio’s varying shades of authenticity and enthusiasm quite alluring especially during the rousing Violent Shiver.

Angel Olsen is less angry these days. The enchanting queen of disenchantment may sing about loneliness and screaming the stars out of the universe, but she’s giggling between songs and even dedicates the optimistic Lights Out to Mac DeMarco and his band. She brings out the affected bleating she does so well for Drunk And With Dreams, and finishes the set of consistently incredible songwriting with Tiniest Seed and its short, sweet guitar solo.

There’s a great crowd waiting in anticipation for current indie darling Courtney Barnett, and she and her band sure don’t disappoint – it’s a far more rocking four-piece outfit she fronts these days but she still somehow remains lackadaisical during old faves such as History Eraser and Canned Tomatoes (Whole), but today it’s the new tracks from her impending debut album which really excite. Tracks like Nobody Really Cares If You Don’t Go To The Party, Aqua Profunda! and new (existential) single Pedestrian At Best auger incredibly well for the new album and showcase and incredibly exciting new(ish) talent in our midst.

The whole scene feels like a sequence from a sci-fi movie set in a Tokyo nightclub.

A lot of indie fans seem to be in two minds whether to see Aussie wunderkinds POND or US darling Mac DeMarco who have drawn competing time slots, and accordingly there’s a throng of punters winding both ways between their respective stages. The Aussies draw a strong and attentive crowd to the outdoor stage as they plough the fertile psych-field of new album Man It Feels Like Space Again – diminutive frontman Nick Allbrook in fine fettle indeed – but the majority seem to have opted for the goofy garage stylings of our overseas visitor, DeMarco’s every move and grin greeted by mass screams and shrieks.

Scottish producer Rustie has made a name for himself through his innovative album work. His conceptual approach to electronic music unfortunately doesn’t cross over into his live shows. He’s the first producer of the day, and although this is technically a live set, you wouldn’t know it. He seems to be DJing and sampling occasionally from his laptop. The happy trap sounds of Raptor bounce around the tent, but a disproportionate and miscellaneous series of raps tunes detracts from his body of work.

Little Dragon are a dance band. Listening to their recent album material, it can be easy to forget that. At their live show, it’s impossible not to realise it within the first few minutes. The Swedish quartet whirl Please Turn and My Step into dance-floor maelstroms, cooling things down for Pretty Girls and Ritual Union. Yukimi Nagano twirls around the stage in a kimono, shaking a tambourine and pulling shapes while the band perform with machine-like precision. The whole scene feels like a sequence from a sci-fi movie set in a Tokyo nightclub.

You wouldn’t expect to hear Microsoft Sam at a music festival, but a computerised voice requests no cameras be used during St Vincent’s set. Now that we have our digital witnessing put aside, Annie Clark shuffles onto the stage with her band; she seems to have taken a page out of David Byrne’s book when it comes to stage antics. Bursting into Rattlesnake, the band are tight and guitar licks are fuzzy. Cheerleader is a brilliant contrast to popular themes, and as she greets the crowd of “ladies, gentlemen, freaks, and others” we’re reminded of just how weird Clark is; and how thankful we are for her.

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Tkay Maidza. Pic by Claudia Ciapocha.

FKA Twigs is an alien, or at least you would think she is, based on the crowd’s continual amazement at every move she makes. She gracefully removes a braid of hair from her face at one point, and we too are convinced she can do no wrong. There’s more smoke than a house fire, and the hazy atmosphere lends her songs extra ethereal qualities as her high, fluttering vocals meld with it in cloud-busting clarity. She sings Pendulum, Water Me, and by the time she reaches Two Weeks the atmosphere is thick enough to swim in.

Flying Lotus is a silhouette in a suit, with glowing yellow eyes. He’s enclosed inside a hypercube, a visual setup which makes the performer look sandwiched inside a colourful virtual reality. The Los Angeles wonder-man is both a sonic and visual innovator this evening, as his rhythmically complex songs are matched with an equally unique array of visuals spiralling around him, shifting in time to twisting bass lines. He takes off the headpiece to sing on Coronus, The Terminator, before transforming into his alter-ego and alias Captain Murphy for a short time. It’s the most memorable merging of technology with music we’ve seen all day.

Fellow brothers in flight, Flight Facilities are keeping things aerodynamic with their own brand of dance tunes. The duo pilot their music from behind the large decks while Owl Eyes and Kurt Kristen steer the vocals. There’s plenty of remixes, as the whistle of Stand Still is laid over the rap of Why Do You Feel. Vic Mensa jumps onstage for Down On My Luck, proceeded neatly by a freestyle over the pair’s Down To Earth. They finish with Foreign Language, the song that started it all.