Live Review: St Jerome's Laneway Festival

15 February 2016 | 1:25 pm | Gareth WilliamsMark BeresfordReezy Miller

"With festivals falling by the wayside in recent years, Laneway is a shining example of how to do it right."

As Perth suffered through another recording-breaking heat wave in the days leading up to this year's Laneway Festival, it was a great relief to many that the mercury decided on this Sunday to settle at a milder 31 degrees. Nestled between Fremantle's Esplanade and West End, and with an abundance of shade provided by huge Norfolk pines circling the venue, Laneway provided quick, easy access to the three main stages, with a short walk to the smaller fourth stage. Liquid refreshments were plentiful, as were the food choices on offer, plus various merch, clothing and vinyl stalls.

Perth's own post punk four-piece Hideous Sun Demons helped kick things off with a signature loud, fast set, giving their all to the appreciation of the small early crowd.

The first half of High Tension's set was spent playing to a trickling crowd with little to no interest. Vocalist Katrina Utomo tried her hardest to bring about some energy as she death growled her way into Collingwood. Finally, when she dropped into the crowd and performed from the barrier, people drew forward and Lapindo covered the crowd in thrash punk goodness.

Staring into the blazing midday sun, the chilled sounds of Methyl Ethel were a welcome diversion. Between the pulsing reverb of Sweet Waste and the dreamy vibes in radio sweetheart Twilight Driving, their tight set played well to the crowd.

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Toronto noise rock outfit METZ continued the high energy on the small but popular Mistletone stage, drawing plenty of punters away from the two main stages, with a barrage of noise and energy leaving a bunch of very satisfied fans.

Over on the Future Classic Stage William Doyle (aka East India Youth) began his set by beckoning everyone to the front of the stage and announcing (tongue in cheek) his last ever Australian show. Displaying to Laneway that he's more that just a button pushing DJ, Doyle stepped up to the microphone, strapped on a Fender Bass, mixed live and treated punters to a set worthy of a much later time slot.

Playing to a Laneway that is at complete gridlock, Japanese Wallpaper impresses with his trademark ambient but intricate electronica. It's obvious that everyone is in attendance for his final track when hands rise into the air for Between Friends.

Although the early half of DIIV was heavily dampened by guitar and foldback issues, the New York outfit worked in the sparkling riffs of Under The Sun and Dopamine to full effect. Zachary Cole Smith proclaimed, 'This is the worst we've sounded at any Laneway, but it's ok because it's the last Laneway.' Certainly not the best we've seen from DIIV, but the hard-hitting hostility of Incarnate Devil and Mire (Grant's Song) helped smooth things over.

LA skate punks FIDLAR know how to start a party; the sounds of Cheap Beer, 40oz On Repeat and 5 To 9 were irresistible to dance to. Rambunctious blasts of sweat drenched bravado from Zac Carper and the odd cat-inspired Weezer cover made sure their mark was left on the day.

By mid afternoon crowd numbers had swelled considerably so Newtown natives and early crowd favorites DMA's had plenty of punters to dance along to their infectious style of Britpop (dare we coin the phrase Auspop?).

Health exploded into the mid afternoon with a thundering, drum-driven wall of sound. The LA four-piece, playing this time as a trio, combined electronic samples with traditional instruments, guitar and bass. Jacob Duzsik's haunting vocals weaved through the music, creating an almost genre-defying set. Three guys making big, loud music. A highlight.

Shamir had the narrow laneway leading to The Future Classic stage jam packed and grooving to his incredible voice and unique brand of electronic R&B. The mix was a little on the bass side but that didn't dissuade the party people getting down with their bad selves.

It's probably a performance that Sydney garage rockers Royal Headache would rather let slide given their own response throughout the set. With a failing voice, by his own admission Shogun announces, "I haven't sung this bad since Austin, Texas." The battle against sound issues got better as the set rolled on, though their performance still felt somewhat a shell of what it should have been. It seems no matter how off the show is, Another World can still throw the dance floor into a complete frenzy.

The Smith Street Band have an uncanny knack for creating a euphoric set that converts even the harshest of critics and as Wil Wagner bounced off his foldback during Don't Fuck With Our Dreams, you could spot they'd done it again. With smiles plastered across their faces, the back and forth of energy and lyrical volume between the crowd and the band was stacking itself as a highlight for the day. There may have been no new material to speak of but firing off the emotion driven Throw Me In The River and the suburban poetry of Young Drunk, it didn't matter. The Smith Street Band had brought back the high energy and cracking fun rock set that is consistently missing from the modern festival.

There's very few ways to describe Thundercat live short of impressive, bursting with technical ability and a live dynamic that plays like a freehand jam. Supported by his trio, they appear incredibly at ease and constantly fade away with their own playing as the jazz-fusion drops jaws in the crowd. Lone Wolf And Cub and Tron Song facilitate a master class in musical aptitudes with Justin Brown drumming up a spectacular storm.

With a "What's up, Fremantle!" Aussie hip hop duo Hermitude bounced onto the Ferris Stage. The boys from the Blue Mountains had the crowd instantly on their feet, on each other's shoulders and hands in the air with their razor-sharp hip hop set. An intro of The Lion Sleeps Tonight garnered a few puzzled looks until the drop hit and normal service resumed. Hermitude took the late afternoon crowd on a journey that pulsated and jumped as the sun slowly set in the west.

Violent Soho throw everything they have into their live shows, but all they received early on this occasion was an uncharacteristically mellow audience; that was until some fresh cuts reared their heads. Given that it took for Like Soda to completely tear Violent Soho's set open, it seems that when Waco drops, we're going to be in for a treat. The Mansfield boys still managed to live up to being the drawcard of the bill for many, as circle pits shot clouds of dust up, and bodies tumbled over the barrier, the crammed set working through Saramona Said, Fur Eyes, Viceroy and festival favourite Covered In Chrome with a fierce energy.

A lone dancer took to the stage, busted some kick-arse moves, then was joined by Grimes, a percussionist and another dancer to kick off one of Laneway's most original sets. Dropping samples, keyboards, guitar and vocals into the mix, Grimes banged out her unique brand of electronica, coupled with her extraordinary vocals, giving the huge crowd a taste of what four women can do.

Their slightly delayed start only built the air of anticipation for Beach House. A blacked out stage, illuminated by flickering star lights in the background, drew a looming silhouette of the performers as the sounds of PPP washed over the crowd. As vocalist Victoria Legrand stated herself, "The night has fallen and you must relax." It certainly wasn't a hard task, with the dreamy waves of Space Song and Wishes drifting over the spellbound audience.

Chvrches drew a large crowd to the front of the Ferris Bueller stage and treated them all to a flawless set of Scottish synth pop. They kicked off with Never Ending Circles and took tracks off their two albums Every Open Eye and The Bones Of What You Believe; the crowd ate up every track. Their impressive light show complemented the set perfectly, leaving little doubt that they deserved one of the top billings of the festival.

A huge build-up promised much but resulted in a disappointing first drop as Flume hit the Ferris Wheel Stage for the final set of the night. The only way was up and thankfully Flume hit back hard from then on, lacing big vocal samples, industrial noise and fat synth to build a big, slow-burning set, lapped up by the happy crowd. A brilliant visual show, guest live vocals, a Lorde sample and amazing lights provided a fitting close to another successful Laneway festival.

With festivals falling by the wayside in recent years, Laneway is a shining example on how to do it right. With no discernible headliner, similar set times, a collaboration of artists and a great venue in Fremantle with easy access via public transport, Laneway may well continue very happily into the future.