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Live Review: St. Jerome's Laneway Festival 2014

It was another killer year for St Jerome's Laneway Festival - a truly special day that had the makings of Laneway history.

The Laneway line-up was announced months ago and since then the popularity of its artists has only continued to balloon, with acts such as Lorde, Haim and Chvrches amongst the eclectic bill this year. All of this built up a lot of excitement for us unsuspecting regular Laneway attendees. Little did we know we were in for one of the biggest Laneways of all time, with a new stage erected in honor of pop-Queen Lorde. Whilst it was great to see more people getting behind interesting and diverse types of music, it was unfortunate to see the usually peaceful festival populated by more overly drunk patrons and fresh out of high-school eighteen year-olds, as well as a host of trying-too-hard quasi hipsters who are a little too late to the party to be cool and a little too under-dressed to be fashionable. However, all in all, it was a great day with no major mishaps or disappointments and some pretty magical highlights.

The biggest disappointment of the day was myself, as I did not make it in time to see The Growl who I heard put on quite the show. Nevertheless, I made it to the RNA Showgrounds by the arvo to catch Frightened Rabbit, who played the Carpark Stage, the typically largest stage of Laneways past - now trumped by the enormous Alexandria St Stage for her majesty, Lorde. The arena is half empty at three p.m, but I know in a couple of hours all will change as hipsters, teen girls, party animals and music nuts crowd the showgrounds in anticipation of the headliners. I enjoy the peacefulness of the present, wedging my way to the front for Frightened Rabbit's emotional set of melodious lovesick songs of heartbreak and heartache and everything to do with love. The single ‘Holy’ from their latest album is a more upbeat crowd pleaser, albeit, with similarly dismal themes. The band complain that they are not playing a side-show at The Zoo this time around, a complaint I feel strongly in alliance with, as it is always hard to get the most out of a forty minute festival set. Nevertheless, I take as much as I can get with these guys and it's pretty damn good.

I had it my head that I would have all these half an hour to forty minute breaks in-between bands I wanted to see, in which I would score really awesome spots for said bands, but instead I spend all my time waiting in lines for alcohol and the toilets. Nevertheless, I did discover I had quite the talent for squeezing my way to the front of most stages without bothering too many people or blocking any heads, which I guess is one of the benefits of being a petite female.

So here I am Youth Lagoon at four p.m and I have never loved Laneway more. I expected Youth Lagoon to be an interesting act after only recently discovering his two albums, but I did not expect his live show to be so spectacular. At four p.m in the arvo it is difficult for any artist to pull off such a magical performance, but Trevor Powers of Youth Lagoon more than adequately achieves this end – transporting every iota of his lanky being into a powerhouse performance. Unfortunately, I missed the finale as I had to dart off to get a cheeky bite to eat before the night swallowed up all my time. It sounded spectacular even from the fish and chips line a few hundred meters away, so that must mean something.

Chvrches, the band I was highly anticipating, did not disappoint, even though I had to stumble my way through a dense pit of the largest gathering of punters I have ever seen at Laneway. I got lucky and fell into step with a more assertive group of strangers who wanted to get to the front. By the end of 'Gun' I was near the front of the stage without any effort on my part. One thing I want to emphasize about Chvrches is how professional they were. Every song sounded near identical to the record, just more powerful and overwhelming, with the massive speakers on the Alexandria St stage really demonstrating just how much oompth great songs like 'Lies' and 'Recover' have. Lauren Mayberry proves what a fantastic front-woman she is, commanding the giant stage with her comparatively tiny stature and not missing a note the entire time, as well as indulging in some witty banter when an audience member throws their hat on stage and she tries to return it. “Well, now everybody will want it!” she bemoans, instead choosing to give the hat to one of the security guards, to every nearby audience member's dismay.

Following Chvrches is my longest break for the night, but after a couple of beers and a lot of free water it seems like it's only a couple of minutes until Savages start. I bombard my way to the front for three songs, luckily catching my album favorite 'She Will' – an explosive live number Jenny Beth dedicates, 'to the boys'. As expected the girls are phenomenal on stage, truly evoking all the rage and energy of long-dead seventies punk rock. I feel terrible about leaving such an awesome set, but I know I'll be kicking myself if miss Unknown Mortal Orchestra. And boy am glad I didn't. In what amounts to be one of the best sets of the night, the band completely kills it on stage. On their recordings Unknown Mortal Orchestra pleasant and harmonious - nice, chill stuff to listen to on the bus ride home from work or uni. But live? The trio almost channels the zest and passion of a heavy metal outfit. Their songs positively lift off the stage, becoming an entirely different animal when performed live.

I wander over to the warehouse Red Bull stage for Jagwar Ma, an appropriate follow up to Unknown Mortal Orchestra's groovy psychedelic sounds. On my trek there I pass near the hoards of people crammed around the Alexandria St. stage watching Lorde. I catch a glimpse of her in the distance. She sounds good, but I resist the little niggle in the back of my mind to watch her performance in sacrifice of an awesome spot for Jagwar Ma and a few beers up my sleeve at the less crowded alcohol tents. Nobody is there when I arrive, but by the time the band is about to take the stage, the warehouse is crammed full. The party is on as Jagwar Ma explodes into their opening number 'What Love', immediately transforming the area into what basically feels like a warehouse rave, with strobe lights attacking me from every direction in sync with their psychedelic electronic beats – strobe lights I happily bask in. By the end I am ready to collapse, drowning my lethargy in a contradictory coupling of water and beer.

 

By the time Warpaint are playing I am pretty tired from the day's excitement, but nevertheless, their set does not fail to ignite whatever reserves of energy I have left. I wander over to the modestly crowded Carpark stage, lingering near the back for a performance that somehow feels intimate and special even though Warpaint are yards away from me – thus is the power of their lyrical, decidedly femme music. I do not mean to demote their music to simply representing their gender by making this observation. Rather, I feel like the music of Warpaint has some truly individualistic feminine quality to it that makes it so emotionally resonant and warm, even though the themes of their songs are often sad and melancholic.

The girls are killer on stage, despite it feeling a little odd that they are the headlining band after seeing the massive crowds for Chvrches, Haim and Lorde. Nevertheless, I believe Warpaint truly deserve their spot as a headliner as a much more accomplished band than any of those acts, with music that probably has a lot more depth to it, even though it isn't as loud or as instantly catchy as the other acts. Warpaint have a subtle beauty to their music that is more than adequately represented in their set. 'Love Is To Die' is a true highlight, as expected, but the winning number and one of the most incredible performances of the entire festival is the strangely hypnotic and somewhat upbeat number 'Disco/Very' – the audience's ‘final chance to dance’, as said by Theresa Wayman at the close of their set. Oh boy do I dance, even though my legs feel as if they are about to fall off. The girls close with old favorite ‘Undertow’, although it feels a bit excessive after the showstopper Disco/Very.

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