15 years of St Jerome's Laneway Festival and the community-minded, left-of-field ethos of the festival is going stronger than ever. This weekend, Laneway hit Brisbane and Sydney with its mammoth international contingent and a slew of Australian faves and it left us hopeful for the future of Australian festivals, despite many worrying about their downfall in the way of the state government's increasingly militant stance on drugs.
Given it's one of the biggest festivals on the Aussie music calendar, it still somehow has the down-to-earth feel of a boutique festival. Though the security guards at the gate were a little too over-zealous in chucking out potential threats this year (no Lucas Paw Paw ointment? Really?), the event itself still runs as unpretentiously as it did in the alleyways of Melbourne in 2005.
We're treated to small, intimate stages like the Girls Rock! stage, this year featuring Alexes like Alex The Astronaut and Alex Lahey, raucous punk from the likes of meme-friendly lads The Chats at the Jameson Presents JJ's Stage, and a breadth of acts like Jon Hopkins, Masego, G Flip, Mansionair, Clairo, Camp Cope and Parquet Courts.
We kicked off the day at Ravyn Lenae, who brought her '60s-esque soul vibes to the Future Classic stage in the heat of the day, pink/purple geometric shift dress and all. Her effortless R&B was backed by an equally effortless funk band, and the crowd was immediately smitten with Ravyn's sweetness. We were gifted songs like Spice, Computer Luv and Sticky, and there was one thing Ravyn told us that stuck: "Every show, I ask people to make me a promise. So put your pinkies in the air and say, 'I promise, to move my body. I promise, to keep my promise.'” We definitely kept it.
Over on the Park and Garden main stages, we caught back-to-back triple j favourites Ruby Fields and G Flip, the former of which finished an epic set with a stirring Dinosaurs, hot off the back of it landing at #9 on the Hottest 100 last week. G Flip kicked off her set pounding her drumkit to bangers from Fat Boy Slim, DMX and that Ole Ole song you hear at every soccer game ever. Though she's still got a fairly small discography, G Flip showed she's got the chops with new songs like Stupid sliding in easily between her hits About You, Killing My Time and Drink Too Much.
Middle Kids brought their rousing alt-rock stylings to the Garden stage soon after, reminding us why they're huge stars overseas already, while Skegss brought us a jam-packed surf-punk party that was perfect for a sunny Sydney day. The crowd spanned all the way back up to the hills and almost all could be heard singing along to Hottest 100 #11 song, Up In The Clouds. Paradise indeed.
A little later, Japanese-American indie legend Mitski took the Doc Marten's stage on a Bjork-esque ride. With artful, expressive dance moves and a song where she genuinely paced around the stage for three whole minutes, Mitski was one of the many artists at Laneway that confirmed why the festival remains refreshing, boundary-pushing and unexpected.
Over at Future Classic, A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie's hype man DJ Ominaya got the hip hop heads going with fire mixes of Childish Gambino's This Is America and more, and when Boogie came out we were pretty warmed up. As expected, we got heaps of cuts from his US #1 album, Hoodie SZN, as well as his new single, Look Back At It. The 23-year-old's energy was unlimited and a full on mosh broke out in the middle of the crowd at one point. It's clear that the craving for live hip hop shows remains unsatiated here in Australia.
— triple j (@triplej) February 2, 2019
On the Garden Stage, festival drawcard Jorja Smith took to the stage backed with a super-talented band to lay down some jazzy, soulful vibes in the afternoon setting sun. In a white bodycon dress with sleek black shades she didn't take off once, it's hard to believe she's only 21 when she's belting out emotional numbers like The One and Teenage Fantasy. Jorja was another inspired booking on this year's Laneway.
The rest of the night came quickly with internationals Denzel Curry, Parquet Courts and Jon Hopkins all enthralling crowds during their respective time slots, while locals Gang Of Youths, Courtney Barnett and What So Not showed us why our very own acts are well worthy of performing on our festival's headline slots. What So Not notably brought Daniel Johns on stage for a mini Silverchair homage, while Courtney and Gang Of Youths did what they do best - pulled us deep into their worlds with exceptional storytelling and undeniable stage presence.