Music: Laneway Festival a hit at new venue

By Andrew Fithall

Over the previous two years, the Melbourne leg of the St Jerome’s Laneway Festival had taken a bit of flack. Increased crowds in a geographically restrictive environment resulted in many disenchanted festival goers. 2009 had been particularly bad, with attendees loud in their disapproval of access to bands they had paid good money to see. The organisers needed to do something special to redeem themselves.

The 2010 line-up announcement had me immediately excited. It must have been obvious because Baz  presented me with a ticket as a birthday present. In turn, I purchased an additional one for my wife Helen for her birthday. The new venue was Footscray in the Community Arts Centre precinct. It was close to the Footscray train station and metropolitan transport for the day was included in the ticket price. Nice touch. The weather forecast was excellent: low thirties during the day leading into a warm evening. No jacket required. (Nor Phil Collins it must be said.)

Helen and I got off the train and went with the pedestrian flow. On the way we stopped to chat with Ken and another Bendigo person Andrew who were both waiting to meet up with Baz and Sue who had their tickets. I had heard that Andrew was a big Echo and the Bunnymen fan so he wouldn’t be happy that they had been a late withdrawal. Helen tried to console him with the prospect of seeing Frightened Rabbit and thereby enjoy his quota of furry vermin. The joke didn’t seem to go over that well.

My first disappointment was the gate security saying they didn’t need to see my ID for this over-18s event. They seemed to want to look at everyone else’s. Thankfully, there were very few disappointments for the remainder of the day. We checked a location map and tried to get our bearings. There were three stages, each within a reasonable walking distance of each other, but positioned to minimise sound interference. As we were to find for the rest of the day, the location was excellent and the stage positioning conducive not just to good listening, but also to moving around. A number of times we were able to move between stages and see two or even three artists who were performing in the one time-slot.

First stop was Teeth and Tongue on the Moreland St main stage. The audience was small, and Jess Cornelius took a few songs to get her voice going, but the band looked good in their capes and hoods. Part-way through the set we moved to the River Stage to catch Oh Mercy. So this was where all the early-birds were. It was a wonderful setting with a well-grassed hill leading from the Arts Centre bluestone building (used as the band and VIP area) down to a mid-sized stage which backed onto the Maribyrnong. And the Oh Mercy boys (the core of which I understand met when they were at De La Salle together) were very well received. The break before the next band allowed us to catch-up with a cluster of Helen’s nieces and nephews who were in attendance and who, on Christmas Day, had taken the time to give Helen instruction on proper hand gestures when moshing.

Kid Sam followed on the River stage. Alliterative cousins Kieran and Kishore sing (Kieran only) and play guitar and drums, and on a couple of numbers had a bit of support from a barely audible melodica player. Their set was drawn mainly from their self-titled album which I knew well, with a couple of newbies thrown in. Most enjoyable.

The next time slot was the most difficult. Bridezilla on the main stage would lead into Mumford and Sons. However, their competition was Whitley on the River and Philadelphia Grand Jury (the Philly Jays to the groovy ones) on the Car Park Stage. All well worth seeing. My strategy, which had M&S as the “must see” for the day saw Helen and me heading for Bridezilla. I have previously enjoyed their performance at the Triple R performance space and am a fan, so it was no sacrifice. We took up a position and communicated the location to others via text message. Eventually they joined us – Baz to report positively on Whitley, and niece Lisa similarly on the Philly Jays. Lisa and a couple of others said they were going closer to the stage for Mumford. I should have done the same, and regretted it later.

We knew that Mumford and Sons, having just “won” the Triple J top 100 number one spot, would attract a crowd; they did. Build it up too much and you can end up disappointed; I was. Sound issues were exacerbated by late-comers pushing past for a better viewing vantage. I should have gone forward earlier. Their big hit “Little Lion Man” to which the majority felt obliged singing along, was followed by a little known ballad which, with the sound difficulties, lost a few in the crowd. That was enough for me so I went looking for alternative entertainment, and found it in Frightened Rabbit on the Car Park Stage. A Scottish band, with their harmonies and their energy, they “out-Mumforded” Mumford. Although I did have a bit of trouble reconciling the song-line “you won’t find love in a hole” with their band name. Then it was to the River Stage to catch the last two songs from Daniel Johnstone. Now there is an interesting performer, whose bi-polar eccentricities have been well documented. His music, supported by a very skilled backing band, is well worth seeing and hearing.

On my own, which is never much fun at a festival or live music venue, I hung around to listen to London band The XX. What I had previously enjoyed on the radio didn’t translate as well in the live performance. However, I didn’t let pass the opportunity to speak briefly with the Bridezilla violinist, who happened to be standing next to me. I also talked her out of stabbing with her parasol the nearby audience member who had asked her to put said parasol down while the band was still setting up. Before the end of the XX set, I was back with Helen at the main stage to hear Sarah Blasko’s last number.

A break from the music meant a catch up with Baz and Sue and Ken and Andrew. A drink? At $8.00 for a 330ml can of Beck’s, there wouldn’t be many. Food? We had self-catered so didn’t have to endure the hour-long queues for limited food options. A pass-out for a quick trip to a local for a couple of draught pots? Not allowed. A couple of industrious punters did get on the phone and meet the pizza delivery guys at the entrance gate. I am sure the organisers will have received ample feedback and suggestions on their future catering improvement opportunities!

While the majority of our group headed to the main stage for The Dirty Three, Helen and I returned to the River Stage and met up with the younger relatives to see Sydney band Dappled Cities. Resplendent in their head-to-toe sparkling gold suits (which a couple of “members” wore backwards, perhaps  to avoid any Tony Abbott lycra moments) they were obviously there to enjoy themselves.  Not knowing the band, but recognising a couple of songs, I enjoyed their performance. A Sarah Blasko guest vocal contribution was also a nice touch. At the conclusion, and as the band began to pack up, our attention was drawn to activity on the grass. On bended knee, a chap proposed to his girlfriend and the proposal was accepted. When members of Mumford and Sons, watching from the VIP area, came down to personally congratulate and chat to the newly-betrothed, niece Lisa was quickly on the search for someone to propose to, if that is all it took to get to meet the Mumford boys.

The young ones headed to the main stage for Florence and the Machine. Having decided to make our way home, Helen and I deferred our departure and I stayed on the grass at the River stage for the more laid-back The Middle East. A Queensland multi-piece (I think seven on the night), with a mixture of vocal harmonies, instrumentals, and even some spoken word, they were a good wind-down. A full moon rising over the river back-drop was another nice touch by the organisers. Having enjoyed our nine hours on-site, we decided to beat the mass departure and headed for the train station. Twenty-five minutes later we walked in the home front door. Is public transport always this good?

2010 Laneway festival was an excellent redemption after previous debacles. I know through friends that the organisers had taken very personally the justified attacks, particularly for the 2009 event. I think they would be well pleased with their response. Hopefully they can continue at the Footscray venue for some time. Although, judging by the number of real estate building development signs on-site, it is not going to remain the way it is for too long. I hope the accelerating gentrification of Footscray doesn’t cause them to have to find a new venue too soon.

About Andrew Fithall

Probably the most rational, level-headed Collingwood supporter in existence. Not a lot of competition mind you.

Comments

  1. Andrew,
    I’ll fwd to organisers who’ll appreciate the compliments and the suggestions.

  2. Andrew – and here I was saying you were too old, too slow, etc to enjoy a great festival……..very nice piece of work.

  3. Peter Flynn says:

    Andrew,

    You are the Footy Almanac’s John Peel. Fantastic.

    Have you ever spun tunes on radio?

  4. Andrew Fithall says:

    Chris – there seem to be a few people around with connections to the organisers. Sounds like you are another. Feel free to pass on my thoughts – particularly the positive ones.

    Dips – I am too old and too slow, but until I am actually the oldest and the slowest, I will persist.

    And Flynny – I have had to go to Wikipedia to overcome my ignorance. I will take what you say as a compliment. Thanks. And no, I have never spun tunes on radio. It isn’t something I aspire to. A greater goal is to try to get my kids to like any of my music. It could take a while.

  5. Peter Flynn says:

    AF,

    Definitely a wrap.

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