Feb 6, 2011

Sydney Laneway Festival 2011

Laneway returned to Sydney on this Sunday. In its second year at Rozelle, I would give the day a big thumbs up. An eclectic and talented lineup ensured that the sold out sign went up a long time ago and by days end I was pretty damn satisfied. Menomena ensured this was possible, but they had a few friends to help them them along. The day dawned, as it has for a week, with record temperatures. With sunscreen applied liberally we hoped we wouldn't be scorched. Thankfully by mid afternoon we had received a cool change, plunging temperatures and making life more bearable. So what was good and bad? Well besides the great music, it's a great setting. Beautiful sandstone buildings make for a great backdrop. Even though it got crowded at times, it was always seemed manageable. Of course at any festival, there are always douchebags that make a nuisance. Thankfully not too many here, but we still have to put up with the 'fans' more interested in themselves then the music. And at times the sound was a bit variable. But this is always the case at outdoor festivals. Especially if the wind is picking up. As for the music, I had mapped my day out a few days beforehand. My favourites will get a mention further down, but I will touch briefly on some here. Rat Vs Possum had the unenviable task of being the first band up. But they were great. Their rhythms and loud percussion are quite addictive. New York's The Antlers were an early show as well. They barely filled 30 minutes, only playing 4 songs. But they sounded great too. "Sylvia" and "Two" were great to hear live. Stornoway were pleasant, but rather dull. Sorry! Warpaint had moments of greatness as well. Even though their songs tend to blend into one another after a while, they have great harmonies and can really wield the axe. Of course, "Undertow" was a particular standout. Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti was clearly the worst act I saw all day. Geared up as if they dressed blindly in a really bad op shop, their music is extremely cheesy and camp. They might be aiming for this, but they are not very good. And Ariel comes off as a petulant child, who is uncharismatic to the extreme.

Local Natives might not be edgy or ubercool. They don't break the bounds of songwriting. But they are one thing. Incredibly entertaining. "Gorilla Manor" was a mammoth album of 2010 and hearing it live was a total joy. This band has more hooks than a fishing boat and their harmonies are glorious. They are great live too, building the drama inherent in each song. Of course "Shape Shifter" was a personal favourite, but "Airplanes" went down howlingly well. This band is great, just great. Give me good songs over hype any day of the week.

Set List
Camera Talk
World News
Wide Eyes
Shape Shifter
Who Knows Who Cares
Sun Hands

Menomena owned this festival. Despite being on the smallest stage and only having 40 minutes, they showed one true thing. There was no more talented band on display this day. Recently I was shocked to hear of Brent Knopf leaving the band. His melancholic voice was very special to me. How would they replace him? Quite ably it would seem. Of course, songs like "Wet and Rusting" and "Killemall" didn't get a hearing. But Paul Alcott, what an afro, performed ably on keys, a vital part of the band's sound. The other songs were blisteringly good. The ripped Justin Harris was fierce and godlike on vocals. He virtually plays lead bass, with the sax for good measure. Danny Seim is an intense drummer, bashing out like there's no tomorrow. All the songs are just great. I was really excited to hear the classic "Strongest Man in The World" open. This was followed by a ferocious "TAOS". "Dirty Cartoons" was moving and precious. "The Pelican" tore my heart out and then "Muscle'n Flo" was the perfect closer. For this is nearly the perfect band. Did I mention they owned this day!

Set List
Strongest Man in The World
Dirty Cartoons
Five Little Rooms
Queen Black Acid
The Pelican
Muscle'n Flo

The great Deerhunter ended my day on a perfect note. Despite some muddy sound, they shone like diamonds. Their mixture of melodic goodness and complex guitar arrangements is hard to beat. They also, unlike other acts, played for every second of time allotted. In fact Bradford Cox made sure they snuck in one last song, "Memory Boyl", as time expired. "Nothing Ever Happened" was of course greatness, but I really loved Lockett Pundt taking control with "Desire Lines". What a guitar line. Day ended perfectly.

Set List
Cover Me (Slowly)
Desire Lines
Hazel St.
Little Kids
Nothing Ever Happened
Calvary Scars
Memory Boy


  • At February 07, 2011 , Anonymous Giselle said...

    Should've checked out Les Savy Fav Wayne. Best set of the day for me by far and it was on at the same time as Ariel, so you would have dodged a bullet and gotten something awesome out of it too!

  • At February 07, 2011 , Blogger Wayne said...

    Ha! My wife watched Les Savy Fav. Said it was insane. A lot of people seemed to enjoy Ariel Pink, but I just couldn't get into it.

  • At February 07, 2011 , Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Awesome roundup! Glad you survived the heat. Missed the festival (again) but looking forward to seeing Menomena tonight at the Factory. It's good to hear they put on a great show sans Brent Knopf


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