words by Katie Wighton // photos by Rick Clifford (@rcstills)
Ah, Laneway, you harsh mistress. With your littering teens and over-priced burgers, we wouldn't have you any other way. At the new (and lovely, might I add) venue of Footscray Park, this year's Melbourne leg of the ionic Laneway festival was quite the lineup. The weather gave us a scare at the start of the day with stages awash and performers slipping on the wet stairs but in the end, Mother Nature saw fit to give us a bloody corker of a day for a festival.
Special moments throughout the day include: Courtney Barnett's cheeky little solo show at the Girls Rock Stage (what a boss lady she is); the moment two of my friends and I yelled at a young lady for littering which made her pick it up and bin it; the frozen prosecco spritzes and, of course, the inimitable Mitski and her incredible dance moves (more of this anon).
Rat!Hammock at the LNWY.CO stage were my first stop – as they were for the wave of humans that washed over the hill as the band played their first notes. I have seen this band before and they are honestly some of Australia's finest musicians and humans. Hearing and watching them on such a massive stage was truly awesome. The guitars sounded sick and Jackson's humbly amazing voice soared over the heads of the impressive crowd that joined me throughout their set. They won the Triple J Unearthed competition to be there and they absolutely deserved it. They finished by bringing out the one and only Merpire to close the set. Their song June was a clear crowd favourite as well as Love You Till I Die which is my personal fave.
We had a little breather in the P.I.P section where I was treated to a frozen prosecco spritz which went down a treat. The P.I.P. section is a delightful little place. Perfect for those of us who are in need of a break from the crowds. We saw Bill Shorten in there too so that was cool.
Next were Middle Kids on the Dr Marten stage. Shit the bed this band is amazing. I can't think of a single one of their songs that isn't a banger. They kick off with Never Start and everyone in the crowd sings along at the top of their voices. It's SUCH a good vibe. I scored a spot right near the sound desk which meant I could hear every one of Hannah's brilliant lyrics. She introduced Don't Be Hiding as a song that's about “learning to love your bod” which is a terrific sentiment I think. Something about Hannah's voice reminds me of The Cranberries – it soars and bounces everywhere and she's totally in control. Plus she moves like Elvis which is bloody great. They get to Edge of Town and she screams “How good's the SUN?!” and everyone cheers.
After Middle Kids it's lunchtime and I head to the Vietnamese food truck. In front of me in line is someone with 1998 on their ID and I immediately feel like a grandmother. 1998?! That JUST happened...! Anyway, 15 million years later I get my outrageously delicious (*cough* very-small-for-$11-did-I-mention-I-am-a-grandmother) pork roti wrap. I head back to the safety of the P.I.P. and sit with my lovely friends who are all in the early 30s and feel much better about things.
It's at this point we hear the unmistakable sound of Courtney Barnett wafting through the trees. So we head towards the sound. We can barely squeeze ourselves in to watch the one and only Barnett deliver her great tunes. Nameless, Faceless goes down a treat, as it always does and it gets me well pumped for her set later in the evening.
We are headed for Mitski at 4:20pm at the Dean Turner stage. Now I had already SEEN Mitski at The Corner only a few days before Laneway but I knew I couldn't miss her. Weirdly it wasn't packed (kids these days) but once again, she blew my tiny mind. She danced around in a white business shirt and black skirt with bike shorts and knee pads, flailing her arms and gesticulating wildly as she delivered painfully acute lyrics. As my friend said, her words are like a slap in the face and a kiss on the cheek all at once. “I want a love that falls as fast as a body from a balcony” What the actual H Mitski?! Are you TRYING to give the festival a collective heart attack? Because lady, you're gonna. Her band are full of amazing musicians and they are all loving it. Her music is unique and yet she sings about such universally felt emotions – love, anxiety, global warming. Her vocals fly and nose-dive with complete ease - she's a breath of fresh air.
Next is Methyl Ethyl. Now everyone knows that song. It's a cracker. The build up before the chorus is just next level. HOWEVER, there is more to this band than just that one song. They're the boys in beige but their music is anything but. Jake Webb's vocals are incredible – I've never heard a voice like his. There's a young man in front of me with beautiful shoulder length hair eating a sandwich out of a lunchbox and it's kind of the perfect summary of this band. They're uber (ubu? Hehe) cool without even trying. I love watching Jacob Diamond on guitar/vocals as he struts around the stage. Chris Wright is a sensational drummer and, in fact, the whole band are incredible musicians. Eventually they play Ubu and it is, of course, incredible. Everyone loves it and they play it perfectly.
Next on my list is Courtney Barnett but I get roped into leaving the peaceful serenity of the P.I.P. area to venture out and watch Parquet Courts. They're actually so sick. I love the jangly guitars and yelly vocals. The guitarist/singer on stage right is also wearing quite a loud shirt which I really dig. The crowd love them and they jump up and down to the sound of Total Football. What a fun time these blokes are!
When I got up and planned my Laneway day I really did expect to make Gang of Youths my final destination. But by 6pm I felt like my feet were made out of bricks and my brain had started leaking out of my ears. So, it turns out, Courtney Barnett was my final pitstop. She was, of course, incredible. There is something about seeing a badass woman playing incredible guitar and making spot on political statements that sets my soul on fire. Her set GAVE me energy. Normally I don't like to mention what women on stage wear because it is often the first thing journalists discuss – rather than the music. However, I can't just skim over the fact that Barnett was sporting an excellent t-shirt with “Stop black deaths in custody” written on it. What an absolute legend. Camp Cope's Georgia Maq jumped up on stage with Barnett and gave an emblazoned speech which was met with a cheer before Barnett and Maq launched into an even more poignant version of Nameless, Faceless that the solo version I had heard earlier in the day. Her set had the people singing along – loudly – with their hands in the air, swaying from side to side and it was really, really powerful.
Australians love music and that was particularly evident at Footscray Park on Saturday. Festivals like Laneway are imperative to the cultural landscape of this country and we simply must keep supporting them. We cannot let the powers that be continue to wage their 'war on festivals'. So, as much as I have been banging on about my festival days being over due to my near-grandma-status, I would urge all of you to continue going to music festivals in Australia. You will have some weird and wonderful times with your mates and it will keep Australian music alive.