Words By: Laurent Shervington, Photos by: Laura Wells
Under the grove of Norfolk Island Pines, Laneway Festival returned to Esplanade Park for 2018, providing the Australian festival circuit much needed variance with it’s eclectic lineup.
Kicking off the main stage was local rising act Stella Donnelly, who held the early crowd’s attention superbly with sparse guitar and vocals. After a huge 2017, it’s difficult to place what the new year will bring for Stella, here’s hoping for great things.
Over by the Spinning Top Stage, English post-punk outfit Shame tore through their 40 minute set, with boisterously performed songs reminiscent of The Fall, yet clearly carved from their own somewhat pop-oriented mould. Tracks from their debut record Songs of Praise such as “Concrete” and “Angie” both providing an early highlights.
Breakout Synth-pop auteur Alex Cameron brought an upbeat vibe to the Future Classic Stage, with earworms like “Candy May” elevated with soaring saxophone solos and tight drums. Cameron’s stage presence was cat-like and snarky, unperturbed as the crowd grew bigger and bigger as the set went on.
Elsewhere, Philadelphia indie rock troubadour Alex G gave an incredible set that certainly ranked among the best of the festival. For those unfamiliar, Alex’s songwriting bridges the sonic gap between the chaotic stylings of early Modest Mouse and the euphonious, melody driven songs of Elliott Smith. Joined by steady bass, nimble lead guitar work and intelligent drumming, hardcore fans of the artist left undoubtably satisfied by the performance.
As the sun began descending, Aldous Harding amazed a healthy crowd, the stark beauty of her compositions perfectly suiting the late Fremantle afternoon. Throughout Harding’s set a special kind of stillness permeated, no doubt credit to the songwriter’s endearing stage presence.
Back by the main stages, Laneway stalwart Mac Demarco held the crowd in his fingers with his charismatic spectacle, with members of The Internet joining in for crowdsurfing theatrics. Shaggy cuts off 2017’s This Old Dog fell right in place as the Fremantle Doctor carried the sombre and romantic feelings well, despite some repetitions in the formula.
4-piece electronic outfit S U R V I V E gave eager punters at the Future Classic Stage a quick trip through the stratosphere with their vast collection of analog synthesizers and drum machines. Their huge synth-based sound created a sprawling sci-fi like ambience, testament to their incredible abilities.
Approaching the final few acts of the night, shoegaze legends Slowdive dispelled all doubts about their reunion with an incredible set of material stretching from their revered 90s output to 2017’s self-titled album. Simon Scott’s incredibly drumming provided the backbone for the rest of the band’s aural assault on the eager crowd, the visualiser behind them completing the experience.
Jazzcats BADBADNOTGOOD showed their usual flair for hip-hop influenced beat music, to the delight of many. Despite some fairly arresting sound issues, the group managed to get through the velveteen “Chompy’s Paradise” and driving “Confessions” to deliver a thoroughly entertaining set.
Show closers The War On Drugs brought classic rock fills and a Wall of Sound to the main stage, indulging in guitar solos and extended instrumental phases in an hour long performance. Despite the noticeable lack of variety between songs, the energy and sonic crescendos the band created were undeniably satisfying and well-orchestrated, closing track “In Reverse” a fitting conclusion to an exceptional day of music.