Five Things We Learnt At Sydney Laneway Festival 2016
On Sunday, 7th February, Sydney College of the Arts was once again transformed into a crash pad for a stack of bands and a couple thousand people, for Laneway Festival had passed through for its 2016 edition.
Yet another prestigious lineup, punters were treated to sets from internationals, Hudson Mohawke, DIIV, HEALTH and Grimes, as well as Australia’s own, Banoffee, Hermitude, Violent Soho, Slum Sociable, Flume and Methyl Ethel.
Whether you caught Dune Rats co-help FIDLAR demand that their crowd sit down mid-set, were stolen by the amazing dance that was, The Internet, swayed lovingly to the twinkly backdrop at Beach House, or were happily slammed in the face from some sweaty dude caused by the velocity of High Tension‘s set, it was undoubtedly a ridiculously great day; complimented by delicious food, cold drinks, friendly staff and a simple layout.
Rather than offloading a blow-by-blow, here’s some things we learnt at the Sydney leg of Laneway Festival for 2016.
1. Shogun has no filter.
If you’ve ever seen, Royal Headache live, you’ll know what I mean when I say that it’s always an experience; particularly from the vibe that frontman, Shogun, chooses to emit. From the introvert pacing the stage of the Imperial Hotels Roller Den, the game changer influencing a stage invasion at the Opera House, and the sweetheart who gracefully handled the technical difficulties at the inaugural Fairgrounds festival in December 2015, Shogun is a character who will always keep you on your toes.
Playing a loud, rambunctious set at Laneway over the weekend, punters threw themselves around to material off the eponymous 2011 release, their latest pursuit, High, and song releases that have wedged their way onto the catalogue in between. Engulfed by the heat during this sweaty arvo set, tension was rubbing up hot and bothered, leading Shogun to grow kind of over the musical affair.
Although not entirely committed to disowning the set’s remainder, he didn’t hold back in letting everyone know about this change of heart, waving his hands around in a negative action amidst tracks, and announcing, “Fuck all of you, this is exploitation” as his band mates were ready to kick into, ‘Girl’. Reviving the enthusiasm on subsequent accounts, such as expressing, “Oh yeah, I like this one” seconds before launching, ‘Stand and Stare’, you can’t help but take the blatant honesty with total endearment; for those that have paid any attention to Royal Headache further understand the personalities of these talented artists with every interaction and performance visited.
2. Battles are incredible songwriters and performers.
When you listen to material off, Mirrored, Gloss Drop and La Di Da Di, it’s clear that US three piece, Battles have put more than a shitload of thought into the composition of their craft. Not only is it innovative, textural and stupidly interesting, it’s actually incredibly intelligent in the way it is timed and sewn together. Hesitant to pigeonhole with genre casting, Battles really do represent what is known as, “math rock”. Crazily experimental, their sonic territory is a configuration of off-putting measures – syncopation. A skill surely difficult to master, can you imagine the added pressure of pulling off such a performance in front of a large crowd?
Exposing an amalgamation of instruments to carry their message across, Battles are absolutely compelling, and sweat their guts out to ensure the crowd are getting more than what they came for. Showcasing tunes from across their catalogue (such as leading singles [from all three records], ‘Atlas’, ‘Ice Cream’ and the Australian inspired track, ‘The Yabba’), their live set demonstrates a timeline of integrity, reminding fans of why they’ve accomplished so much over their spirited career.
Acknowledging the algorithmic structure that binds a Battles song, find yourself extremely impressed by the beautiful architecture embedded in their discography and live show.
3. There’s always a positive to a negative.
If you’ve been attentive to the news lately, you’d be well aware of the current lockout law situation in Sydney. The two year trial for a city curfew has come to a close, which has along the way jeopardised a variety of elements to our nightlife across its short lifespan. As a result of this expiry date, the NSW Government have a huge decision to make regarding the effectiveness of the laws currently set in place. Although Purple Sneakers is not a collective that usually brings forth opinions on politics, we are a part of the music community, and are willing to admit that a vibrant and dynamic environment is utterly important for the music & arts culture to thrive.
With rallies, protests, non-for-profit groups, petitions and events being held to challenge this political agenda, the voice of the affected has never been louder. The live music hub playing such a vital role in the crossfire, it was only natural that its people were to scrutinise such a lazy action that would miraculously diminish alcohol-related violence.
Without blabbering on about what we have already seen over our social media platforms, the silver lining here is that it is an essential time for community. Those fighting the good fight have gone above and beyond to raise awareness and attempt to open the minds of Mr. Baird and his party. That’s where Laneway comes in. Being a touring festival, everyone on board understands the need for live music. Inviting thousands of music lovers to one space was a perfect place to introduce, Keep Sydney Open. Running a stall in the market area of the festival, there were volunteers donating their time to inform fellow punters how they can get on board to voice their concern at this time of review. With petitions and information at hand, Laneway were able to offer a very powerful allocation for a not-for-profit collective who have the best of intentions for Sydney’s culture in their hearts. That’s pretty special.
“We support #KeepSydneyOpen because Sydney’s creative community must not be stifled by blanket legislation that stifles the amazingly talented vision of our cities creative entrepreneurs. Ask yourself one question: what would David Bowie think if he walked from Elizabeth Bay to Surry hills at 2 30am today?” – Danny Rogers, co-founder of Laneway Festival (via Keep Sydney Open)
4. You haven’t seen legendary until you’ve experienced Thundercat perform live.
Stephen Bruner is many things; a producer, vocalist, insane bassist, collaborator, soulful, omnipotent, cooler than you’ll ever be and the man behind, Thundercat. Having collaborated as quite the underdog in the past for names like, Flying Lotus, Kendrick Lamar and Suicidal Tendencies, the ridiculously talented artist has been releasing his own material under the aforementioned moniker for the past five years. Touring Laneway for his third record, The Beyond / Where The Giants Roam, the guru and his two performing comrades absolutely nailed their set at the festival this year.
Draped in red and black attire, it was the large, golden instrument strapped to his chest that made him the most focal stage bassist I’ve ever seen in my life. Intoxicating his audience at the Red Bull Music Academy Stage with favourites, ‘Tron Song’, ‘Them Changes’, ‘Heartbreaks + Setbacks’ and even a cover of Kendrick Lamar‘s, ‘Complexion’ (originally produced by Thundercat), he had the crowd eating out of the palm of his hand. The best part about Bruner’s execution though, was his reared head, tightly shut eyes and bellowing teeth; exposing immense passion and concentration as his fingers danced up and down the thick strings of his bass guitar. Honestly one of the most captivating artists I’ve had the pleasure of seeing live. Duende, sir.
5. Laneway listens.
Those who have attended Laneway over consecutive, preceding years would have most probably noticed the changes to the way things are ran, in the interests of the ticket-holder. Some that stick out are the improved food options to that of classic “festival grub”, introducing market and records stalls, incorporating punters with sponsorship in innovative ways (this year being the free photoshoot amidst a room full of balloons, thanks to Topshop / Topman) and running a stress-free bus shuttle service to the city, free of charge.
Clearly a festival that cares about absolutely everybody involved, it’s also fantastic to see their genuine handling of feedback. In 2015, there were a few technical issues noted about the sound quality of two of the festival’s stages. Personally, I found no problem with it this year, and was able to enjoy each act at a perfect level of volume and balanced sound (for lack of better music linguistics). The overall layout has also improved, replacing what once was an intensely cramped (although true laneway-esque) gravel stage for a widespread, grassy area; also offering enough room for festival-goers to chill out under a shady tree for a bite to eat and a place to chat.
One of the most genuine, easy-going, anti-bullshit festivals going, it’s no wonder Laneway is such a successful brand. We’ll definitely be seeing you amongst the crowd, for many years to come.
Words by Hannah Galvin.
Photo credit: Daniel Boud / Jacquie Manning
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