Laneway Festival, Saturday February 4, Footscray Community Centre
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Laneway Festival, Saturday February 4, Footscray Community Centre

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A great festival is meant to cement the zeitgeist of the times and properly represent those in attendance. If this is the case, we’re living in a fairly atmospheric world, heavy on complacency and light on knock-out punches. And the punters are more than happy to ride that wave.

Laneway Melbourne didn’t get the most auspicious of starts, with train delays early in the day meaning many missed out on two of the days heavier acts, local heroes (and soon to be legends) Total Control and the urgency of Brisbane axe and drums duo DZ Deathrays, a killer one-two punch if there was one at Laneway. Total Control let loose their chunky, synth-tinged punk rock efficiency on a sparse crowd, and DZ Deathrays shook off any hangovers that existed in the crowd. After these two however, things got decidedly quieter and much more moody.

Where festival organisers succeeded was in pulling together a lineup of artists in a similar vein. And in doing so, they made the day-long festival last much, much longer. The afternoon, that chunk of time when festival-goers either sink or swim, was awash with artists that, while brought from all corners of the hipster universe, still sounded remarkably similar.

Canadians and recent Polaris-nominated Austra led the crowd through a full-body sway, America’s Active Child sounded charming but at times, stagnant, and the fuzz of English rockers Yuck eventually turned into one long, temperate groove. Was any of it unpleasant? Certainly not. But when one looked around at the steadily growing hordes of dazed hipster faithful (there was, after all, more fake Ray Bans at Laneway than a dodgy Balinese souvenir shop) it became evident that many were moving out of their own volition, sometimes without caring who was on what stage at what time. 

Perhaps Laneway is ushering in a new age of festivals, where showing up to see certain artists is of less than importance than simply showing up and being seen. Headliners M83 and Washed Out were on par with many of the other performers throughout the day as far as popularity goes (though you’ve got to hand it to Feist, who breathed life into a stoned afternoon crowd with her bouncy set) and discussions on the train home afterwards on who “Impressed” the most brought forth a variety of answers.

So kudos to Laneway for organizing a festival that one won’t soon forget. It’s just a matter of now of figuring out exactly why it’s so memorable.

BY JOSHUA KLOKE

LOVED: The collection of local food vendors, which augmented the day’s music.

HATED: The lack of unique festival merch.

DRANK: A few beers, until I realised it was damn near impossible to get drunk.