[Review] Laneway Festival, 2015

Featured in Australian Guitar issue #108

Laneway Festival
Sydney College of the Arts, Rozelle 01/02/2015
Photo by Peter Zaluzny

The team behind St. Jerome’s Laneway Festival have always had their fingers on the pulse when it comes to what’s up-and-coming and who’s about to break, and this year we were delighted to find a number of guitar-heavy acts on the bill.
The hype surrounding Syracuse noise punks Perfect Pussy – in part for their name, in part for their manic live shows – led to a swelling crowd early in the afternoon. Don’t be fooled by frontwoman Meredith Graves’ cherubic face: peel away the wide smile and she’s an absolute banshee who can wail with the best of them, gender be damned. She tore through an utterly abrasive set taking from the band’s breakout LP, Say Yes To Love, which arguably translated to the live setting more impressively than it does on disc.
Not to be confused with Don Henley’s classic rock act of (almost) the same name, the Leeds five-piece Eagulls delivered noisy post-punk that’s steeped in the gloomy tones of fellow Brits Joy Division and the jangly guitar lines of The Cure. Those familiar with the band’s 2014 self-titled release will be glad to know that their lo-fi sound works well on stage, with vocalist George Mitchell’s angsty yelps bringing to life tracks like “Yellow Eyes”, “Nerve Endings” and “Possessed”.
Local garage stoner punks Dune Rats brought the good times and beach balls to their set with “Dalai Lama, Big Banana, Marijuana” getting limbs flailing and voices hoarse with a wild, all-out sing-along. The rowdiness kept up through a cover of the Violent Femmes’ classic “Blister In The Sun”, and by the time Dunies brought it home with their fuzzy pop hit “Red Light Green Light”, the Mistletone stage was in full swing.
Local psych rockers Pond sidled up to melt minds and take us all on a trippy, psychedelic voyage, and still we find ourselves waiting for them to receive the commercial credit they’re long overdue. Today we settled for hearing live staple “Giant Tortoise”, a massive, ‘70s-esque jam bathed in distortion, and a dreamy, sprawling rendition of the epic “Midnight Mass”.
Flying the flag for rock’n’roll, UK drum and bass duo Royal Blood have had a hell of a year, and we reaped the benefits of their many months spent out on the road. Frontman Mike Kerr has a rockstar swagger about him now, and with a pile of Fender amps and his Fender Starcaster and Gretsch Electromatic Jr. in tow, him and drummer Ben Thatcher ploughed through monster rock bangers like “Come On Over”, “You Can Be So Cruel” and “Figure It Out”, before “Out Of The Black” delivered the phenomenal finish we were all hoping for.
A surprise highlight came in the form of Annie Clark, better known by her stage name St. Vincent, who got us onside early with a recorded message asking the crowd to refrain from using their phones. Clark is a beast with an axe in her hand and her quirky art rock hits – “Digital Witness”, “Rattlesnake” – were made all the more engaging by her commitment to the performance, shimmying about the stage robotically and moving in choreographed unison with her touring keyboardist, Toko Yasuda. She really does boast a sound and stage presence unlike any other, and it’s a testament to the eclectic, quality line-ups Laneway manages to pull each year.


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