This year’s Laneway Festival was another one of those occasions when I didn’t scribble down any notes afterwards. In part this was due to the always unwise reasoning that makes me think I’ll easily remember everything that happened over the day and in part because it was hard to come away from Laneway thinking much happened. Ultimately, Laneway was a good line-up of bands blighted by a number of major issues; poor scheduling, poor time keeping, poor sound and poor weather. Coming through Valley Metro on the way to the festival site, the most hipster guy ever is overheard bemoaning “I’ve never been more disappointed in my entire life”. It’s possible he was responding to the lack of coffee options at the station but he might as well have been summing up the whole festival in advance.
Australian festivals and festival punters have a weird attitude to the weather in that they just don’t seem to consider that it might be bad and that they might want to be prepared for if it is bad. As a veteran of many a rainy Glastonbury, including the infamous ‘mud years’ of 1997, 1998 and 2005, as well as numerous Readings, where the fact that the festival takes place over the August Bank Holiday guarantees that the weather is going to be terrible, you just accept that it’s going to rain, you’re going to get wet but that the show will go on, even if the stages are sinking and everything is underwater. Although Laneway’s Eat Your Own Ears & Young Turks stage was originally going to be outside at the end of Alexandria Terrace, due to the rainy weather over the preceding days, a late decision is taken to move the stage inside. In a way it’s a bit of a strange decision as the stage is set up at the end of a road and there was never going to be a problem with mud. It is, undoubtedly, a miserable experience watching bands throughout the day in the pouring rain but that’s how it is sometimes and you just get on with it. Moving the stage inside may keep everyone dry throughout the day but it also means moving into another one of the RNA’s corrugated iron cattle sheds, spaces notorious for their really terrible sound. To some, a trade-off between sound quality and rain may be a easy decision to make, but as I wrote on here for the Quick Round Up post a day or two after Laneway, having a festival with a bunch of bands that only ever seem to play 45 minute festival sets every 3 or 4 years and having them play with atrocious sound is the ultimate cardinal sin. Personally I’d rather have the benefit of better sound and wear something waterproof for the day. The sound in the relocated stage is about as bad as you’ll ever hear and it doesn’t improve over the course of the day.
In terms of the poor scheduling, the day’s timetable is infuriating; it veers over the course of the day from everyone playing at the same times, to gaps with no one playing, to only one stage being used and back again. At times there are five minutes between acts starting on different stages, at times there isn’t even that and they start at exactly the same times. As someone who needs to be at stages within the first three songs to be able to photograph, it’s exasperating. With regards to poor time keeping, as is the case over a number of the summer’s festivals, the changeover times aren’t sufficiently long enough, putting any pre-arranged plans totally out of sync and making efficient time management even more difficult than it was already.
As with the majority of festivals I go to, and especially those in Brisbane, I fail to get there for the start and so don’t see any of latest Sub Pop signings, Husky, or the perennial and mandatory triple j unearthed competition winners, this time featuring Cub Scouts. I’m not sure how you can get away with a name like Cub Scouts without the Scouting Association’s lawyers sending a very firm cease and desist letter to you. With both bands starting at 11:50am I was only ever going to get to photograph one band or the other; the original plan had been to see Husky.
However, I do manage to get into the festival by the next round of sets and see Geoffrey O’Connor (12:25 start) do a bit of a Jarvis Cocker impression for 15 minutes before heading over to see Jonti (12:40pm start). The Medics (12:40pm start) are also on having won the BIGSOUND competition to play the festival. It really is a remarkable achievement, especially when you consider that the band are signed to the current BIGSOUND Executive Programmer’s record label. Sometimes you just have to despair at how the music industry works in Brisbane. Actually, what do I mean, “sometimes”… I hang around for the rest of Jonti’s set and download and some photos but it’s nothing special, as watching someone stood on a stage using a laptop usually is, and, as for just about all the bands playing the snappily-named Eat Your Own Ears & Young Turks Stage, it sounds like someone playing music through an iphone speaker inside a biscuit tin. Having seen glorified Smiths tribute band The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart (1:30pm start) a few years ago at The Zoo I decide to go with a few minutes of EMA (1:35pm start) and follow that up with Yuck (1:40pm start). What do they sounds like? No idea really, there’s just no time to take any of it in. Actually, having said that, from memory EMA is less electronic and more ‘rock’ than I expected and Yuck just seem to be another middle of the road indie guitar band but with the added novelty of featuring a drummer with really big hair.
Although I’ve seen and photographed them before, it was a Sunday night show that I had to cut off in its prime to go and get the last train home and so I decide to see the Pajama Club (2:40pm start) next over Total Control (2:35pm start) and Austra (2:45pm start). I think there was a plan to go and photograph Austra but the late running stage means that idea quickly goes out the window. The Pajama Club album is an ok listen. It’s no Try Whistling This, no Temple of The Low Men and no Together Alone but it has it’s moments and I’ll generally grab any chance I have to see Neil Finn. He comments on being the oldest person on the Laneway lineup and follows it up with a cover of Moonage Daydream. In the end I decide that I’ve seen enough and so go and see the end of Austra. It sounds terrible in the cattle shed but visually it looks great, with Katie Stelmanis and a couple of dancers either side of her. I guess I made the wrong decision to photograph the much more static Pajama Club.