Laneway 2012 @ RNA Showgrounds, 28.01.2012 – Part 2

The next three stage clash of the afternoon pits DZ Deathrays (3:35pm start) against Laura Marling (3:50pm start) and Girls (3:55pm start). I was always going to see DZ Deathrays and the fact that (a) I’ve photographed Laura Marling before and she was boring; and (b) Girls start five minutes later, meaning I can spend another 5 minutes with DZ Deathrays, makes it another easy decision. It’s great to see how well DZ have done for themselves. Having seen them long before the ‘Deathrays’ got added, they’ll always be DZ to me. They pull a large crowd and a pit full of photographers but then make it really difficult for them by playing in little front lighting and a whole lot of strobe lighting. The Zoo & BIGSOUND stage is in another one of the corrugated iron-roofed cattle sheds so once again it doesn’t do the bands playing any favours. Back at the Eat Your Own Ears & Young Turks Stage, Girls get a mid-set call from Teenage Fanclub who want their sound back (not that it was ever really theirs to begin with). The band decorate the stage with flowers, possibly to help hide the fact that they’re fairly pedestrian and not very exciting.

Having mainly been a day of clashes and overlapping acts to this point, Active Child (4:35pm start) finds himself playing with no competition from other stages and playing to a packed room. Even more than that, the crowd are absolutely mad for him; it’s the most number of girls-on-their-boyfriend’s-shoulders of the whole day. Quite why the hipsters are out in force to see him is a bit of a mystery given that he’s basically a male version of Enya. All the reviews afterwards refer to his angelic vocals, but since when have choirboys ever been cool, at least to anyone that’s under the age of 65? It’s strange.

Active Child get 30 minutes of exclusivity before the next round of bands on the other stages. With a choice between The Panics (5:05pm start) and Anna Calvi (5:10pm start), once again it’s an easy decision to make. The Panics are just one of those bands that I just don’t get and fail to understand their popularity. They’re a band that talk good influences but sound like a really watered down version of the bands they obviously listen to. Being on so many Australian festival bills, they’re also one of those bands that I end up seeing a bit of far too often, probably more often than bands I actually like and want to see, and so they get a regular chance to impress me but never have. As well as never grabbing me with their songs, they always seem really disconnected from the crowd. Anna Calvi is the easy choice to make and one of the best decisions of the day. Being one of those artists that I knew only be name, having read countless column inches about her (mostly on The Guardian’s website) without actually hearing or actively seeking out anything by her, she’s a definite highlight of the day, even if she is playing to one of the smallest crowds of the day at the Eat Your Own Ears & Young Turks Stage. It’s a crowd that’s so small it’s disheartening, especially as it means that everyone has gone to watch The Panics. All the reviews I’d read about her compared to to PJ Harvey and although she’s got a deep voice and there’s gothic overtones in the music she plays, it’s a bit of a lazy observation, based more on the music journalism rule that you can only compare female musicians with other female musicians. There’s a lot of Nick Cave in her voice and her songs, and there’s an obvious Morricone reference throughout as well; it’s all very cinematic. Throughout her guitar playing is exquisite and flawless; she’s easily the best guitarist on show over the day, although she doesn’t have much in the way of competition when compared to all the rudimentary indie guitarists in the majority of other acts playing Laneway.

I wasn’t that convinced when I first heard the Cults album; it seemed like a typically hyped up hipster album with little in the way of substance. But over the rest of the year, every time one of their songs popped up on shuffle, they really grew on me and it would often mean switching off shuffle and going straight to their album for a more in-depth and longer listen. As such, they were one of the bands I was most looking forward to seeing at Laneway although this was mixed with apprehension that they would be terrible live. Having been constantly disappointed every time I’ve seen Best Coast, I was expecting them to follow in a similar fashion and not be able to do justice to the album. The trouble with Best Coast is that the best things about their album are the reverb and the harmonies and as they don’t do these live, they come across really flat and with similar strengths,as well as the more intricate electronica going on underneath, I was expecting to find similar failings with Cults. But although Cults start late and finish early, so it feels like they’ve barely played, and although the sound in the iron cattle is horrible, they really shine through. Having seen their setlist on the stage, I notice that they’ve got a song that they’re playing about half way through called ‘Sad Song’. I don’t recognise the name but assume that we might be getting a taster of new songs. When the time comes,  Madeline Follin announces to the audience that they’re going to play a sad song and they start into You Know What I Mean. It leaves me wondering whether the text on the setlist was just a crib to introduce the song as according to Wikipedia it’s her favourite song on the album. It is a highlight of their very short set as it’s probably the song that most shows off Follin’s voice, and and underneath the awful sound she sings it to perfection and really hits all the high notes cleanly. Cults end up being the only band of the day that I see for the whole of their set. As well as enjoying their performance, I also really like the photos that I took of them. As with Big Day Out, I’s still using a camera without an LCD screen and can’t review anything until I download the photos onto my notebook. Today is a lot harder than Big Day Out due to everything being inside and the lighting being less than ideal.

I only catch one act playing the Young Turks Sound System stage all day; Glasser (6pm start) and only do so as I’m passing through the room on the way to somewhere else. It’s way after the first three songs but given that there’s only about 50 people there, I rattle off a few frames from the crowd and get back on my way.

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