Laneway 2013 @ RNA Showgrounds, Friday 1 February 2013 – Part 1

Laneway 2013 @ RNA Showgrounds, Friday 1 February 2013

Laneway is usually one of the high points of the festival season (with the exception of last year’s rain affected shambles). It’s just about the only festival, if not the only festival, where you get to see some new bands and not the same-old, same-old festival fodder that all the other major festivals put on year-after-year.  It’s the perfect set-up for new bands, where the 40 or so minutes set times allows them to essentially play all the songs they have, with little difference from the sets they would play if they were playing a headline show when touring their first album.  The first band I saw the first time I went to Glastonbury in 1990 was Lush.  I saw them a few months later when I’d started university play a headline show and, being a bit naive about it,  was slightly surprised that they basically played the same 45 minute set they had at Glastonbury.

Laneway presents itself as the perfect way to check out a lot of bands in one day.  The size and set-up of the site helps immensely as the acts are timetabled across the four main stages so that clashes between acts are minimised and you often get to see a substantial portion of an act’s set before it’s time to move onto the next band.  The more stages there are, the more complicated photographing a festival becomes and far too often you barely get the first three songs for a band to make an impression before you have to run through the crowd to a stage on the other side of the site in order to make it in time for somewhere near the start of the first three songs.

Laneway’s set up in Brisbane has changed almost every year and it’s reassuring to see that the organisers have the flexibility to try to make improvements from the lessons they learn each year.  This year’s set up has the return of the outdoor Eat Your Own Ears stage at the bottom end of Alexandria Terrace, the Future Classic stage inside a cattle shed building of its own (the atrium to the space that was used last year when the rain forced the movement of the Eat Your Own Ears stage indoors) and the cattle shed housing The Zoo stage being split into two, with a curtain running the width of the building to separate the stage area from the market stalls.  To maximise the capacity of The Zoo stage, temporary terraces have been erected at the sides and back of the space.  The Car Park stage remains as the main stage once again, but with the addition of a VIP area and another temporary terrace installation.  Normally I detest VIP-type areas as they’re full of braying corporate sponsorship wankers on the phone to their mates in an always annoying “You’ll never guess where I am?” way and nauseating music industry types.  I also often amazed by the number of reviewers you find in these places who then are able to deliver reviews of bands that they’re not actually watching.  Having said that, as a photographer, it’s a godsend, providing somewhere to grab a quick drink and somewhere to sit and download photos between bands.

Jeremy Neale kicks the day off on The Zoo stage.  He’s this year’s Unearthed winner, an obligatory requirement for any music festival in Australia these days.  I’ve seen him play solo before but not with a backing band for his own songs.  As with most of the other bands he plays in, there’s a heavy sixties vibe but whereas Velocirpator have a late 60s garage flavour, watching him play today, for some reason, really reminds me of something like Love.  I’m not sure why, I think it might be the sax even though I can’t actually recall heavy sax in any Love songs of the top of my head.

There’s little in the way of photo contracts and restrictions with Laneway, other than the fact that Kings of Convenience have requested no photographers in the photo pit during their set.  Given that they’re the opening act on the Car Park stage, it’s pretty early in the day for an act to be making demands on photographers, that only usually happens with the acts playing towards the end of the day.  They might be on early (at their request apparently) but there’s already a sizeable crowd there to watch them.  I take a few uninteresting photos from way back in the crowd.

Photographing The Neighbourhood is a quick in/out job.  With a heavy covering of tattoos, the band’s singer stands out like sore thumb when stood among his bandmates.

I’ve never really understood the appeal of Henry Wagons, I just don’t get it.  Is it meant to be old style, classic country style-songs for the Gen Y hipster generation?  Is it meant to be comedy? Despite the light-hearted banter, it comes over as serious music. Serious music played by serious musicians, with serious guitars, serious hair and serious shoes.   I grab a seat in the stands to download the photos I’ve taken so far as there’s a gap in the schedule with no bands starting on any of the stages until after his set has finished.  In the last song Wagons goes walkabout in the crowd and being in an elevated position in the stand at the side of the space, and with my long lens already on my camera, I’m in a prime position to make the most of his excursion and close-up interaction with the gathered audience.  I take a bunch of photos, occasionally quickly checking the LCD screen on the back of my camera, and they look great.  It’s exciting and I’m really glad to be in the right place at the right time to get these photos.  When it gets to the end of his set I start to scroll through the photos I’ve just taken but there’s nothing there, no photos at all and I start to stress that my camera has decided to die on me really early in the day.  Then it dawns on me that I’ve been downloading the photos I’ve taken so far onto my notebook and the reason for not having any of the photos I’ve just taken is a simple matter of not having put a memory card back into my camera.  It’s a frustrating moment but a whole lot better than the thought that my main camera had decided to die before lunchtime with so many more bands to photograph.

Back outside and the terribly named, Google search nightmare that is The Men are impressively immense for first couple of songs.  Even the band themselves are aware of this, grinning at each other, and the the singer noting to the guitarist “that sounded amazing, how was it for you?”  Sadly after a few songs they drop off into Neil Young-ish soft rock territory and lose the impetus they had at the start. I probably should have got a clue as to their musical direction from the drummer’s T shirt.

I have the photographic evidence that I was in the photo pit for the High Highs but have little memory of the event.  Sometimes you feel that you’re waiting for something to happen in those first three songs that would be interesting to photograph.  It’s often the trouble with synth-based bands and musicians who just stand there and stare into the darkness of the crowd.

Much was made of last year’s Julia Holter album but having given it a quick listen, I didn’t find it very engaging.  The songs are much improved in the live setting but you still can’t get away from the thought that she’s this year’s Enya for hipsters, following in the footsteps of Active Child from last year’s Laneway.

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