27 Jan 2015

Review: Laneway Festival 2015

1:33 pm on 27 January 2015

Looking back on a hot and heavy Laneway 2015.


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Synth pop, dreamy rock, and bass-heavy electronic bangers. These are the sounds of Laneway 2015.

It didn’t take long for Auckland’s Silo Park to fill up with ironic t-shirts, caps and tattoo covered bodies - the festival’s signature crowd. One guy was wearing a fur/leather ensemble that turned out to be a bad decision in the afternoon heat. At the risk of sounding like my dad, Laneway is undeniably hip.

At its peak, the sun was blazing, the crowds were dancing and port-a-loo lines were getting annoyingly long. The mood felt upbeat, sometimes bordering on frantic, as thousands moved between the four stages and tried to stake out spots in the sparse areas of shade.

The festival seems to hit the mark each year, pulling together a satisfying mix of genres and musical styles. There are always a few easy-ticket-selling headliners dispersed among a perfectly curated collection of lesser-known (but no less brilliant) acts.

Although the line-up lacked big hip-hop acts that featured strongly last year (Danny Brown, Earl Sweatshirt and Run the Jewels), it didn’t seem to slow down ticket sales. Laneway sold out for the fourth time and pulled its biggest crowd of 12,000 people.

This time round Laneway’s girl game was especially strong, even with Lykke Li pulling out of the show. FKA Twigs, St Vincent, and Courtney Barnett were touted as some of the festivals best acts and Banks got the ladies cheering when she declared “I think all women are fucking goddesses” mid-performance.

The day opened with Kiwi shoegaze band Bespin, who did a great job rallying the growing crowd at an always awkward set-time.

Another New Zealand act, rap duo Heavy, played the Thunderdome stage set inside a Silo. They treated punters to catchy raps and dancey beats. This year the stage had more room (they opened up the sides to allow more people in) but the concrete room didn't do any favours for the sound quality. Heavy finished to the crowd chanting their name, one of the only encores of the day. 

Vic Mensa and Courtney Barnett were the first big international acts to hit the stage. Both pulled big crowds but it was mid-afternoon and too hot to know what was going on so I’ll rely on The Wireless editor, Marcus Stickley, who blogged this on the day:

“Among all the glitch-pop, synth rock and electro, it’s always great to have some stonking good old rock’n’roll. Thank you for Courtney Barnett. She’s got songs that remind me of beer-soaked bars and romances that didn’t quite work out.”

Vic Mensa was a clear crowd-pleaser, leaving the stage and getting amongst his fans with his frosted-tipped hair - straight out of the early '90s.

Mac DeMarco was another festival favourite, and nearly everyone I spoke to had him on their ‘must-see’ list. Even though I was stuck behind the tallest people at Laneway (I swear they were about 6’5), the sounds of his preppy slacker rock matched the crowd’s lazy Monday mood.

California songstress Banks gave a hit and miss performance (mostly miss). To be honest, I was just glad the sun was finally going down. The 26-year-old was composed and fierce in a lace bodice and tightly pulled back hair but after her initial entrance – like a model strutting on the catwalk – her performance grew tiresome and her mic was never loud enough. Interesting fact: photographers were only allowed to shoot the left side of her face.

Critically-acclaimed performer FKA Twigs was a clear standout. Although I could just catch glimpses of her through 12,000 heads, her voice was enough to make me swoon. She sang my favourites - Two WeeksPapi Pacify and Pendulum - never missing a note and reaching vocal heights that sent shivers down my spine. Those lucky enough to see witnessed her fluid mesmerising dancing, smoky silhouette and the occasional crotch grab. She is alien amounts of sexual and held the crowd’s attention firmly in her hand.

Flying Lotus ended the festival with a brilliant, seamless performance. By the time he started I was ready to call it a day with my newly acquired friends “headache” and “blister” but his dizzying beats got me going again. FlyLo’s performance was brilliant on several levels; he was bug-eyed (literally had huge, glowing eyes on) and performed behind a giant curtain projecting mind melting visuals. His songs were all squashed together effortlessly and he topped it off with a “Captain Murphy” rap, stripping back his mask and turning off the screen, letting the crowd soak in his raw talent.

Although they said it last time, organisers promise that Laneway will no longer be at Silo Park but have not yet confirmed an alternative venue. The problem is, as Laneway grows in popularity, fewer and fewer locations become viable options for the multi-staged, open-spaced festival. Several people I spoke to felt that this year’s event was too packed, resulting in a serious lack of shade and an increased chance of missing out on popular acts playing on the smaller stages (like Little Dragon).

Despite the crowds and heat, Laneway was a success. Auckland put on a worthy show and the crowds streamed out of Silo Park tired, burnt, and buzzing.