Thoughts on St. Jerome’s Laneway Festival (11/02/18)

In the spirit of A-Z posters and the titular laneways in which the festival takes place, 2018 felt like a return to form for St. Jerome’s Laneway Festival. After a few years of minor missteps and curious balancing acts; not because punters were afforded the opportunity to see everything and more, but because it pushed them to commit to the acts they love, and other, lesser names spread throughout the day. Despite some miscalculations regarding stage and time management this year, 2018’s effort remained unmatched within Australia in terms of curating names big, small, local, national, and international. It is a festival that rewards discovery and curiosity. One of the strengths to this year was wherein headliners and local acts casually stacked up in a way that meant seeing a diverse set of acts for the day was unavoidable.


Flawless, sweet and funny, Stella Donnelly opened the day with an intimate crowd and her beautiful music. She played very well and even threw in some well received banter with the crowd. Can’t really find anything to critique for this one. – Sophie.

One of the most underrated performances of the day came from Dream Wife, who I hadn’t heard of before. However, their punchy, driving and wild songs had me dancing in no time. Great on-stage energy and band dynamics. Reminds me of such acts as BOAT SHOW and Letters to Cleo. I’m definitely taking a dive into their discography. I saw the guitar and bass players in the crowd at the Alex G set and I wanted to say hello, but was too scared because they just seemed too darn cool. – Sophie.

Some acts just didn’t suit the environment, like (Sandy) Alex G, whose masterful records felt flat and tiring on stage. That’s not entirely fair, because he was in no way poor (nor did crowds seems particularly miffed by him), but it’s difficult to deny that the open-air setting served him well. For Alex G, whose bedroom pop found its way onto Frank Ocean’s Blonde, he stuck mostly with thunderous riffs and rollicking country numbers that were energetic but did not best represent G’s best innocence and angst. When he eventually played “Sportstar,” one of 2017’s best songs, it felt unfairly ridiculed by the blistering heat. – Jordan.

I don’t begrudge Moses Sumney for being late, but the frustration that arose from his 25-minute delay nevertheless portended further problems for the day, as the likes of Loyle Carner, given the devotion of an enthusiastic crowd, had to contend with bad sound mixing and rushed checks. With that aside, his majestic voice and take on formless ambience fell flat in the heat of the summer, as the subtly infectious “Plastic” felt like a whisper compared to the booming sounds coming from only 100 meters away. It didn’t help that only a few hundred people could get anywhere near a decent view; however much of that was a problem of stage management or the location itself though is difficult to assess. – Jordan.

As for Loyle Carner; what a wholesome boy. He seems like the kind of guy you want to take home to have tea and biscuits with your Mum, and he would actually enjoy it. He performed a very relaxed set, filled with jazz-inspired beats and his instantly recognisable and effortless flow. He excels live, and I wish I could have stayed longer, but I had to haul over across the field to make sure I got a decent spot for The Internet (one of the main reasons I was there). – Sophie.

It took some of Laneway’s least spoken about acts to deliver some of the best sets of the day. In the case of Wiki, it took the shape of an international powerhouse with distinctly political overtones and a sharp East Coast accent, known for his collaborations with Skepta, Vince Staples, and King Krule, performing to 30 people behind a Cooper’s sponsored beer tent. His 40-minute set, in which sound unfairly bled in from the peripheries of The Internet’s main stage performance, was intense in a way Perth is rarely acquainted with; at least, not from someone of this calibre. – Jordan.

The Internet are a band who are so smooth and delicious, you wish you could spread them on your toast instead of butter. They mesh in the best way a band can. They are beyond talented and incredibly passionate about what they do. I really admired how the group allowed each member to shine in their own way, whether that be by playing individual material or cheering on an instrumental solo.  They also know how to hype up a crowd. I have loved this band for years, and they delivered above and beyond my expectations and hopes. – Sophie.

City Calm Down, who are essentially an intense, colder, more melodramatic take on The Killers, weren’t quite as big a drawcard as the headliners their set conflicted with, still performed with enough sincerity to avoid asking, ‘which stage was Mac Demarco on?’ With sets like this, the idea of headliners didn’t matter, as much as the genuine, sincere act of discovering music that didn’t sound familiar, or had only been spoken about in vague, broad strokes with friends and associates. – Jordan.

Father John Misty, the sardonic, bearded, open-shirt troubadour, ensured that, though his ridiculous stage show didn’t make it to Perth, his one-liners and withering put-downs still did. ‘Cans, cans, cans…,’ he mused, looking onto a canned beer vendor with a curious disgust; ‘I don’t get it, is that where you get cans? Or is it where you take your cans? … An entire production budget wasted on a sign facing the wrong fucking way.’ For the rowdy audience members eager to let John know his real name is Josh Tillman, he dedicated “Real Love Baby” to their babbling nonsense. For “Pure Comedy,” a devious serenade if there ever were one, he jostled with crowd members begging him to come down and sing it in their faces, reasoning that, ‘I worked my ass off to get up here… and now you want me to come down there?’ At just under an hour, he proved himself funnier, wiser, and more incisive than the rest; a template for where Mark Kozelek should be, really. – Jordan.

I don’t know if it was the four cans of Jamesons’ whiskey-premix I had drunk in quick succession or Anderson Paak’s incredible performance but the energy I felt from this set was unparalleled to anything I have ever experienced before. It was nothing short of exhilarating. Opening with his jam of a track ‘Come Down’, Paak set himself up for a fearless, bold and dynamic set. Despite this, I do have to mention something I was very disappointed with. Half way through his set, Paak attempted to start the chant, ‘tits out for the boys’ and after a repeated attempt later commented “it doesn’t seem to be working”. For someone with such incredible musical talent, that move was pretty out of tune. It in no way at all felt at place at the festival given the recent discussions on safety and sexual harassment at gigs. So, while the set was still one of my musical favourites of the day, I found it hard to excuse that move. I should also to give a nod to his band The Free Nationals, who were, of course, as tight as ever. – Sophie.

Disappointment was write large for Slowdive, who, after arriving 10 minutes late, were met with a dwindling crowd that should’ve been fuller and adoring. Songs bled into one another and, unable to go any louder due to council restrictions, didn’t punch with the energy the band clearly displayed. Despite greatness, this heritage act— something of a first for Laneway— would’ve been better served by tours independent of the festival circuit, where an entire set would have allowed them to unfurl in more deserving outlets. – Jordan. 

ODESZA was more a theatrical performance more than anything else. The visual aspect of this set was absolutely stunning. A very electric and strong performance. Almost as strong as the girl who accidentally punched me in the face as while she was getting up on her boyfriend’s shoulders while I was leaving. – Sophie.

It’s a testament to The War on Drugs that, after tripping on a floor full of loose cables, fiddling with pedals and tunings for 5 minutes, and slamming a fender jaguar in a tantrum of uncontrolled imperfection, they still seem readily in control of a massive, cathartic set. Their sound, somewhere between Bruce Springsteen’s Tunnel of Love, Tom Petty’s Full Moon Fever, and Wilco’s Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, captures many moods that it feels useless trying to name how many they can touch upon in a single song. Although Adam Granduciel manages to slur each word into one, difficult to sing murmur, songs like “Red Eyes” and “Holding On” still rise like only synthesized Americana can. Erased of all hints of irony and imbued with a deep sense of sincerity, they earned their awkward finishing slot atop a stacked bill. – Jordan.


Sophie Minnisale & Jordan Murray |
Music Editors

Image credit: Sophie Minnisale & Jordan Murray