Laneway New Zealand 2013! Review! (Silo Park, 28th January, Auckland)

So it has taken me a few days of recovery and reflection to put pen to paper and write my thoughts up on Laneway 2013 and I will start by posting the Japandroids setlist:

Brian King (guitarist/vocalist) handed the setlist down to me at the end of the Japandroids set. It’s a cool peice of memorabilia and one of many great moments of an awesome day, one that was for me a big improvement on Laneway 2012 (probably because the bands were better).

The day started off with Kings of Convenience on the main stage, the Norwegian indie pop folk-duo beginning softly with several acoustic numbers before bringing out a band and bringing the funk. I’d not listened to much of these guys before the concert so wasn’t prepared for just how funky it would get and certainly wasn’t expecting the dance-off that emerged during I’d Rather Dance With You. Prompted by lead singer Erlend Øye, the crowd formed a circle at which enthusiastic audience members jumped in to display their dancing chops. Sadly there’s no videos of this yet uploaded to YouTube, but here’s a live rendition from the Singapore Laneway.

Later on at the Laneway after party at Cassette 9, I would find myself dancing with Erlend Øye and a bunch of Australian girls, practically and unknowingly acting out the lyrics to the above song, in a strange life-imitating-art kind of moment. I’ll definitely be listening to more Kings of Convenience in the future, as their energy, humour and melodic songwriting won me over.

Street Chant

After Kings of Convenience I stayed at the main stage to watch Auckland group Street Chant who brought the punk and the angst, with front woman Emily seeming in a particularly sardonic mood. They handed out self-brewed ‘Sink’ beers to the crowd during the performance of that song and also Street Chant badges so points for the merchandise. There were a few technical difficulties however, such as Emily’s effects pedal cutting out during Salad Days although she managed to get it up and running with minimal damage to the performance. I think their set was cut short due to Kings of Convenience playing over time and Emily seemed visibly irritated, at one stage throwing the F-bomb at that band and the Laneway organisers. I guess that kind of attitude is part of Street Chant’s style, although it seemed at odds with the spirit of the rest of the day.
 

Polica was up next on the main stage, the band from Minneapolis bringing bass heavy electronic sounds and delicate melodies sung by from woman Channy Leaneagh aided by a powerful rhythm section featuring two drummers, one also triggering electronic samples. It sounded huge though I took the time to go for a wander and explore the rest of the Laneway environment, checking out a bit of Auckland indie-group The Eversons on the smaller Cactus Cat stage. I would next stand in front of Cloud Nothings who delivered a set of loud, aggressive but skillful tracks off their third album, Attack On Memory. The set peaked during a version of Wasted Years which showed off the drummers skill of being able to hold a fill for about 6 minutes.

The afternoon sped by as I rushed between stages catching The Men (from Brooklyn), some of Of Monsters and Men and A Place to Bury Strangers. The Men were my personal favourite of the bunch, playing many tracks of their awesome album from last year Open Your Heart as well as new single Electric. Their new songs sound really good and I’m looking forward to hearing what comes next from these uber-cool New York rockers. They ended their set with a surprise cover of Dunedin band The ChillsPink Frost:

Of Monsters and Men drew one of the biggest crowds of the day, and played a tight and entertaining set, with lead singer Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir looking particularly cute. Although I was enjoying the set I didn’t stick around to hear the big single Little Talks as A Place to Bury Strangers were playing on the other stage and I wanted to check out whether this band would be as loud live as the buzz suggested. They indeed were, with the finale of the set seeing lead singer/songwriter Oliver Ackermann turn the monitor speakers around to face the audience, taking the vocal mic and placing it up against his guitar amp (both of which had separate effects running through each of them) and then generating feedback from his guitar creating a noise so loud that I felt sorry for anyone not wearing earplugs. Ackermann and bassist Dion Lunadon formerly of The D4 then proceeded to smash their instruments in true reckless rock n roll style. I later asked Ackermann after running into him at the merch tent how they can afford to smash their instruments every gig. He told me: “Glue and tape”. (Watch the video below)

Back on the main stage Alt-J had accumulated a huge and increasingly intoxicated crowd for their intricate and groovy art-rock. With label money behind them they were the first band on the main stage to bring a giant backdrop with them (the only other artist to bring a backdrop and have any kind of stage design being Bat For Lashes), and had a bit more lighting then several of the other bands including some strobing. They had a very enthusiastic crowd response as I expected with much of the audience knowing the lyrics to all their songs. Their sole album has had a lot of hype behind it so this isn’t surprising, and the band sounded great live, nailing all the vocal harmonies and trick rhythms. The drummer in particular stood out to me, showing a flair for different percussion than the usual cymbals and toms combination. The music sounded pretty much exactly as the album, which was a good thing but they didn’t particularly bring anything more to live performance and therefore wasn’t the most exciting act of the day.

Crowd surf during Japandroids

Japandroids on the Cactus Cat stage provided everything that Alt-J didn’t. They brought excitement, looseness and the most energy yet seen during a Laneway set that day, inspiring the audience to mosh, crowd surf and sing along to their upbeat anthems about holding on to your youthful dreams in spite and because of the inevitable responsibilities that come with aging. Or in other words, their music makes it cool for a bunch of twenty and thirty year olds to rock out as if they’re still seventeen. Their set was full of classics from the Post-Nothing and Celebration Rock albums, with the highlights for me being Younger Us, The House That Heaven Built and Young Hearts Spark Fire. Although there were a few technical difficulties with Bring King’s guitar cutting out during Fire’s Highway and drummer David Prowse missing some queues, it didn’t matter, the energy was there and it if anything hyped the crowd up even more.

Brian King mid-air

 Although the moshpit was energetic, it was never agressive as-per a metal concert, for Japandroids inspire some sort of comradery between us concert goers, where we can thrash about and loose ourselves within the fight of a moshpit while at the same time looking out for one another. Anyone that fell over or tumbled during a crowd-surf was immediately helped back up to their feet, ready to join the mosh again. I managed to get my crowd surf on and it may have looked something like the guy in the photo to the left (who I later met at the Cassette 9 after party) and this for sure provided a highlight of my day. As mentioned earlier I got the setlist of Brian King after the show and thanked him for an awesome performance.

Things get a little blurrier and I spend a little more time in the drinks lines over the next few hours but that is by no means the end of the festivities. I check out a little bit of Bailterspace on the main stage, which is cool but Jessie Ware is playing back over on the stage near the Silo’s so I quickly mission over to check her out. One of the only problems with Laneway (apart from the congestion in the drinks lines which was probably worse this year than last year) is that the second stage over by the Silo where Japandroids, The Men and Jessie Ware played is not really big enough and this was particularly evident during Ware’s set. She is a charismatic performer with a great voice and obviously had a lot of fans because her audience was crowded. She would have been much better suited on the main stage, or on a slightly bigger second stage as it didn’t really allow her much space to perform. Never the less her set was great, filled with classic tracks off her debut album such as Sweet Talk, No To Love and If You’re Never Gonna Move. Wildest Moments and Running provided great singalong moments and hopefully she’ll be back on a bigger stage, with more recognition in a few years time.

Natasha Khan

Yeasayer took the main stage next and although I spent most of their set in the drinks line (the infernal drinks line), they sounded good, in particular singles off their second album O.N.E. and Ambling Amp. With drinks now in hand I made my way into the crowd for Bat For Lashes, and got up front just in time for her to start her first New Zealand and somewhat awe-inspiring set. Flanked with a really talented band, a giant backdrop image of a grey scale beach and a stage decorated with lanterns, Natasha Khan launched into a set featuring tracks from all three of her albums and hypnotically dominated the stage for 45 minutes. It’s a shame she didn’t have more time because her voice sounded amazing and proved her self a truely great live performer. I was particularly a fan of the tracks off the new album The Haunted Man which included All Your Gold, Laura and Oh Yeah. The favourite tracks of the set for me were Lillies (because damn that has a heavy beat) and Marilyn which felt even more touching and dramatic live than on album. The drummer was particularly impressive, bouncing between electronic pads and his acoustic set playing many beats simultaneously that would usually be left for samples. It’s a set like this that makes me appreciate Laneway because I probably never would have seen Bat For Lashes live or even listened to the new album if she hadn’t toured to New Zealand through this festival and I definitely would have missed out on something great. I suggest you check out the new album if you haven’t, it deserves more attention than it has recieved.

Bat For Lashes ended too soon with final track and crowd favourite Daniel. I then made my way over to the next stage for headliner Tame Impala, who I and many more people in the crowd had been looking forward to all summer. Totally destroying last year’s headliners Gotye, Kevin Parker and company proved rock not to be dead in 2013 opening with Solitude is Bliss off Innerspeaker and then jamming their way through tracks off last years Lonerism with such ease as to make all that skill look rediculously easy. Most songs were extended in true late 60s/early 70s style and at one point during Elephant the band completely abandoned the song for a drum solo, then some barely musical fucking around, then a brief reggae jam, just to return to Elephant for roughly 10 seconds before ending the song. Apart from being hilarious it was also one of the most memorable moments of the day and was so awesome to see a band not giving a fuck and JUST HAVING FUN. The crowd was a bit shit, and only a few of us were jumping around as much as I would have liked but perhaps most people were by this stage exausted from the heat or the alcohol. Regardless I feel that Tame Impala is going to be a band I see live many times and hopefully so, because they’re doing something with rock that feels both fresh, familiar and really unique. I have a feeling that their live shows will get even more jammy as the years progess.

Laneway 2013 ends, and I head off into the unknown of the night, finding my way to the after party at Cassette 9 where I meet Kevin Parker from Tame Impala, who turns out is also a really nice guy! I also watch Rackets play, who are always good and listen to a DJ set from A Place To Bury Strangers. By three in morning, I’m about ready to pack it in, after have a chaotic and action packed day and seeing some really really great bands live. I have to therefore say that Laneway out did themselves this year and I will most definitely be making my way to 2014 provided I’m in Auckland. I could gripe at this stage about the things Laneway could improve on; the long drinks lines, the fact that standing on concrete all day is a bit of a bitch and that there isn’t much shade the protect you from the glaring rays of the sun, but I will have to save that for another blog because all and all it was a fantastic day.

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