Last month TEARAWAY Mavericks JESSICA SUO and PATRICK CAMPBELL had two very different experiences at St. Jeromes Laneway Festival. Here is Jessica’s recount of the festival, and a look at what happens backstage, from Patrick.
I was a St Jerome’s Laneway Festival virgin up until January 27, 2014. I’ve had my ticket since the Visa pre-pre sales. I was keen; I adore James Blake. When he cancelled, my heart broke, but I endeavoured to still enjoy the day.
The venue was Auckland’s Silo Park. Gates opened at 12pm. I don’t know how, but I was the second person in.
By 12:30pm I was on the rail for Vance Joy at the Mysterex stage. I could see the perfect locks of Australian beauty James Keogh peering from behind the plastic curtain waiting, for a signal to come on. His single Riptide had just won Triple J’s Hottest 100 poll and he was celebrating. He started with Emmylou, a tranquil love ballad from his E.P. God Loves You When You’re Dancing. Keogh writes from a place in the soul only truly beautiful and tragic experiences can activate. From Afar, Redeye and Snaggletooth were next.
He played every piece with immense musical ability but his set lacked a certain performance aspect. I adore Vance Joy, but a bit of audience banter wouldn’t hurt, or at least moving from the spot he was apparently glued to.
Keogh led the crowd into his last two songs, Play With Fire and Riptide in the most suave way imaginable. I stood engulfed in one of my favourite artists of 2013/14; it was a divine start to Laneway.
On my walk to Youth Lagoon at the Cactus Cat Stage, I scoffed down an overpriced and minute – but delicious – beef taco. A small crowd was already gathered as the man himself, Trevor Powers, was setting up. I managed to squeeze into the second row as Mute wafted over the swaying crowd. This is an artist I could listen to lying down in a field with the ones I love most.
I was on a tight schedule to catch all the artists I was intending to, so after only the second song I had to depart Youth Lagoon for Daughter at the Hey Seuss Stage. I’ve been a Daughter fan from the beginning. I felt like a proud mother when Elena Tonra, Igor Haefeli and Remi Anguilella walked on stage with their minimalistic excellence and played the first chords of Still. Daughter has a gift; they instantly draw you in and make you feel nostalgic for everything you’ve ever loved. Their hypnotic sound continued through Amsterdam, Candles and Human. The most glorious round of karaoke erupted from the crowd as Youth exploded through Silo Park. A very modest Elena thanked the crowd for singing along, before ending their performance with a beautiful rendition of Home.
Then, “UMO! UMO! UMO!” shouted a girl in front of me. It was a true fan girl moment. The best part of Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s performance was the audience. There was an ecstasy of excitement throughout the crowd, but the actual performers failed to impress. The performance was pretentious and didn’t resonate with me at all. The band sound better through headphones. Great musicians in their own right, just not a band designed to be seen.
As I had somehow managed to get a hold of a VIP pass, I spent the next hour and a half roaming the Friends and Family section of Laneway. This included luxury bathrooms, the occasional artist strolling past and a fancy band. The area was filled with minor New Zealand celebrities. That guy that may or may not have been on Shortland Street, that girl who used to host Sticky TV and the couple from the newspaper; everyone was there.
Very politely, I made my way to the front for Frightened Rabbit. The Scottish five-piece had been long anticipated by their adoring New Zealand fans. I expected four things during their set; blood, sweat, tears and whiskey. Sure, I got some droplets of Scott Hutchinson’s shimmering sweat on my cheek, but what I also gained was a sense of admiration. I admire Frightened Rabbit with all my heart; never have I seen a band pour so much energy and soul into a performance, or a drummer gulp air quite like Grant Hutchinson.
Frightened Rabbit ended their set with one of my favourites: The Loneliness. I felt the crowd fade away as I was left pressed up against a rail, grasping at their aurora. They say they’ll be back; I’ll make sure they keep their word. 45 minutes was nowhere near enough.
I didn’t move for an hour so that I could be in the front for Haim and MAN was it worth it. I don’t think I blinked during their whole performance, in case I missed any of the brilliant band who are taking over the music industry. These three sisters know how to perform. They’re cooler than I can handle. They joke with the crowd. I high-fived Alana. Este has the facials of a beautiful guppy/horse and pulled her tights up in front of thousands. Where do I apply to be the fourth Haim sister?
Chrvches were a massive surprise. Their album was good but I wasn’t a huge supporter and boy I was proven very, very wrong. The beats were slick, the synthesiser was raging, the whole performance was spectacular. This is a band who designed their music to be played live. Lead singer Lauren Mayberry is one of the most adorable people I have ever seen. Despite a technical fiasco in the middle of their set, Chvrches recovered with flair and humour. They finished with The Mother We Share and I left with my mind in shambles. I loved it.
The most delightful aspect of St Jerome’s Laneway Festival was by far the atmosphere. This is not only due to the perfect central location, but due to the people. Every performance had a caring crowd; nobody pushed, nobody swore and nobody took excessive selfies. James Blake, I’ll be waiting for you at Laneway 2015.
Meanwhile at the back entrance to the festival, with Savages playing to a crowd of thousands on the mainstage in front of me, it was a stark contrast to see Earl Sweatshirt skateboarding around and posing for photos with fans outside the entrance. This was an unexpected sign of appreciation from an artist who was younger than most of the people he was talking to.
All the artists at the festival showcased a similar appreciation for the fans. Alana Haim stopped by the stage barrier to take photos with fans and talk whenever she had a spare moment. This sort of behaviour from the musicians was to be expected, but the companionship and appreciation of each other from all the acts wasn’t.
It was really heartwarming to see all the different acts spending time together throughout the night; even the big international acts could be seen wandering around and conversing with small Kiwi acts such as Doprah. None of these musicians saw each other as competitors. On the night of Laneway this year, a group of the most talented musicians in the world came together and celebrated each other.
Seeing Chelsea Metcalf – who had performed in the Red Bull Thunderdome earlier in the afternoon – dancing maniacally to Haim side stage was a dream come true for many people like me. This dream was taken one step further when during Chvrches’ technically challenged set I managed to witness Chelsea and Este Haim dancing together side of stage. The moment perfectly symbolised what Laneway is all about; it’s for the fans. The musicians who perform are also fans; they also get to witness their favourite bands performing their favourite songs.
The experience that I had backstage is very different to the one I had in the main area, where during the single forty-five minute set that I was there I was punched in the face, spat on and spent some time trying to get away from a rather intoxicated guy attempting to steal my pass. I love a good mosh pit but that was a bit out of hand. However, as Jessica’s recount shows, it was not like this for the majority of the festival, and it’s a small price to pay for such an amazing, unforgettable experience.
I know next year’s Laneway Festival will be bigger and better than ever, and I can’t wait for the full experience. I’m excited and will be booking my ticket as soon as they are released, as should every other music fan in the country. It’s well worth every cent.
SHARE THIS POST...