Review: St. Jerome’s Laneway Festival at Footscray Park, Melbourne, February 9th, 2019

Ever since it first premiered in Melbourne back in 2005, the St. Jerome’s Laneway Festival has been one of the most eclectic and intriguing music festivals on the Australian live scene.

Now in its 15th year, it’s hard to believe that festival such as this manages to only get better with each passing year, delivering new experiences for its eager crowd, and providing lineups that feature some of the greatest artists you’ll see anywhere.

Back in September, the Laneway Festival announced its stunning bill for 2019 with the likes of Gang Of Youths, Courtney Barnett, and What So Not on the lineup.

Having kicked off in Brisbane last week, and making its way to Sydney and Adelaide over the last few days, the Melbourne leg of Laneway took place Saturday, February 9th, with the festival appearing for the first time at its new Victorian home of Footscray Park.

Check out Gang Of Youths’ ‘Fear And Trembling’:

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While the day began with unrelenting rain, sun was promised for the afternoon, making it clear that punters were in for a rather unique day. As the eager audiences made their way into the lush grounds of Footscray Park, it became obvious that folks couldn’t quite choose what to wear, with heavy coats and jumpers everywhere, while the other end of the spectrum was also well-represented.

However, one thing that fans could agree on was that the day had to begin with the sounds of Charlie Collins. Drawing a modest crowd, it was clear that things were heating up already, with Collins’ driving indie-rock tunes getting fans into the mood.

With a solid grasp on songwriting and an ability to get every one of her fans feeling good, it was clear that Collins is one popular performer, with the rocking set closer ‘Mexico’ scoring quite a positive reception.

Over on the Dean Turner Stage, 2018 triple j Unearthed High winner KIAN was kicking things off right, delivering a set that consisted predominantly of new and unreleased tracks.

With a charismatic stage presence, KIAN showed he’s one talent to keep an eye on as he brought out the likes of Vince The Kid for a guest spot, before having Baker Boy join him onstage for a stunning rendition of 2017 tune ‘Cloud 9’.

Undoubtedly, fans were themselves on cloud nine as this amazing artist gave them a vision of the fine things to come, with many clearly wishing all the tracks he performed were available for their listening pleasure right away.

Check out KIAN’s ‘Waiting’:

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Following on from KIAN, the day’s biggest highlight undoubtedly came early, with Ruby Fields taking to the LNWY.CO stage for a stunning set that punters won’t soon forget.

Kicking things off with the infectious ‘I Want’, Fields and her group of musicians delivered one of the most and enjoyable sets for the day, as they tore through brilliant tunes like ‘Fairly Lame Fairly Tame’, ‘Ritalin’, ‘P Plates’, and the unreleased ‘Trouble’ and ‘Climate’.

With Fields’ tunes attracting massive singalongs and widespread moshing right from the start, jokes with the crowd were in full effect as her fun, confessional lyrics got everyone feeling pretty alright.

After a performance of her recent triple j Like A Version cover of The Church’s ‘The Unguarded Moment’, Fields finished off her set with ‘Dinosaurs’, the ninth-best song of the year, according to triple j’s Hottest 100.

Starting off powerfully, this emotional slow-burner soon got the entire crowd singing along, before the entrance of the full band saw some of the most intense moshing the festival has seen to date.

Needless to say, if you didn’t get a chance to see the brilliance that is Ruby Fields during Laneway Festival, you missed out on something truly special.

Check out Ruby Fields’ ‘Dinosaurs’:

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As the crowd quickly made their way over to the Dean Turner Stage again, the sound of Fatboy Slim’s ‘Right Here, Right Now’ filled the air thanks to the PA. Before long, one sole figure appeared on the stage to drum along to the tune. This figure was G Flip, and it soon became clear her hometown crowd was in for quite a set.

With intense energy and true love of her craft, G Flip kicked things off with ‘Killing My Time’, causing everyone in the crowd to move up and down like Footscray Park was built on springs.

Throughout her far-too short set, G Flip powered through new tunes like ‘Stupid’ and ‘Drink Too Much’, before closing things out with an electrifying rendition of ‘About You’.

For an artist who, just one year ago, was still crafting songs in her bedroom, this is an example of just how fast music can change your life, whether it be as an artist or an eager fan.

Soon, it was clear that one of the most-anticipated artists of the festival was about to play, with a Welcome To Country presentation preceding the arrival of Baker Boy.

Dressed in a gold jacket, Baker kicked off his set with recent single ‘Black Magic’, rapping and dancing while his live band played on and his DJ cut the decks. Stopping for a few dance breaks between songs, it was clear that the audience wouldn’t want to be anywhere else in the world right now.

Powering through tunes like the sublime ‘Mr. La Di Da Di’, new single ‘Cool As Hell’, and welcoming KIAN onstage for another rendition of ‘Cloud 9’, Baker closed out his set with a truly powerful rendition of crowd-favourite ‘Marryuna’.

Dedicated to the late JJay De Melo, it was hard to find anyone in the crowd standing still, with everyone in attendance either dancing their hearts out, or jumping up and down to the infectious flow of this stunning track.

Check out Baker Boy’s ‘Marryuna’:

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Following a brief intermission, one of the day’s first international acts took to the main stage, as Clairo graced us with her presence.

Instantly jumping into a gorgeous set, the air was filled with breezy tunes, featuring soaring melodies and enticing choruses, giving audiences just the thing they needed to pair with the afternoon’s weather, which had changed to a grey, cloudy day by this point.

However, the breezy vibes weren’t going to last forever, with Byron Bay’s Skegss soon turning up to raise the energy just a little bit.

Kicking things off with ‘Smogged Out’, the group’s laidback yet casual nature made them easy fan favourites, with everyone joining in to scream out the cathartic line of “I fucking hate it here”. Of course, it was clear that this lyric wasn’t a tangible feeling, with fans relishing the chance to be together, hearing tunes like ‘Stop’ and ‘Infinity’ sung to them.

Inspiring a rough and rowdy crowd, it was clear that Skegss’ mosh pit was not one for beginners, with a group of young concertgoers being spotted exiting the crowd, exclaiming with surprise that it was far more hectic than what they expected.

The action soon ramped up a bit more though, with Ruby Fields joining the band onstage for absolutely wild renditions of ‘Road Trip’ and ‘New York California’, leading to some deafening roars of applause from the crowd.

After performances of ‘Spring Is Sprung’ and ‘Up In The Clouds’, Skegss took their leave from the stage as quickly as they had arrived, leaving fans feeling ecstatic and sweaty, knowing they’d just witnessed one of the day’s wildest sets.

Check out Skegss’ ‘Smogged Out’:

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Back on the Dean Turner Stage, New York City musician Mitski appeared before the crowd, pacing back and forth during the first song while her five-piece band played on.

Showcasing her stunning voice, it was clear that casual fans weren’t clear what to make of Mitski, as her minimal audience interaction gave way to intriguing stage behaviour, with some fans puzzled as to what her erratic actions meant.

However, this just added to the fun of the performance, with more dedicated fans finding themselves as immersed in the performance as Mitski was in her music, delivering stellar renditions of tracks like ‘Thursday Girl’, ‘Your Best American Girl’, and current hit ‘Nobody’ to the eager crowd.

Over on the Dr. Martens stage, hometown heroes Camp Cope kicked off their performance with a brief cover of Green Day’s ‘Warning’, soon turning it into a powerful rendition of ‘Jet Fuel Can’t Melt Steel Beams’.

Sadly though, Camp Cope were battling a problem many other artists on the day were forced to deal with, as the intense wind made their sound a little hard to hear if fans weren’t directly near the front of the stage.

Nevertheless, the group continued, delivering phenomenal performances of stunning tracks like ‘How To Socialise And Make Friends’ and ‘The Face Of God’, proving that there’s a reason why they’re considered one of the best live acts in the country right now.

Check out Camp Cope’s ‘How To Socialise And Make Friends’:

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Back on the main stage, Methyl Ethel also found themselves dealing with the wind, as their immersive dream-pop sound was drowned out at times, leaving it harder for the audience at large to hear.

Despite this, the group powered through, delivering stunning performances of tracks such as ‘Scream Whole’ and ‘Ubu’, receiving widespread applause from the crowd at every turn.

With their new album, Triage, on the way, it’s clear that the band’s catalogue of hits is set to continue growing, and their next performance in Melbourne will undoubtedly be filled with a lack of wind, and an abundance of singalongs from fans.

Before long, English musician Rex Orange County took to the stage, with a deafening roar accompanying his arrival to the main arena.

Given the almost instantaneous sell-out of his sideshows, it was obvious that this performance was set to be a big one, with it being hard to hear the UK muso not because of wind, but rather because of the sound of rapturous applause at times.

Nevertheless, set opener of ‘Apricot Princess’ turned out to be something of a warmup for tracks like ‘Television/So Far So Good’ and ‘Uno’, with Rex Orange County switching between instruments for most tunes.

A cover of Alicia Keys’ ‘No One’ found the artist appealing to almost everyone in the venue, while ‘Loving Is Easy’ undoubtedly proved to be one of the biggest moments of the day.

Check out Rex Orange County’s ‘Loving Is Easy’:

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While Rex Orange County was finishing up his eclectic set, New York City rockers Parquet Courts took to the stage to deliver a blistering set that left fans in awe.

Kicking things off with tracks like ‘Total Football’, ‘Dust’, and ‘Almost Had To Start A Fight’, Parquet Courts were in fine form, serving up some of the finest examples of garage rock/punk you’ll find anywhere.

With a riotous stage performance that gave birth to an equally-wild crowd, moshing was in vogue as crowd surfers blissfully went about their business, despite a large warning against that exact activity being almost ironically displayed on the adjacent stage’s screen.

Back in the main arena, The Smith Street Band were up to their old tricks, dishing out countless singalongs to the sound of Wil Wagner’s urban poetry. With tunes like ‘I Don’t Wanna Die Anymore’ and ‘Ducks Fly Together’ on display, the hometown crowd couldn’t help but get wrapped up in the electrifying performance of the Melbourne rockers.

Of course, having performed it at previous legs of the fest, Wagner and co. couldn’t help but serve up their cathartic cover of Icona Pop’s ‘I Love It’, with Wagner’s endearing accent turning this pop anthem into a stunning example of classic Aussie punk rock.

Check out The Smith Street Band’s ‘Passiona’:

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Before too long, another hometown icon jumped on stage, with Courtney Barnett turning up to showcase a collection of new and old favourites for the eager crowd.

Starting things off with ‘City Looks Pretty’, Barnett’s latest record, Tell Me How You Really Feel, was well-represented, with fans singing along to tracks like ‘Charity’, ‘Need A Little Time’, and even her newest track, ‘Small Talk’.

Of course, the day’s guest spots weren’t over just yet, with Camp Cope’s Georgia Maq jumping onstage to deliver a passionate plea to put an end to Aboriginal deaths in custody, before joining Courtney for a powerful version of ‘Nameless, Faceless’.

Wrapping things up with classic tune ‘Pedestrian At Best’, the crowd quickly dispersed, with many aiming to get a front row spot for What So Not, who soon took over the LNWY.CO stage.

While a brief technical difficulty provided a jolting start to the set, it wasn’t long before we witnessed a perfect marriage of the audio and visual, as they both slowly made their way onto the speakers and screens to kick off What So Not’s set in the best way possible.

With immersive visuals and a mix of electronic and live instrumentation, it was clear that this was set to be more of a party than anything else. However, while Melbourne audiences weren’t treated to a guest spot from Daniel Johns, the party raged on with intensity nonetheless.

As fans bounced up and down repeatedly, we witnessed deafening roars as RÜFÜS’ ‘Innerbloom’ got a spin, and Herizen joined the musician onstage for a run-through of ‘We Can Be Friends’.

As life-sized, blow-up pool toys were distributed amongst the crowd, it was easy to see that this was the biggest vibe of the day, as an ecstatic audience found it hard to contain themselves during the closing strains of ‘Be OK Again’.

Check out What So Not’s ‘We Can Be Friends’:

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As the evening found itself nearing its close, it was clear that we still had one big-name act to come, with Sydney’s Gang Of Youths making their triumphant return to their awaiting Melbourne audience.

Arriving to the largest display of applause for the day, frontman Dave Le’aupepe became visible through the smoke, armed with just an acoustic guitar and that iconic voice. Kicking things off by strumming the opening chords of ‘Fear And Trembling’, their set was off to an absolutely astounding start.

Before long, everyone in attendance found themselves screaming the words to each and every song, with the opening notes of ‘What Can I Do If The Fire Goes Out?’ resulting in another mass of applause and cheers.

Following an emotional dedication to his late father for ‘The Heart Is A Muscle’, the tempo was slowed down a bit for tracks like ‘Do Not Let Your Spirit Wane’ and a solo performance of ‘Go Farther In Lightness’.

However, this lull in energy was in no way going to last, with fans soon jumping like wild as the opening groove of ‘Let Me Down Easy’ flooded the venue, leading to one of the most energetic performance of the night.

Soon, it was the audience’s turn to match the energy, as Le’aupepe kicked off ‘Magnolia’ to screams of adoration everywhere. Arguably one of the night’s biggest songs, Dave found himself crowd-surfing out into the most to sing the track, before being returned to the stage by his adoring fans.

As Gang Of Youths closed out their set with awe-inspiring renditions of ‘The Deepest Sighs, The Frankest Shadows’ and ‘Say Yes To Life’, it was clear that even the biggest and most immersive performance from the band will never be enough for these eager fans.

Check out Gang Of Youths’ ‘What Can I Do If The Fire Goes Out?’:

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With the Melbourne leg of St. Jerome’s Laneway Festival serving as the penultimate event for the 2019 season, fans in Fremantle are set to receive the last performance on Sunday, February 10th.

While the Australian festival scene might be somewhat worried with the recent ‘war on festivals’, it’s clear that due to the popularity of an event like Laneway we won’t be seeing it going anywhere just yet.

With an intimate, boutique feel and one of the most varied and eclectic lineups you’ll see anywhere, Laneway is undoubtedly one of the greatest festivals going round, and of the biggest opportunities for dedicated fans to see their favourite artists up close and personal.

Check out Gang Of Youths’ ‘Let Me Down Easy’:

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Gang Of Youths @ Laneway Festival, Melbourne 9/2/18 Setlist

‘Fear And Trembling’
‘What Can I Do If The Fire Goes Out?’
‘The Heart Is A Muscle’
‘Do Not Let Your Spirit Wane’
‘Go Farther In Lightness’
‘Let Me Down Easy’
‘Magnolia’
‘The Deepest Sighs, The Frankest Shadows’
‘Say Yes To Life’