Review: St. Jerome’s Laneway Festival at Footscray Park, Melbourne, February 8th, 2020

For 15 years now, St Jerome’s Laneway Festival has served as one of Australia’s most beloved summer festivals. From its humble beginnings back in 2005, the festival has managed to grow and expand, eventually going on to become one of the most anticipated events of the musical calendar.

Following on from a massive year in 2019 which featured the likes of Gang Of Youths, Courtney Barnett, Denzel Curry, G Flip, and more, it was always going to be hard to follow that up with an equally impressive lineup.

However, as a testament to the success of the organisers, when they unveiled their 2020 bill last year, punters were undoubtedly stunned to receive an array of acts that included The 1975, Earl Sweatshirt, Charli XCX, and so much more.

Having kicked off in Brisbane on February 1st, Saturday served as Melbourne’s turn to get loose, with countless music fans of all ages turning up to Footscray Park for an event that they’d remember forever.

Check out ‘Frail State of Mind’ by Laneway Festival headliners The 1975:

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Despite serving as the first cab off the rank for the festival, there was no denying Agung Mango’s status as an impressive performer, serving as an intense surprise for those who got out of bed early to catch him playing live.

Backed by a live band, the artist played like he was a headline act, jumping around with blistering intensity and even capping off his final song from inside the belly of the beast that is the Laneway mosh pit.

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As punters slowly began to pile into the picturesque location along the Maribyrnong River, it became clear they were relying on Pist Idiots to help kick off their day right. Heading to the River Stage just past noon, Revesby’s finest defied a far-too early playing time to deliver a blistering set that helped get the blood pumping.

Playing to one of the most eager and dedicated crowds of the morning, the quartet ripped into they set with the blistering intensity of ‘Ticker’, from their recent EP of the same name. By the time the track ramped up its intensity, there was barely anyone left outside of the brutal mosh pit, with everyone seeming to forget the harsh rays of the afternoon sun.

Playing tracks like ‘Smile’, ‘Sweet Headache’, ‘Roundhouse’, and a new one, which despite being “one that you’d never have heard before” saw fans bouncing like it was an old favourite. Chucking in huge favourites like ‘Smile’, ‘Fuck Off’, and ‘Roundhouse’, it was clear Pist Idiots were early favourites of the day, with fans (one of which referred to them as “an Australian version of Idles”) clearly counting down the days until we finally receive their debut album.

Check out ‘Motor Runnin” by Pist Idiots:

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It didn’t take long before BENEE took over the Dean Turner stage, with her effortlessly cool indie-pop gems serving punters something to chill to. As she walked around the stage, dishing out her tunes with her infectious humour and attitude, it was hard to find a single person not screaming out the lyrics or having a dance.

Backed by her extremely slick four-piece band, Benee looked completely at home in the stage, and almost seemed stunned by the massive crowd that her set managed to draw. While tunes like ‘Soaked’ and ‘Evil Spider’, served as major hits with the audience, it’s clear she won’t want to wait too long between Aussie tours, with the crowd already eager to catch her live again.

As Spacey Jane found themselves gearing up to kick off their set over on the Future Classic stage, the Unearthed heroes quickly realised they’d drawn quite a crowd; one that increased to double the size the second they played their first notes.

Switching between feisty fuzzy guitars and refreshing indie-anthems, the group’s fans undoubtedly found them as one of the day’s highlights, with tunes like ‘Neoprene’ and ‘Good For You’ showcasing their versatile style and intense performances.

By the time Tones And I took up residence on the River Stage, you could’ve been forgiven for thinking that the headliner had already arrived. With one of the biggest crowds for a non-headlining artist. Toni Watson burst onto the stage dancing, taking up position behind her keyboard to kick things off with ‘Can’t Be Happy All The Time, a somber tune that showed she’s not just a chart-topping pop musician, but an accomplished ballad writer as well.

Taking the mic, she dipped into a rousing rendition of ‘Never Seen The Rain’, leading an entire-venue singalong in the process, before powering through a number of songs that each and everyone already knew the words to.

In addition to covers of Flume & Chet Faker’s ‘Drop The Game’ and Youth Group’s version of ‘Forever Young’, punters were also treated to a preview of the new single, ‘You’re So Fucking Cool’, which was prefaced by a lengthy speech regarding its origins.

Of course, while the likes of ‘Johnny Run Away’ helped bring the intensity up, it was ‘Dance Monkey’ that most fans were there to see, with the tune serving as one of the day’s most hectic moments, and loudest singalongs.

Check out ‘Never Seen The Rain’ by Tones And I:

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As the band set to follow on from Tones And I, Hockey Dad were at something of a disadvantage, with just about the entire crowd emptying out of the main area, while a dedicated group ensured they were in prime position to catch the Windang lads. Taking to the stage to Ja Rule’s ‘Put It On Me’, the pair wasted no time jumping into things, tearing right into a rendition of ‘In This State’.

Complemented by the presence of a bassist, the group were able to dish out some of the finest pieces of alt-rock we heard on the day, providing us with something to take our minds off of the increasing wind which whipped dust at us with every gust.

“Who else is hungover?” frontman Zach Stephenson asked the crowd before jumping into ‘Dylan’s Place’. With slick indie rock at their disposal, it suddenly became very clear just how talented Hockey Dad were as they turned their set into a greatest hits display, offering up classics like ‘I Wanna Be Everybody’, ‘Sweet Release’, ‘Join The Club’, and their new single ‘I Missed Out’.

Check out photos from the Sydney leg of Laneway Festival 2020

As a group of Sydney musicians took to the stage, one question was on everyone’s lips; “why the hell are DMA’S on so early?” Backed by a bassist, drummer, and guitarist, the trio kicked off their with a raucous display of support from their loyal followers as the group kicked into ‘Play It Out’

As the voice of Tommy O’Dell rang out across the crowd, each and every one of their fans sang back every single line as if their lives depended on it. Running through cuts like ‘Dawning’, ‘Silver’, and ‘Time & Money’, it’s clear that the arrival of their forthcoming record will be an event highly anticipated by their followers if this set was anything to go by.

Back on the Fishbowl Stage, Perth’s Psychedelic Porn Crumpets kicked things off a few minutes early with a cacophonous barrage of noise, before quickly settling into what they do best: dishing out a scintillating display of unrelenting riffs, smoke machines, crushing chords, and pounding rhythms,

Performing with unmatched intensity to a crowd and a mosh pit that barely let up for a single second, they’ve been one of the finest and most exciting rock acts out on the scene for a while now, yet Psychedelic Porn Crumpets’ inclusion as the replacement for Fontaines D.C. in no way felt like a last-minute decision, and showed that they would’ve been one of the best acts on the lineup regardless.

Easily serving as the wildest band on the bill up to this point, tracks like ‘Mundungus’ and ‘Marmalade March’ proved to their eager fans that they’re set to remain as one of the wildest rock outfits on Aussie soil for quite some time.

Check out ‘Mundungus’ by Psychedelic Porn Crumpets:

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Having had a massive year in 2019 thanks to tracks like ‘Pub Feed’, ‘Identity Theft’, and The Clap’, expectations were high for The Chats when they hit the stage. Taking to the stage to the Rocky theme, the group were met with intense applause from everyone gathered before the far-too small Future Classic stage.

After a small instrumental intro, they jumped right into it, kicking off ‘Nambored’ as the mosh pit began to resemble the gates of hell having been opened. With sweaty bodies crashing about and an orgy of limbs pumping to every single note, it was clear it would take something massive to top this set.
Raw, unrefined, and a hell of a lot of fun, the group powered through anthemic numbers like ‘How Many Do You Do?’, ‘Mum Stole My Darts’, and ‘Bus Money’, keeping their tongues firmly in cheek throughout the entire set.

Between asking fans if they’ve had an STD prior to playing ‘The Clap’, to their constant proclaiming of being “the best band in the fucking world”, there was no denying the band’s loose appeal at all times, as cheers from fans seemed to drown them out at almost every opportunity.

Of course, all good things must come to an end, and after noting that “no one is doing any fucking shoeys”, the band capped things off with ‘Pub Feed’, with closing vocals handled by members of their recent UK tourmates, Bad//Dreems.

While The Chats were tearing things up on the smaller stages, the River Stage was playing host to nothing but the good vibes, with Sydney’s Ocean Alley bringing their chilled-out tracks to the crowd, kicking things off with the infectious ‘Knees’, and ensuring that everyone in attendance was there to have a good time.

Dishing out classics like Hottest 100-topping ‘Confidence’, the good vibes found themselves met by an intense fan reaction, with punters barely able to contain themselves amidst the constant flow of chilled-out anthems.

Check out ‘Pub Feed’ by The Chats:

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Back down at the Fishbowl Stage, a decent-sized crowd gathered to catch Stella Donnelly serve up a powerful set full of deep, arresting numbers, kicking things off with ‘Mechanical Bull’ in solo format. Pairing with her keyboardist, she moved forward to the delicate ‘Mosquito’, with fans joining in singing along, as she shared stories with the audience between not just her songs, but singular lines as well.

Inviting the rest of the band up, she tore through an amazing version of ‘Old Man’, with the topical lyrics uniting the entire audience, showing why she’s one of the most important artists on the Aussie music scene today.

Back on the Dean Turner stage, it was time for the intense professionalism from the musical collective known as King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard. Filling up almost the entire stage upon their arrival, it took no time for the hometown heroes to rip into their absolutely breathtaking set. With the artwork to their latest album, Infest The Rats’ Nest, behind them, their trippy visuals have way to the ferocious boat of double drummers kicking off the thrash metal stylings of ‘Self-Immolate’.

While one could very easily argue that King Gizz would be able to headline the entire festival with no issue (like they sort of did in Brisbane), it’s impossible to watch them without being blown away by their collective genius, as stunning tunes like ‘Mars For The Rich’ were received with the utmost enthusiasm and enjoyment.

As frontman Stu Mackenzie brought out his “Flying microtonal Banana” guitar for ‘Open Water’, the spacey ‘Cyboogie’ served as a trippy comedown, while the likes of ‘Planet B’ helped open up a mosh the likes of which you’ve never seen.

Check out ‘Planet B’ by King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard:

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As the sun finally found its way down for the evening, legions of fans found themselves at the River Stage for the last time, where Charli XCX was delivering the poppiest set of the evening. Undoubtedly a controversial choice amongst fans who leaned towards more of a rock vibe, the numbers didn’t lie, with dancing fans proving as a testament to the appeal and infectious nature of Charli XCX.

Tracks like ‘Vroom Vroom’ found the singer joined by some of her friends for the duration of the set, while cuts like ‘I Got It’, ‘Boys’ and ‘1999’ served as some of the most popular of the evening, while the likes of ‘Spicy’ unified the crowd by way of its Spice Girls-influenced verse. Showing a complete and unmatched control of the crowd, Charli XCX’s immersive set was enough to see some of her naysayers leaving the venue as new fans, and diehards even more in love with her stunning abilities.

As a deafening roar sprung up from the Dean Turner stage, the heavily processed vocals of one of their eponymous tracks welcomed England’s The 1975 to the stage, with frontman Matty Healy bursting into the forefront to dish out the frenetic vocals of ‘People’. Screaming his lungs out, it was abundantly clear that The 1975 have branched out from the sound that made them famous. Turning them into a festival-headlining sct the likes of which we’ve not seen for a very long time.

Undoubtedly the most charismatic performers of the night, there was no denying that The 1975 were a perfect choice of headliners, with fans set to cherish memories of some of their biggest hits – including ‘Love It If We Made It’, ‘It’s Not Living (If It’s Not With You)’, and ‘Chocolate’ – for years to come.

With Matty Healy serving as one of the most energetic, enthusiastic, and most intense frontmen of the evening, it was clear that The 1975 would be all fans would be talking about the next day.

Undoubtedly, with such an impressive lineup on the cards for 2020, and once again serving as one of the most enjoyable events on the Aussie musical calendar, there’s no denying that 2021 can’t come soon enough for fans, with thoughts already turning to who might headline next year’s event.

Check out ‘People’ by The 1975:

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