By Alexandra McDonald
Melbourne’s 2013 Laneway Festival at the Footscray Community Arts Centre was, and I know this is a big call, quite possibly the best festival I have attended in the last few years, if not ever. The grounds were unquestionably beautiful, the four stages spread out amidst much greenery, trees provided dappled shade up to the banks of the Maribyrnong River, appetising food stalls offered up a whole range of options if you felt so inclined to run that gamut of deliciousness. Thanks to a cheap pack of stick on diamantes we were rainbow splattered visions that proudly strode into the sunlight, sparkling and unabashed.
Normally distracted by anything that has the word dumplings attached to it, I couldn’t even be sidetracked from the draw of the amazing, lilting, eclectic sounds drifting in and out as we strolled past each stage. The crowd was an unquestionably happy one, grins and laughs echoed around, as groups made their way from one act to the next in the errant, emerging sun, a forecasted overcast day was shouldered for a sunny one. The line for a drink wasn’t too long, which was an awesome thing if not conducive to being able to afford groceries the next week, if you’re on a shoestring budget.
The Neighbourhood and Snakadaktal were standout acts pretty early on in the day, but the festival really got going for us when The Rubensstepped onto the stage and with the first quavering croon Sam Margin’s brilliant voice captivated the crowd entirely. It was brilliant, but thank god for the big screens, because the Dean Turner Stage was what can only be described as a kind of corralling, giant, concrete laneway of sorts had an extremely limiting effect on how close to the stage you could get before being forced to get uncomfortably acquainted with fellow revellers. I tried getting closer briefly but ended up sandwiched in-between a particularly perspirationally challenged be-bearded dude and a girl whose long, braided dreadlocks, to my dismay, kept smacking me in the face with every undulation of a crazy weird dance she was performing. So we hung back at a comfortable distance, happily singing along to ‘The Best We Got’, ‘My Gun’ and ‘Lay It Down’.
Pond were super amazing and great fun to watch thanks in no small way to the boundless energy of front man Nick Allbrook. Tame Impalas ‘little brother’ of sorts establishing themselves again as the band to watch in 2013, banging out tunes teased from shiny new album Hobo Rocket, and man did they go down a treat.
Alt-J, the band I was most looking forward to, did not disappoint my pretty ridiculously high expectations. Their alternative, progressive version of electronic indie rock/pop/psychedelic folk/art rock drew the crowd up into the quavering beats, slamming riffs and soft musical meanderings. An awesome wave of music swept the concrete gauntlet that was the Dean Turner Stage. ‘Breezeblocks’ was the pinnacle, arguably the most well known of their tunes, and a thrill of excitement shook the crowd as the first line was delivered. By the end of the song what felt like the entire crowd was sing/screaming “please don’t go please don’t go I love you so I love you so” right alongside lead Joe Newman’s brilliant, distinctive, wavering voice. ‘Fitzpleasure’ broke out a frenzy of dancing and ‘Taro’, ‘Matilda’ and ‘Dissolve Me’ all gained equal excitement and passion, as well as ‘Something Good’. To say pretty much every song reverberated a kind of enraptured reverence and thrill in the crowd that avidly soaked up the set would not be an overstatement.
We hit up Ms Mr on another stage, who were captivating and memorable, when ‘Hurricane’ hit it seemed the entire crowd threw their arms around each other and sang along at the top of their voices, it was a great atmosphere to be submerged in, and a tribute to the infectious hooks from this talented twosome.
At the request of a smitten friend we trotted off into the dusk to find the River Stage and witness beat making wunderkind Flume. His set was pretty killer, as demarked by the ever-swelling crowd that completely packed the enormous expanse before us threading right back as far as we could see.
Arriving at Bat for Lashes after darkness had fallen, Natasha Kahn flickered and captivated as a shimmering vision against inky shadows. As the first few chord for ‘Laura‘ begun the silence was total and heavy with anticipation, the atmosphere was electric. It was an ethereal and affecting show, one that would surely be held in the crowds memory for a long time, a memory that when called upon is still capable of causing goose bumps a week later, in an office, in the middle of the day.
The festival passed in a complete blur of anticipation mixed with complete contentment with the place I was at, the people I was with, and to wander from stage to stage, act to act. The atmosphere was so cool and laid back, it seemed that nothing but this chill, appreciative lo-fi attitude was acceptable and I happily embraced it. We ran into old friends, made new ones, and hung out soaking in the atmosphere, wether sitting under the dappled shade of trees near the Future Classics stage, or weaving our way through the jumble of revellers over at the Eat Your Own Ears stage, The River Stage or the eponymous Dean Turner stage, we ran about, shedding our stick on jewels and feeding of the excited atmosphere.
On our way home, packed into a train carriage that was more akin to the proverbial tin of sardines than an actual form of transportation, we got the entire, packed in masses to join in a hearty and resounding happy birthday for a lucky friend. She stood there beaming, a look of complete albeit tired bliss etched across her face, demarking the way we all felt about a day immensely well spent. It really was a terrific day.