Two words sum up the St Jerome’s Laneway festival in Melbourne: Hot and Chilled

Arriving just before 2pm, we quickly hit the food stalls for a little nibble. If only we would have known that this was to be our last meal for the day, we might have stuffed ourselves. The change of venue for 2010 was a change for the better; there was plenty of space, and the stages were easily accessed, avoiding the bottlenecking of crowds which was such a problem last year. The day had started with a disappointing note with the news that headliners Echo & The Bunnymen had cancelled (replaced by the Midnight Juggernauts). Nevertheless, the sun was shining down on the  as the crowd started to pack out the Footscray Community Arts Centre as the crowd started streaming in.

It was time for the our first band of the day – Hockey (below pic) and the temperature had reached 33 degrees and was climbing. The band played a short, yet sweet set filled with all their hits off their ‘Mind Chaos’ album. Whilst the crowd seemed to be quite tame and laid back, it certainly wasn’t the situation for myself. After wanting to see this band for most of the year, I was happy being the only one singing the words to every song and dancing my socks off. It was a great start to what was to be a tremndous day filled with the next batch of up n coming indie rockers.  

Next up were Mumford & Sons on the main stage (top pic). Now, we at Music Universe absolutely love Mumford. We hav been promoting the band on the site for over a year now. We love taking credit for knowing about this band before they made it big. However, we were truly disappointed at their live performance. Here is a band who have quickly gathered momentum on the back of their stunning debut ‘Sigh No More’. Yet they failed to live up to expectation. Everyone in the crowd knew all the words to every song, yet for some strange reason, the band forgot to engage with their adoring fans. A simple sing-a-long from the crowd whilst the band remained silent would have been nice on a couple of tracks. They have a sound that should allow them some freedom to start jamming away and changing up their show from an ‘I could listen to their album’ show to a ‘kick ass live’ show. Bitterly disappointed, we left with the rest of the crowd and made our way to the River stage for The xx.

The xx hit the indie scene in 2009 and their debut album ‘The xx’ appeared on many critics Best of 2009 albums lists (including ours). They hit a mini stumbling block towards the end of the year, losing one of their band members. Nevertheless, The xx, with three members, took to the stage in front of one of the biggest crowds of the day. There is a slinking sexiness to their songs, in the smooth bass lines and even smoother voice of Oliver Sim, in the minimalistic riffs of Romy Madley Croft. Kicking off with the ever so delightful and appropriate ‘Intro’, you knew you were in for something special. On ‘Night Time’, ‘Crystalized’ and ‘VCR’, the duo, supported by the impressive electric drummer, traded verses and choruses with class. The end came and it was quite apparent that we were unlikely to hear or see anything that cool for the rest of the festival.

Wild Beasts (pictured below) were high on our ‘to-see’ list and we weren’t disappointed. Their second album, the epic ‘Two Dancers’, was one of Music Universe’s favourite albums of 2009 and very thankfully their set only included songs off that album. With the temprature soaring to over 35 degrees, Hayden Thorpe and Tom Flemming provided their falsetto-Antony and The Johnsons comparable vocals to their whimsical music and made it one of the more fascinating live performances of the day. The smaller than normal crowd were treated to a very impressive show, one which would have made those that missed out very jealous. Definitely in the top two highlights of the day.

By the time Florence and The Machine came on most of the crowd looked dead on their feet. I had waited 90 minutes for Florence to grace us (like to thank Dappled Cities for being so boring that I was able to catch a power nap). I was hot and tired and hungry but it was a credit to this precocious young Brit that she managed to get my feet moving again. Dressed in shimmering green sequins, the red-flame haired, current queen of indie pop captivated my soul. She has an unbelievable voice and has the ability to craft melodic pop tunes that surprisngly brought about the loudest cheers of the day. With hit singles ‘Kiss With A Fist’ and the catchy ‘Dog Days Are Over ‘providing an invigorating end to the festival, I left the festival feeling very satisfied (special mention to the taxi I took home too, unlucky to those that waited for the trains in 30 degree heat at 10pm!!).
To sum up, I’m a big fan of this festival. I’m a big fan of its ability to attract world class break-through acts. However, for the second year in a row logistical screw-ups marred what was otherwise a fantastic Laneway Festival. It was such a pity because the music was excellent from start to finish. It was the perfect festival to wander, with delicious plates of music being served up (unlike the food – for a festival with thousands of people attending, providing only three food stalls was a massive oversight, with punters forced to wait for up to an hour and a half for a bite). While the problems were nowhere near as bad as last year, there are still issues. They’ve got the music down pat, no doubt about that, but they need to work on the other bits and pieces that turn a festival from a pretty darn good experience, to an an amazing one.
— Contributed by Jase S.