09 February 2009

Laneway 2009

One very good thing about Laneway Festival: even in 35 degree C (95 F) heat, there is quite a lot of shade going around. This is made possible by a number of large trees around the area, as well as a couple of rather large buildings. One very bad thing about Laneway: two of the four stages are located between said buildings in very narrow lane-ways. Here I was thinking the festival was named after Nathan Lane and his crazy effeminate ways.

Jack Ladder
Sydney's own Jack Ladder opened the festival at the Basement Stage. The Basement is a very dark, stuffy, underground, low-ceilinged venue. My thoughts on Jack Ladder: Oh good, it's not just him with an acoustic guitar! That would have been pretty boring. This music isn't too bad. Wow, he's REALLY trying to be Jonathan Richman. Did he just say "Turn a frown upside down"? These are the worst lyrics ever. This guy is a mega-dick.

Still Flyin'
I had heard about this band only in a Will Sheff interview. The way I understood it was that it was like a younger version of Broken Social Scene, with a revolving cast of musicians and more people on stage at any one time than could comfortably fit into a doctor's waiting room. I was only afraid that it might be a little too twee-pop for me. Fortunately, they're a 14-unit ska/reggae party band. At any given moment, only about 70% of the members were playing instruments. The rest were dancing/jumping/rolling around, passing a boogie board around the crowd, giving sweat-hugs to audience members, and singing backup on one of their many "brew-grooves." Possibly the best, and certainly most life-affirming, band I saw all day.

Born Ruffians
Finally we venture out into the light of day. This was where I first encountered this "laneway" situation. The band had already started playing, and there were maybe 150 people in front of us. The sound was bouncing between the buildings and it wasn't worth the effort. Food and beer instead.

Spiral Stairs
I had to make a decision between No Age and Spiral Stairs. No Age was playing at the same stage as Born Ruffians, and I wasn't sure I wanted to risk waiting around for a band that hasn't gotten very favorable live reviews. I'd rather see the Pavement dude on the big stage. About 15 other people made the same (wise) decision. Spiral Stairs, aka Scott Kannenberg, took to the stage on crutches. He announced that he had broken his foot in Perth two days before, yet he still somehow managed to move around more than a lot of bands with fully-functional legs. A couple of the new songs were a little off the mark, but the Preston School of Industry "single" "Caught In the Rain" went over quite nicely. The real highlights, of course, were the three Pavement songs- "Date With Ikea" and renditions of "Kennel District" and "Two States" with the Still Flyin' guys. I seriously thought dude was going to break his foot a second time during "Two States." I've never seen a man shake that fast.

I skipped out on Jay Reatard (again, laneway stage) for more beer and chillin. Oh and some feral douchies in line for the bathroom. Some broad snuck to the front of the line and tried getting into the toilet that I was first in line for. "Someone just went in there," I informed her. "Oh, well I'm just guarding it because I'm next." "Well actually, I've been waiting." "OH MY GOD! Chivalry is DEAD. Are you REALLY going to PUSH your way in front of a GIRL? I don't GET it with you guys. You have PEEENISES. In a couple hours you can just go ANYwhere." I did the right thing by making her feel bad and then going in front of her anyway.

Wait around for Stereolab at the main stage and catch some of Melbourne's Temper Trap. They're ok, but probably not something I'll go check out later. Their last song is a very sub-par cover of "Dancing in the Dark" that gets the sub-par audience screaming.

I finally got my chance to see the seminal Stereolab. I wasn't quite sure what to expect since they haven't been much of a band at all in the past few years. The band started out with some of the new cuts off "Chemical Chords." I didn't really get into this album much. It's just a little too poppy. I like my Stereolab experimental and kraut-ish. Fortunately the second half of their set was more to my liking, with songs like "Mountain", "Lo Boob Oscillator", and "French Disko". Also Laetitia Sadier made eyes at me more than once, and there is nothing wrong with a little sexy French to go with my indie rock.

El Guincho
This was the first and only act I saw all day on the other laneway-situated Red Bull stage. This stage basically presented DJs all day, though for some reason the organisers thought it fitting to advertise acts like Four Tet and Daedelus as live. Live, like, in person? Anyway, El Guincho played just about everything off "Alegranza" although sometimes it was actually difficult to distinguish between the songs because the BASS WAS VERY LOUD. So loud, in fact, that you couldn't hear vocals, keyboards, or samplers. It didn't seem to deter the crowd too much and everyone was dancing and generally having a good time...that is until 6:45 when everyone ran to see Architecture in Helstinky.

Architecture In Helsinki
After The Guinch, I made my way to the big stage where the Hold Steady would be performing in an hour. Originally the Drones were meant to be playing on this stage, and I had wanted to catch a little of them anyway because I'd heard good things. But then it turned out Architecture in Helsinki got the nod. Since I was planning to be front and center for Hold Steady, I sat through the last 20 minutes of AIH. My god, this band has seriously spiraled downward in the past few years. When did they turn into a cheesy 80's soft rock band? It even took me a while to recognise songs that I know, like "Do the Whirlwind" and "Heart It Races" because of long, meandering synth intros. Then I noticed that the Still Flyin' dudes were hanging out up there and putting AIH to shame with their dance moves.

Hold Steady
I pretty much expected to be transcended to a higher plane for this band. Their albums are decent, but everything I've ever read has said that these guys are THE rock band to see live. So the band comes out, the crowd goes wild, and they begin "Constructive Summer." Then I realise how many morons are in the crowd. Some guys start moshing and knocking people over, people are getting their feet stepped on, and kids are crowd-surfing and kicking unsuspecting victims in the face. It was hard to fully enjoy the music when I'm afraid I'm about to get a Volley to the head. As for the band, they played all the songs I wanted to hear, but it was basically note-for-note from the record. The band didn't seem to be having a lot of fun or really enjoying themselves, but what came across most was that more than anyone else at the festival, these guys are a professional band. Craig Finn is definitely a dynamic frontman, Tad Kubler has guitar hero written all over him, and Franz Nicolay is a virtuoso at piano and mustache.

So, how does this compare to ATP?
Better bands
More shade and buildings
More douches
Longer, faster moving toilet lines
Still Flyin'
So many bad tattoos
Worse stages
More beer