St. Jerome’s Laneway Festival @ Fowlers Live, Adelaide(10/2/12)

It was a dreary Friday afternoon that welcomed the St Jerome’s Laneway Festival convoy to Adelaide. The constant smattering of rain (nothing to complain about when compared to Brisbane, however) dampened the beginning of the boutique music festival, and ruined many a hipster’s coif before night fall. With the entrance moved yet again, the layout issues from previous years were seemingly alleviated, with two stages in different spots to 2011. The twilight timing meant that the first bands started around 5:00pm, and a quieter-than-usual crowd made bar and toilets lines less painful; at least initially.

Melbourne five piece Total Control commanded attention on the tucked away Register Street stage, equal parts Gary Numan and Severed Heads. The lengthy time waiting to get in minimized their crowd, but their set was energetic and dedicated nonetheless. Synth-heavy tracks such as Love Performance and Paranoid Video were impressive, starting the festival in style.

Weaving our way through to the main Courtyard Stage, the kooky Austra were hypnotizing a gathering crowd with medieval trance beats and Katie Stelamanis’ operatic vocals. After some favourable airplay on triple j, singles Lose It and Beat And The Pulse enjoyed a great reception, but were perhaps not as entrancing as keyboardist Ryan Wonsiak’s mustard coloured onesie/manotard.

EMA was next on the tiny George Street stage; which would later play host to much-hyped band The Drums. Not only was the space tiny, but the stage sloped downwards so that the vertically challenged in the crowd would see little but elbow patches if they arrived on time.The heavily blogged about and ex-Gowns singer Erika M Anderson delivered singles Milkman and Angelo to an appreciative crowd, who were now squinting into the setting sun. The talented lead guitarist and violinist added a twinge of country to the 90s reverb, which seemed to be a recurring theme throughout many acts on the day.

Cults had drawn hundreds of punters to Register Street. The long-haired Brian Oblivion threatened to rock out but was restrained by the unenthused Madeline Follin, who ended songs with a shrug and blasé hair flicks. The beat of each song rolled into the next, where even the single Go Outside faded in the haze of mediocrity. By now we were craving some heavier, punchier acts, perhaps a male vocal, a fuzzy guitar, something more.

By now the clouds had gathered and dumped a deluge of rain upon unsuspecting festival-goers. Clambering for the shelter of Fowler’s Live, we stumbled upon Glasser, a DIY version of The Knife. Vocalist Cameron Mesirow bopped around on stage around her drummer during Mirrorage, which was awkward to watch and slightly eerie to hear. Once the rain had seemingly subsided, many fled Fowler’s for Chairlift in the Courtyard before it bucketed again. It was quite a sight to see the crowd braving lashing rain in order to boogie to Sidewalk Safari.

London’s modern day answer to Pavement, Yuck heralded the return of the sun (and male vocalists) to Register Street, enticing soggy hipsters from the now-packed Courtyard. Single Get Away echoed Pixies and Jebediah, as lead singer Daniel Blumberg pleased the crowd with banter concerning our local parks and sightseeing. Holing Out’s brooding bassline would have sat perfectly within the extensive discography of Sonic Youth, and the band’s tight sounds throughout Rubber and Shook Down translated well live. Special mention must go to drummer Jonny Rogoff’s afro.

As we were late to get a decent vantage point for Active Child at the enclave that was George Street, the atmospheric dance beats were lost on us suckers at the back. Only the people who managed to squeeze in before the mixing desk would have been able to adequately hear the set, which was disappointing to the extreme. By now, the main bar had run out of cider, beer, and gin and tonics (?!), with no promises on getting more. Energy drink it is!

The jangly splendor of Girls did not disappoint, playing a similar set to that in Meredith 2010. Hits such as Laura and Lust For Life from Album got punters dancing, whilst slow-burners Vomit and Lauren Marie demonstrated flowery songwriting complemented by soaring melodies; a definite highlight of the day.

The aforementioned epic fail of the day eventuated during the mess that was a seething crowd vying to see indie darls The Drums. Their indie-by-numbers with a pinch of sea salt energized the crowd so much it had punters climbing walls (some illegally gaining entry to the festival), hipsters in concrete pot plants, and people teetering on banisters. An OH & S issue overall, George Street was decidedly too small for such a crowd, which sadly ruined the experience for those around us.

Twin Shadow delivered some velvety new wave dance to those who were smart enough to head to a stage they could actually enjoy. The key-heavy I Can’t Wait and ‘Shooting Holes’ were well executed, and the small crowd appreciated the refreshingly strong and controlled vocals.

Highlight of the festival, The Horrors packed out the Courtyard, delivering a set consisting of songs predominantly from lauded recent album Skying. Beginning with Endless Blue, Faris Badwan commandeered the stage with his brooding vocals and professional swagger. Not playing a single tune from Strange House indicates a grown up band, a Simple Minds-esque foray into full 80s synth, delivered with panache. So followed a solid set of I Can See Through You, Scarlet Fields, Who Can Say, the brilliant Still Life, and closing with the pulsating Moving Further Away, Adelaide was wowed for the second time since their 2010 Big Day Out performance.

As the crowd milled in closer for M83, who started with aptly titled Intro, we headed inside Fowler’s to see NME darlings DZ Deathrays. Wow. A handful of game people bear witness to some of the most hilarious circle moshing and jumping and whatever else by a couple of (rented?) fanboys, complete in custom ‘D’ and ‘Z’ tees. The duo on stage, however, was effective in thrashing out some heavy rock which oozed Death From Above 1979, but was fun nonetheless. Jager film clip favourite The Mess Up was good, but what lacked was the crowd atmosphere which the band deserved.

Emerging from Fowler’s Live to M83’s Hottest 100 hit Midnight City, proved to be great timing, as it ignited the crowd into a giant, hazy dance floor. The sprawling French synth was a fitting end to what had been a long labour of love; slightly better crowd management, some banging bands, but a lot of sameness when looking at it as a whole. With a couple of lineup tweaks and site layout perfection, Laneway will cater to the indie masses as one of the more user-friendly Australian music festivals.