Monday, March 3, 2008

Trapped in a laneway

So I left Laneway festival today in a relatively bad mood. And I'm not one of those indie kids who rags on festivals. Heck, i even had a great time at Big Day Out and The Great Escape.

Unfortunately I can't say the same for Laneway. The problem is with the whole festival's layout. Take the following example:

You are seeing a band. They are pretty boring, your mates are awol/seeing someone rubbish, and you're generally having a crap time.


Big Day Out:Walk 5 minutes awaythrough the fresh air, seeing various things happening everywhereto a completely different stageand watch a band that sounds very different.
Laneway:Walk 5 metres awaythrough a small open concrete spaceto another concrete areaand watch another indie band.

And therein lies the problem with Laneway. There is nowhere to escape to - neither physically or musically. Adding to this the lack of pass-outs, and it becomes a very claustrophobic experience if you suddenly decide you aren't in the mood to watch indie rock in an alleyway. Which probably doesn't happen to most of the crowd, but it did to me today.

Complaints aside, Broken Social Scene and Feist were amazing today. BSS played a huge set, joined on stage by Feist and Amy Millan, as well Amy's bandmates from Stars. They probably got the best response of the day, and had a huge sound. Closing with Ibi Dreams of Pavement capped it off beautifully. Feist was fantastic too, and had a gorgeous stage show. The amount of camera flashes when she came onstage was unbelievable.

An interesting thing happened after Feist: the crowd divided into three very different parts. It's almost as if the big indie melting pot of the day suddenly was separated into factions.

Park Stage
Reiby Place
The Basement

The Park stage, on which Gotye played, belonged to the Triple J kids. I didn't catch much of the set, but what I saw looked pretty mediocre. The crowd seemed to be very much the friendlier side of the summer festival goer spectrum - happily bopping along to the songs, taking photos, and generally seeming happy, but not particularly enraptured.

Reiby Place, where The Presets played, was full of festival bogans. Perhaps suprisingly for laneway, the crowd was ridiculously bad. Full of drunks on each others shoulders, jockeying for position, taking off their shirts, and getting all passive-aggressive on each other as the alleyway got more and more packed, and people got more and more frustrated. Where were all of these people the rest of the day? (I believe the answer would be: the bar.)

Perhaps as a result of that, The Basement, which was headlined by The Brunettes, reminded me of a bomb shelter. It was full of quiet indie kids - nobody was in anybodys way, everyone was respectful, and nobody looked particularly excited. I spent the longest amount of time here - The Brunettes were fun enough, but not particularly captivating. I think everyone was just happy to be back underground - in a room with the smallest crowd, less concrete, and a relaxed atmosphere (half of the crowd even sat on the floor until The Brunettes came on stage).

Don't get me wrong, Laneway is a great festival. But it's just too big for a street party. It would be perfect with about 1/2 of the crowd size, and smaller bands - i'd rather a street party with, say, Black Lips, Eddy Current Suppression Ring and Witch Hats on one stage, and another stage with Jens Lekman, Dappled Cities and Crayon Fields. Or something of that nature.
But as far as big acts like Feist and Presets go... get me back into a big open field. At least at other festivals, when it's all getting a bit overwhelming, you can walk more than 20 metres without running into a fence.


zohara said...

I know what you mean Adam, although I left Laneway feeling quite euphoric, however I didn't stay for The Presets and I wasn't bothered to try and push in between people to hear Feist sing "1,2,3,4". I was most comfortable in The Basement as you were (Bridezilla were fantastic by the way) but the crowd outside were rather generic and bogan. The bands you mentioned there that you would rather have see sound like much more fun and more relaxed..what I think laneway really should be like. At least you wouldn't be cramped up with another 2000 bogans to go see Jens Lekman sing "The Opposite of Hallelujah"...

Lilith O. said...

intimate gigs... ahh warm and cuddly. festivals leave me empty these days.
also. you guys write well.

Ro said...

so maybe i wasn't the only person who thought laneway was more on the side of boring this year.
but stars+bss+feist onstage was magic.

Zacc said...

Guess I'm glad I didn't pay the money now :P