Updated: Feb 6, 2020
St. Jerome has changed with the times.
Laneway is not the festival it used to be. No longer is it a festival rooted in just the 'indie'. Now, it’s a broad church. This year’s incarnation saw performances from artists at the forefront of indie pop, rock, R&B, rap and more. We had the opportunity to catch some of those artists as they came through Brisbane. Here are our personal highlights.
Col3trane is a singer based in North London that plays with contemporary R&B sounds from both the United Kingdom and the United States. His set was high energy. The club-ready tracks from his extended play Heroine were well received and he maintained an upbeat party atmosphere.
It was a sorry sight for OG fans that the crowd didn't recognise his cover of Craig David’s ‘7 Days’. I suppose that’s what you get when most of your audience are millenials.
Hope D is a Brisbane favourite who for the past few years has honed her performance on a solid bedrock of striking talent. Joining her on stage was a full piece band and a massive crowd for her early afternoon slot. Both her consummate vocals and instrumental ability seem effortless on stage whether shes singing a ballad or spitting sharp rhymes. The lyrics of her debut single 'Swim' were roared in unison by the crowd, a cadre of loyal supporters that can only grow.
Kaiit is a national treasure. She’s pushed Australian neo-soul to an international audience. Even with that success, she maintains a loyal domestic fanbase. Kaiit is a warm performer that is obviously thankful for her platform. It’s a platform that’s well deserved. Along with her live band, the Melbourne-by-way-of-Papua New Guinea singer performed lush renditions of cult hits ‘OG Luv Kush Pt. 2’ and ‘Natural Woman’.
Highlight? The fits. Kaiit’s crowd were rocking some of the best outfits on display at the festival.
Tones and I
No matter where we go we can't escape Tones and I. For weeks she has been ripping up the global charts sitting at number one with over one billion spotify plays of her smash hit 'Dance Monkey'. The Byron Bay local drew a colossal crowd who sweltered in the sun to watch her perform her unique brand of crisp dance pop. Her rep preceded her as a few punters demanded "play dance monkey" minutes into her set. They were probably one of the groups who made a swift exit after she eventually performed the number - choosing instead to end with a track closer to her heart.
bbno$ is a bit of a joke. That’s not a criticism. His persona is literally a joke. He makes songs called ‘sriracha’ and ‘Welcome to Chilis’. His name is pronounced “Baby No Money”. He is comedy rap. And, if you can buy into the joke, his set is a blast. There are mosh pits. There are shoeys. It’s a good time. He is not a talented rapper. He’s not a poet. But bbno$’s set is fun. And that’s what really matters.
Highlight? Have you seen that video of UK rapper Dave bringing a fan on stage to perform? bbno$ also does that. Only difference is that Brisbane’s “Alex” (“Jacob”) performed with bbno$ for four in a row, without missing a word. Shout out to “Jacob”.
This set was tough. Earl Sweatshirt is a talented rapper. The problem? His recent material is impenetrable. It’s lyrically dense and instrumentally abstract. It doesn’t translate well to a festival. A small intimate show maybe? But not a festival. Dyed in the wool fans appeared to enjoy the set, but to the general public it was likely an incomprehensible mess.
Highlight? Earl’s DJ playing a chopped and screwed remix of Detroit scam rapper Teejayx6’s viral hit ‘Swipe Story’.
The young Kiwi sensation Benee smashed her set playing to an adoring all-ages crowd. Although reminiscent of an 'Eilish' style energy in her fashion and demeanour she stands out in contrast with a brighter synthy pop that that strikes a chord with the adolescent brain. Her presence is infectious, as she danced her trademark angular moves, flailed about and made swaggerous gestures at the crowd to thunderous applause.
Whether its a festival stage or a bandroom Ocean Alley always deliver. Fans know what to expect - a performance that is akin to their studio recordings...or better. The perfect reggae fusion that the 6 piece send out on stage are a testament to how well the band mesh. Sporting glistening guitar-work Ocean Alley don't rely on flashy lights or dance moves, instead focussing entirely on their craft. There were people running down from the grandstands to catch their hit rendition of Player's 'Baby Come Back'.
The Chats are a national treasure. Let's leave it at that.
Charli XCX’s presence on the lineup is interesting. She’s ostensibly a pop artist. To the general public, she’s the girl on Iggy Azaela’s ‘Fancy’. Her inclusion on the lineup lead to some contentious discussions on social media. Those posts were foolish. Charli is at home at Laneway. Her edgy take on pop was well received by the festival crowd. She drew them in with obvious bops (‘Boys’ and ‘1999’) and kept their attention with deep cuts (‘Vroom Vroom’ and ‘Track 10’).
Highlight? Charli’s dance break during the outro to ‘Gone’.
Heraled by the most intense screams you could possibly fathom with seemingly every teen clutching their phones in awe was...Ruel. With a long list of sold out shows the solo singer has seemed to mature quite a bit alongside his meteoric rise. His tight stage production and infectious soul pop once again had a crowd enraptured. Even bigger things are coming for Ruel and we've yet to even see a debut album.
King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard filled in for The 1975's slot and lashed out their signature brand of psychadelic acid rock. Their prolific discography is an acoustic saga of music that would only truly make sense to a God if such a being existed. On stage they visually and sonically hypnotise their audiences playing in perfect unison - no matter how many inebriated punters clap heretically out of time. Each performance of microtonal blitz by King Gizz proves that you don't need to play by the rules to be a globally acclaimed success.
Mahalia capped off our night. She’s an impressive R&B vocalist with a small but solid catalogue. Personable, she introduced almost every song with a story. A story about a fuckboi introduced ‘He’s Mine’. A story about an ex-love introduced ‘I Wish I Missed My Ex’. Mahalia’s approach made for an intimate, charming performance.
One observation? Laneway is catching on to some good R&B and soul talent form the UK. Jorja Smith last year. Mahalia this year. Perhaps Celeste next year?
Best wishes to the 1975 who were unable to perform due to illness. Despite a few timetable clashes props to Laneway for an event that was safe and well-organised. Even the security guards were having the time of their life watering down punters in the crowds.
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Written by Byron David and Thomas Vu