live review

Laneway Festival 2015

Laneway Festival 2015

January 26 2015
Silo Park, Auckland

Reviewed by Team UnderTheRadar
27th January 2015

In the six years that Laneway Festival has been held in Auckland, yesterday’s event was certainly the biggest and, by general consensus, the best. The sold-out festival operated on Swiss-watch set changes, had excellent sound quality (with exception of the Thunderdome where the curved concrete walls meant that things could get regrettably muddy from time-to-time), well managed facilities such as toilets, bars and catering. And while the organisers should get a well-deserved pat on the back for refining the festival to the point where it almost seems effortless (we’re sure it’s not!), the festival-goers also held their own and kept the good vibes rolling by staying generally well-behaved, hydrated and sunscreened. All-in-all it was a fantastically well-oiled day that brought many, many impressive acts together for us to enjoy IRL. UnderTheRadar sent out the team to pound the pavement check it all out, and here’s our reviews (in alphabetical order)…


Angel Olsen - Mysterex Stage - 1:40pm
American troubadour Angel Olsen immediately endeared herself to New Zealanders by looking like a cute homegrown bogan. Her vocal range was extraordinary, ranging from Stevie Nicks-style crooning to ethereal Cocteau Twins-esque warbling, while always retaining her unique style.Olsen spun stories and created worlds, combining hints of Courtney Love, dark Dolly Parton and old Hollywood. While the set wasn’t showy, or even particularly lively, it was a masterful display of musicianship from a startling talent, interspersing yearny country numbers with powerful grunge ballads and ending on the haunting and excellent ‘Sweet Dreams’. LOUISA KASZA


Angus and Julia Stone - Mysterex Stage - 6:20pm
The Australian brother-sister folk duo were much as expected - nice songs, nice harmonies, a nice set that the nice, sun-dazed crowd thoroughly enjoyed. The Stones’ strength has always been in the unexpected flourishes - pretty Americana punctuated by a particularly deep bass line or a strangely intimate vocal—which sets them apart from their numerous peers and more or less explains Rick Rubin’s involvement on their latest album. A lot of that is lost in the translation to the stage, but they are undeniably good at what they do. LEONIE HAYDEN


Ariel Pink - Hey Suess Stage - 5:30pm
"We're here to play some music, you... assholes. You... bogans." That, they did. That, we were. And if falling around the stage in purple spike-studded high heels is what it takes to get my attention, damn it, it was done. Ariel Pink's set at Laneway in 2011 wasn't memorable (that is, I don't remember it), but clearly something's changed: new chemistry (or new chemicals, I suggest) made for the sheer lunacy of inter-song stage talk, each member backing and forthing to each other as if they were that David Letterman band guy, but funny. Ariel Pink knew something about the audience: "Mac DeMarcos and Connan Mockasins everywhere... that's the future," he said, then adding "and deadbeats". And while you were left wondering about his mental state, he'd (after a few failed count-ins) launch into one of many jigsawed sonic amalgamations, jumping from reference point to reference point to hook, and never missing a note. And then he'd scream at the audience like a lunatic. Imperfect as it was, its fucked-up state made it the only thing at the festival not trying to sound like it was from the last century in some way. MICHAEL McCLELLAND


Banks - Cactus Cat Stage - 6:55pm
From a distance, American singer-songwriter Banks and her band present a polished stage show where lyrics from the heart dance against electronic alt-pop. Look a bit closer, and a few cracks start to emerge. It a lot of ways, Banks is a competent entertainer, but sometimes in the flight of song, you’ll see a shift in her expression that suggests she isn’t entirely comfortable up there. It’s a weakness, but it also gives her a genuine warmth. Unfortunately, to really feel it you had to overlook spotty live sound. Judging by the audience mood, not everyone was feeling that generous. MARTYN PEPPERELL


Belle & Sebastian - Mysterex Stage - 8pm
Belle & Sebastian’s Stuart Murdoch might be one of the loveliest frontmen in music, all lilting dad-jokes and welcoming banter. We got a sadly truncated best-of from the Scottish charmers, but it was a great saunter through the back catalogue for their first time in New Zealand. Stunners included ‘Funny Little Frog’, ‘Like Dylan In The Movies’, ‘The Wrong Girl’ and the mild, but amusing, audience participation in ‘Boy With the Arab Strap’, all of which buoyed a lot of over-heated and wilting spirits. An experience made bittersweet by its brevity, we must demand a repeat in the near future. LEONIE HAYDEN


Bespin - Hey Suess Stage - 12:00pm
Laneway started off in fine fashion with Auckland band Bespin. Striding out to the appreciative and eager crowd who had made it early, they provided an entertaining set of shoegaze inspired rock ‘n’ roll. Whilst the patrons filtered in, everyone who made it in time was swaying and grooving to the psychedelic goodness. A great way to kick-off proceedings and very impressive to see the drummer dash across the stage to play with Tiny Ruins right after. BEN COLEY


Connan Mockasin - Hey Suess - 1:00pm
You’ve got to admire musicians who can rock an early time slot. Connan Mockasin, who has been delighting audiences at home and overseas with his sinister romanticism, played a cool and creepy set in the blistering heat with only two modes: mellow and freakout. It was a fun set with band members clearly enjoying themselves, not least Mockasin himself, while the backup dancers in Connan-style wigs were a nice touch. Mockasin did a great job wooing the crowd, ending the set with crowd pleasers ‘I'm the Man, Who Will Find You’ and ‘Forever Dolphin Love’. Just the ticket. LOUISA KASZA


Courtney Barnett - Hey Suess Stage - 2:00pm
The roaring dads from September's sellout Kings Arms show got their way with Courtney Barnett's return. Yep, the market was clear: Barno's pithy lyricalism and rattled-off self-deprecation obviously has an appeal that draws a more comfortable audience, one who has the time to digest the words. I think the Aussie accent thing is just enough of a point of difference to separate her from her MOR contemporaries. The rhythm section did an exceptionally metronomic job at making this distinction clear, even if they wouldn't be there a second longer without a paycheck. But this music does exactly what it's marketed to do: make rich people dance. It's no fault of the songwriter's when comfortable, unconfronting music is made to sound like an exciting thing; it's done skilfully, in fact. MICHAEL McCLELLAND


Dan Deacon - Thunderdome - 5:05pm
Dan Deacon is placed in the smaller, more intimate Thunderdome silo stage where he can execute his interactive performances away from the vastness of the Laneway main stages. It amazing how fast Deacon gets the crammed crowd on his side – he has them forming a dance circle within minutes and they're in the palm of his hand for the whole show. A couple of audience-led dance routines, a massive human tunnel, and a million smiles are abetted by Deacon's psychedelic, hyperactive electronic pop, aside from slightly muddy sound it's perfect summer fun. CHRIS CUDBY


Eagulls - Thunderdome - 6:15pm
The five-piece who hail from Leeds delivered an all-out aural assault on the senses. The intense 80s inspired post-punk was perfect for the late afternoon Thunderdome crowd who wanted to mosh and possibly get some respite from the sun.They tore through a set which plucked heavily from last year's debut album with a great amount of furiosity and vigour, never letting up once. BEN COLEY


FKA Twigs - Hey Suess Stage - 8:50pm
Head and shoulders above the rest in terms of showmanship and stage presence, FKA Twigs managed the impressive feat of vogueing like a lunatic while reaching operatic vocal heights. The former dancer seemed like some ancient goddess on a stage awash with smoke and light, unlikely to acknowledge the audience aside from through her unnervingly direct eye contact. It was therefore delightful and unexpected when she broke that dynamic by bantering with us in a squeaky, clipped little English voice. What followed the set may have been either applause, or the sound of thousands of melted hearts dripping onto the asphalt. LOUISA KASZA


Flying Lotus - Mysterex Stage - 9:40pm
This was one of those performances that reminds you of how great festivals can be. Dressed in a snappy suit and a weird android mask, Flying Lotus stepped to the controls inside a multi-screen visual environment. While I’d heard good things about his new live show, I wasn’t prepared for what followed. Performing extended festival-friendly interpretations of his songs, Flying Lotus wrapped them up in a hypercolourful/hyperactive visual environment. While it was one of the best multimedia live shows I’ve seen for years, if you faced away from the stage, the music still ebbed and pulsed with compelling creativity. MARTYN PEPPERELL


Future Islands - Hey Seuss Stage - 7:10pm
If you wanted to be ‘wowed’ at Laneway, the Future Islands stage was the place to be. While viral videos have given fans a glimpse of the uber dynamic performances of frontman Samuel T. Herring, his charisma, verve and heartfelt delivery are magnified one million times in real life. The full deal throat-growling, chest-thumping, crab-crouching, sexy-snake dancing, sweat-drenched, stage-departing spectacle was a sight to behold that gave the geuine impression he was having the time of his life and even lured Mac DeMarco out from backstage to enjoy the show from the wings. Here’s hoping they come back for their own headline tour soon. DANIELLE STREET


HEAVY - Thunderdome - 1:25pm
In the echoing chamber of Thunderdome, weed-fiends Heavy cranked things up early in the day. The duo took the stage with infectious enthusiasm and enviably energy that had Liam jumping between being behind the decks and being in front of the stage. After a few tracks they were joined by a guest MC, and it became clear that the trio had custom-made costumes that subtly tied them together. The addition of a third member, and some joints being passed out to the crowd, got things moving while they performed bangers including ‘Superbad’ and ‘Coming Out’. The set was rounded out with a mini-dance party that had the group climbing the speakers and shaking things up. DANIELLE STREET


Iceage - Laneway Pre-party
Singer Elias Ronnenfelt has dispensed with the guitar to concentrate on fronting the band and is full of energy and tension. And he is clearly effective, whipping the front rows into a frenzy. Heavily stylised in both appearance and sound, Iceage's musical roots clearly lie in the 1980s. While the material was strong, it wasn't until the encore that Iceage really produced the intensity I had been hoping for. But this didn't seem to concern the rest of the crowd. NICH CUNNINGHAM


Jakob - Cactus Cat Stage - 3:10pm
Under a baking hot sun and to an audience of BDO refugees starved of rock this summer, Kiwi prog-rock champions, Jakob, were somehow in their element as they to took to the industrial confines of the Cactus Cat stage for an oppressively hot mid-afternoon set. Though this isn’t how you’d normally expect to see the Hawke’s Bay trio, who are certainly more used to basement shows and far fewer sunglasses in the crowd, they put together an engaging and masterful performance. Doing the Kiwi contingent very proud. PAUL LARSEN


Jon Hopkins - Cactus Cat Stage - 5:25pm
The last swipe of the sun’s rays were still lashing the faces of the expansive crowd in the Cactus Cat stage before Jon Hopkins set kicked off in Silo Park’s late afternoon. The heralded British producer may not be a household name in New Zealand but a dedicated fan base turned out to hear what could be ranked as one of Laneway’s greatest ever sets. Swaying and grooving in a trance-like state, each high-pass and bass-drop was met with resounding approval by the mesmerised mass. PAUL LARSEN


Jungle - Mysterex Stage - 4:40pm
Jungle, despite what their name suggests, are a kind of 70s funk big-band; the brainchild of two dudes, it actually takes band nearing 10 to create the sound live. So on stage - Jungle is massive (ba dum cha!). Even with an intense amount if sun, Jungle attracted a huge crowd, covering the whole carpark with dancing. Jungle's appeal seems to stretch from those that remember the 70s, to those who are into funky dance with a twist. A big crowd pleaser in the late afternoon that kept everyone’s spirits up and cemented Laneway’s rep for being a great day. REBECCA WHITE


Little Dragon - Cactus Cat Stage - 8:10pm
A burning orange sunset was the perfect backdrop to enjoy the mellow tunes of Swedish group Little Dragon, who played to a packed-in crowd behind the towering silos that bookended the Cactus Cat stage. Striking lead singer Yukimi churned out a dynamo performance, making with eye contact with the ecstatic crowd and interacting with the other members of the tight-knit group. Despite the laid-back jams that grace their latest album, Nabuma Rubberband, they kept their live set relatively upbeat which suited the festival setting to a T. The only downside is that with such an exhilarating performance this group would have been better situated on a bigger stage so more people could enjoy it. UNDERTHERADAR


Mac DeMarco - Mysterex Stage - 3:05pm
In the searing heat of the mid-afternoon, Mr DeMarco was joined by his three-piece band to emulate the woozy guitar-driven jizz jazz he creates solo in the studio. Playing from his recent album Salad Days, as well as throwing out a few old favorites like crowd-pleaser ‘Ode To Viceroy’, Mac and his merry men brought a quirky cheeriness to their set, reminding the audience to stay hydrated while stealing their hats, and chit-chatting in a voice reminiscent of Beetlejuice between songs. To close their set the group was quietly joined by their pal and local-bred talent Connan Mockasin, who managed to help shred things up before the sound guys sadly (but understandably) cut them off to stay to schedule for the next band’s set. DANIELLE STREET


Perfect Pussy - Cactus Cat Stage - 1:05pm
I watched a Shreds video. Maybe it was just a sound dude who'd never mixed a hardcore band in his life, but it didn't matter, since the band (or the only ones I could hear: drums and guitar pedals) played hard as if nothing was amiss. Which makes sense, since that's how they produced their album: arbitrary delay effects and inaudible lyrics undermining the spirit of supposed "radical honesty", whatever that sounds like. A band's "stuff is important" posturing can only go so far, and that's when you can hear it in the first place. Politics belongs in music (the bassist's Hysterics shirt, bloody tampons spelling out a Black Flag logo, testifies), but for all the singer's radical miming, I doubt that any minds were changed in the heat of Auckland's middlebrowest public area. MICHAEL McCLELLAND


Quarks! - Thunderdome - 4:00pm
A mix of 90s dance music and 80s gay clubs vibes, Quarks! are an elusive duo mixing recorded tracks with a peppering of live vocals. A wall of noise pinged around a not overly full silo but it kept those in “the zone” and electro trainspotters entranced for a few minutes. There were a lot of dynamic dance moves courtesy of the vocalist but while the abandoned silo that is the Thunderdome stage makes for an interesting venue, it felt too light and sparsely filled on this scorching summer day for Quarks! to translate as well as it should've. REBECCA WHITE


Race Banyon - Thunderdome - 2:10pm
There's a powerful weed smell in the Thunderdome which is one hundred percent appropriate as the prodigious Race Baynon is a master of epic, slow-burning jams. He just builds and builds, carrying the up-for-it crowd at his own pace from sadboy house synth stabs (mouthing what sounds like Craig David) into effervescent post-footwork sample mashups and beyond. His half-hour set is a great taster but punishingly short, everyone clearly wants more from the KCB rep. CHRIS CUDBY


Ratking - Thunderdome - 8:35pm
Hip-hop trio Ratking make the sort of music that serves as a direct window into the worldview, lifestyle and physical environment of new generation New York rap enthusiasts who approach life and art with a DIY punk zest. When they hit the stage, a riotous energy was on display, and the audience reciprocation you hope for definitely arrived as well. A question though, where was the group’s second rapper Hak? Lead vocalist Wiki and producer Sporting Life held it down, but something didn’t quite feel right throughout their performance. The difficult layout of the Thunderdome didn’t help matters. MARTYN PEPPERELL


Royal Blood - Hey Seuss Stage - 3:50pm
The ominous march step of hip hop standard ‘Simon Says’ heralded the start of Royal Blood’s first New Zealand show since their explosion into stardom in the last year. As the sun continued to beat down mercilessly, the Brighton duo waste no time in reminding the somewhat melted crowd as to why they’re being touted so strongly by current rock royalty as one of rock’s saviors. Storming renditions of hits, ‘Little Monster’ and ‘Out of the Black’ highlighted a tight and punchy set. The latter of which saw the set close after an extended outro and some somewhat aggressive drum kit treatment. PAUL LARSEN


Rustie - Cactus Cat Stage - 4:15pm
Hovering behind his gear with a cigarette dangling from his mouth Rustie looks like a teenage genius in party mode, unleashing total bangers for the entirety of his set. He keeps the heat up alternating between his own prog-electronic tracks and a surprising amount of party raps – there's an interesting dynamic where the crowd will stand around waiting for the drop, then go berserk, then just stand around again waiting for the next one. Drops are in no short supply of course, with his jaw-dropping anthem Slasherr being probably the BIGgest track heard today – awesome. CHRIS CUDBY


SOHN - Thunderdome - 7:25pm
Despite being confined to the small and imperfectly formed Thunderdome, British electro/R&B artist Sohn amassed a decent crowd of dedicated fans as well as refugees from the horror that was Banks’s live show.The Thunderdome’s layout meant that no-one could see a damn thing (aside from perhaps Lorde and her security guard at the front), so there was a bonus sideshow where punters tried to climb every part of the interior while backstage staff pelted them with drink bottles. However, Sohn’s hypnotic and rather beautiful set made excellent use of the acoustics in the silo and went down like cool drink after the heat and chaos of the day. LOUISA KASZA


St.Vincent - Cactus Cat Stage - 9:25pm
Closing out the Cactus Cat Stage, but deserving of a main stage slot was the one and only Annie Clark aka St Vincent. The tired, but enthusiastic crowd, who had made it over were treated to a set which included hits from all four albums. Clark can shred the guitar better than most and she showed a dizzying display of unique guitar wizardry throughout the set. Add in black latex dress, syncronised dance moves and overall it was a perfect and fun way to end an enjoyable day. BEN COLEY


Tiny Ruins - Mysterex Stage - 12:30pm
The sun's beating down hard and my RSI is crippling, Tiny Ruins take the edge off with their buoyant and erudite chamber-folk which goes down a treat with the early afternoon punters. ‘Me At The Museum, You At The Winter Garden’ is a highlight from the four-piece, as is their closer which morphs slowly into a cinematic post-rock canter leaving me thinking two things: this is a great start to the day, and man I'm glad I'm wearing shorts. CHRIS CUDBY

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Laneway Festival 2015
Vic Mensa

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