live review

Laneway Festival 2013

Laneway Festival 2013

January 28 2013
Silo Park, Auckland

If your aim at Laneway Festival this year was to drink a bunch booze, go to the loo a lot and not get too much sun – then you may not have had the best day. Yes, four years on and the festival was at capacity, the sun was again relentless and for a time so were the queues for said booze and loos. But if you were in it for the music there were many rewards to be reaped with some truly special moments - particularly the debut Auckland performance by New York noiseniks A Place To Bury Strangers.

As with previous years, we have gathered together a bunch of music enthusiasts to share their thoughts on some of the acts they caught - here are their reviews in order of appearance and please feel free to share your thoughts on the day by commenting below…

Kings of Convenience

“Snap your fingers…Don’t clap, it’s too early for clapping.” Such were the dry midday sentiments of Eirik from Norwegian duo Kings of Convenience as they effortlessly kicked off Laneway. I was little curious as to why an international that would have surely headlined a decade ago, was opening ceremonies. I would have much preferred the pair’s hushed voices later in the day, while the sun disappeared behind the silos, but their stripped back renditions of ‘Misread’, ‘Me in You’ and ‘24-25’ turned out to be the perfect start to the day. When the rest of their rhythmic ensemble finally joined them for closer ‘I’d Rather Dance with You’, complete with a dance party led by long limbed Erlend, it was obvious why Laneway chose them to usher in the day. Thom Brown

Street Chant

Since emerging a few years back now, Street Chant’s live show has gone from strength to strength. Opening up the Hey Seuss Stage, their sound was energetic and powerful, perfectly paced and poised. Lead singer/guitarist Emily Littler’s guitar work was impressively defined, and alongside this, her live singing voice continues to develop. Supported by Billie Rogers's considered bass lines and Alex Brown's dynamic drumming, their form at Laneway suggests exciting possibilities for their next album. Equally exciting was the large audience in attendance while they performed. A nice touch was the addition of some guest horn work from Steven Huf of Sharpie Crows. Martyn Pepperell

Deer Park

The first band of the day on the Cactus Cat Stage, Deer Park were greeted by a surprisingly large and enthusiastic audience. For this performance longstanding core band members (and cousins) Shannon Walsh aka Shanalog (laptop/trumpet) and Nick Walsh (vocals/keyboards), were joined by a drummer and a saxophone player. Operating in an interzone somewhere in between the clear voiced indie rock of Morrissey, and his many vocal descendents, and the contemporary beat music scene associated with labels such as Brainfeeder and Hyperdub, they found their own space. At points when the woodwind and brass parts joined the mix the music shifted towards the bassy soundworlds articulated by Fat Freddy's Drop, which rather than drifting into boredom, underscored how effectively the conventions of dub reggae can be integrated into this sort of music. Martyn Pepperell


Often described on the internet as "Bon Iver's favourite band", when Polica took to the Mysterex Stage the first thing I noted was how badly they are represented on YouTube . While they aren't quite as good live as they are recorded, they're a lot better than you might think from some of the live videos out there. Working with two drummers (one of whom was triggering electronic sounds as well) and a bassist, lead singer Channy Leaneagh worked through a cycle of synthesiser underscored post-rock with strong coldwave, RnB and minimalism informed sensibilities. Channy's rich voice rang out strong, while counterpoint drum rhythms cycled in and out of each other through gurgling synthesisers and huge bass line support. Working through material off their debut album, Polica was one of those bands who were truly excited to be performing in New Zealand. The audience ate it up. Martyn Pepperell

The Eversons

“Hot for Me” took on new meaning on the Cactus Stage as the sun burnt a permanent tramp stamp on many a denim short wearing onlooker. Gosh by golly these boys are tight musically. Crisp guitars and harmonious vocals were clear and all last years sound issues seemed a distant memory, as the Eversons pumped out their brand of bipolar pop with such a self-assured energy that would have made the fab-four proud. An American in the crowd even remarked “It’s nice to see a NZ band unashamed of being poppy.” Hear hear. “Terminally Lame” and “Marriage” were particular favourites against the iconic galvanised backdrop behind them. Thom Brown

Cloud Nothings

Cloud Nothings were a buoyant opening to the early afternoon, despite their modest crowd. The Ohioans tore through their set with almost too much charisma – at times it looked like the band was about to fall apart from all the energy. At the same time, their newer, more predictable material stole from the disruptive excitement of their noisier stuff. Of course, they were always going to play their catchier music – but at those points even the band looked like they could’ve played themselves to sleep. Even still, it broke up the set nicely, as too much of one thing would have got old fast – especially noisy jams, climactic as they were. Maybe most enthused by the set was the entire lineup of Real Estate, perched on the side of the stage to marvel. Michael McClelland

Lawrence Arabia

Lawrence Arabia was the first act of the day to really get me bubbling with anticipation. James Milne and his band just seem to get better and better with their live performances and sound setup. Considering that the band incorporated trumpets, saxophones, keyboards, multiple guitars, and even a mini string ensemble, Lawrence Arabia probably achieved the most crisp and tight sound of the day. Their musicianship was equally impressive. Roaring through their repertoire of 60’s pop rock, the crowd were treated to the banter and general showmanship of Milne (NZ’s best frontman IMO) and his delightful tunes. ‘Apple Pie Bed’ was the unrivaled highlight of the set which, like many of the day, was over too fast but still was my highlight of the day. Christopher Hunt

Phoenix Foundation

The Phoenix Foundation emerged for yet another Laneway performance on the main stage greeted by an eager audience, the Wellingtonians having not performed around these parts for what feels like years. The performance itself appeared to be largely unheard material off their upcoming new album with the group, as always, at home on stage. They seemed to be ‘jamming’ a fair bit through their setlist, or it could have just been the unfamiliar material, and as the set came to an end, they unleashed ‘Buffalo’ onto the crowd in what was easily the most explosive song of the day (up until that point). Now we’re all just waiting for the new album! Christopher Hunt

The Men

With an energetic 70's vibe, The Men bounded through their set with obvious enthusiasm. Three vocalists taking turns at lead reinforced their eclectic appropriation of influences : at times almost recalling Golden Earing's Radar Love and others evoking the spectre of Bob Dylan while mostly channeling 70's NY punk rock's fascination with 50s and 60s pop. They consistently conveyed a sense of exuberance and freedom through out their show, making it hard not to smile. Clearly adept flatterers, they closed their set with The Chill's Pink Frost galvanized with their twin guitar adrenalised approach. Nich Cunningham

Real Estate

We needed a powering thump or two after the Phoenix Foundation – even if it came through a layer or two of delay pedals. Like many of the audiences on the day, Real Estate’s crowd seemed only mildly interested in the band, as if entertaining a recommendation of some friend on the internet. But as soon as they churned out their hit, ‘It’s Real’, the crowd quickly turned and restlessly bounced along with the band. Michael McClelland

Of Monsters and Men

With their careful woven melodies and wistful charm the Icelandic folk-rock six piece had their crowd totally captivated. They boasted one of the day's more interesting collections of musical instruments with horns and an accordion adding some additional flavour to proceedings. 'Little Talks', 'Dirty Paws', and set closer 'Six Weeks' left all in attendance with a serene smile on their face. Ricardo Kerr


Raucous punk rock duo Japandroids were clearly in their element on stage. Their brand of volatile, fly-off-the-handle, rock physically shook the Cactus Cat stage and threatened to overpower their beleaguered amps. Singer Brian King explained from the outset that their goal was to cram as many songs into their 45 minute set as possible. By all accounts this was mission accomplished with little room given to catch one's breath before diving into the next track. With numbers like 'Fire's Highway' and 'Younger Us' in tow given rousing renditions, none were left wanting. Ricardo Kerr

A Place To Bury Strangers

A Place to Bury Strangers' set was physical to say the least. But putting aside the numerous attempts and successes at destroying their equipment, A Place To Bury Strangers played a commanding set. Maybe it was the blistering sun, but it seemed there was no let up to their intensity or energy. A powerful and robust rhythm section underscored densely textured sonic guitar work into a confronting wall of sound. It was a suitable homecoming for bassist Dion Lunadon and quite possibly one of his best bands yet. I have to confess, I am completely unfamiliar with their recorded work thus mine was a (relatively) unclouded reaction. So when I say they were the stand out band of the day, it shows the quality of their performance. A Place to Bury Strangers also played a great eclectic pysche-inspired DJ set at the Thunder Dome later in the day. Nich Cunningham


From behind the stacked singlet-wearing twat getting a homoerotic shoulder ride from his fellow gym buddy I could slightly make out the silhouettes of Mercury-prize darlings Alt-J. Whether it was the borderline dubstep synth bass that was getting their jockstraps in a twist I did not know but as I listened behind their sweaty, gyrating frames I realised something quite special was happening. The Leeds boys blend of sea shanty folkstep was transcending the unspoken mythical divide between jock and twee and Alt J were at the heart of the phenomena. It was frighteningly mesmerising. The band’s folky big bass anthems shone in the sun and particular highlights ‘Tessalate’ and ‘Breezeblocks’ sounded as clear and intricate as their record. I was a little bummed the Bollywood guitar line dropped out in ‘Taro’ but my new buff gymster buddies didn’t seem to mind. Thom Brown

Divine Fits

Divine Fits had the unfortunate task of playing a gig at 6.15pm at Laneway, when the combination of booze and sun-stroke had made the crowd - or at least myself - lethargic and unmotivated. So it was gratifying to see people stagger towards the Mysterex Stage as Divine Fits performed, their siren song triumphing over early-evening laziness. The group (in reality a "supergroup" led Wolf Parade's Dan Boeckner and Spoon's Britt Daniel) seemed perfectly serviceable, if perhaps not a whole lot of fun, with driving beats and Bryan Ferry like vocals. Things became much more exciting about half way through the set, when the synth-pop infused "My Love is Real", "Also Would That Not Be Nice" and "Like Ice Cream" shook the crowd out of their summer haze. Hannah Cooke

Jessie Ware

While I absolutely love Jessie Ware and the music she makes, she was somewhat of a “black sheep” at this year’s rock-heavy Laneway. Her contribution however was appreciated, her seductive and smooth tunes with the near-sunset backdrop of the Waitemata Harbour was a delightful heaven from the packed and loud main stages. Jessie and her three backing band members played exclusively off her debut album, Devotion, while in between songs she shared her feelings of being so happy to be in New Zealand. Her voice live was a powerful as it is on CD and she really enjoyed being a front woman, and she played it well. Her oh-so-British accent coupled with her oh-so-cute black dress left her as a real pleasure to watch and listen to as the sun began to fall into the evening. Christopher Hunt


The weight of expectation on Bailterspace was no doubt massive and an intimate environment has always suited their music more than open air festivals. Compounding this was the fact that the three original members have not played together live in quite some time. Consequently, their set took a moment or two to gel but that is not to say it was disappointing. Filling forty-five minutes with a mere five tracks, Parker, Halvorsen and McLachlan reminded us that Bailterspace live is a distinct and different beast from their recorded material as they expanded considerably on their studio versions. The set focused on their first three albums featuring ‘Tanker’ and ‘Your Invisible Life’ from their debut with ‘Fuse and Skin’ from 1990's Thermos plus ‘Begin’ (I think..) from Robot World. The audience was also treated to a rare if not singular performance by Bailterspace of the Gordon's ‘Machine Song’. It was a choice selection of tunes demonstrating that it has always been Bailterspace's excellent taste that sets them apart. Nich Cunningham


A lot can change in two years. Yeasayer played the 2011 Laneway Festival at Aotea Square off the back of their critically acclaimed and mainstream breakthrough record, Odd Blood and the enthusiasm of both the band and crowd reflected their success. I interviewed Chris Keating during the promo runs for both Odd Blood and their latest - and really not that good - album Fragrant World, and the latter was a comparatively sombre affair that I expected to be reflected by their live performance. Luckily as a huge fan of both their debut and sophomore records I was proved wrong as the African-chic-core (although there was less tie-dye this time) members Keating, Anand Wilder and Ira Wolf Tuton rollicked through a diverse set that included the best cuts from all three releases. Keating's between-song banter was totes hilarious (apparently New Zealanders are really bad at enthusiastically singing along), Ira Tuton's pants were the best thing I've ever seen, the Fragrant World cuts they played sounded MUCH better live than recorded, and they closed their set with All Hour Cymbals stand-out and the perfect accompaniment to sunset, 'Wait for the Summer'. Shucks guys, I'm officially a fan again. Courtney Sanders


This Sydney-based beatmaker provided some intriguing variety to a festival of otherwise inoffensive indie guitar bands. The crowd was just as welcoming to this change of flavour – the first six or seven rows appeared to be moving as one. Not even for Shayne Carter’s set in 2012 did the faraway ‘Cactus Cat’ stage get so packed, so festival planners have done well in allocating international acts to this spot this time round. There were few sound issues, either – but how much can technical difficulties really get in the way for solo computer-based performers like Flume? One way or another, it was an interesting, new pursuit for Laneway. Michael McClelland

Bat For Lashes

Standing centre stage and dressed a bit like a disco Ferrero Rocher, Natasha Khan had the crowd in her pocket within moments of arriving on stage. Despite having a new album to push, the set was filled with hit singles and favorites off all three albums, with "Horse and I" and "What's a Girl To Do" getting rapturous responses from the crowd. Performing as the sun went down over the Festival, often while shaking a maraca, Khan's set added some much needed glamour to Laneway. Live, Bat For Lashes felt bigger and gutsier, with Khan letting rip on tunes that I'd previously found slightly undercooked. "Lillies", with the refrain "thank god I'm alive" sung out solo without her band's back up, had a welcome starkness not seen so much in her earlier albums. The best moments came at towards the end of the set, though, as she channelled a torch singer for a shiver-inducing performance of "Laura", before giving the crowd what they wanted for the finale - a no-holds-barred performance Two Sun's "Daniel". Hannah Cooke

Phelps and Munro

Phelps and Munro, aka reclusive musician Gerald Phillips, couldn’t have found a better place than the new Thunderdome stage for his first live performance in nearly a decade. Squirreled away in the far corner of the festival in a blacked out base of an old grain silo, a duo (classic Phelps and Munro guise) stood atop a podium and rained down brutal electronica on a small but enthusiastic crowd. Throughout the set I was reminded of Aphlex Twin, and now how much I want to see them live, with enduring single ‘Horse Winning Without Rider’ providing the perfect interlude between the heavy glitch and beats. Angela Windust

Tame Impala

For a band with arguably the most anticipated set at Laneway 2013, Tame Impala seemed remarkably unaffected. They sauntered on stage and just got down to business, calmly playing a near perfect mix of hits and long, psychedelic jams from Innerspeaker and last year's release, Lonerism. The jams were deceptive - just when you thought they were on the verge of petering out, the band would pull together for a definitive, satisfying ending before moving on. For such an unassuming group, you had to admire the talent and discipline that it takes to pull off carrying a Laneway crowd through an extended psychedelic groove session. But it was the last show of the night and the audience was feeling undeniably funky, so pulsating, riff-filled tunes like "Feels Like We Only Go Backwards", "Elephant" and "Half Full Glass Of Wine" provided ample opportunity for the crowd to let their freak flags fly. Hannah Cooke

Nicolas Jaar

As the hordes of punters crammed their way into the space of Tame Impala, a much smaller group were culminating at the far end stage awaiting the relatively unknown Nicolas Jaar. While a small crowd, most members knew of Jaar and the captivating show he was to produce. Bringing on tour his left and right guitarist and saxophonist, Jaar held his small audience in the palm of his hand for 50 minutes. Looking like three mates on stage just simply jamming, the atmosphere created by the on-stage threesome was surpassed by no other group at Laneway. Essentially a “dance-act”, Jaar sat behind his laptop and double keyboards programming the beats, the other two members traded guitar-saxophone licks over Jaar’s occasional deep hellish vocals. Playing as a continual jam, Jaar pulled riffs and hooks from his studio recording while changing most of it up to accommodate for the live inclusion of guitar and saxophone. As easily one of the highlights of the day, Jaar whole heartedly deserved his spot as a closing act on the bill. Hopefully next time he’s in NZ, a greater number of people will be lucky/smart enough to witness his live magic. Christopher Hunt

Laneway Crowd
Bat For Lashes

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