Laneway Festival had punters spoilt for choice in 2018

It has its quirks, but there's no denying the quality of this festival. 

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David Harris

From what began as an indie music event in a humble CBD laneway some 13 years ago, Laneway Festival has become an absolute juggernaut, and with a lineup this strong it’s not hard to see why music lovers and tastemakers alike flock to every annual instalment.

On their debut trip to Melbourne, South London lads Shame brought a barrage of sound. Their blistering set was full of rage, energy and wit, proving to the moderately assembled crowd why their name keeps popping up across social media. The only shame here was that there weren’t more people out early to enjoy it.

Over at the Future Classic stage, Arnhem Land rapper Baker Boy had his crowd dancing along in the sunshine – and it didn’t look like there was anything that could wipe the grin from his face. The call and response during ‘Cloud 9’ (“Baker-Boy”, “Strong-Culture”) got the crowd using their voices, but it was Baker’s didge freestyle that really got them amped. A new album track ‘Mr Ladidadi’ followed, but it was of course ‘Marryuna’ – performed with a pair of break dancers – that really got the crowd going.

Stage times running 20 minutes behind on the Very West stage threw a perfectly curated schedule out of wack, but also allowed for a quick jog over to see Cable Ties tearing a hole in the Dean Turner stage. Dream Wife were, as their name promises, an absolute dream of pop hooks, rock’n’roll spunk and a dose of attitude that ensured they’d be your new fave girl power trio before they left the stage. Few singalongs are as simple yet empowering as “I am not my body, I am somebody.”

Despite the sound issues on the Very West stage (we’ve all come to expect it right?), Billie Eilish cut through. The issues she had in Adelaide were clearly a thing of the past. Here, her voice was ethereal and stunning – velvety smooth with little effort. Despite her size, her stage presence was grand. From soaring ballads to rnb grooves, synth-heavy rock tunes and a gorgeous, ukulele-led cover of ‘Hotline Bling’, Eilish proved she is a star on the rise.

There isn’t much else to say about Moses Sumney besides this: what a voice. He had an enthusiastic crowd captivated from beginning to end of his mesmerising, beautiful performance. Sumney’s is a voice from the heavens.

For something a little heavier, Wolf Alice’s ferocious rock tunes were calling. They howled and shredded through most of their set, but it was the moments of melody and lightness that proved their versatility. All they need is the big singalong anthems we know they’re building up to and they’ll be a live mainstay for sure.

Loyle Carner is smooth, eloquent and charismatic. His energy feeding into the gathered crowd. His shout out to all the mums was especially charming. Meanwhile, the silky grooves and incredible musicianship of The Internet were on display over at the Very West stage. The band are first class, providing the perfect bed for Syd Tha Kyd’s gorgeous vocals.

Anderson .Paak and the Free Nationals were the definite highlight of the day. Paak is the quintessential frontman – whether he was up the front of the stage dancing around, or showing off his skills behind the drum kit, he had the crowd in the palm of his hands. Not to be overshadowed, the Free Nationals are a tight unit. From the front to the end of the Very West laneway, everyone was dancing and grooving along.

Mac DeMarco was his usual weird and wonderful self. Mixing his “look at me, I’m a big weirdo” persona with some serious musicianship and lush vocals created a weird cocktail of feelings and laughter. From his jangly, love ballads to big choruses, he had the crowd eating out of his hands. Finally, The War On Drugs were ready to close this thing out, and they did it in a haze of smoke. After a day filled with confident, flashy performers, War On Drugs were surprisingly restrained, they didn’t need flash to showcase their brilliance. Instead, their set was a slow-burning wonder – the perfect way to see out Melbourne Laneway.1

Highlight: Being absolutely spoiled for choice.

Lowlight: I’m not great at making decisions.

Crowd Favourite: Anderson .Paak and the Free Nationals.