Long Form

Live Review: St. Jerome’s Laneway Festival 2011, Singapore

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29 January 2011 @ Fort Canning Park, Singapore

When it was confirmed that Australia’s renowned Laneway Festival was coming SEA-way, the excitement was palpable across the interwebs. Not only did the organisers throw one of the better press conferences in recent memory – headliner The Temper Trap actually showed up for a surprise acoustic performance – they pulled together a truly kickass line-up that made many a Pitchfork devotee foam at the mouth.

As festival day rolled about, so did the storm clouds. You would’ve heard by now that it rained incessantly during the festival, earning it the name Rainway. While it was a muddy and sole-sucking (RIP the many destroyed shoes) affair, it didn’t deter the scores of fans who stood for hours in the cold, simply to enjoy the music.

All-girl band Warpaint were first, enjoying the luxury of some sun. On recording, their mixture of sweet vocalisations and experimental art rock stylings might be a little prosaic for some, but live, Warpaint sparkled with a restraint energy that worked wonderfully for their music.

I had no expectations for Ladyhawke as my exposure to her music was limited to her 2 big hits, ‘Paris is Burning’ and ‘My Delirium’. As little as I knew though, she delivered an entertaining set that got the crowd buzzing enough to stay on despite the rain that had begun to fall. A perfect set-up perhaps for the next act, Beach House?

With hair in her eyes, vocalist Victoria Legrand lulled the crowd into a quiet appreciation. The dreampop maestros hit all the right notes with crowd faves like ‘Norway’, ‘Walk in the Park’ and ‘Zebra’, but I felt slightly disconnected with their performance. The atmospherics of their tunes are so noted for that it felt lost in the wide open space. I felt listless enough to up and grab a beer. Things didn’t really turn around for me even when Deerhunter took the stage. Bradford Cox’s vocals sounded uncomfortable at parts and the band lacked the stage presence that would help them catch the attention of casual listeners. Fans, however, did swoon when ‘Helicopter’ was played.

The next act thoroughly lived up to their name – Holy Fuck, what is going on here?! Their set left many with conflicted emotions. On one hand, you are so entranced by their instrumentation, technique and intensity that you can’t help but gape at the stage. On the other hand, the music is so complex and catchy that you cannot help but dance to their brand of electronica. Overall: an amazing live act.

The livewire performances continued with !!!‘s act. Buoyed by frontman Nic Offer’s flamboyant antics, the crowd lapped up the band’s offering of disco-punk. You may not have known much about !!! before Laneway (no thanks to the unGoogleable nature of their name), but I’m pretty sure even the most blasé of festgoers would remember the gyrating singer in short shorts.

The night was promising to get better. One of 2010’s most hyped acts, Yeasayer, was going to prove their worth. Kicking off with ‘Madder Red’ was smart as it got everyone singing along. The dynamic vocal duo of Anand Wilder – in his funky pajama pants – and Chris Keating – who sings with eyes closed – was great to watch and when merged in harmony for the joy that is ‘O.N.E.’, made one of the best moments of the festival. Dancing poncho people, everywhere!

Foals rode on the good vibes left by Yeasayer and elevated it into another level. They were the tightest band on the line-up, sounding almost like a replica of their albums. Their set inspired dancing thanks to ‘Cassius’, ‘Blue Blood’ and Total Life Forever’, but it also gave me chills when they went into ‘Spanish Sahara’. Their intensity was matched only by the pouring rain. You could tell many were there just for Foals by the mini exodus that followed after their set.

We were now in the final hour of Laneway, and had been shivering for 10 hours. The Temper Trap were the most commercial act on the line-up, and thousands were left standing for them. I wish I could say it was worth the wait. Though the band sounded great technically, Dougy Mandagi’s vocals were painful at parts; a breathless, screechy, nasally mess. What happened? Was it intense touring taking a toll on his chords? Also, the wind machines and dramatic lights were a little too cheesy – it’s not a music video, there’s no need to pose. Laneway was concluded with ‘Sweet Disposition’, but I don’t know, I felt we could have all watched the trailer to (500) Days of Summer and left happier.

So Laneway – next year? Why the hell not? But please, maybe Kuala Lumpur in 2012. We sure know how to hire better bomohs at the very least.

For more see photos from the festival click HERE.

Write up by Sarah Chan
Twitter: @sarchan

Photos by Didi Ramlan
Twitter: @MisDeeds