We here at Bear Family love a good underdog. We’ll root for the Dees every year as they dwindle around the bottom of the ladder, we’ll always give the family run Thai restaurant on the corner a go no matter how questionable the state of their kitchen and we’ve got Eric the Eel’s 100m freestyle heats from Sydney 2000 on repeat 24/7.
So when we perused through the lineup at Laneway 2016, we couldn’t help but notice that the lineup was packed with heavy hitters. CHVRCHES, Purity Ring, Smith Street Band, Grimes and of course the boy wonder himself Flume. What a lineup- How could you pass up a lineup of such high quality?
So naturally we avoided the lot.
We chose to seek out the other guys. The bands stuck with the challenge of filling the smaller stages whilst the masses flocked to see the big guns scheduled alongside them. The stages where you can count the hardcore fans with your fingers and the majority of the crowd is too sweaty or too indifferent to move from their spot in the shade.
Whilst most punters were crammed into the ever narrowing Dean Turner stage to watch local Aussies DMA‘s wear their worst clothes and the other more exotically dressed were on their way to catch hype-boy Shamir in action, we trudged over to the lovely Mistletone stage to watch Canadian’s METZ damn near melt in the sun as they thrashed their way through a high intensity set. With track names as inventive as Kicking a Can of Worms and Dirty Shirt, the METZ boys made quite an impact in their furious yet short set.
Despite our mission to catch the lesser knowns, we couldn’t help but be drawn in by the frivolity and sass that was Shamir‘s set on the Red Bull Academy Stage. With breakthrough hits Vegas and Regular, Shamir charmed the pants off the Melbourne crowd with his lovable, bouncy stage mannerisms and his cuddles all round love for the Aussie crowds.
Avoiding the packed out crowds for Thundercat and The Smith Street Band, we decided that Mistletone stage was our friend and parked ourselves on the hill to watch Indie slackers DIIV sway and cruise their way through a set very much in sync with the hazy late summer weather, before noise rockers HEALTH stepped everything up a notch and woke everyone from their mid-festival corona-comas.
Wandering on stage, the boys from LA wasted no time in screaming their little heads off and thrashing their way into the sunset. With a crazy blend of electronica and heavy metal, HEALTH were a shot in the arm for the Laneway crowd and even saw a few of the more settled in audience members get off their feet and head down to the moshpit. Bassist John Famiglietti traded bass for synth and often put them both away for a couple of good old fashioned hair windmills, while drummer Benjamin Jared Miller was hell-bent on banging his drums to an inch of their life.
Everyone was flocking to the Very West Stage to catch Triple J favs Hermitude or nestle themselves a spot for Aussie heroes Violent Soho, we joined a small crowd of devotees to catch New York math rockers Battles. With drummer John Stanier and his overly extended crash cymbal front and centre, the NY trio glitched and glooped and looped their way through the tightest set of the day. Old school favourite Atlas was a clear highlight, with the crowd growing in enthusiasm as they witnessed a true hidden gem on the trusty old Mistletone stage.
Grimes may have been the hottest act on everyone’s must-see list, however early on in her set, for all the flarey back up dancers and her terrific headwear, the pop starlet failed to impress. We quickly jumped ship to check out the hip-hop stylings of Vince Staples back on the Red Bull Stage. Vince Staples was the epitome of crowd favourite, working the somewhat smaller crowd like a puppeteer, complete with a bold anti-police chant that made the mostly middle class Laneway crowd feel rather sheepish- “Yeah the police aren’t…very…good”. Staples was spitting fire throughout the entire set and set closer Blue Suede threatened to bring the stage down.
It was an almighty stampede of humanity for a good 10 minutes as people made the hard decision- Flume or CHVRCHES? The Aussie wonderboy or synth pop sensations?
For us, the choice was simple- stay at the Red Bull stage and join a minimal crowd of dance fans herded around the the front of stage for Scottish beat wizard Hudson Mohawke. With a lenghty credit reel including work for Kanye West, Pusha T and Drake, Hudson Mohawke was electric, rolling through a monster set including Aziz Anzari certified banger Chimes and dance epic FUSE. With live band in tow, Hudson got the crowd heaving with a strobe heavy lightshow that put Flumes little box to shame.
Laneway always delivered the goods ever since I can remember and they continued their reputation as one of Australia’s finest festival. The best thing about Laneway is their ability to fill the gaps with delightful little surprises wedged throughout. Sometimes you’ve gotta void the big guns to truly experience a magic festival moment and we more than achieved this in Footscray 2016.
WHAT IT LOOKED LIKE- ALL THE ACTION FROM LANEWAY 2016