St. Jerome’s Laneway Festival
@ Fort Canning,
February 12th 2012
featuring Anna Calvi, Austra, Chairlift, Cults, Feist, Girls, Laura Marling, M83, The Drums, The Horrors, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, Toro Y Moi, Twin Shadow and Yuck.
A potted history. Laneway, as it is known commonly, was born in Melbourne eight years ago. It’s insurrectionary mix of indie bands lorded by the press has speedily grown and multiplied outside of it’s infant home. The Singapore version, the only one outside of Australia, enjoys a second year once again at Fort Canning Park a historical location often used for big name concerts in the city. In one day, fourteen bands, four up on it’s freshers year, take to a split stage appropriately, if a little clinically named, Stage 1 and Stage 2. The full 2012 lineup for Singapore. Anna Calvi, Austra, Chairlift, Cults, Feist, Girls, Laura Marling, M83, The Drums, The Horrors, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, Toro Y Moi, Twin Shadow and Yuck.
The day dawned clouded and pale yet as the gates opened at Fort Canning the sun filled the sky and thetemperature increased. The International crowd were displaying less hospitable bon homme that I’ve come to know as part of a festival experience regardless of the country, musical inclination or even the scale of, such a huge self involved crowd of indie kids, were they here to be seen here or to hear and see? What was this day going to be like and was my hair okay?
Sparing you excessive pondering we will cover the festivals highlights and notable performances. Opening the day New York’s Cults whom sporting Cheshire cat grins immediately filled the air with a fresh cut, melodious sound of a hazy summer. “Go Outside” made the crowd forget their surrounding as a barefooted Madeline Folinplayfully danced, squealed and threw around her hair in a delightful flirtation with an already enraptured audience.
A stage fully adorned with colourful flowers, Girls, Christopher Owen walked on and delivers a clearly personal and genuinely emotional acoustic ‘I Will Always Love You’ the breeze in the air stirs his blonde hair around unhappy eyes and a catch in his voice almost silences the audience, there is no bombastic voice work and his sincerity is clear. Following their debut album the San Fransisco ‘duo’ last year produced ‘Father Son, Holy Ghost’ an elegant love lost narrative, radio friendly in parts this is an album that in turn is unbounded by the need to produce anything for radio.’Laura’ faltered only by technical issues Owens has the audience enraptured.
“No big deal” he laments as sound problems continue “were here to be with each other” Owens is lyrically sugar and crazy angst attitude as he continues to fight the issues with his guitars, everyones’s forgiving. As the surf rock intro of ‘Honey Bunny’ starts up Owens takes us on a journey of obsessed love, or is it unrequited love, or no like Owens himself it’s possibilities are myriad, the whole of Laneway is right there up and down with each beat. It seems they have hardly started when the flowers are torn from the tape holding them in place and thrown to the air and desperate grasping hands. Instantly next door The Drums start what was to be an phenomenal performance. Jonathan Pierce singing like he had lives to save in a to cool to care minimalist style of course.
In the most flawless baritone Pirerce launches into ‘Best Friend’ and the crowd launches skywards, pretensions tossed aside as they loose themselves, it’s hot – it’s really hot and it’s sunny no no it’s really sunny “It’s hot up here too” Johnny informs but there is a deal to be made “you dance I dance – deal” he demands as the band energetically deliver “Money”. All to soon last song what? no it can’t be “The Future” Pierce’s voice ring solid as the symphony of glockenspiels bringing about rapturous appreciation and adoration.
The sun has paled and the night is fast approaching us, the stage lights pick out the many shades of blue, purple and grey in the rain free sky. We’ve had a first class soundtrack to our (double) queueing for beers, new international friendships are forged and cemented with shared passions, our scorched skin feels right ~ it feels mighty alright. The almost entirely back to back performances make for an unrelenting luxuriance of sights, sounds and emotions. As time does move and the night is well upon us faster than we all expected.
The Horrors grungy punk of “Strange House” fills the dark heated night air like a decadent thick gas. As Faris Badwan staggers and wanders stage front, a building of synth brick on guitar brick is creating a monumental and unescapable euphoric noise room locking you in and your not leaving your theirs for as long as they decide to imprison you. “Moving Further Away” live is both more melodious and grittier “I’m the only one that flies” purrs Badwan the tracks key and tempo changes it’s a moving force, Joe Spurgeon’s drum works as the stitches keeping it coherent as all in the audience surrender ~ we are all fan girls right now. Standing on the stage edge Faris is almost physically bridging the space between them and us as he sways and states “Thank you” a happiness evident in his tone and smile for those that can see.
The future of British rock ~ a debate for the future perhaps its ancillary at this moment, and as that vibrant voice with it’s tense undercurrent sings “When you wake you’ll find me” you believe and you want this to be so and as the shivers run down your spine you question is Faris stating a promise or a threat.
M83 close the festival, disappointingly for me, with an almost total abandonment of lyrics. Forgive me I like the trapezoidal nature of song and music be it poetic, abstract or even trite it’s just a preference. However the ambient reverbing instamentals glouriously allowed many to throw off their final constrants and become consumed, as “We Own the Sky” engulfed the crowd. It all seemed a slide down rather than ending on an elevated high, like The Horrors had delivered. The shuffle away from Fort Canning on danced sore bones our toasted faces and belly’s of beer we fill the warm Singapore night with exuberant reminiscent chatter of the day. Must not forget the chaotic feedback of Yuck as Daniel Blumberg spun and bounced, or Chairlift with Caroline Polancecks stunning clear vocals filling the sun soaked air or Austra with that punk stained drum heavy dance vibe that got half the festival audience moving to their beat. The highlights, no no the highlight was to be there, be absobed by and melted by the atmosphere from first note till last that was the highlight.