The upside of experiencing Laneway Festival as the sun goes down is the Singapore breeze and the stage effects. After a sweltering and sticky afternoon at The Meadows, having the sun set came as a huge relief. The downside is that half the time you’ll find yourself manoeuvring the Laneway obstacle course that is a sequence of crushed beer cans, picnic mats, piles of plastic bags and concertgoers in the dark. At this point, we’ve seen the full effect of a 13,000 strong sold out show.
Being the first stopover makes Singapore somewhat the pre-release trailer for the entire Laneway Festival feature event. But anyone present at the show will tell you that it was no teaser, and you’ll soon learn why.
You’d probably already know this but Laneway Festival doubles up as a fashion show, making Gardens by the Bay a colourful mosaic via a drone assisted plan view. Couple that with a considerably sizeable crowd including a healthy visitor turnout and you get a high bar of expectations for a certain returning music festival (Camp Symmetry anyone?).
The thing about festivals is some acts command larger crowds than others. This was all the more pertinent during Royal Blood’s set; it felt like the entire Laneway contingent swarmed towards the Garden Stage to catch Mike Kerr and Ben Thatcher.
On record Royal Blood is hard-hitting enough, but catching them live gives you the same feeling you get from watching a concert for the first time. Their rock and roll riffs receive approving nods from the crowd, which we later learnt were merely gentle variations of the headbang. For Laneway Festival, the headbanging to non-headbanging ratio was astonishingly high to say the least. Royal Blood wasted no time in powering through the good parts of their self-titled debut album. Their set was a good-natured “fuck you” to those questioning how two guys can make music that noisy.
With a ton of stage equipment, no one could imagine how Jungle’s seven piece assemble were going to incorporate dance patterns. It was also a sneak peak of what was to come for the night show – lights wise. For Jungle, if they were to do Funk, they were always going to do it right. As dynamic as the supporting cast were, Tom McFarland and Josh Lloyd-Watson were always the centerpiece of their sunset slot.
Then came Little Dragon as part of the adjacent stage-switching routine. Star vocalist Yukimi Nagano receives most of the attention the band gets, and deserves it. Gracefully sheathed in a silky kimono dress, Nagano quickly averts the attention with a series of convoluted dance moves.
Little Dragon is exciting as a live act not merely because of Nagano’s live wire personality – the electronic quartet avoid their slow jams during performances. Their high octane set was even getting the attention from people gathered at the adjacent stage. Little Dragon were effectively playing on both stages at this point. Sadly, the nature of music festivals is there is no oh-so-typical end-of-set encore, leaving the crowd and us wanting more.
Skipping Chet Faker wasn’t part of the plan but there was no choice. Born Nicholas James Murphy, the Australian musician was on the other side at Cloud Stage, which if anything was a ridiculous setting for this highly anticipated show. Rushing over from Little Dragon’s set meant that you wouldn’t be anywhere near Faker on stage. That being said, space was impossibly tight, acoustics (if you could even hear his sexy beats amid a chattering, shoving crowd) were terrible, and we’d go on but well, you get the idea.
Heading over to see Banks was a painful yet rewarding decision. If this music thing doesn’t work out for her (highly unlikely notion) she could very well find herself an alternate profession in modelling. It’s not hard to see why; her set at the Garden Stage was a lesson in catwalking, albeit with synth pop accompaniment.
“This has been the most incredible experience,” notes Jillian Rose, better known as her alias Banks. We all know that’s not entirely true, but we applaud her for her generosity. It’s worth pointing out that to fully enjoy Banks you have to close your eyes and just listen. But then you’d have missed her captivating stage presence; Jilian meanders around the raised platform covering every square metre. It’s a good kind of disappointment either way you look at it.
A worried parent lurks around the peripherals of the festival ground. She’s either concerned the last set starts at 11pm (way past her 16 year old son’s bedtime) or the petite performer working her sultry moves on the Bay Stage. The latter is a testament to FKA Twigs’ mesmerising disposition. Every hip thrust is executed to maximum effect. But it wasn’t just a bouncing around the stage kind of affair for Tahliah Barnett. She is equally impressive in the vocal department, and after a long day at Laneway, her every note crooned is an antidote for aching souls and aching soles.
With all due respect to Lykke Li, at this point we are wondering if anyone felt her absence at all.
By the time St. Vincent took the stage, the fields amassing the two main stages were at full capacity. Perhaps she had collected some refugees returning from FKA Twigs and Jon Hopkins. Annie Clark cuts an enigmatic figure – her self-titled album and music videos suggest she’s a peculiar little pastel princess but we’re missing the peculiar bit live. Recorded material seldom provides insight into an artist’s versatility, but St. Vincent’s moments with the guitar eliminated the “princess” predisposition we had about her.
With the night drawing to a close, we hear the words “great” and “amazing” more than we think we’ve ever heard. There was a sense that Laneway Festival has finally begun to take shape in Singapore. It was a real hassle jostling between adjacent stages, making the entire affair seem like festival speed dating, but that’s when you know you’re at a legit music festival. Its growth has been incremental and the sold-out crowd speaks volumes of its progress. One thing’s for sure – it’s going to take a lot for Laneway 2016 to top this.
Special thanks to Chugg Entertainment and Laneway Festival Singapore for having us at the festival.
Photo credits: Laneway Festival Singapore / Chugg Entertainment