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Now for our regularly scheduled program featuring the Laneway Music Festival.
Preface: I went to Laneway in Brisbane last weekend and thanks to the sweltering heat, I was able to sweat out my hangover fairly quickly. I’m not going to write a play-by-play of the day because I did the same thing everyone else did at a festival: drink beer, see music, sit on some grass, slap a shitload of sunscreen on and eat overpriced food. And I’m not going to talk about every single act I saw. Instead, I want to talk about the three bands that impressed me enough to stick around through a hangover and potential heat stroke.
The first band I see is Shame. I race through the entrance of Laneway just as Shame start. I can hear their thunderous bass booming across the oval, and their deep drum kicks punching between the brick buildings that scatter the RNA Showgrounds. They are playing Dust on Trial, the opening track off their 2018 album Songs of Praise. Their loud and gloomy post-punk has brought a sizeable crowd for an early morning set; a true testament to the London band who are visiting Brisbane for the first time. I’ve been on the Shame bandwagon since I saw a performance of The Lick back in 2016 on YouTube, and I fan-girl a fair bit when the groaning bass opener begins live. Vocalist Charlie Steen stands in the centre of the stage, shirt unbuttoned, showing his pasty English skin and sweating up a storm. The boys don’t look prepared for the Queensland Summer, but they still perform with heart and put on a fucking great show. They perform with passion and confidence for such a young band stepping foot on foreign soil. They bounce around, roll, tumble and even crowd surf. And this is just one of the openers for the day. I haven’t seen an opener this good since The Medics at Big Day Out 2012. One Rizla is another highlight as Steen’s hooks add a pop twang against their punky roots. Shame are often sighted as sounding like The Fall, which is a fair comparison, but their live set show the band at their best; a powerful, energetic bunch of lads who can write some great tunes. Seeing Shame live in their home town is now on my bucket list.
Alex Cameron is another artist I’m excited to see at Laneway. Even though he’s on a stage that’s hot enough to cook a steak dinner, I still brave the mighty yellow bastard to see Cameron and his crew live. His album Forced Witness was one of the greats of 2017, mixing catchy-as-hell pop hooks against cheesy riffs you’d expect the cast of Glee to rip off. Accompanied on sax by his friend and business partner, Roy Molloy, Cameron performs the best of Forced Witness. But not before Molloy goes full memestream and begins to review the stool he sits on in between sax solos. It’s funny, and suits the humour that Cameron pulls off in his lyrics. Cameron’s song writing ability is what caught my eye when he was first suggested to me. His hooks on every track are straight out of the 80s playbook, but Cameron’s lyrics elevate his music to a satirical level that not many other artists can do. Kirin J Callinan is one who rivals, but I personally favour Cameron. Runnin’ Outta Luck, True Lies and Studmuffin96 are the highlights of the set, but my favourite is the live rendition of Marlon Brando. It’s cheesy, funny and once again catchy as fuck. And it has the entire audience dancing through the heat.
The final band I had on my must-see list is Badbadnotgood. I’ve been wanting to see these guys for years, and here they are, one of the closing bands to the festival (at least for me, I left after I saw them). I stand back from the stage, but still close enough to catch the magnificent drum work by Alexander Sowinski. The audience continue to pack in moving closer to the stage. I join the fans around me and sit down to chill out with the hip hop/jazz instrumentation. The size of the crowd is a testament to the modern jazz band. It’s not every day you see a crowd of this size support jazz musicians. Their songs are vibrant as they fluctuate between intricate jazz melodies. Chester Hansen’s bass lines shine through, showcasing the instrument in a way I haven’t heard live in a long time. His bass notes have a softness to them as if plucked from a cherub, yet he plays vigorously, moving up and down the neck. Triangle is a highlight amongst the crowd, as well as Lavender. Their performance is one of the most technical I’ve seen, yet they are still able to interact and feed off the crowd. Towards the end of the set, Sowinski conducts the audience to move down low as the band decrescendo, bringing them back up as the band start playing louder. It’s magnificent to see live, and I’m glad Badbadnotgood brought in such a large crowd.
Now I could wait around to see The War on Drugs, but I’m tired, over the crowds and possibly sunburnt, so I decide to go home. Like I said in my previous Laneway piece, this might be my last festival I go to, at least for a while. But if it is my last festival, I’m glad I saw these three bands.
This is Nick Devin in Brisbane, signing off.