Lydia Jenkin

Lydia Jenkin is an entertainment feature writer for the New Zealand Herald.

Best bands you've never heard rock Laneway

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Boogie-rockers Japandroids refused to let technical issues on the Cactus Cat Stage dampen the mood for their eclectic set. Photo / Sarah Ivey
Boogie-rockers Japandroids refused to let technical issues on the Cactus Cat Stage dampen the mood for their eclectic set. Photo / Sarah Ivey

It may be known as the music festival for the cool kids, but at this year's Laneway there was something for everyone.

It didn't matter that there was no mainstream crossover act like last year's headlining performance by Gotye.

That was the best thing about this line up - being able to discover weird and wonderful bands you've yet to hear of, getting nostalgic with the ear-splitting splendour of reunited Kiwi noise rock merchants Bailterspace, or seeing hot young things like psychedelic Aussie headliners Tame Impala and the band touted as "the new Radiohead", Alt-J.

There was something oddly addictive about Alt-J's bonkers mix of hip-hop beats and dubby grooves, warped falsettos, and sea shanties. The Mercury Music Prize-winning Brits delivered on all the hype with best known songs Matilda and Breeze Blocks, which got the masses swaying.

There was also five-piece Icelandic group Of Monsters and Men who were a crowd favourite and arguably the biggest band on the bill given their catchy chart-topping anthem Little Talks, which has been in the New Zealand top 10 singles for the last four weeks.

Their large scale, anthemic folk pop, with duel male and female vocals held the attention of a sweltering audience in the heat of the afternoon.

With no Big Day Out this year Laneway took over as Auckland's main music festival. And though it's got a way to go before it eclipses the old festivals popularity, the crowd numbers were up from 5,000 last year to just over 6000.

And on a bigger site there was more than enough room for everyone and allowed for the addition of the Thunderdome stage inside one of the park's towering silos, with the banging bedlam of locals Phelps & Munro a fitting finale.

Norwegian festival openers Kings of Convenience may have kicked things off mellow and folky in the early afternoon with just two fellows and their guitars. But by the end of their hour-long set, they had a full party band on stage.

It was Cloud Nothings who well and truly sparked Laneway into life with their shrieking and scorching rock, while over at the Cactus Stage behind the Silo, Lawrence Arabia was drawing a huge crowd of fans onto the grassy knoll for a homecoming set. With a string quartet plus a five-piece band he had everyone with arms in the air. Hopefully next time they'll find room for him on the main stage.

The Phoenix Foundation also drew a big crowd, entertaining with large swathes of beautiful new material from an upcoming album, complete with new drummer Chris O'Connor, before rounding up with crowd favourite, whimsical, fruity Buffalo.

On a more menacing note, A Place To Bury Strangers, the New York-based trio including Dion Lunadon from the D4 in the line up, were the loudest and nastiest band of the day with their barrage of Jesus and Mary Chain-meets-Born to be Wild-inspired noise.

They were followed by two-man, head-banging boogie-rock machine Japandroids.

Despite the Canadians ongoing technical difficulties the cheery and fun-loving pair launched full-tilt into the riotous Adrenaline Nightshift and searing beauty The House That Heaven Built.

While Bailter Space were not as loud and devastating as they were in their 80s and 90s heyday, the visceral beauty of Your Invisible Life was one of the highlights of the day.

Having been a largely male dominated day, it was up to British it-girls, newcomer Jessie Ware, and award-winner Bat For Lashes to really ramp up the energy as the sun began to set. Raven haired newcomer Ware looked resplendent, large gold hoop earrings shining in the light, her three piece band providing rockier backing than expected for her Whitney Houston-esque vocal performance. She had the crowd dancing just two songs in, to heavier ballad Night Light, a performance that cemented her as a rising star.

Dressed in a shining red gown, Bat For Lashes (real name Natasha Khan), took to the stage with a photo of her home town Brighton beamed onto the screen behind her. She wound her way between tender songs like Laura and Daniel, new upbeat tunes such as All Of Your Gold, and cheeky old classic What's A Girl To Do.

And finishing up the balmy night, Perth five piece Tame Impala may have song titles like Solitude Is Bliss (which they opened with), but there were thousands screaming along as they grooved through 60s-inspired rockers like Elephant, and Feels Like We Only Go Backwards, easily earning their headline spot.

What: St Jerome's Laneway Festival
Where: SIlo Park, Wynyard Quarter, Auckland
When: Monday, February 28

- NZ Herald

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