Concert Review: Laneway Festival

By Scott Kara, Jacqueline Smith

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Crowds at Laneway Festival at Aotea Square. Photo /  Richard Robinson
Crowds at Laneway Festival at Aotea Square. Photo / Richard Robinson

The Laneway Festival was loud and proud yesterday and in the process it found its natural home in the newly revamped Aotea Square.

Against the back drop of some of Auckland's architectural landmarks - the Town Hall, the Sky Tower and the MLC building - some of the world's best indie-rock acts (that you can dance to) combined for a beautifully relentless day of music.

Across two stages, there was everyone from New Zealand's modern-day hippy and Silver Scroll-winning singer/songwriter Lawrence Arabia and the suitably shambolic and annoying Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti, to Atlanta oddballs Deerhunter and melancholic, Cure-inspired headliners Foals.

Compared to last year's inaugural event at Britomart, which was plagued by long queues for drinks and toilets and a lack of food stalls, yesterday's event ran seamlessly despite a last-minute timetable change because Californian dance punks !!! (Chk chk chk) couldn't make it.

It's a festival that knows its audience - and it turns out it's a wide-ranging one from cool edgy kids through to the panama-hat brigade of mature and discerning music lovers.

Auckland's An Emerald City, who have been based in Berlin for the past two years, eased the masses into the afternoon with their Eastern-influenced drone psyche rock, before early 80s post-punk band Children's Hour took over and deafened those who dared to stay.

It was a punishing early-afternoon set, with frontman Chris Matthews' demented squeals and the assault of songs such as Slaughterhouse and Caroline's Dream, which is probably why the council's noise control officers came knocking.

Thankfully, nothing came of it, which may have had something to do with Mayor Len Brown being in the audience, perhaps.

The sound got turned down a notch for Lawrence Arabia - looking dapper in his splendid baby pink shirt and fawn pants - who romped and rolled through a set that included Apple Pie Bed, the first warm-fuzzy moment of the day.

Then it was dance rock time with crazed Canadian quartet Holy F***, who looked as though they were having fun throwing instruments across the stage at one another, swallowing microphones and generally getting the crowd's groove on with their chaotic mix of noise and beats.

Before all-girl American act Warpaint played a beguiling and trance-inducing set, Mayor Len took his chance to jump up on stage between the racket and declare Auckland "awesome".

But more importantly, he said he doesn't want this year to be just about the World Cup. Well put, Len, so let's rock'n'roll.

Kiwi pop rocker Ladyhawke made a slightly timid return to the stage after a year under the radar with some welcome sing-a-longs. Her award-winning pop rock of 2009 may not have been the most cutting-edge act of the festival, but not even the cool kids could resist mouthing along to hits My Delirium and Paris Is Burning, during which she blazed a wild disco guitar like Nile Rodgers of Chic.

Yeasayer upped the ante with a pitch-perfect and lively set that sucked the crowd into the stage area for the first mass dance party of the festival.

Beach House followed with the sexiest and most pitch-perfect performance, which was almost a direct run-through of their third album, Teen Dream.

On a stage decorated like Christmas, Victoria Legrande's velvety vocals and the cathedral-like echo of Alex Scally's synths cast a loved-up spell over the crowd as the balmy day drew to a close.

Wrapping up the festival, Oxford five piece Foals merged their electro-dance album Antidotes with their more atmospheric and, at times, dolorous Total Life Forever in a way that reflected the ebbs and flows of the acts that had played before them.

- NZ Herald

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