Words and photography: Jody Macgregor
Here is how you get to review the Laneway Festival for Collapse Board.
Everett True hands me the festival wristbands in an envelope with one piece of advice: “Don’t review the bands.”
Fine. I won’t. I’ll write about the vibe of the festival. Do people still say ‘vibe’? I’ve stopped watching sitcoms and now have no idea what people say anymore.
Laneway doesn’t takes place in laneways, here in Brisbane or in Melbourne. That was a useful gimmick at first, but it turns out that there’s a reason people weren’t holding festivals there already: organisational nightmare. So it’s at the RNA Showgrounds in Brisbane instead.
Laneway has a reputation as the music festival for people who hate music festivals. It puts on bands who don’t look like they were selected by throwing darts at a triple j playlist, you don’t have to bring a tent, and it attracts a friendlier crowd.
This sounds perfect to me, because I really do hate music festivals.
I hate music festivals because I love music, and I mean properly love music. Real love is unhealthy, obsessive, consuming. I am outside Music’s house in defiance of a restraining order. I am frightening off Music’s new boyfriend. I am holding Music’s pets to ransom until Music agrees to return my calls.
Music deserves better than being listened to while sweaty dudes with no shirts on bump into you, while the sound guys struggle to deafen only the first five or six rows while still drowning out the people shouting to each other at the back, while you are knee-deep in mud because doing something to protect people from the weather would be too much effort and anyway this way it’s totally authentic like Woodstock, man.
Today it’s raining, so Laneway is under cover. Three stages are indoors, the fourth has a temporary roof that’s large enough to cover a sizeable crowd. The organisers actually went, “Hey, it’s raining. Let’s do something about that.”
In Queensland that’s especially surprising. We’re always kind of shocked by rain. We don’t understand the mystery of skywater. A common local belief has it that rain is God’s judgement on southern devils for their decadence.
When I arrive I meet a reviewer from Rave Magazine and one from The Vine. Brisbane is small and incestuous enough that of course we know each other.
They’re surprised that I’m writing for Collapse Board.
“Was every other angry cunt in Brisbane busy today?” asks Rave.
“Well, except for me,” I reply.
“You’re not a cunt,” says Rave.
The Vine disagrees on that point and is probably right.
The Vine is a Laneway veteran. He’s a proper festival hound who even went to the Big Day Out this year. I ask him how the Laneway crowd compares to that one.
“Going to those festivals is like reading Marvel Comics,” he says. “Afterwards you look at yourself and realise how unfit you are. But these people…”
He has a point. Nobody has their shirt off here. People are mostly young and mostly hip, but also pretty ordinary. There are roughly equal numbers of men and women. I only see one guy who looks like he was bitten by a radioactive muscle.
I apologise for these photos, by the way. The wristband Mr True gave me is for a photographer so I feel obliged to take photos with my phone, which I have never done before because I am not one of those people. I especially apologise to real photographers like this unhappy gentleman.
I really have pissed in his cornflakes by wearing this wristband.
That’s as far as I can get without writing about the bands a little bit. Now that I think about it, Mr True probably said, “Don’t just write about the bands”. Reading between the lines, he must have meant, “Write a long and wanky intro as well”.
Or maybe he really doesn’t want me to write about the bands. I’ll compromise by doing it in a half-arsed way.
Pajama Club are playing on the outdoor Car Park stage. This stage has problems with feedback all day, and it’s way too loud for a band like Pajama Club. There are a fair few people desperate enough to get close to the sainted Neil Finn to endure it, but we flee like cowards to the Zoo stage to see Austra instead.
The unofficial timetable put together by Humans In Design is my saviour here, as it will continue to be throughout the day. Check it out here. Notice how you can immediately see which bands are going to clash because they’re side by side? Now look at the official timetable, where you can’t do that and the last acts to play are at the top, in defiance of both the gods of time and common sense.
I email the unofficial timetable to The Vine, who opens it on his phone and looks at me with golden wonder in his eyes. “We are living in the future,” he says.