Brisbane Laneway 2011


7 Feb 2011, 0:35

Fri 4 Feb – St. Jerome's Laneway Festival 2011 - Brisbane

Bands I reviewed for Fasterlouder:

On a blisteringly hot and oppressively humid Friday, the annual St Jerome’s Laneway Festival turned the normally unglamorous industrial exhibition area off St Paul’s Terrace in Brisbane’s Fortitude Valley into a party precinct, bringing along some of the best current music from both hemispheres. Decked out in finest “retro” outfits we could muster, we set course to Alexandria St.

Jenny & Johnny – also known as Rilo Kiley’s frontwoman Jenny Lewis and her partner Johnathan Rice – hilariously soundcheck as Led Zeppelin’s When The Levee Breaks blasts through the PA. Sadly, their own music doesn’t pack anywhere near as much of a punch, falling somewhere between Best Coast and The Like and pretty much staying there. This, however, doesn’t stop scores of “indie” kids from enjoying the duo’s adroit, four-on-the-floor ditties and dying of cute.

Back at the sun-scorched New Alexandria St Stage, Beach House emerge as the sonic equivalent of an exquisite-tasting smoothie. The regulation dress code being white – respectively a blazer for the stunning vocalist/keyboardist Victoria LeGrand and very 80’s Depeche Mode jeans for guitarist Alex Scally – immerse one and all in a state of dream pop bliss. Opening with a stately Walk In The Park, Baltimore’s finest reverie-inducers raise goosebumps with the heart-stopping Norway and 10 Mile Stereo, playfully shake their hair on Zebra and bid us a fond adieu with a celestial Take Care. It’s a beautiful Teen Dream all the way, even if lilting fan favourite Lover Of Mine is a no-show.

At the glamorously-titled Inner Sanctum (not a bad name for a building normally serving as a livestock shed), Brooklyn’s The Antlers captivate the onlookers with their emotion-charged songs from 2009’s acclaimed Hospice album (topics: cancer, suffering, love, abuse, death – perfect Six Feet Under material). Peter Silberman’s pained tenor bounces off the concrete walls and it’s an impressive display, yet we conclude the band would be a lot more at home in a smaller venue with better-quality sound.

We head over – with swarms of others – to catch all-female LA combo Warpaint for half their set. It’s enough time for us to dig their tribal drumbeats, effects-drenched guitar lines and Siouxsie & The Banshees-redolent vocals. Undertow is a groovy highlight.

Splendour 2010’s surprise package, Two Door Cinema Club are given a heroes’ welcome at the now-packed Alexandria St – and duly kickstart the party. Just like at Woodford, the Northern Irishmen open with a mighty double of Cigarettes In The Theatre and Triple J hit Undercover Martyn (the crowd chanting practically every word) – cue a pneumatic basslines and stabbing guitar hooks galore. Arguably the best song from last year’s audacious debut Tourist History, This Is The Life packs a similar knockout punch, while Do You Want It All and Something Good Can Work are likewise impossible not to shimmy along to. Dancing our way out during Come Back Home, we can only guess what kind of reaction they caused with the closing I Can Talk.

A devoted Blonde Redhead fan for years, tonight this reviewer’s wish to see them live finally comes true. Despite playing at the acoustically-lacking Inner Sanctum, the New York trio are a trancelike experience. Kazu Makino is in her own world, enunciating different kinds of emotions with her signature cracked-child voice as the Pace twins lock the throbbing, electronics-augmented groove with deft guitar and drum work. From 2007’s career pinnacle 23, Spring And By Summer Fall, Dr Strangeluv and the spiralling title track arrest with their haunting progressions and sublime arrangements; Amedeo’s angelic on Misery Is A Butterfly staple Falling Man while Kazu looks singularly possessed on the thwacking Equus. The final one-two of respectively improbable musical fury and beauty, Melody Of Certain Three erupts in a maelstrom of treated noise and eardrum-piercing shrieks andPenny Sparkle’s gorgeous Spain makes for a soothing finish.

As the sunset fades, New York’s Yeasayer bring the multicoloured lights and a full-scale worldbeat party to Alexandria St. The impossibly catchy electropop foray O.N.E. is one hell of a joyous opener, followed by a wonderfully trippy Tightrope and shuffling Rome; our only logical choice is to dance hard. An unexpected delight comes in the shape of All Hour Cymbals trio of Sunrise, 2080 and Wait For The Summer before the Caribbean-flavoured Mondegreen gives the two thousand-odd feet another workout. Having earlier professed his admiration for the “beautiful” punters of both sexes, frontman Chris Keating (who consistently keeps pumping out David Byrne-school dance moves) observes that the area resembles the first Robocop and promptly gets reminded by baggy pants-clad bassist Ira Wolf Tuton that most of the attendees weren’t even born when that movie came out. Later on, we eagerly lend our shaky vocal chords for Madder Red’s yodelling refrain and the life-affirming Ambling Alp seals the festival’s ultimate set.

Deerhunter at the Car Park are on the other hand great to rest our legs to, but still feel a bit too anaemic performance-wise. Oddball frontman Bradford Cox humbly standing on the left, the Atlanta four-piece only really ascend on Helicopter from last year’s Halcyon Digest, which sounds commendably big and echoey.

Another Splendour triumph, Oxford’s Foals start in a fairly restrained fashion with the opening treble of Blue Blood, Olympic Airways and Total Life Forever, yet kick the crowd into action with breakthrough 2008 single Cassius. From then on, they keep getting better and better, taking off and summoning a massive response with Miami, delving into frenetic Afrofunk territory on After Glow and nailing a bona fide majestic moment with Spanish Sahara. A great band that has become fantastic along the way; additional props go to the rhythm section, who tonight are nothing but skin-tight and riveting.

One of the festival’s unexpected whimpers is the otherwise remarkably talented Gotye, whose Car Park set is plagued by technical difficulties. An extended drum solo does not remedy the situation and we cross over to watch Canadian electro-rockers Holy Fuck, who are infinitely more invigorating and pack ten times more excitement in the last few minutes of their slot.

In stark contrast with their bombastic Big Day Out 2009 appearance, Australia’s own electro boffins Cut Copy fall flat in cowpat fashion. Three songs in, the Zonoscope material fails to get the crowd going and we retreat under the Inner Sanctum’s tin roof for a much more fitting Laneway finale – Sacramento’s funky party troupe !!!.

Seasoned entertainers with a fearsome live rep to boot, the Californians go off like fireworks, keeping the sauna-hot room moving in all directions. Dynamo vocalist Nic Offer swaggers and preens like a cross between the younger, lithe Mick Jagger and Iggy Pop, striking epic poses, working the audience into a frenzy on Must Be The Moon and Jamie, My Intentions Are Bass, diving into the front rows and generally living it up like a true partyman. A majorly-transformed cover of Prince/Sheena Easton duet U Got The Look goes down a storm and in the most profound display of admiration I’ve seen at a gig so far, a pair of men’s jeans flies onstage, the frontman duly pulling them on top of his venerable short shorts during Heart Of Hearts.

Still showering ourselves with sweat in the omnipresent humidity and “ow!”-ing at our overworked backs, legs and feet, we declare Brisbane Laneway a triumph of music and a damn good day indeed and begin our journey home. Keep the good times going.


  • snottybitch

    Beach house as a smoothie = perfect description of their performance on Friday! I too wish we'd heard Lover of Mine. I had been planning to check out cut copy as well but !!! were just do much fun that we clean forgot. Great review of a great day :)

    7 Feb 2011, 13:51
  • xoxoxoe

    It was such a shame about Gotye's technical difficulties :( ruined his debut of new material!

    14 Feb 2011, 5:52
  • MaxFactor81

    @Snotty - cheers! :) @xoxoxoe - he has to come back and do a venue show.

    14 Feb 2011, 23:59
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