The tenth New Zealand edition of St Jerome’s Laneway Festival was held at the glorious Albert Park precinct on Monday. This was the third time the festival was held amidst the shady trees of Albert Park after moving from the concrete of Silo Park in 2017.
This year’s line-up was high on both younger acts and current stars and I guess you could say on the lighter side in terms of so-called legacy acts of the past. Given this, I was curious as to see what sort of crowd would turn out and whether it would be a festival of solely millennial-goers.
The makeup of the festival site was identical to the previous two years with four stages i.e. Princes Stage, Dr Martens Stage, Rotunda Stage and the Thunderdome, spread out around the precinct in both the park and surrounding streets. In addition, as is the norm with most festivals these days, a vast range of food trucks and stalls were present, and thankfully this year it wasn’t just all burgers. Judge Bao, Taco Loco, Ha Poke, Peaches Fried Chicken and more were on site to feed the hungry!
After the gates opened at 11.30, my day kicked off with Auckland R&B duo Imugi 이무기. Fresh off releasing an absorbing new single Greensmoke, this was their debut at Laneway and they didn’t disappoint delivering a smooth set to an appreciative and supportive crowd which also included an unannounced performance from rising Auckland hip-hop duo Church & AP.
Given the quality and depth of the line-up this year, the middle of the day was largely spent taking in small chunks of different acts as there was so many not to be missed. There were the sunny vibes of UK indie singer Yellow Days, the soul of Ravyn Lenae, and the indie pop of Clairo. Although I only caught small snippets of each, all were very impressive in their own right bringing a diverse range of sound and style to a very eclectic day musically.
Then came the first and perhaps only major disappointment of the day in Chicago rapper Smino. I had been looking forward to seeing this talented MC since it was announced he would be playing this year’s festival, but for some reason, he turned up fifteen minutes late to his set and that was an instant buzz killer not just for myself but the crowd in general. A handful of songs in and I was done.
After a quick bite of food, it was then time for two of the most hotly anticipated indie acts of the day in indie pop Queen Mitski and New York indie rock group Parquet Courts. Playing on the Princes Street stage, Mitski’s sweet melodic pop was fantastic, while her quirky interpretive dancing definitely caught the eye in what was a highly enjoyable set.
Following this, it was off to Parquet Courts for a raucous set of classic New York guitar rock. Playing a set high on material from their 2018 album Wide Awake the band was very impressive with their brand of indie rock conjuring up similarities to the likes of other great New York bands of the past including The Strokes and Television.
I wasn’t initially going to catch Aotearoa’s hottest rap supergroup High Beams but was swayed when I heard they were going to bring out guests from their 2018 EP. Accompanied by the likes of Che Fu, Teeks, and HIGH HØØPS, and with a full band in tow, the trio tore the house down with their energetic and inspiring performance perhaps making up for a somewhat lacklustre set at the Others Way Festival last year.
After briefly catching the talented multi-instrumentalist and up-and-coming R&B star Masego, where a security guard’s hunt for two audience members hanging in trees was just as entertaining as the man on stage, it was then off to one of the act’s I was most looking forward to in rapper Denzel Curry.
Curry’s performance was one of the most ferocious and energetic of the day as he stalked the stage like a man possessed while a very eager and hyped crowd moshed their skins out. Curry is one of the most underrated rappers going around right now and his performance proved why he should be talked about with the big names in rap in what was arguably the best set of the day.
After nearly exhausting myself out in the moshes at Curry, it was then off to wind down at Jon Hopkins. Let me tell you, the perfect antidote after being crushed in a mosh-pit for forty-five minutes is a mixture of up-tempo clubby electronic and ambient music of which Hopkins provided the goods in what was a perfect end to a great day.
They have had the venue, they have had the acts, but since moving to Albert Park some things have ultimately cost Laneway from being the perfect festival. It was staging, sound, and ticket machine malfunctions last year, but this year, thankfully they made some changes which managed to improve the overall festival experience and make this probably the best Laneway at Albert Park so far.
They got the timetable spot on, had the right artists on the right stages, and increased the gaps between sets to give people time to manoeuvre themselves from stage to stage. The eclectic nature of the line-up also contributed to the St Jerome's Laneway Festival experience this time around with a nice mixture of styles from indie pop to rock, hip hop and R&B. All this made for a great day out and an excellent showcase of all that is good in music at the moment both locally and internationally.
More of the same next year, please.