29 January 2018
#24 DD Dumbo
“Hi, my name’s Jacinda…” said the Prime Minister as she opened Laneway 2018. Recounting her DJ session at a past Laneway she said “I remember that so well because I have permanent hearing damage through my left ear as a consequence and it was amazing to be a part of a festival that is so intrinsically Auckland, so wonderful."
I still pinch myself that we have a PM that opens Laneway, walks at Pride, and is having a baby mid-year. This feels like one cool country to be part of right now.
And then the PM welcomed DD Dumbo on the stage. Which was a surprise because the programme said Julie Byrne who I’d been following on Laneway playlist. But actually DD Dumbo were well worth seeing – cool tenor vocals from Oliver Perry, not unlike Sting’s, but with a lot more groove going on. And when I posted a pic of the clarinettist on Facebook, one friend came back with the comment “Bass clarinet? RESPECT!”
It’s a scorching Auckland summer’s day that is out of the box. Endless sunshine but with a breeze that takes away the worst of the heat, and plenty of shady patches. The Albert Park precinct offers stages for such a grand array of acts that there will inevitably be some bands who I just can’t see, or at least see sufficiently long enough to include in the 52 gig list.
#25 Amy Shark
So if you halved my age, it would probably still be older than the average age of those watching Amy Shark. But no matter. She’s got some great numbers, with Spits on Girls as a standout with dark, haunting lyrics – “My mother likes the drink and my father’s always thinking of her… If you like your life, stay off the drugs, if you like the drugs, share them with celebrities.”
Shark offers edgier than average pop, with some parallels with Lorde and a bit of rhythm guitar thrown in. She has a warm yet intense presence on stage and an open rapport with the crowd, that creates an atmosphere of mutual appreciation.
By this time the sun is at its zenith and if you’re not in the first two metres in front of the stage you’re getting roasted. Around this time the entry queues had mushroomed, and some were taking more than an hour to get in. It made me glad to have got there among the early arrivals and catching the first acts.
#26 Sylvan Esso
I checked out Billie Eilsih, it was more catchy pop and even more in the Lorde mould, but dressed in yellow. But after a couple of songs I decided I’d heard enough and grabbed a beer and a good possie to catch Sylvan Esso.
Now this was a freakin revelation. The duo of Amelia Meath and Nick Sanborn are described by one reviewer as delivering coolly beautiful electronic music – yep, and then some. The crowd loved them, and danced away in the heat to songs like Coffee, HSKT, Radio, Die Young and Hey Mami.
Amelia apologised at the start of the show for a cold that she had picked up on the flight over. But halfway through the set, she decided that “I like this cold, it's one of those colds where you sound sexier than you actually are!”
It’s gratifying to know that delicate, soulful, captivating and catchy originality is possible even in some of the most redneck of Southern states, in this case North Carolina. Perhaps conscious of this, Nick closed the set by saying “Shout out to your amazing Prime Minister - you've seen how bad it can be, right?”
#27 Wolf Alice
Heading into the late afternoon, it’s starting to cool a little, and another revelation. One of those sets where you stand back and be blasted for 40 glorious minutes. Thrashy gothic anthems delivered in a gorgeous summer frock by their lead vocalist Ellie Rowsell, accompanied by the high-energy-throw-your-guitar-in-the-air Joff Oddie, bassist Theo Ellis, and drummer Joel Amey. Full throttle guitar pop, a bit like the Primitives but with a lot more juice.
#28 Aldous Harding
Back in December I gave away my tickets for the Aldous Harding show at the Civic, deciding that a party to celebrate the Lightpath cycleway was more my thing. I’d been dosing myself heavily on her two albums, but appreciation kept passing me by. The first felt like faux Irish tweedledee, and the second was just… quiet, melancholy and well, boring. I realise that for many that makes me a deeply unpatriotic New Zealander.
So I went to her performance thinking that maybe, just maybe, I would realise the error of my ways and understand what all the fuss is about.
Still don’t get it. Yes, moody, heartfelt, self-absorbed and absorbing in her own way. Yes, original and intense. But not my scene. I gave it my best shot, and like a good New Zealander, I genuinely wish her every success.
I largely missed what one reviewer described as perhaps ʺthe best Laneway set yetʺ. Anderson Paak was serving a blistering hip hop set that had thousands in front of the band rotunda in raptures – I only caught a glimpse for a short while but was too far from the stage to connect, and I needed to kick back for a bit.
Badbadnotgood are a jazz influenced instrumental band, with lots to like. Their show was a good place to recharge ahead of the evening acts. There was a large crowd building who grooved happily. Getting closer to the stage I realised they were pretty young looking guys but who were well on top of their game.
Slowdive re-formed recently after a 20-year hiatus, with an album that had critics enthralled. Dusk was coming on fast, and the light of the evening surrounding the stage created effects that the camera hated but the eyes loved.
Theirs was a fine set, with a guitar-led cascading sound that showed its origins in the 90s, but which have developed into a something that relates to this millennium. Star Roving was a triumph, and the layering of sound was absorbing from beginning to end.
And that was pretty much where Laneway ended for me. I caught some of the War on Drugs, but after a few songs I realised I would have just been adding another number to the list, and it was time to head home.
2019? I’ll be back for sure.