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Laneway Festival, Melbourne
31/01/2009

By now you have probably already heard all the negative reports and comments floating around the internet about the Laneway Festival in Melbourne. From the reviews, to the newspaper articles, to the many forums, on Twitter and on Facebook. The internet is jam packed full of punters venting their anger.

I was (un)lucky enough to be given a free ticket to the festival. A free VIP ticket. Having been to the Laneway Festival in Sydney a few times I was keen to go to it in Melbourne. To experience what I thought would be a better version, after all it was the festival's birthplace city.

Here is my report on my experience at Laneway Melbourne on Sunday. The highs and lows as I experienced them.

11:40am

I arrive at the festival site 20 minutes before the first band (Tame Impala) is scheduled to start.

I ask one of the not-at-all friendly security guards at the Lonsdale stage where I should go if I have a VIP ticket. She tells me to join the line here at the Lonsdale stage with everyone else. I see a sign that says "VIPs should enter at the Little Lonsdale stage". I ask the security guard again and he replies that he knows nothing about that. I ask where the Little Lonsdale stage is? (I have a very limited knowledge of Melbourne). I get a grunt and a vague hand gesture pointing me in the right direction.

At the Little Lonsdale stage I get directed into a line by a security guard. It turns out to be the wrong line. Once in the right line the Laneway staff inform me that VIPs, even ones like me with a printed out ticket, need to get their names marked off at the Lounge.

At the Lounge and after much discussion with Laneway staff, I am told that I don't need to get my name marked off and that I need to go back to the Little Lonsdale stage and re-join the VIP line. I am annoyed and frustrated. However I am grateful that I don't have to join the General Admission line as the line is massive and snaking its way through the city.

12:01pm

The gates should be open. But they are not. There is a lot of bitching in the line about missing Tame Impala. The security guards and Laneway staff assure us that no bands have started playing. After everything we've been through we don't trust them.

12:20pm

I finally have my wristband and I have entered the festival. I quickly exit, as I have entered at the Little Lonsdale stage and want to be at the Lonsdale stage for Tame Impala. I walk along Swanson Street past the ever increasing line of festival goers trying to enter. I'm careful to look both ways as I cross the road so I don't get squished by a tram. I can't believe that to get between the two main stages you have to cross a road frequented by trams. This is a recipe for disaster.

12:30pm - Tame Impala - Lonsdale stage

I'm happy that I haven't missed Tame Impala. They always put on a good show. This one is no different. They play a cover of Remember Me, which sounds amazing. I love these barefeet hippies and the crowd does too. They are told they only have 5 minutes left by the stage crew because of the late start (which Tame Impala informs us is due to the council not giving permission for the event to start). Everyone is begging for more. They end with Half Full Glass Of Wine. A great but short (20 min) set.

01:10pm - Kitchen Knife Wife - Lounge

The Lounge is a bar located on Swanson Street. During the festival you enter the bar from the rear laneway and up a flight of stairs. I'd never seen Kitchen Knife Wife before, in fact I didn't have a clue what kind of songs they even sung. I go to see them purely because of their name. I thought they might play angry songs about murdering people and animals. Unfortunately my guess is wrong. They don't even play a song about killing insects. They play poptastic happy songs about their favourite cat and their old rustic cars. People are dancing and having a good time.

01:40pm - Still Flyin' - Little Lonsdale stage

I saw Still Flyin' at last year's Laneway so I knew I was in for a good show. They play Good Thing It's a Ghost Town Around Here and it is great. A festival highlight. I am filled with happiness. There are smiles on everyones faces as we all dance along. Still Flyin's only mistake is mentioning the upcoming Superbowl a little too much. This of course goes down like a lead balloon in the city of AFL. The band then throw a miniture football into the crowd and the happy vibe returns. They end with a singalong version of Never Gonna Touch The Crowd. Great set.

Despite being relatively close to the stage (less than half way down the laneway) the sound is not great at Little Lonsdale. It is very quiet. And it is difficult to see as the laneway is flat. The stage is small and the laneway cramped. I decide to avoid this stage for the rest of the day.

After Still Flyin' I managed to find the VIP bar. Funnily enough this is where my friends are all hiding. Air con and beer.

03:00pm - Port O'Brien - Lonsdale stage

Port O'Brien are folky but in a good way. They have a very crisp great sound. I stay for half the set. I like them but not enough to stay outside in the heat. I'd forgotten how hot and humid it is outside. For some reason this always feels amplified when in the city probably because there is very little breeze.

As I leave the stage area I notice the line to get into the Lounge and Red Bull stage area. It's already massive and looks chaotic as security guards scramble around trying to set up barriers to help direct the line. People in the line look frustrated and annoyed as it is clear the line is in shambles and not moving.

I walk back up Swanson Street, cross the road, looking both ways to avoid trams and get back to the VIP bar. Although it's located in the Little Lonsdale stage area the view of the stage is completely restricted and only if you are leaning over the balcony on one leg can you see it. Annoying.

04:10pm - Jay Reatard - Lonsdale stage

I head back to the Lonsdale stage for Jay Reatard. They play non stop. As soon as they finish one song the next one starts with very little talking in between, occassionally announcing the next song but that is it. Each song is short and snappy and for someone, like me, with a short attention span this is pure awesome. I absolutely love the animated guitarist with the afro. He is 100% rocking out and singing along to the songs (even though he has no mic). So much hair!!! I love it!!!

I can't find any food being sold inside the festival. FOOD FAIL! I wander around outside and eventually find the QV food court. Best burger ever!

05:25pm - The Temper Trap - Lonsdale stage

Solid performance. Drums. Amazing voice. The usual Temper Trap performance.

07:30pm - El Guincho - Red Bull stage

The line to get to the Red Bull and Lounge stages is stupidly long. They are clearly not letting anyone in. Thankfully a nice Laneway friend has a special AAA badge and is able to escort me in.

El Guincho starts to play. The music sounds great but it's way too quiet. A massive chant of "turn it up" starts. It takes hold and before long everyone is chanting. The sound finally gets louder and the crowd cheers.


"Turn it up!!!" A very passionate person in the crowd yells for the sound to be louder.

The beautiful Spanish dance tunes of El Guincho fill the air, wiping away all the worries in the world. Dance offs with complete strangers! The laneway turns into a mini fiesta with everyone dancing, cheering and clapping. The atmosphere is amazing.

08:30pm - Daedelus - Red Bull stage

The dance offs continue! Daedelus looks like Willy Wonka! I can't stop laughing. A mixture of big dance beats and fun tunes keep the crowd dancing and smiling.

I stay for half the set then head off for The Hold Steady. As I start to exit I notice the toilets just outside the Lounge entrance have no line. There are 4 toilet blocks but they are all "male". I am the wrong gender but there's no one around so I sneak in and use them. They are clean, have toilet paper and look like they have been barely used all day. Not really surprising since to get to the toilets you must line up in the really long hour long line to enter the Red Bull and Lounge stages. Toilet location FAIL.

As I exit I hear a girl in the line trying to get to the Red Bull and Lounge stages say to the security guard "Please just let me in, I just want to go to the toilet." The security guard replies "There is a big line up for the toilets and as a result we are not letting anyone in." I stare down the security guard and tell him he's a liar. That I've just come from the toilets and there is not a single person there. The security guard looks shocked that someone is talking back to him. I tell him to get off his power trip and stop being a dickhead. I get a mini cheer from the line, although it doesn't change anything. The security guard still doesn't let anyone in.

Fail, fail, fail

I am with two friends and at the Lonsdale Stage. We join the long line up for a beer. At the festival they are only selling Tiger beer in a size that looks smaller than a pot (midi) for $4. It seems like a rip off but we want beer. We get half way up the line and get told "no more alcohol". A riot almost breaks out. It's only 9pm and there is no more alcohol. Security steps in and calms the crowd.

We decide to head back to the VIP bar to get a beer from there. The VIP bar, located in the Little Lonsdale stage precinct, is where Girl Talk has just started performing. As we approach the entrance to Little Lonsdale we see a large number of people gathered at the entrance. There are barriers up and Police guarding the entrance. No one is getting inside. I push my way to the front and ask the security guard if he can let us in just to go up to the VIP bar. He tells us "no". To the left of the entrance there are loads of people squashed up against the fence trying to hear Girl Talk perform. There are people climbing the fence trying to get in. Many people are yelling at the security guards to let them in and that it's unfair not to and that seeing Girl Talk is what they have paid for. The entire atmosphere is tense. Inside the laneway barely looks half full. We quickly leave and head back to the Lonsdale stage for The Hold Steady.


Little Lonsdale stage is shutdown by police during Girl Talk

09:10pm - The Hold Steady - Lonsdale stage

I can't decide if I like or dislike The Hold Steady. I want to like them but I can't get my head around the "speak singing". What's that all about? It's like he's preaching to me with subliminal messages. It doesn't help that he says "stay positive" alot. I just don't get it. Maybe it's because I don't know many of the songs. I'm clearly in the minority though as the crowd is really liking the performance.

Overall

In summary: LINES. The festival was one big line up. Everywhere you looked there were lines. Even once at the stage the sound quality was usually poor. Getting between the stages was annoying. Exiting and having to re-enter was stupid and created additional unnecessary lines. The fact that you had to walk an entire block to get between the two main stages was ridiculous. How someone didn't get run over by a tram is still beyond me?

I did get to see some good bands but most people at the festival didn't. Most people spent literally hours in lines missing the bands they had paid to see. All day I witnessed people yelling abuse at security guards, complaining to Laneway staff, and venting at anyone that would listen. There was no escaping that fact that the vast majority of people at the festival were frustrated and annoyed. The entire intimate and special Laneway festival vibe died on Sunday. A sad day for Laneway.

Filed Under
Articles
Tame Impala
Kitchen Knife Wife
Still Flyin'
Port O'Brien
Jay Reatard
The Temper Trap
El Guincho
Daedelus
The Hold Steady
Girl Talk
Laneway Festival

 

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Comments

bella

that's so heartbreaking. I always thought laneway was supposed to be one of the best organised and least stressful festivals around. especially the melbourne laneway. what a shame.

I can't believe the council wouldn't let the bands start? shouldn't all of that been cleared beforehand? weird. sucks balls.

great review though, glad you got to see some quality bands anyway. I have jay reatard envy.

1 decade ago

gemdilem

Jay Reatard was awesome!!!

But yes the whole festival was very disappointing, especially because I was so looking forward to experiencing it in Melbourne!

1 decade ago

Spoz

Damn.. that blows!
I agree, I thought Melbourne would've been the best one..

here's my coverage of the Adelaide one..
http://spoz.blogspot.com/2009/02/adelaides-st-jeromes-laneway-festival.html

no complaints here! :)

1 decade ago

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