Updated: Feb 20
Words By Jordan Fauth
Photos By Roman Wojtkowski
In Caledonian Lane, a small 4-metre wide alleyway in Melbourne, St Jerome's Laneway festival began in 2005. Starting with the 'St. Jerome's Summer Series' every Sunday afternoon, it quickly grew into what we know it as today. A NATIONWIDE touring festival that manages to rope in some pretty spectacular international acts as well as giving Australian artists a national stage to perform on.
Laneway 2020 had been the first festival I attended as a punter (working at festivals previously but never getting to immerse myself fully) and although the acts were terrific, unfortunately, I left feeling a little disappointed.
Some say it was down to me arriving later on and not being there from the start to 'ride the wave' as it was put. Showing up 'fashionably late' I was immediately halted and questioned by security, being scanned and frisked with the bloke perplexed at my statement that I was media. Forgetting the seccies obvious hostility I secured my media 'pass' and headed on in to have some fun, though was quite suddenly being greeted by a sea of trash, swinging jaws and WAY too many minors with clearly brain cell destroying levels of inebriation. The once picturesque Hart's Mill had been turned into a pill dealers wet dream, but hey at least there is good music right?!
Making my way to find a drink and some food it was utter chaos trying to get through the crowds, there was a severe lack of seating so everyone was just camping out on the ground amongst the trash. I won't lie, it looked like a bloody refugee camp in there. I bit my tongue though and went on to find some of my mates, surely it would get better when I was around the ones I loved and cared about right?!
DMA's and Earl Sweatshirt were the first acts I properly saw and one of the most disappointing DMA's sets I've seen. Clear that they have recently made the choice to venture towards more 'Triple J friendly' songs and material. A lack of energy from them and a clear desire to get off the stage. Not impressed.
West Thebarton (Brothel Party) was next on my itinerary, bringing all the energy and passion they usually do but this time coupled with the fact they were playing in their home town, although their set got off to a rocky start when lead singing Ray tripped over a wire and had the foldback speaker in front of him fall of the stage. What could've been an omen for a bad set was quickly turned around, with West Thebby launching into a high octane fueled setlist with all their best hits culminating in a finish that saw everyone crouching down and launching into the air again.
Stella Donnelly and her band took to the "Friends and Freedom" stage next with a set filled with dance breaks, a recorder, outfit changes and a beautiful rendition of Dido's 'Thank you' which saw the entire crowd joining in as the hot and humid day turned into a breezy and rainy night. It was such an incredible moment that cemented my love and admiration for Stella and her band, playing all her hits as well as giving a speech that ended with the message, 'we need to look after our young boys and men,' prefacing the song 'Boys Will be Boys'. Important words in today's day and age when more and more men are feeling disconnected from society and are unsure of their place within it.
Post-Stella it was onto some food and seeing King Gizzard. Some mozzarella sticks and a raw burger for one of my mates from *Name Redacted* which was part of a larger case of food poisoning a few people reported having after leaving, we jumped into the growing mosh that was developing for Gizz. It's always a roller-coaster seeing this crew. They started their set with their more 'bluesy' and 'psychedelic' material before getting the whole crowd moving with 'Self Immolate' and some of their heavier tracks. With the rain falling around us coupled with the dazzling retro-inspired visuals from the big screens, it quickly became a magical moment.
With King Gizz done, so was I, and so chose to leave a bit early. Roman, who was taking photos for us chose to stick around for a bit longer, managing to catch Charlie XCX and The 1975. There was a fair bit of miscommunication to media for these 2 sets. For some reason photographers weren't allowed into the pits in front of the barricades for either of these shows, so he was forced into the packed crowd to shoot with differing results; the crowd for Charlie XCX treating him pretty poorly, while the crowd for The 1975 treated him with utter wholesomeness by all accounts. Laneway Festival was truly a strange event. Although it started as a primarily indie event it now draws all sorts of crowds, some good and some bad. Some that are there to enjoy the music and have a good time, others that are just there to become utterly intoxicated and mosh.
My opinion on this is divided, as although I enjoyed the music and seeing my friends, the atmosphere was absolutely disgusting; the trash, the people high out of their minds as well as the service and food from some of the vendors. While I understand most of the issues I experienced aren't just problems associated with Laneway but perhaps issues with festivals in general, I think it's fair to say that moving forward we should be making an effort to reduce the impact of these issues to improve these events, and to put the focus back on the music.
But maybe, just maybe, festivals aren't for me.
Need more photos of Laneway? Check out our gallery HERE!