Broken Social Scene, Okkervil River, Devastations, Feist, Dan Deacon, and The Cool KidsEdit this event
- The Brunettes »
- Broken Social Scene »
- Okkervil River »
- Devastations »
- Feist »
- Dan Deacon »
- The Cool Kids »
For the last two years in Sydney, me and a whole lot of others have collectively lost our shit at what is certainly Australia’s best inner city music festival, St Jerome’s Laneway. It’s well known now for nicer vibes and better bands than something larger, like Big Day Out or V Festival, and features a decidedly more ‘indie’ range of acts. This was my first time at the Brisbane version, and let’s just say that the streets of Fortitude Valley (Brisbane’s ‘arty’ bit, where most of the city’s music venues are located) don’t exactly offer the same sights of Sydney’s Circular Quay (near the Opera House). With a few alleyways and two closed-off streets and car parks, a reasonably diverse range of music was showcased over three stages: two outdoors and one inside a regular music venue.
My day started at the Car Park stage with The Brunettes and the afternoon sun out at a similar strength to the now healthy and appreciative crowd. They suited the 2pm timeslot with a casual and jovial performance, their bubblegum pop a pleasant mid-afternoon delight. There was even some freestyle rapping as Heather Mansfield introduced the rest of the band; I can’t rave too much about her flow but it was about as twee and fun as the rest of their shtick and that went down a treat.
I’d seen* Dan Deacon* (pictured) the night before - best gig ever! - at the place across the road and it seems like word of mouth pushed some hype in Brisbane as all types of audience member hurried towards The Outpost stage, somewhat smaller than the Car Park stage. Like the previous night, his set started off with some enthusiastic primary school style games, getting audience members to hold their hands in the air and pull them back in the relaxation exercise style until he was excitedly all like, “Fuck it, let’s just do this”. And he certainly did. Yes, there was a snake: the human tunnel which the best-dressed bald nerd somehow got heaps of people to run through, stretching way back down the alleyway to the portaloos. He really knows how to break things down and rile people up, and even if a few douches in a mixed crowd like this didn’t quite ‘get it’ (they found more fun in trying to steal his glasses), he spread good cheer like no one else, that trippy green skull propped up there on a stick and keyboards and samplers and an iPod taped to a friggin’ plastic banana. Between games he let loose with ‘Crystal Cat’_ and other favourites, as well as a sing-along to another silly jam for which he handed out lyric sheets. There’s nothing else like Dan Deacon’s performance: it’s insane, but it’s not like it relies on the games and fun and whatnot. Those wacky electro explosions stand easily on their own.
I had actually skipped out on 15 minutes of this madness to check out Okkervil River back at the Car Park stage. This was not so great, mainly because this stage suffered from some terrible sound issues; you could barely hear unless you were within the first 20 or so people at the front, and considering the stage is one long, narrow street, it didn’t make things easy for the five-piece, who seemed to be struggling to reach an energy that they normally achieve so easily. The played a lot from The Stage Names as well as a bunch of hits from Black Sheep Boy in a set that seemed to be pleasing fans who seemed out in full force given the cheers at the start and recognition of each song. Last time I saw these guys they were explosive and today seemed kind of lackluster, which in the end isn’t unimpressive considering their abilities; their indie rock is still the best out there.
San Franciscan ska / reggae / party band Still Flyin’ packed the stage of The Zoo at around 5.30pm, the last of the sun shining through the windows onto a decent crowd. Theirs is the sort of vibe that anyone can appreciate; unabashed and almost kitsch in the cheesy ska horns but so joyously chaotic that it was easy, light fun all around.
Back at the Outpost stage, The Cool Kids filled the hefty boots left by Deacon with a similarly mixed crowd, though certainly not as diverse. There were a whole lot of upturned caps but none quite as shiny and tag-still-attached new as The Cool Kids’ DJ. Their hilarious but tight hip-hop got some pretty awkward dance moves going, with a fun set of call and response and ‘80s styled rhymes and beats. They’re quirky and wear all the right clothes, but The Cool Kids definitely have the skills to back the whole image thing up, especially because they emphasize the lighter and more fun side of hip-hop.
Up indoors again at The Zoo, Devastations absolutely pummeled with their signature compressed, stylish sound of dark rock, grinding through the un-air-conditioned venue with all the intensity of their latest Yes, U and then some. Tracks like _‘Mistakes’ _were rawer in a live setting but still retaining the tight, tense core that makes their rock so irresistible.
After the sun had gone down, the streets and alleys seemed a lot fuller. I should put it out there that Broken Social Scene are one of my absolute favorites; their set at the Sydney Laneway two years back was one of the best things I’ve ever seen, building an enormous sense of togetherness (they’re hippies, not hipsters!) as the sun went down over a bunch of good people. It was mostly good people this time around in Brisbane, but good grief, the sound woes! So, ‘Stars and Sons’ is possibly my favourite BSS song and tonight, while I recognized the start, I found myself wondering “Is this really it?” about a minute in, the sound was that _bad. I’m not usually a nerd about that sort of thing but seriously. Material from Kevin Drew’s latest, Spirit If_, sounded much fuller; it was clear they were having much more fun playing these newer songs, packing that distinctive gusto into these much more than their older stuff.
There wasn’t much of a collective buzz in the audience as I had hoped. I skipped Clap Your Hands Say Yeah in favour of Feist’s set back over at the Car Park stage. For her, the sound had been turned way down and it was really quite difficult to hear anything. She played ‘My Moon My Man’ third song in and ‘1234’ soon after to much applause. The crowd reached its peak capacity (around 2,000) around this time of night and the mix of people that comes with the festival vibe at times seemed perplexed by Feist’s less well-known songs, especially after a delay, adding to the general malaise. I’ve gotta say, I was left feeling disappointed after my past Sydney Laneway. I shouldn’t whine, but considering the strength of the line-up, it didn’t seem like the day reached its fullest potential for fun.
Photo: Justin Courageo