The streets of Footscray were teeming with traffic as rain poured over Melbourne on Saturday morning.
But under the grey clouds circling over the seemingly dull suburban backdrop milled an onslaught of brightly dressed festival-goers; their high spirits, colourful clothing and determination to enjoy the annual Laneway Festival standing in stark contrast to the murky Melbourne sky.
With four stages to choose from, almost 30 acts set to perform throughout the day, and the event enclosed in the rolling green of Footscray Park, Laneway was the ideal musical getaway.
Any trace of the mundane miraculously washed off the thousands of eager music fans escaping the busy streets to enter a sanctuary of sound under a canopy of trees.
With the first notes of enticing melodies of the day’s first artists echoing from opposite ends of the grounds, it was near impossible to pick which stage to start at.
By 1 o’clock the rain had cleared and rays of sunshine spilled out over Footscray Park. Many patrons opted to settle in on the grass, listening to the performers from afar rather than struggling for space in the mosh pit. It was a more relaxing experience; the electronic beats of Mansionair on the Future Classic Stage paired with the increasingly warm weather made for a serene early afternoon.
Aussie artists Ruby Fields and G-Flip impressed with their sets on the far side of the park. Young Australian of the Year recipient Baker Boy followed on the Laneway Stage, incorporating the didgeridoo and hip-hop dance into his encapsulating performance before a swelling crowd. Dancers somersaulted and backflipped across the stage while members of the audience had a boogie of their own.
As expected, Byron Bay trio Skegss gave what was perhaps the Aussiest performance of the day; nothing says Skegss more than a wheelie bin being surfed across the audience (which was then subsequently given a microphone and its very own spot on stage). The crowd’s enthusiasm for the bin only intensified the mosh as the Aussie boys belted out their surf-rock tracks.
Methyl Ethyl and Camp Cope did the Australian music scene proud with their riveting performances, before UK sensation Rex Orange County took to the Dean Turner Stage.
Rex is known for his mellow, soothing tracks, but the mosh pit during his set was absolutely ruthless; the volume of the crowd rivalled the twenty year old’s magical voice. A fanatic mosh shouted along to Loving is Easy, jumped up and down in unison to Television/So Far So Good, and peacefully swayed to his rendition of Alicia Keys’ No One.
All the while, parts of the festival morphed into mini picnics, with countless patrons gathering in circles on the grass to enjoy the international food truck cuisines on offer. People devoured woodfire pizza, paella, Polish dumplings, kebabs and Japanese style noodles, gathering their energy in preparation for the night’s headlining acts.
Laneway’s first headliner of the evening, Courtney Barnett, impressed with her witty, rambling lyrics and guitar skills. Camp Cope’s Georgia McDonald joined her on the Dean Turner Stage, unleashing twice the amount of Aussie female talent onto the excited crowd.
Over on the Laneway Stage, electronic powerhouse What’s So Not surprised the audience by releasing oversized, inflatable animals into the mosh, adding to the exuberance of an already vibrant set.
It was almost 9:30 when, back on the Dean Turner Stage, the audience packed tighter than it had been the entire festival, buzzing with anticipation for the headlining act, Gang of Youths. Lead singer David Le’aupepe could be glimpsed hovering side stage in the minutes leading up to the performance, manifesting the crowd’s growing exhilaration.
The audience erupted into cheers as the Australian alternative-rock band entered the stage, instantly exploding into a symphony of percussion and slick guitar riffs, both of which delighted throughout their hour-long set. The majority of festival goers had waited over ten hours for this, and they were not let down. Gang of Youths belted out crowd favourites like The Heart is a Muscle, Let Me Down Easy and The Deepest Sighs, The Frankest Shadows, all complemented by a mixture of billowing smoke and intense, colourful lights which transformed the euphoric performance into an unmissable spectacle. Le’aupepe commanded the crowd’s attention, every person enraptured by his killer vocals and shameless dance moves.
During Magnolia, Le’aupepe crowd surfed across the front of the mosh; every person there was touched by his passion for music and for life, regardless of whether or not they had physically held him above their heads.
Le’aupepe reminded the tightly packed mosh of the true essence of music festivals, instructing everyone present to take care of their loved ones, to take care of strangers and to take care of each other that night.
Gang of Youths finished with Say Yes To Life, igniting an intense celebration of music, unity and love.
All in all, festival-goers most definitely left Footscray Park with their musical appetite sated.
Laneway Festival 2019 served up an assortment of local and international talent which, despite the unpredictable (yet typical) Melbourne weather conditions, did not disappoint.