Reviewed by David Molloy and Ben Potter (photo by Ashley Mar)
The sweltering heat could not keep revelers from descending on the Sydney College of the Arts for one of the last bastions for festivalgoers in the city, and by noon, the threatening clouds had parted and left behind a perfect day.
First to the stages was triple j Unearthed rapper Genesis Owusu, flanked by an entourage only a third the size of the crowd. Owusu’s N.W.A-influenced flow, prolific as it is, was a touch hardcore for early arrivals, and his exuberance never fully translated to the kids chilling on the hill. Maybe it was just that they were saving their buzz for Camp Cope, Melbourne’s beloved garage trio and the band feminism needs. Frontwoman Georgia Maq is a perfect contradiction – shy and soft-spoken, with a singing voice that can tear down walls in full flight from their opener to Hottest 100 hit ‘Lost: Season One’. There was a whole lotta love in the mosh pit, and Maq reiterated the band’s call for that love to be respectful.
Roland Tings helped to start a fist-pump-worthy dancefloor with banger after banger, and of course he dropped ‘Pala’ to the loud roar of the now almost shirtless crowd, swinging its sweaty T-shirts in the air while Tings bashed on the MIDI pads through a ferocious dance set. Chicago’s Mick Jenkins came on to a crowd extremely appreciative and hyped up for one of the world’s most exciting hip hop artists, and he launched into a cover of N.W.A’s ‘Fuck The Police’ near the end of his set, enabling the crowd to get even wilder than they were previously.
Indeed, the hip hop lineup for the day was sensational, with Owusu and Jenkins paving the way for Koi Child, Sampa The Great and A.B. Original. Koi Child’s chunky big band sounds got the first real grooves mooin’. Later, Sampa brought her signature style to her devoted and ever-expanding fan base, getting hips doing what they do, while Trials and Briggs of A.B. Original, the highlight of the day, slaughtered all in their path with a slew of guests and a stomping rendition of ‘January 26’, not to mention a traditional Koori dance immediately followed by their DJ dropping ‘Turn Down For What’.
On the nearby Future Sounds stage, Clams Casino took a darker turn and hit us with scintillating witch house; everything got very sexual, very fast. He was only to be matched (and maybe even beaten) later on in the night by Mr. Carmack, who delivered an ear-thumping set riddled with a ridiculous amount of bass that left many asking how he got away with being so loud at an outdoor festival in Sydney.
The programmers only committed one unforgivable sin, and that was in programming Dune Rats before 4:20pm. The hyperactive stoners brought a shitload of C-bombs and shoey competitions. After a moving welcome to country, King Gizzard and The Lizard Wizard kicked off the circle pit of the day, smashing into Nonagon Infinity like it came out yesterday. No one can touch these guys live.
Local lads Gang Of Youths, however, go close – they’re the ongoing voice of our generation. “I grew up a few blocks from here,” yelled David Le’aupepe, genuine bafflement in his voice. He barely had to sing a word – we had it covered. We also had a naked crowd-surfer and a man atop a door find his way above us.
Glass Animals played a fun set on the main stage with their frontman Dave Bayley donning his signature brightly coloured long sleeves, all while wistfully running around with mad energy. The sing-along moment of the festival had to be ‘Gooey’, and if you’ve ever seen a crowd dancing slow while belting its lungs out to a classic jam, you’ll know this is really one of those things that festivals are made for.
The only truly forgettable act of Laneway 2017 was the rebranded Chet Faker, AKA Nick Murphy, who vanished from memory as he left the stage. Fortunately, he was followed by Tame Impala. It may not feel like it to him, but Kevin Parker is only ever moving forwards. Confetti cannons and pulsing psychedelic projections heralded the Impala fuzz we know and love, converting non-believers in an exultant wave of colour. Unlike Carmack, Parker and co. were adversely affected by the noise restrictions, but it didn’t stop them from sending out confetti into the crowd, landing on pretty much everyone who didn’t already have glitter on their face.
This year as always, Laneway shone with the light, life and love of Sydney’s youth. It’s a vital part of our city, and we can only hope that the powers that be keep letting it happen.