Reviewed on Sunday February 2 (image by Tim Levy)

With no obnoxious tattoos, slogan tees, fluoro or denim underwear in sight, the saving grace of Sydney’s festivals was back for another year of sunny bliss with its signature high-calibre lineup accenting each moment.

Flocking in the direction of a seemingly hypnotised crowd, we bore witness to the UK’s 19-year-old ginger prodigy, King Krule, as his spellbinding melodies and disjointed beats swirled across the audience. It was hard to comprehend how that 70-year-old-smoker’s growl belonged to baby-faced Archy Marshall, who dished out songs from his debut album 6 Feet Beneath The Moon with remarkable maturity. Elsewhere, the more experienced and good-humoured Run The Jewels – AKA El-P and Killer Mike – belted out a new hip hop anthem: “We don’t make dance music / We make R.A.P!

As hundreds dashed over to the main Park Stage, Vance Joy’s ‘Emmylou’ and ‘Play With Fire’ prompted some “aaaaah-what-do-you-mean-other-songs?” hums in the crowd. He might’ve won the triple j Hottest 100, but Vance Joy live is generic and forgettable. At least until… “Lady, running down to the riptide”. Ah, there it was.

XXYYXX offered a chill-out escape on this summer’s day, but Frightened Rabbit got right to the point. “This weather is fucked,” announced Scott Hutchison. All we might be able to tell our friends about Laneway, he laughed, was that “a big fuck from Scotland died onstage. It was better than Lorde.” Thankfully, the overheating five-piece matched banter with insistent melodies – smiles on faces all round.

While Cashmere Cat wowed fans at the Future Classic corner, Daughter’s leading lady Elena Tonra took the mic on the main stage. The atmospherics neared boiling point, with heavy percussive undercurrents intensifying Tonra’s emotionalism. Kurt Vile was best summed up as a zero-fucks-were-given set; more self-indulged than introspective. Lots of “yeeeeahs” were offered – none from the audience, however.

All was forgiven when the Haim sisters took charge directly after him, dazzling all with their head-banging, melodic rapture. Not one patron was silent for ‘Falling’, with all bopping euphorically to the upbeat percussion and slick guitar riffs of Haim’s chart-topping debutLP Days Are Gone. After a sufficient dose of hits, Danny Brown’s crowd in the sandstone confines of the courtyard stage doubled. With even stragglers vying for a spot up front, the Detroit-reared hip hop star had every hand raised and every hip swayed.

Chvrches opened with ‘We Sink’ from their delightful debut, The Bones Of What You Believe, but Lauren Mayberry’s voice was a tad lost in the bass-heavy mix. Not so Lorde, who in the same week she won two Grammys, returned Down Under with an ounce more swagger. She played the tease with her setlist, at least until ‘Tennis Court’, which kicked the day’s biggest crowd into action. The obligatory ‘Royals’ was there, but ‘Team’ was the highlight – a song Ella Yelich-O’Connor hasn’t always found a way to land in her live shows.

The internationals were strong in number and reputation, but it was a delight to see two locals closing the main stages, especially after their respective stints abroad. Cloud Control’s Alister Wright lit up the Garden Stage by soloing on a flaming guitar; a touch of satire from a band that has always seemed to take itself just a little too seriously. Breakout hit ‘Gold Canary’ transitioned into ‘Pepper’ by the Butthole Surfers near the end of a set that combined old and new material.

Where there’s fire, there’s smoke, and The Jezabels had the smoke machines in overdrive for their homecoming night. Again, older material gave way to new cuts, and while ‘Look Of Love’ didn’t quite manage to cut through, Hayley Mary et al. were in fine form nonetheless. And then, a stunning moment: as they reached the chorus on The Brink’s big lead single, ‘The End’, the stage lights suddenly and unexpectedly went out – so much so, Nik Kaloper couldn’t see his drums. Instinctively, the crowd responded by bathing the band in light from an arsenal of mobile phones. The Jezabels were gracious and closed with ‘Hurt Me’, but as some fans continued to Warpaint, we had witnessed Laneway’s most inspiring moment of many.


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