In the four or so years that the Laneway Australian event has been running in Singapore, its reputation has grown and grown. This year all 13k tickets sold out for the first time, making for a vibrant, busy atmosphere at its present location at the Meadow, part of Gardens by the Bay.
It’s by far the biggest music event of the year in Singapore. Thank God for the support it gets, as it’s one of the few chances Singaporean get to see and hear the major indie music acts that have graced the pages of Pitchfork or been played regularly on BBC Six Music.
Royal Blood – let’s rock
This year’s line up featured its usual eclectic bands from across the globe. We arrived towards the end of the afternoon, so didn’t see everything, but things got off to a good start for us with the hard rock of new UK band Royal Blood. These guys have been getting a lot of attention for their debut album last year, including from Arctic Monkeys and guitar legend Jimmy Page. Hard to believe that just two of them can deliver such a powerful in your face rock sound, and no idea who does the bass, but they make a great noise. Hearing some of the lead tracks from their self titled album delivered live in such a confident way makes me want to go back and listen to it again. Ones to watch, even though out and out rock seems to be a little out of favour this decade. Maybe this is the outfit to start to change that.
Jungle – but not ‘Jungle’
Next up were another UK outfit, Jungle, whose single, ‘The Heat’ and last years, again, self titled album, rated highly by critics and music lovers. Live they don’t disappoint and their updated urban tinged soul works really well in a live, early evening festival environment. The only downside to them perhaps is that their songs begin to sound a bit the same, but the overall vibe and groove is great. Probably my favourite live band of the festival.
Four albums into their career they have become something of a festival feature. Little Dragon’s name is apparently inspired from the tantrums lead singer Yukimi Nagano threw in the studio and watching her live I can kind of imagine this, as she comes over as one seriously feisty ball of energy. Music wise they didn’t seem to quite hit the mark for me, at least today, although on record they’re my favourites from all of the acts from this years Laneway.
One of the most enjoyable things going to a festival is the chance to suddenly hear some new music, and make a note to go check them out on Spotify. I’ve not heard of Future Islands before, even though it looks like they’ve been around for a few years now, but the sound wafting over to us as we queued for our drinks sounded very influenced from some of my favourite electro sounds from the 80’s (OMD in particular). The song ‘Seasons’ is a stand out, it starts off sounding a bit like Born Slippy by Underworld before turning lighter and melodic. Very nice.
The Cloud Stage – Jon Hopkins
Over at the new Cloud stage, man of the moment seems to be Chet Faker, who we didn’t manage to hear much of, but judging by the rammed crowd, sitting on fences, and anywhere to get a view, must be pretty good. Another one to check out.
The crowd thins out substantially for the arrival of Jon Hopkins, which is good, as he’s one of the main acts I wanted to see, having been a fan for most of his career. I love his blend of beats and not quite ambient electronic music, especially on albums ‘Opalescent’, ‘Insides’ and ‘Immunity’. Live though, he suffers a bit from man behind desk with a lot of Apple Macs syndrome. It doesn’t make for particularly exciting live experience, no matter how energetically he twiddles his knobs. But you can’t fault the music, which is as sublime as I had hoped. I’d prefer to hear him in somewhere other than the Cloud stage though, as unlike the other stages you can’t sit on the grass and just chill out and soak up the vibes.
After Jon Hopkins it’s back to the main stage area to catch this years headliner St Vincent, who is entering the mainstream consciousness as a major talent. I was pretty entranced by her. She’s not particularly animated, but somehow manages to command a heck of a lot of stage presence. Something to do with her combination of vinyl dress, slightly otherworldly face, effects heavy guitar and brilliant music. A worthy headliner.
So overall, for me, the best Laneway yet. Great bands, venue and much improved food options too this year. For most of the acts, it’s next down to Australia, the home of the original Laneway, leaving us with some good memories and more great music to check out before we get to it all over again next year.