Laneway 2019: Review
Laneway Festival has long-held a special place in the collective hearts of Australian music lovers – in particular, those from Melbourne, where the festival was born over a decade ago. Since then, a lot has changed. The first instalment came to us from Caledonian Lane, smack bang in the middle of the CBD. Five years later – with hopes of expanding its capacity to the several-thousand mark – Laneway Melbourne was moved across the bridge to the Footscray Community Arts Centre, where it grew into a world-class festival. Now it’s time for yet another new relocation. Whilst these expansions are a sign of continued success, Laneway may have finally found its home… for real this time.
Stepping into the festival at Footscray Gardens for the first time, it was clear to see the Laneway of old was no more – with four stages throughout the 15-hectare park, the amount of vast, open space was strikingly apparent. This gave me a feeling I wasn’t familiar with from the festival’s previous events – a sort of powerhouse style festival one would expect from festivals held just across the river at Flemington Racecourse. It was pleasantly surprising to see, however, that there was no lack of nooks and crannies spread out across the site, maintaining an air of exploration we’ve become so accustomed to – albeit not the stages themselves anymore. The footpaths, engulfed by the jungle that surrounded, somewhat savoured the ‘Laneway’ environment which many may have feared would be lost.
Rex Orange County stepped onto the main Dean Turner Stage, to the biggest crowd of the day I’d seen yet. Rex’s assertive presence on stage only added to the frenzy which surrounded his performance, playing favourites such as ‘Sunflower’ (to which several sunflowers raised from the hands of fans amongst the crowd) and ‘Best Friend’. I think it’s fair to say however, the highlight of the set came when Alicia Keys’ ‘No One’ was belted out by what felt like the entirety of the festival. Rex’s stripped back version was a huge success, and really highlighted his level connectivity with the crowd, able to inject the audience with any emotion he chooses.
As the night rolled around, Florida rapper Denzel Curry attracted a considerable crowd, all eager to get a little wild to his viral hits such as ‘Switch It Up’ and of course, ‘Ultimate’ – which received a huge reception. Denzel acknowledged the late XXXTentacion towards the end of his set, by playing X’s own ‘Look At Me!’. This was a nice touch, paying tribute to his old roommate and friend.
It was now 9:30, and the moment we had been waiting for is finally upon us – to see possibly the most impressive booking from the Laneway crew: Jon Hopkins. I watched hundreds of attendees swarm past me, frantically manoeuvring their way in the opposite direction to see the headline act Gang of Youths on the main stage; I knew this would be one of those special, intimate festival sets that are often so rare to come by – and usually result from exactly this sort of headline clash. In what was certainly an eagerly-anticipated trip to Australia, Jon Hopkins delivered with 60 minutes of utter brilliance, taking the crowd through a deep journey of fierce base and an ambience which is so unique to his style. Jon’s most recent release – Singularity, played an evident role in the live set. ‘Emerald Rush’ transformed the dancefloor into a much more zestful, dynamic setting, whilst tracks like ‘Luminous Beings’ brought an entirely different feel of content to the audience – observing peacefully as if all were hypnotised by each and every move he made. It genuinely felt like an inclusive experience seeing a live set from Jon Hopkins – somehow, it was more than a crowd of people observing one person on a stage.