Text Alif Omar Mahfix + Miranda Yeoh
Images Aloysius Lim, Ryan Chang, Nina Sandejas, Dawn Chua, Glenn Yong
With double the amount of acts, 2012’s iteration of St. Jerome’s Laneway Festival was more ambitious than last year’s by one stage. And JUICE stuck around for all 14 of the acts. If the first and second halves of our report read differently in tone, opinion, and style, it’s because we got two of our writers to cover each half. We’re bipolar like that.
First half of the show
The first time Laneway happened in Singapore, people derisively dubbed it ‘Rainway’ (some simply had pronunciation problem) due to the heavy rain that plagued the latter half of the festival. This time around though, that name didn’t apply at all as the heat was nigh unbearable even to our Asian hide. Suddenly everyone was wishing it did turn out to be another ‘Rainway’. But nevermind that, our ponchos made for awesome makeshift picnic pads!
Noise pop duo Cults opened the festival with such flare that we were left wondering why the heck they were billed so early. Vocalist Madeline handled the crowd as one would expect every band would at concerts – by stroking our collective egos with “you guys are the best crowd ever!” proclamations. We’re not sure how honest those statements were but we can tell you this, they were one of the better bands performing that day
Yuck was up next, continuing the trend of awesome bands billed way too early. Awesome guitar distortions and solos, suburbia ennui lyrics, and early Dinosaur Jr.-esque sound dominated their performance. If ‘The Wall’ hadn’t taken a permanent spot in your memory space, it probably did after the live rendition of the song at Laneway.
The momentum was slightly bogged down by the following acts; Austra and Chairlift. Both weren’t necessarily bad, but female trio Austra’s brand of electronic pop and duo Chairlift’s similarly synthy sound would have sounded a lot better had they knew how to handle festival-sized crowds. It could just be the heat bringing our mood down though.
The stage was later strewn with flowers, some were even wrapped around the mic stands, leaving us wondering what was to come. As Girls’ frontman Christopher Owens took the stage solo with his guitar, we felt the air changed immediately when he started covering Whitney Houston’s rendition of ‘I Will Always Love You’. While not as impressive as Yuck’s performance, it was definitely the most emotionally engaging song performed during Laneway as Whitney had just passed the day before. Hell, their cover even made it to Pitchfork the day after.
By the end of Girls, the queue to the drink tents had built up to massive sprawling line. We wager that also meant by that time the crowd was sufficiently inebriated, which then would explain the amount of peeps dancing to The Drums later. Informed by The Cure, the New York band got us on our feet singing along to the infinitely catchy ‘Money’. It was like a Barsonic night on a massive scale.
Perhaps due to the insane amount of dancing from the prior performance, everyone decided a more sedentary concert position would suit them better when it was time for Anna Calvi. Or perhaps most weren’t familiar with her music. If the latter were the reason, then Anna Calvi quickly diminished their formerly apathetic response to her presence. Shredding the guitar like the best of Guitar Heroes, Anna’s penchant for the dramatic was on full display. Flamenco suit, Amanda Palmer-like facial expressions, cataclysmically commanding vocals, Anna destroyed the two other female solo acts of the festival (sorry Feist).
SECOND HALF OF THE SHOW
The crowd proceeded to shift to Twin Shadow on Stage 2 as soon as Anna Calvi finished off with ‘Love Won’t Be Leaving’ to full dramatic effect – Twin Shadow’s upbeat opener ‘At My Heels’ was a definite breath of fresh air after Anna’s dismal performance. Eerily reminiscent of Jimi Hendrix, frontman George Lewis Jr stood on stage in a full get up from the fedora, shirt, jacket and trousers – together with the band could easily be the Best Dressed Performers of the night. Sure it’s 7pm but, goodness, isn’t it humid out. After slowing down with ‘Tyrant Destroyed’, Twin Shadow picked up the pace again with the dance and sing-a-long friendly ‘When We’re Dancing’. Damn, George’s voice is perfection live and at its best during the band’s standout performance ‘Slow’. The band managed to squeeze in most of their songs from Forget except ‘For Now’, ‘Tether Beat’ and personal favourite ‘Yellow Balloon’, but all is forgiven as they ended their set with ‘I Can’t Wait’.
There was a lack of momentum this year at Laneway, after Twin Shadow’s cheerful set things slowed down again with folk darling Laura Marling. Her performance, felt like it suited better in an acoustic environment rather than a festival like this where the sound wasn’t very good, but we digress. From ‘Devil’s Spoke’ to songs like ‘Alpha Shallows’ to her last ‘I Speak Before I Can’, as her lyrics and that husky old soul of a voice traveled through Fort Canning Park there that Laura is without a doubt, is an amazing storyteller, something that can truly be appreciated by seeing her live, a fact that only made us wish even more that it would rain like it did last year. It was back to bands again with The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart and as soon as they opened with ‘Say No To Love’, something didn’t sound right. Where they bad live performers or was there something wrong with the sound? If the sound quality was bad all day it went unnoticed and seemed to get at its worst during TPOBPAT set. So much so, the band had to stop halfway because the crackling heard over the speakers became unbearable. Thankfully a few minutes after, the sound engineers got the show up and running again and everybody got to sing and jump along to everybody’s TPOBPAH favourites ‘Young Adult Friction’ and ‘Everything With You’. Fun fact (if you didn’t already know): vocalist/keyboardist Peggy Wang is the editor of Buzzfeed.
From a fan’s perspective, it was surreal watching Toro y Moi live – he even sounded exactly as if you were listening to a CD but his set came back with mixed reviews. Non-fans thought it was boring, repetitive and draggy. No matter, Toro y Moi played some of his best stuff, opening with ‘Intro/New Beat’ to Underneath The Pine favourites like ‘Go With You’ and you can’t blame anyone for thinking the set was a bit too long when Feist was up next. Among all the buzzbands and acts today, Feist had the most star power, the crowd started screaming as soon as she stepped on stage to perform a very unfamiliar version of ‘My Moon, My Man’. We were really glad that Feist managed to play old favourites like ‘Mushaboom’, and ‘Sea Lion’ instead of solely performing her new album Metals. We managed to make friends with a girl who smuggled in sparklers and we decided to light them if she played ‘1, 2, 3, 4’. Alas she didn’t, and ‘So Sorry’ had to do. If you saw our sparklers waving among the crowd on the projector, yep, that was us.
Laneway was almost ending and we’d come to the last 2 acts of the night. Unfortunately, despite the hype surrounding The Horrors, their show was a letdown and their performance fell flat all the way through their 7 song set. This time last year, we were watching Foals performing ‘Spanish Sahara’ while it rained. We were hoping for “a moment” like that to happen again but it hasn’t. Did they save M83 as the best for last? The answer is yes. From ‘Intro / Teen Angst’ onwards, the crowd went mental – heck even Anthony Gonzales was feeding off the crowd’s vibes, running around frantically on stage and head banging and oh, when Morgan Kibby sang ‘We Own The Sky’, we got goosebumps. So what if there was no rain at Laneway, if there was a ridiculous beer queue, or if the sound wasn’t all that good? M83’s hour long performance made up for all of it and that, we say, is what makes a festival good. Ending it with a bang and making it memorable for years to come.
St. Jerome’s Laneway Festival was held at Fort Canning in Singapore on 12 February 2012. Click here for more pictures.