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Laneway: The need to know

Friday 24th January 2014

Sam Wicks of Radio New Zealand’s Music 101 programme describes St. Jerome’s Laneway Festival as “small and perfectly formed”, but then reconsiders: “Maybe not perfectly. Not so small, either. It has grown. They seem to step it up each year.”

The Australian music festival began life in the narrow laneways of Melbourne. It was first held in New Zealand in Britomart in Auckland, and the second, in Aotea Square. Since 2012, the festival has been held in Silo Park.

Wicks says Laneway 2014 has “easily the best line-up” of any festival in New Zealand, and struggles to pick just one or two acts as his picks to see: “Jamie XX, Danny Brown’s going to be wild, Kurt Vile, Lorde (now playing a separate show), Run The Jewels… it’s ridiculous. The line-up has never been as good as this. So many of those artists are peaking right now, and they’re all in one place.”

Synthpop trio CHVRCHES  come to Laneways with a much-hyped reputation.
Synthpop trio CHVRCHES comes to Laneways with a much-hyped reputation.

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Musician and The Corner contributor Matthew McAuley says this year’s line-up is the Auckland festival’s “broadest by a considerable margin, and probably their best”. His recommendations “to ensure that your day is both very enjoyable and wildly uneven in mood” are as follows:

Above all others, please prioritise HAIM and EARL SWEATSHIRT. The former will satisfy the latent Fleetwood Mac via Wilson Phillips via Shania Twain adoration that 110 per cent of all Laneway attendees are harbouring, while the latter’s combination of Los Angeles bass music shudder and DOOM-if-DOOM-sometimes-rapped-in-not-metaphors wordplay should sound about perfect bouncing around a shipping container amphitheater. DANNY BROWN is also very worth seeing, for very similar reasons. If there’s any concept of Real and True Justice in the mind of whoever’s timetabling this event, you’ll get to see KURT VILE just towards the end of the afternoon, and UNKNOWN MORTAL ORCHESTRA shortly after. I don’t know when WATERCOLOURS will likely play, but she’ll be great, so see her too. JAMIE XX will likely close out your Best Day Evvy, and that’s probably a very good thing, and you should probably be working on your 2 step.

Shahlin Graves, of the online magazine Coup de Main, is excited to see Haim (again: “I’ve seen them twice so far and they’re really good live”); Earl Sweatshirt (“I think he’ll put on a cool show”); Jamie XX; Frightened Rabbit; and “obviously” Lorde, at the separate show on Wednesday.

Danny Brown’s latest album was full of party tunes, so seeing it live will get everyone jumping

Scottish trio CHVRCHES, too, Graves expects to live up to the hype: “I’ve been told by all my friends who live in the UK, they’re amazing live. They’re one of those bands where you worry that Lauren [Mayberry, singer] won’t be able to pull off those vocals, but apparently she’s flawless.”

Though Lorde won’t be making an appearance on the night, given that she will be attending the Grammy Awards ceremony the day prior, she’s performing at her own sideshow at Silo Park a couple of days later. Everyone who bought a ticket to Laneway before January 8 got a free pass to the Lorde show as well.

It’s not a perfect solution, given that many Laneway attendees will be making a special trip up to Auckland for the day of the festival alone, but it contrasts with how other big events tend to handle scheduling conflicts or changes to the line-up. In this way, Laneway’s smaller size works to its advantage.

“When you think of how the Big Day Out handled [the cancellation of] Blur, this Lorde solution is very elegant,” says Wicks. “It’ll be worth flying up for; she’ll be coming off the back of some Grammy wins. It’s a big deal that they can keep Silo Park in that set-up for three days.”

Mercury Prize winner James Blake also pulled out of the festival because of a clash with the Grammy Awards, with The Presets and Cat Power announced as his replacements. Organisers also offered refunds to ticket holders unhappy with the changes.

 You need to intermittently find shade or you will literally cook via the beautiful combination of Auckland sun and Auckland concrete

The Run The Jewels, Danny Brown and Earl Sweatshirt sideshow at James Cabaret in Wellington the day after Laneway might tick the box for those on the fence about making the trip to Auckland. “There’ll be plenty of people who don’t have any interest in the other artists playing,” says Wicks.

On the day, gates open at noon. Take a look at the timetable here beforehand to plot out your day. If there’s one act in particular you’re there to see, it’s worth making your way to that stage a decent amount of time before they’re due on, as the narrow spaces that originally gave Laneway its name tend to fill up quickly.

All the punters we spoke to warned of how hot Silo Park, that concrete jungle, can get. Sunscreen, a hat, sunglasses and water will be important. “Silo Park gets hot as hell, so don’t wear heavy or too much clothing,” says Lucas Jensen-Carey of 95bFM’s news and editorial team, whose pick for the event is Danny Brown (“His latest album Old was full of party tunes, so seeing it live will get everyone jumping”).

Matthew McAuley agrees. “I know you want to wear your best scoop-neck’d singlet for this very auspicious occasion, but please bear in mind two things: you need to intermittently find shade or you will literally cook via the beautiful combination of Auckland sun and Auckland concrete AND it may be quite cold by the end of the evening,” he says over email. “It is not very funny to get heatstroke and then hang out in a cool Hauraki Gulf gale.”

“There is grass to sit on, and every year, Laneway tries to get more grass and shade protection, but because it’s obviously just an empty lot for the rest of the year, they have to bring everything in,” says Shahlin Graves, who, full disclosure, is in charge of social media for the New Zealand event.

But do bring a cardigan or jumper for when the sun goes down: “Because it’s by the sea it gets really cold really fast,” she says.

People are impatient because they’re like, ‘Aah, I want to see a band, but I’m hungry’ – food can never be fast enough

The traditional music festival rules – no glass or cans, laser lights, alcohol, drugs, umbrellas, water pistols, dogs, etc. – apply. “Food is thrown out by security at the gate so stash your hip flask in something (or someone) else,” says Michael McClelland, another writer for The Corner.

Food and drink are, of course, available at the festival, and by all accounts there’s a pretty decent selection. “Laneway always delivers with awesome food, so be prepared to spend all your money on gourmet pizzas and Hungarian fried bread,” says Jensen-Carey. “Eat something from every single food truck and, as your parents always said, stay deeply and sincerely hydrated,” says McAuley.

Of course, everyone at the festival has the same plan, and Graves says queues are inevitable. “I went and bought a pizza in 2012, and I didn’t experience any queuing problem,” she says. “I think people are just impatient because they’re like, ‘Aah, I want to see a band, but I’m hungry’ – food can never be fast enough.”

Rapper Earl Sweatshirt will be performing at both the Auckland Laneway festival and its Wellington sideshow.
Rapper Earl Sweatshirt will be performing at both the Auckland Laneway festival and its Wellington sideshow.

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“Bring cash because the cash-only line is way faster than the eftpos line,” says Jack Riddell, Friday Drive host for 95bFM, who describes Laneway as a “summer party in the city with your favourite bands that you know and love”. His picks for the festival are Run The Jewels, Danny Brown, Earl Sweatshirt, Parquet Courts and local band RACKETS, and – in case you were wondering – he plans to be wearing shorts and a T-shirt. “The shorts and T-shirt combo will never fail you,” he says – but having “a cheap poncho in case of rain” on hand doesn’t hurt.

The event finishes at 10.30pm. If you’re going to be bitterly following the event from your desk or lecture theatre, The Wireless and Radio New Zealand’s Music 101 team will be reporting live from the event.