Review/Gallery: The Highlights of Laneway Festival Fremantle 2018
From Stella Donnelly and Billie Eilish to Bonobo and ODESZA.
In true St Jerome's Laneway Festival fashion, Fremantle copped a healthy dose of music's potential future at last weekend's Laneway Festival, whether it's the small-time bands from both here and afar bubbling on the verge of becoming international ticket-movers (Stella Donnelly, Shame, Dream Wife, Amy Shark) or already established names who, if they continued in their consistency, have promise to become some of music's most significant figures (Anderson .Paak, Billie Eilish, ODESZA). We were out and about checking out acts from both sides of the scale and not a single act failed to impress (even BADBADNOTGOOD – who finished their set acoustically after the Future Classic Stage's speaker stacks cut 15 minutes before finish), with sure-fire winners stepping up amongst a few more surprising names who were better than initially expected. With apologies to a lot of fantastic earlier acts we missed on account of doing some work backstage - check some picks from the day's proceedings below, along with a bunch of incredible shots by our resident Perth-based photographer Lostwithoutatrace.
Let's put this simply here: Stella Donnelly isn't just a gem, she's an expensive, over-sized diamond that people treasure for generations. Anyone who has caught the 2017 break-out over the past 12 months can attest to how incredible the Fremantle name is in a live setting, whether it's translating cuts from her acclaimed Thrush Metal EP and her forthcoming debut album, or her on-stage banter – like dedicating a song to a lousy Tinder date or stopping mid-set to say "bless you" to a fan in the front-row. On stage, Stella Donnelly is just as empowering and vocally confrontational as she is in recording, sweeping through numbers such as Boys Will Be Boys (Donnelly's break-out single, in which she confronts victim blaming and sexual assault) and Mechanical Bull, explaining each track and their meanings as she tunes her guitar or gazes out over the small, yet faithful crowd bearing the early-afternoon heat for one of Australia's best live acts.
Although only 16 years old, Los Angeles singer-songwriter Billie Eilish has a long and fruitful career ahead of her. The rising star has become a favourite on Australian radio, with singles such as the bouncy set-opener Bellyache and &Burn copping a solid rinsing over the past six months – the former of which even landing a spot in the pointy end of the Hottest 100. Eilish's set drew the biggest crowd of the early-afternoon, with the energetic (and predominately quite young) crowd lapping up everything Billie and her brother/songwriting partner Finneas O'Connell were putting down, from the aforementioned favourites to tracks like the set-closing Ocean Eyes and a cover of Drake's Hotline Bling, in which Billie Eilish plays solo with a ukelele in hand. Already proving to be a dynamic new face to the international music market, Billie Eilish will no doubt keep popping up over the next few years and potentially beyond, so don't be afraid to dive into her indie-tinged pop and join the steadily growing legion of fans already anticipating her every move.
Dropping their self-titled debut album in the midst of the festival's nation-wide tour, UK rock trio Dream Wife are one of those acts I never really quite got around to checking out – but I have regrets. The emerging trio were unexpectedly dominating at Laneway Festival, taking command of the hot and at-times weary crowd and getting a solid reaction through their powerful, punk-rock sound. Frontwoman Rakel Mjöll was the star of the show, donning a Kill Bill-esque outfit as she leapt across the stage with her eerily Karen O/Yeah Yeah Yeah's-esque vocals that cut straight through the band's heavy instrumentals on singles such as Hey Heartbreaker and Somebody, the former of which – their popular break-out single – particularly stirring a storm within the crowd. Don't miss them next time they're in town – they put on an excellent show.
There's a reason a lot of the hype in the lead-up to - and during - the length of the Laneway tour focused on Californian rapper Anderson .Paak - his live sets are an absolute joy to be hold. Rocking the fuck out with his the band The Free Nationals, his late afternoon set was the perfect precursor to the sundown vibes. Rolling through a set of his most popular tracks, the live band element definitely make the AP live experience something special, with nothing being lost in the translation from produced to live for hits like Mac Miller's Dang!, Am I Wrong and his Kaytra colab GLOWED UP. His ability to lay down some pretty damn complex drumming while rapping was another highlight, and it was pretty hard to fault the dude's relentless energy throughout the entire set.
After bringing his percussive and washed-out electronica to our shores mid-last year for Splendour In The Grass (and some sideshows), LA's Simon Green – more often known under his production pseudonym Bonobo – returned to Australia/NZ to once again make magic at Laneway Festival, armed with his spectacular 2017 record Migration and his full live band. Bonobo's live show amplifies the heavy contrast between acoustic and synthesised production in his recordings, with the deep thumps and ravey synth of singles like Bambro Koyo Ganda and We Could Forever (as well as a really house-leaning, currently unreleased single) matched with live brass, woodwinds, strings and the soothing vocals of Szjerdene on more delicate Migration cuts like Surface and Break Apart. The intoxicating pulse of Bonobo's live show charmed a surprisingly large and lively crowd (although many were waiting for ODESZA following Anderson .Paak's set), further solidifying the long-time cult beat-maker as one of electronic's most spectacular in a live setting.
It's been a long time between drinks for ODESZA and the Australian west-coast, with the Seattle pairing skipping Perth on their east-coast album tour last year. Laneway Festival saw them back in full force – if not larger than ever before – with their new live show, reworking tracks from their 2017 record A Moment Apart while throwing in modernised takes on their classic throwbacks (Sun Models) or massive, unreleased edits that keep the crowd on their feet (such as their brassy edit of Alex Adair's Make Me Feel Better). "It’s actually really fun for us to rewrite the elements to make them more epic live too," Harrison Mills – one-half of the duo – told us on their live show with their album release last year, and with Mansionair popping up for a guest vocal spot and THAT epic drumline, it's sure as hell really fun to watch too.
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