Candy-coated almonds are phenomenal. So much so that one can forget that they actually contain any ounce of nutritional value in them for the entire duration of consumption. Why am I bringing this up? Well, certainly because Meadow Brook has some phenomenal concessions, and people should invest more in them. But mostly because I am obsessed with candy-coated almonds. When I was a kid, I would attend women’s basketball games at the Palace way too often just so I could convince my Mom to pick up some of those little droplets of heaven for me. But I must confess something: at St. Jerome’s Laneway Festival on Saturday, September 14, 2013, I didn’t have a single nut.
Why is it that I never got my hands on the one thing that makes me truly happy? Because everything else at Laneway was just too damn good. The festival was distractingly good, actually. My stomach awoke in almond-less loathing the next day, but it was worth it.
People keep asking me who my favorite bands at Laneway were, and I am mortified by the question much of the time. Instead of approaching such a difficult inquiry, I will instead detail my Laneway highlights, musical and otherwise.
The HAERTS Persona
Those of you who got the chance to see HAERTS open up Laneway Festival with unforgettable gusto know that they were one of the best bands on the list this year at Laneway. They delivered several times over when it came to putting us in the Laneway mood at 12:40 pm on Roscoe Stage. They definitely made my top 5 bands of the day, and that’s not just because I love chick singers.
A really important part of the HAERTS experience for me happened after the show, however. About fifteen minutes after the crowd had migrated a little to the right (Derrick Stage) to see Youth Lagoon, the members of HAERTS appeared on the side of this stage behind the gate. They walked with such purpose up to the gate, said NOTHING (no joke, nothing), and the gate guard just opened the door for them to proceed to strut right out into and through the Youth Lagoon crowd.
The few patches of people who happened to be so far to the right of the crowd that they were able to view such an occurrence became like kittens in the rain, on their toes and terrified as ever. But get this, the band just walked on past them all like this was completely normal, and headed with so much style to what appeared to be the beer/food area. The band was akin to Judd Nelson at the end of “The Breakfast Club,” striding across the football field with such clout. I could hear “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” playing in the background, I’m not kidding. Oh, and then HAERTS’ band members proceeded to go to the other bands’ shows and be super into them, which is something that I didn’t see many other band members doing much that day. Holy cow, HAERTS is so cool. I’ve already hung a photo of them on my dream board.
People Who Like ADULT.
ADULT. represented their hometown wonderfully with their acclaimed freaky-electronic fervor. They knocked socks off and turned them inside out repeatedly and without hesitation. What stood out to me most about this show, however, was that the immense passion of Adam and Nicola spread like the plague onto their enchanted audience. Instead of bouncing slightly from one leg to the next (with one pocketed hand at all times, in generic hipster fashion), as the crowd had in most other shows that day, the ADULT. fans refused to contain themselves. People were flopping around rampantly from head to toe the entire time. THE ENTIRE TIME. Beers were spilling on wardrobes, shoulders were being bumped repeatedly by unknown neighbors, and beanies were falling to the ground to be immediately stomped on by combat boots. And the characters doing the romping knew the words, they knew the beats, and they always wanted to yell about everything. They woo-ed with greater forte every time Nicola so much as looked up at them (which seemed like it happened a lot, but it was hard to tell because she was wearing sunglasses). The scene was an exposition of beauty I had never seen before. So, as far as fans go, ADULT. fans won Laneway. Well done, ADULT. fans. Well done.
The Frightened Rabbit Accordion
The Frightened Rabbit performance was a phenomenal one by all measures: great tone, balanced set list, and ability to make you groove from yards and yards away. They also had that whole “being Scottish” thing going for them, which only made the audience more fascinated by their every move. Oh, and the frontman Scott Hutchinson swore a lot. In a Scottish accent. Ladies and gentlemen, it’s everything you’d ever hoped it could be and more.
As it turns out, Frightened Rabbit also has a knack for hyping up the audience with opportunities for their participation. So, in line with such a skill, Scott Hutchinson requests that in one of their songs the audience acts as an accordion, holding one foundational tone the whole time as accordions are often want to do. So, of course I’m freaking out about this because it just so happens that one of my childhood dreams is, in fact, to be an accordion for a Scottish band.
When the time comes, Hutchinson holds up his hand and we all make this “ahhhhhh” sound in unison with the tone he has given us moments earlier. And we’re holding it and we’re holding it. And it’s wonderful because I find myself looking around at other audience members who are floundering a bit with their note after a minute or so. Then I spot those proud vocalists in the crowd who are still hanging in there. Suddenly I feel my diaphragm closing in on itself and I look to others who are also gasping for air to complete the job. But the thing is: we don’t even know when this song ends! But we still want to try our hardest to fulfill our collective destiny which was just made for us by Hutchinson. And suddenly we are all brothers and sisters in surrender, understanding the silliness of our overwhelming devotion to our accordion. We start breathing again. And we laugh.
CHVRCHES, in General
CHVRCHES went up on stage with the freedom of the majestic African antelope and the confidence of its predatory lion combined. Lauren Mayberry’s exquisite voice bellowed their famous track “Gun” through the crowd, and I was in a trance.
This band was my favorite of the bands I saw perform at Laneway for a number of reasons. Firstly, I believe their stage presence attained the ideal level of liveliness and unpredictability. The life came from the sounds themselves: electronic tones with powerful lyrics. The unpredictability stemmed from the band’s primitive and almost spiritual body movements on stage. All three members just danced like crazy pretty much the entire time, ceasing only when absolutely necessary. I especially enjoyed when instrumentalist and vocalist, Martin Doherty lost complete control and just started flailing around like crazy. Even the bassist, Iain Cook couldn’t help but bounce around for the entire set. See, a lot of bands at Laneway were kind of scanning the crowd in the hopes that loads of people would be grooving to their tunes, but CHVRCHES did enough grooving for all of us. In fact, it seemed like they didn’t even notice us at points because they were too lost in the sounds.
CHVRCHES was also memorable for me because I felt like I never knew what they were going to say and I was fascinated by that in an obsessive way. For instance, at one point, Mayberry started talking about the fact that Madonna grew up in “this fair state,” and how it was safe to assume that we would catch a glimpse of the pop phenomenon just wandering about at Meadow Brook on that very date. This was incredible to me because:
The way she said “this fair state” had the be the cutest way in which anyone has ever said anything.
I imagine someone must have told her a few facts about Michigan (or potentially Detroit) before the band stopped here on their tour. After being informed of the basics, she consciously thought, “Well, I figure of all the people I know of who grew up in Michigan (famed Detroit-ers included), I definitely feel most comfortable talking about Madonna (who actually grew up in Bay City, turns out).” That was a thought she really had, and I think that’s the best thought ever because no one else would think that.
After saying all of the this, she started to tell us that she couldn’t hear a lot of our responses to what she said because of her elaborate headset bit. But she revealed that she would sometimes just imagine that we were all saying such things as, “We most certainly will spot Madonna today,” and, “You’re just so intelligent,” and, “Your shoes look really nice today,” etc. She may have thought her mention of Madonna was awkward (which it wasn’t), so she diffused it by being the coolest person in the world.
After getting to know how much Mayberry resembles a kitten, we were all blessed to catch a glimpse of Doherty taking the reigns and whipping out his ever-hypnotic vocal tones. At this point, after seeing him get down (and I mean, GET DOWN) for the past few songs, I think we all were dying to dive into his psyche in whatever way possible, so this worked out. He proceeded to offer some of the most sincere and sacred vocalization I had seen that day. Oh, and he did not stop dancing. In fact, he took this opportunity to dance more! I am almost certain his well-worn Nikes did not touch the floor for full minutes.
Finally, CHVRCHES chose to play “Science/Vision,” a phenomenally ethereal surge of peacefulness. The words “Breathe, don’t speak, it’s leaving your body now” seemed to pulsate through the crowd, and it was perfection.
This performance topped my list because it offered a superior sound even than their recordings, and it felt wild and spiritual. I never stopped being impressed by the amount of personality on stage, and for that, CHVRCHES was my Laneway favorite.
The Science of Sound
At one point, I could hear Frightened Rabbit on Roscoe Stage, AlunaGeorge on Meadow Stage, and Katy Perry’s “Roar” on the speakers by the entrance simultaneously. So cool.
Last, but certainly not least, I want to address something that made me happier than all others that day. The simple virtue of kindness is often disregarded in life when one has a goal for oneself, and even more often when one is in a large group of strangers. Laneway folks were an exception to this rule, and for that I was very grateful.
Each lawn show had its own crew of front-rowers waiting earnestly for the band’s arrival to the stage. The difference between these front-rowers and the front-rowers at most other shows, however, is that these people weren’t going to push you to the ground if you suggested with your body movements that you wanted to get closer to the band. I saw so many people weaving in and out of the crowd to evaluate the sound wave quality in different grass patches, and there was no conflict whatsoever in these instances. I even saw people giving up their seats in the Pavilion during Sigur Ros. Sigur Ros, people! I personally felt free to stand anywhere I wanted without being hassled by anyone, which is very rare for someone as paranoid as I am about mosh casualties. People were giving each other the opportunity to see the bands they loved in a more real way, and I found that absolutely amazing. Special shout out here to the guy who walked up to me at the beginning of the National’s show and handed me an All-Access pass for no reason so I could see them from anywhere I wanted. Kindness.
At several points during the Washed Out show especially, I noticed pure gentleness and sincerity in the acts of others. Washed Out was ever-glorious (among the top 5 as well), as always, but they took a little while to get started. No fault of their own, of course, because there were some apparent technical issues at the beginning of their set. Aside from a few joking hollers of “At Least One Song” (in place of “One More Song”), the fans were stationary and respectful. They looked at it more as a chance to catch the Washed Out crew candidly handling the situation and just being as chill as you would expect about everything. During what seemed like a rather long delay, after all, the crowd just loved one another and made friends.
Within minutes of the power being right again, I spotted a decent-sized dance circle in the middle of the mass. I built up the courage to ask these awesome people if I could dance with them, and they made me feel like I had just handed them the golden ticket straight from my own Wonka Bar. They were stoked to have me join them for some reason, and they never once made me feel weird about it (even though I was dancing at my utmost weird). As the concert continued, this group grew in number with strangers who felt comfortable participating in the dance. By the time I left there were people dancing next to each other and shaking hands all around me and I couldn’t feel my limbs anymore. That’s what happens to me when I am overwhelmed by kindness. Props to the Laneway attendees for loving one another so wonderfully. The rest wouldn’t have mattered in the least if they hadn’t.