If there was one word to sum up Laneway 2017 it would be successful. After moving from its old home at Silo Park on the waterfront, the popular music festival took up residence in Albert Park next to Auckland University. Apparently, organisers had originally wanted the festival to be hosted in Albert Park when it first came to Auckland in 2010 but instead had to put up with Aotea Square and Silo Park. Finally, in 2017, eight festivals later it finally got to the lush surrounds of “one of the most beautiful parts of Auckland” according to Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker, and, I have to say, I think it has found its spiritual home.
On a scorching hot day, thousands of festival goers descended on the Albert Park precinct to lounge in the sun, or shade, of which there was plenty and listen to what was one of the most diverse lineups this festival has seen. Things kicked off with local band Fazerdaze on the main stage, with their indie pop sound reverberating nicely down Princes Street. I love how this festival offers up new and exciting New Zealand artists the chance to perform on the main stage, as it gives them the great opportunity to expose themselves to new audiences. This particular audience was impressed and you could tell the band loved every minute. It was then time for a lie down in the park at the rotunda stage where Australian singer-songwriter Julia Jacklan brought her sweet folk sound. She really has a beautiful voice and her performance was a nice way early on to just soak in the atmosphere and chill.
After Jacklan it was a quick pop over to Princes Street again, this time to see Oasis copycat band the DMA’s. They might be from Australia, but you wouldn’t know, with the band impressing the crowd with their Britpop/indie anthems. Then, came the first big act of the day for me, Chicago’s Whitney. These guys released one of the best albums of 2016, and their roots rock was a massive hit with the packed thunderdome crowd down Alfred Street. The thunderdome was for me the best stage at the festival with great sound, fantastic crowds, and some amazing performances. But more on that later. In the meantime, it was a rush over to the lovely Fountain Stage back in the park to see one of my favorite guitar bands at the moment Car Seat Headrest. Led by singer-songwriter Will Toledo, the band drew a massive and expectant crowd who were aware of the reputation this band has gained in such a short time. The band delivered and the crowd got into it rocking out to their brand of 90s lo-fi alt rock.
After roasting in the sun at Car Seat Headrest, it was back to the shade but sweaty mosh at the thunderdome, this time to see old New Zealand indie favorites Cut Off Your Hands. After being away for many years, this band seems revitalized with two new songs out and a great live show that kicked off with a surprising version of Talking Heads “Crosseyed and Painless” which went down a treat. As the evening came it was time to float about, moving between the food trucks (of which there were too many burger joints and not much variety) and shows by Clams Casino whose set ended early when the power went out, and Australian psych rock band King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard who I just completely zoned out to, they are incredible.
Then it was back to the old thunderdome where two of the best performances of the day took place. First up was British R&B singer NAO whose debut album “For All We Know” was one of the best debuts of 2016. She put on a show and a half to an enthralled crowd, with her experimental brand of R&B going down a treat. She also seemed genuinely happy to be here, smiling throughout her performance. Then, it was the headlining hip hop act Mick Jenkins. His set would have to have been the most ferocious of the festival, with the crowd going off like all good hip hop crowds do. His little segue into NWA’s “Fuck The Police” was also another unexpected, but great surprise from an artist who really delivered on the day.
After breaking for some water after the intensity of Mick, it was off to Australian dance duo Flight Facilities. This was their first time in New Zealand, and although I only got to see Twenty minutes of their set, what I did see was nothing short of outstanding as the large crowd in Albert Park got down and boogied. Finally, the day ended with headliners Tame Impala who played an hour long set to a packed Princes Street with the crowd going all the way back to the food area. Their sound and stage show was amazing and even attracted some keen spectators in the form of some of the members of other acts who played earlier in the day. I have wanted to see these guys for ages, and knowing they are going on hiatus it was great to finally get the chance to see them in what was one of the sets of the day both visually, and musically.
In summing up, the festival was far and beyond anything I was expecting. The lineup delivered which was fantastic given it seemed a bit underwhelming when it came out, while the loss of Young Thug did not make a difference in the end. The venue was also outstanding with much more shade, plenty of space and a great stage layout. Here is hoping the organisers have locked in Albert Park moving forward, and that the festival can continue to build on what it created this year. All in all a nice day out with great music and great vibes.