Laneway Festival @ RNA Showground, Brisbane, 28.01.12

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Austra - Laneway Festival, Brisbane 2012

Austra have quite a decent crowd, which I’m surprised by. I like their perkygoth synth-pop, but it’s surprising how many other people agree. They play well, dance charmingly, and deserve every one of these fans.

I leave the other reviewers while I check out the food situation, expecting the usual parade of overpriced mouth-horror. What I walk away with is a sausage with onion on a slice of bread with mustard and tomato sauce for $3 total. At this point, I am perilously close to deciding that I like Laneway and losing my cool music reviewer veneer of cynicism.

A proper music journalist from the Sunday Mail is here to get some nachos and coffee. Sunday Mail isn’t covering the gig though, she’s running a stall in the Suitcase Rummage. Normally it’s a monthly event at Brisbane Square where you pay a fee to flog off as much of your old junk as you can sell out of a suitcase. Here they’re doing the same thing along the walls between the Zoo stage and the Young Turks stage, an area that I think used to be a cattle yard.

horses sign - Laneway Festival, Brisbane 2012

I briefly help out at her stall where I sell $4 worth of CDs and discover that people who will haggle for items worth $5 and less are the absolute scum of the earth.

Sunday Mail has already made over $100 past the ticket price. No wonder she can afford nachos. She’s not really interested in the music. Most of it is bands she hasn’t heard of, which is fair enough. She prefers Woodford, which feels less like a young person’s affair and has a wide variety of events rather than just music – all that hippie stuff that brings people together.

One year at Woodford she took a life-drawing class along with one of the guys from Tripod. “The geeky one,” she says, which doesn’t really narrow it down.

A guy in a full-body Homer Simpson costume walks past. Earlier I saw someone in a T-shirt with three Yodas doing the speak no evil poses. The last time I was at the RNA Showgrounds was for the Supanova comic book/cosplay/sci-fi convention; for a moment I feel like I’m among my people.

Then I go to see Anna Calvi.

Anna Calvi - Laneway Festival, Brisbane 2012

Austra played to a packed mass, but Anna Calvi has a much sparser audience. The mechanism by which one act becomes more popular than another baffles me. I’m sure I read that Anna Calvi won some award or something, why isn’t everyone here? It’s spaghetti western soundtrack music turned into hard rock, how can you not like that?

At one point Calvi solos for a couple of minutes of punishing noise and I realise she’s just tricked us into listening to heavy metal, and enjoying it.

Her set’s short, maybe half an hour. A lot of acts are finishing quickly today. Presumably the organisers are being strict about times because the noise curfew cuts in at 10pm and playing later than that results in fines. When acts start a bit late they’re playing shorter sets, which is obviously dissatisfying.

Glasser’s set is entirely satisfying. I want to describe it with a bunch of words like ‘fragile’ and ‘jagged’ until I realise that’s just because they’ve got the word ‘glass’ in their name. What they play is dancey pop music with tribal bits.

Which is nice.

Glasser - Laneway Festival, Brisbane 2012

About 20 minutes in half the audience – mostly the female half – duck off so they don’t miss the start of Feist’s set. Once again, I’m baffled by the arcane machinery of popularity. Glasser are lovely and they’re playing on a tiny stage to a small crowd; Feist is on the main stage and although I liked that ‘1234’ song I’m not feeling her today.

Maybe it’s not Feist’s fault, though. This stage’s feedback is continuing to mess with things and she does suffer two electric shocks from the microphone during the half of her performance I catch.

Have I started talking about the bands again? Christ, I’d better cut that out. Let’s talk about something important, like fashion.

(continues overleaf)

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