LIVE REVIEW: Laneway Festival, Brisbane Showgrounds

Laneway Festival knows how to deliver a refreshing summer party of good music, slick vibes and varied diversity. And the class of 2020 was yet again another great reflection of how this festival has grown from it’s humble beginnings into one of the country’s leading music events. 

Boasting a line up of high profile acts like The 1975, Charli XCX, Earl Sweatshirt, Ruel, Tones And I, Ocean Alley, DMAS, J.I.D, King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard, Mahalia, BENEE and more, they have perfectly curated a fusion of some huge international and Australian favourites and rising newcomers. 

With the touring festival kicking off their Australian run of dates in Brisbane, the sun didn’t hold back on beaming down for a day of great summer weather and even better music.

Kicking off the day of sunny vibes was triple j unearthed winner DVNA who wasn’t holding back from giving her all on the Good Better Best Stage. Running on stage with a kick of extra energy she yelled “Laneway, I wanna see some dancing this afternoon” before launching into opening track ‘Sushi In Tokyo’. 

The Gold Coast singer-songwriter has only released three songs so far, so the majority of her set was unreleased tracks like ‘No One Knows Me Better’, ‘Golden State Of Mind’ and ‘Half Past Sober’ which continued the groovy vibes that her previously released tracks have introduced. 

Her smooth vocals and groovy attitude immediately won over the crowd who were dancing along with her right up until she closed her set with ‘Girl On The Move’ and ‘Looking Like A Snack’. But it was her tight energy flow with her band that really stood out, as they jammed through the set seamlessly and created a vibe that felt honestly electric. 

Over on the Never Let It Rest Stage, New Zealand newcomer SYCCO was in a world of disbelief at how many people were welcoming in the start of the festival with her. “What the fuck! Thank you for coming out to see us. We can’t believe we are here” she gushed after the opening song. 

With only three released songs out in the world, the majority of her humbling set was also unreleased material, but that didn’t stop the audience from dancing along. ‘I Think I’m Good’, ‘Surely’ and ‘Bizarre’ were all strong new tracks that I can’t wait to hear studio versions of while released singles ‘Tamed Grief’, ‘Starboard Square’ and ‘Peacemaker’ rightfully had their singalong moments. 

This years line up boasted a variety of acts, and one of the strangest and most captivating of those names would have to be Californian meme king Oliver Tree. 

Riding a scooter onto the stage, he was ready to give the slightly unaware Brisbane crowd a real mind-bending SHOW on surprises that kicked off with ‘Forget It’. 

Briefly taken aback by the huge crowd that rolled in to watch him, he quickly got back into his persona and exclaimed; “Crikey, it’s one o’clock out here! We didn’t think anyone would turn up. Are you ready to Rumble?”. And he wasn’t kidding about rumbling because following ‘Alien Boy’ he changed his costume on stage and then go into a very badly acted out fight scene with his guitarist before ‘All That’ and then encouraged the crowd to open up a mosh pit during ‘Hurt’. 

There was a lot going on and it was brilliant. The whole set was so entertaining, bizarre and well thought out. He even threw in a little cover of ‘Thunderstruck’ from ACDC before closing out the set with ‘Do You Feel Me?’, ‘Fuck’ and ‘Miracle Man’. 

2019 saw Tones And I becoming one of the biggest names in music not only in Australia but in the world. So it only seemed appropriate that she kicked off the new year with a coveted spot on the Laneway Festival line up. 

Running onto the stage with the biggest smile on her face, she decided to open her set with the somber unreleased ballad ‘Happy’ which highlighted her raw vocal talent before getting the first of many singings started with ‘Never Seen The Rain’. 

Sliding into EP favourites ‘Colourblind’ and ‘Jimmy’, she then performed a unique cover of Flume’s ‘Drop The Game’ as well as her Like A Version of ‘Forever Young’. Nervously addressing the crowd in-between songs, the softly spoken singer-songwriter was visibly taken aback by the love and support the crowd was showing her throughout the set. 

Telling an hilarious and relatable story of how she went to a Beverly Hills party and didn’t fit in, she premiered a new song called ‘You’re So Fucking Cool’ before sparking the singalong’s again with ‘Johnny Run Away’, ‘Dance Monkey’ and ‘The Kids Are Coming’. 

Another artist that had a huge 2019 was New Zealand newcomer BENEE who has capitulated into the spotlight, and her rise to stardom is currently in full trajectory. Packing out the Never Let It Rest stage, she bounced on stage to ‘Tough Guy’ and wasn’t afraid to get a little silly with her impromptu dance moves and infectious smile. 

‘Wishful Thinking’, ‘Supalonely’, ‘ Soaked’ and ‘Monsta’ filled out the first half of her set with huge singalong’s from the crowd who apparently knew every lyric to every song. Teasingly asking them, “who is sweaty?”, she had a little laugh when everyone raised their hand in the air, and while she looked around she raised her hand and admitted how hot she was too. 

‘Find An Island’, ‘Evil Spider’, ‘Afterlife’ and ‘Glitter’ kept the singalong’s coming and tied together a very entertaining set that proved why she is one of the most buzzed about New Zealand artists of right now. 

Perth favourites Spacey Jane rocked out the appropriately titled Spaced Out Stage during the breezy 5pm slot and highlighted their impressive energy with songs like ‘Head Cold’, ‘Feeding The Family’, ‘Good Grief’ and ’Good For You’. While on the Good Better Best Stage Ocean Alley were getting funky with their vibey set that went through tracks like ‘Yellow Mellow’, ‘Infinity’ and ‘Overgrown’ to the huge ‘Confidence’ and ‘Knees’. 

Ruel is the indie-pop star that no-one saw coming. But damn, the mature seventeen year old is really creating quite the stir across the country and internationally. 

With the majority of the under 18 crowd there to solely see him, the mosh turned into a swaying scream fest the moment he walked onto the stage for opening track ‘Dazed And Confused’. 

Joined by his insanely talented live band, the tight unit delivered a set that felt so pure and engaging whether you were well acquainted with his music or not. ‘Not Thinking Bout You’, ‘Real Thing’, Face To Face’ and ‘Don’t Tell Me’ guided the crowd through the first half of the set before he took a moment to serenade happy birthday to his tour manager.

With a huge stage set up that was complimented with LED screens and bright visuals, he really enhanced his live show to be even bigger than it already was. 

Giving Brisbane the live premiere of his new Cosmos Midnight collaboration ‘Down For You’, it was quite surprising how many of his fans already knew every word to the song, especially when it was only released the day before.

‘Golden Years’, ‘Painkiller’ and ‘Younger’ closed out his engaging set, but one song that was surprisingly left out was his SG Lewis collaboration ‘Flames’ which is a song that would thrive in a festival setting. 

With the news of The 1975 cancelling their headline set due to lead singer Matty Healy being hospitalised earlier that day, fans were left in shock as they cried on the barrier after waiting in the hot sun all day to see their favourite band bring some British indie-rock to the stage. 

With King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard replacing them for their headline set on the main stage, it just wasn’t the same climax everyone wanted to what was a brilliant day of diverse live music. 

Luckily Charli XCX still had her set on the Good Better Best Stage to turn up the energy and riot along with the crowd. Walking out onto the moody lit stage with her ponytail bouncing from side to side, she launched straight into ‘Next Level Charli’ which her passionate fans screamed along to every lyric with her. 

“Brisbane, are you ready to sing this with me?” she asked as she rolled into her breakthrough Icona Pop collaboration ‘I Love It’ which recently became a viral meme thanks to her awkward performance in Germany where the crowd wasn’t vibing it and left her asking; “I thought this song was fucking big in Germany?”. However, it’s safe to say the Brisbane crowd definitely knew the song with everyone going crazy during the pop banger.

The groovy ‘Gone’, fan favourite ‘White Mercedes’ and the anthemic ‘Vroom Vroom’ kept the energy high, and the singalong’s kept coming with ‘Focus’, ‘Spicy’, ‘Boys’ and ‘Track 10/Blame It On Your Love’ filling out the set.

The stage was simply set with a giant white cube as the centre piece while an epic lighting structure was placed on either side. Charli bounced across the stage and interacted with the excited crowd that was constantly eating out of the palm of her hand. 

As she drew to the end of her set, she rounded it out with ‘Unlock It’, ‘Girls Night Out’ and ‘1999’. The short set left the crowd wanting more from the British singer-songwriter and with the 1975 have just pulled out she could’ve had her set extended a little to give the crowd the headline set they deserved. 

One of the most surprising staging places of the day was Mahalia who headlined the Future Classic stage. The British R&B singer-songwriter is one of the most buzzed about new acts, and with being placed on such a small stage, I was quite shocked because she’s an artist that can seriously move. And because of this placing, she seemed a little restricted by the staging size while performing. 

However she proved to the crowd just how much of a powerhouse she is as she soulfully sung through her 45 minute set and playfully bantered with the crowd in-between tracks about ex boyfriends, cheating partners and the liberating freedom of not wearing a bra. 

Kicking off her set with ‘Hide Out’ she crooned through tracks like ‘Do Not Disturb’, ‘Good Company’, ‘Simmer’, ‘He’s Mine’, ‘Sober’, ‘Consistency’ and ‘What You Did’. Closing out her set with the infectiously raw ‘I Wish I Missed My Ex’ she had the audience singing and dancing along so freely. 

While The 1975 may have cancelled, Mahalia delivered the perfect way to end a long summers day like Laneway. It was fresh, entertaining and soulfully enriching, which also perfectly complimented the extensive line up and atmosphere of the festival. 

Check out the full gallery captured by Jordan Rogers Smith Photography BELOW;

Photos by Jordan Rogers Smith 

Laneway Festival 2020 

Friday 7 February – Harts Mill, Adelaide 

Saturday 8 February – Footscray Park, Melbourne 

Sunday 9 February – Esplanade Reserve & West End, Fremantle