Published Feb 06, 2011Urban -- as in landscape, not genre -- music festivals pose an array of problems, from Draconian liquor laws and debilitating noise regulations to various spatial and efficiency issues (see Toronto Island and Yonge and Dundas fetes, respectively).
Last year, the inaugural New Zealish incarnation of Australian festival, St. Jerome's Laneway, reportedly suffered from most of the above. But one year later and the hiccups had been cured thanks to a new downtown location -- Auckland's fantastic Aotea Square -- some inspired feng shui choices (easy drink access at a music festival!) and a wonderfully curated indie taster plate.
Though a delayed flight knocked !!! out of the lineup, the rest of the bill offered plenty of highlights with only a handful of missteps. Early standouts, Toronto blip provocateurs Holy Fuck, delivered a massive, crescendo-laden set, spurring dancing and T-shirt sales. Momentum took a dip via Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti's grating self-indulgence and faux-casual posturing. However, given the setup -- two side-by-side stages with acts playing directly after one another -- the break was more or less welcome.
Subsequently, New Zealand dance poppers Ladyhawke restored morale with amiable semi-hit "Paris Is Burning." Incidentally, nothing says dance pop like matching Alannah Myles-influenced black outfits. Up next, emerging foursome Warpaint and ever-touring ethereal heroes Beach House dropped entrancing mid-show performances.
Despite late-act sound glitches, Deerhunter were affable and closers Foals were frenetic, curfew be damned (noise restrictions are, as it turns out, universal). However, the MVP award went to hippie-leaning Baltimore combo Yeasayer, who surged through a jubilant set, including a bouncy take on "O.N.E.," a harrowing version of "Tight Rope" and a show-stopping "Ambling Alp."
Sure, the fest ended promptly at 11 p.m., but given the site's easy layout, nonexistent queues and general efficacy, it was a wholly satisfying affair. Of course, the stellar docket didn't hurt.