By QISHIN TARIQ
Now in its fifth year in Singapore, St. Jerome’s Laneway Festival has settled comfortably as a fixture of hipster music.
But the crown of cool is thorny one, and its peasants fans of Pitchfork (the music website, not the gardening tool preferred by angry mobs).
Having 13,000 listeners to think about, Laneway brought a mix of veteran bands: Future Islands, Little Dragon and St Vincent (all with four albums), newer kids Courtney Barnett, Jungle and Banks (one album a piece), and local flavour: .GIF and Hanging Up The Moon from Singaporeans, and Malaysia’s own Enterprise and Pastel Lite.
Things got off on the right note with attendees being given a free poncho and bottle of water as they entered.
Those ponchos quickly became neccesary as the rainclouds broke during Perth psychedelic band Pond’s 2.30pm set, where they performing tracks from their Man It Feels Like Space Again album that came out just a day earlier.
Living up to the hype of music you’ve never heard of, several other bands played all new material: Enterprise debuting its Episode One EP, Pastel Lite with its Etcetera EP that dropped just two weeks earlier, while singer-songwriter Courtney Barnett teased fans with a few songs from her upcoming album.
Feeding the growing interest in electronica following dubstep musician James Blake’s headlining last year’s Laneway, the smaller Cloud stage played hosts to keyboard-driven outifts like Pastel Lite and Hanging Up The Moon, plus Scottsman Rustie and Brit DJ Jon Hopkins.
Located on the other side of the sprawling Gardens by The Bay, the Cloud stage avoided clashing with the mainstage’s sound. However, the lenght of the trek over to there also caused most attendees to stick at the main stage area.
The rain turned into a muggy afternoon by around four, with mood was further cheered up by Canadian Mac DeMarco’s silly antics, as he cracked off colour jokes, crowd surfed and even had bassist Pierce Mcgarry karaoke Coldplay’s Yellow when their audio hit a snag.
Beyond grabbing DeMarco’s butt when he crowdsurfed, festival goers got to meet many of the bands after their sets. Fans who stalked outside the media booth managed to get photos, autographs and smooches from bands including Seagulls, Royal Blood, Future Islands, and Little Dragon.
While many of the earlier bands leaned on the mellower side of things – Courtney Barnett’s lyrically dense songs and brother-and-sister act Angus And Julia Stone’s folk ballads – the Festival started proper when rockband Royal Blood exploded onto stage.
The duo were the only ones to have a mosh pit (in polite Singapore!), where hipster sunglasses were smashed and apparently one guy’s tooth was knocked out. Drummer Ben Thatcher ended the set by trashing his drum kit then tossing his stool clear across the stage.
It was a hard act to follow up for motown big band Jungle and Swedes Little Dragon, though Baltimore boys, Future Islands countered with vocalist Samuel T. Herring’s theatical brand of dirty dancing, where he seemed to be delivering heart broken soliloquies one moment and grinding the next.
The Cloudstage got some serious loving during jazzy electronica musician Chet Faker’s 9pm set, with more than half of the crowd migrating mid way through Little Dragon’s set. For those that didn’t make the trek, the loudness of the whoots and partying from Chet Faker’s side of the field were sure to give them pangs of regret.
The tail end of Laneway was a decidedly girl-power event, with a triple treat of Cali-girl Banks, Brit babe Tahliah Barnett aka Formerly Known As (FKA) Twigs, and Guitar Goddess St Vincent.
Just 26-year-old, it was a surprise to some that Jillian Rose Banks got such a coveted time slot. Though her fans were some of the loudest that night, this writer wasn’t really moved by her performance.
FKA Twigs, an equally modelesque singer however proved she had that something extra that made her a star. Leveraging on her skills as a dancer, she also spat out lyrics that went from gritty to sexy and sometimes both at the same time.
Best for last was the St Jerome’s festival’s own Saint, Annie Clark who performs as St Vincent. Recreating herself into some strange art rock/pop creature, St Vincent certainly looked the part in her skin tight black leather cheongsam.
To top the surrealness of it all, St Vincent moved in a robotic fashion, like a creaky-jointed cyborg, occationally duetting with painist/guitarist Toko Yasuda. She stuck mostly with tracks from her eponymous album, that had just netted her this year’s Best Alternate music Grammy, but also teased fans with a few hits from 2013’s Strange Mercy like Cheerleader and Cruel, plus throwback Marrow.
The fans begged for an encore, but sadly no amount of cheering brought the strange saint for a second coming. Perhaps sated after nearly 12 hours of music, the festival goers were willing to concede and left humming, heads full of music.