By James Murphy
Laneway Festival’s second visit to Bonython Park saw a line-up shift towards the Euphoria generation: enter the live streamers, the bedroom producers, the TikTok viral sensations and the smartphone beat makers.
Early in her late-afternoon set, Stormzy collaborator Raye, fronting her big brass band, spoke of her escape from her record label: she now had creative control. For much of the line-up, though, the era of needing a record label to gain notoriety is an anomaly. Euphoria heart-throb Dominic Fike sparked a bidding war on Sound Cloud- a platform also utilised by London grime artist AJ Tracey; co-headliner, Steve Lacy, who was inspired to learn guitar by Guitar Hero, and who wrote much of his early work on his iPhone, had his biggest solo hit, ‘Bad Habits’, after it spread like wildfire on TikTok. Laneway has always reflected the times or been ahead of them; it famously signed acts like Mumford and Sons and Florence and the Machine before they exploded. Never, though, has the festival leaned so heavily into the lower range of its 16+ demographic.
Headliner Stormzy, who turned 30 last year, was Laneway’s elder statesman but, along with compatriot AJ Tracey, was responsible for an unusually high prevalence of soccer guernseys in the crowd. AJ finished his set with Tottenham Hotspur inspired track ‘Thiago Silva’, while Stormzy’s red strobe lit closing set featured tunes familiar to EA sports FIFA gamers. Kendrick Lamar collaborator Lacy, meanwhile, has the flamboyance and soulfulness to vie for this generation’s Prince. This year’s line-up was very much paired, like a fine meal with wine. Raye and Stormzy combined on The Weekend; Cordae and Dominic Fike both featured on the soundtrack to Into the Spider-verse. Not all acts blended, though; while younger guitar driven acts like Angie McMahon and Teenage Dads spoke to the crowd, Dope Lemon quickly discovered that Bonython Park wasn’t Byron Bay, as their tight set fell flat. Confidence Man, meanwhile, with their Eurovision moves and attire, were relegated to a smaller stage than usual.
On a hot January day, the greenery of Bonython Park was once again an oasis compared to the red dirt of Hart’s Mill, though more shade was possible. Sober drink bars were a welcome innovation. A handful of anti-social attendees throwing cans into the mosh pit may require stronger action in future years: Cordae warned: “I don’t want to be relief teacher or the police, but stop throwing cans”, while he threatened a beating to an audience member that hurled an object onto the stage. Mostly, though, it was a day of good vibes; a sunny day, with intermittent Stormzys.