Triple J Review: Sydney Laneway

Brendan from Eddy Current Suppression Ring sings from on high as he scales the sandstone buildings, and plays (again) one of the best shows ever to close out the festival.

I'll be honest, I have festival fatigue. It's been a big summer, and if it weren't for the great lineup of this year's St Jerome's Laneway Festival, I'd probably have stayed home watching Weeds all day yesterday (current mood: obsessed).

But there was another great reason to head out over the weekend; theLaneway Fest's have shifted in a couple of cities, taking them out of their famed laneways and into bigger areas. I hopped along to the Sydney Laneway Festival, held this year at a beautiful collection of sandstone buildings in the cities inner west. It used to be an old mental hospital, these days it's a College for the Arts, and on Sunday it was indie-kid mardi-gras.

The first band I caught were the UK's Wild Beasts, whose two records have intrigued and, at times, delighted me. On stage they won me over completely, with two vocalists, a great driving rhythm section and a pitch perfect delivery of their songs. I think they won a lot of new fans with this visit. I decided to forgo the crush of Mumford & Sons (choosing to see them at their side show this week instead) and headed next to The Very Best who were heaps of fun. With Radioclit on the decks, Esau on the vocals, and extra help from Mo on backup MC duties and a duo of incredible African dancers who I'm pretty sure were all muscle... it was pretty much a big dance party. They didn't have a huge crowd, but gave so much, and had everyone moving.

I'd planned to catch some of The XX, but human traffic in the site made it hard to jump between stages so I missed out. Onward I rolled to Daniel Johnston, who played out his sweet songs to a warm crowd. On his first visit to Australia, Johnston was in good form. Sure, he reads his lyrics from the page, and is short on the banter, but he kept it together and played out many people's favourite songs to a welcoming crowd. Joining him on stage for part of it? A local band that included Ohad Rein, better known as Old Man River.

It was time to turn up the volume again, so I fanged it to Black Lips who reminded me of what a great live band they are. Garage rock with plenty of swing... man it was fun. I haven't seen them in years, and they've been a little quiet too. Check them out at the final Laneway Fest's if you can, well worth it.

A trifecta of very different acts were next, and I managed to run between stages and see a bit of all of them. First up, Dappled Cities, who dressed themselves in spandex gold suits (condoms, basically) and played another great live set. Having witnessed their physical oversharing, I ran back to seeRadioclit after having had such fun earlier in the day with The Very Best. Sure enough, dance-off's were had, alongside Vijay Khurana and others, and pretty much all of The Very Best folk were joining them on stage anyway. And onward to Echo & the Bunnymen, where all the dudes with greying hair I'd seen wandering around the festival came to commune and be 80's and live the world of dark pop. E&TB have never really resonated with me, and the distance (and lack of volume) from the main stage was enough to make me give up on that venture.

It was the business end of the fest, and I aimed to see the much touted live show of Florence & the Machine, who were due to close the main stage. I wasn't the only one. Way back in the packed crowd, I watched Flo sing perfectly through two songs while wishing I could be consumed by the music and not merely feel like I was watching some far distant tv screen of a show with the volume on low. I knew there was a more immediate, close, loud and visceral option, and I headed there. To Eddy Current Suppression Ring who, on a smaller stage and with a smaller crowd, completely obliterated anyone else I'd seen that day. Watching this band, it's not a matter of "oh he's a good drummer", or "that singer has strong stage presence"... everyone in Eddy Cuzis incredible. All four play their part in creating, what is for me, the most exciting live act at the moment, anywhere in the world. There is something incredibly primal about their connection on stage; the grinding of those basslines, the high pitched riffing of the guitar, and that madman-like perfection of lead singer Brendan. He kept true to past performances, and climbed the amp stacks mid song, only to realise the proximity of the rooftop of a nearby sandstone building and jumping onto that to bark/sing at us from on high. From there, he leapt down, onto the stage, into the crowd, clambering through before being lifted atop punters to surf back to the stage. WatchingEddy Cuz leaves me breathless. Their songs, their style, that zone they get into, the sheer volume. I can't rave about them enough, and I want to see them live whenever they play. Incredible.

What did you think? Were you at the Brisbane, Melbourne or SydneyLaneway Festivals? Lemme know your picks, and help out our pals in Adelaideand Perth carve up a very full dancecard this weekend.

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Photo: Daniel Boud (