Culture / Music

Our music editor’s Laneway Festival 2024 diary

Laneway Festival has come a long way since 2005. Its first iteration was in an actual Melbourne laneway, featuring The Presets and The Avalanches on the bill. Since then, the festival has grown through the years giving Australian music fans access to The Drones, Les Savy Fav, Okkervil River, Camera Obscura, Stereolab and Tame Impala. In more recent years, Laneway Festival has tempted bigger international artists such as Savages, Mac Demarco and The 1975. 2024 was no exception, as fans were treated to performances from Faye Webster, Dominic Fike and Stormzy.

Last weekend, RUSSH went out to Sydney's Olympic Park to speak to upcoming international and local talent, to see why Laneway will always be one of Australia’s favourite music festivals.



Teenage Dads

Team RUSSH met offsite at the local McDonalds (chic) to indulge in a pre-show hash brown and to set up our Røde Wireless Pro system before entering into a world of music and momentum. To start, we meandered our way through the water cannons and sunscreen stations to the media area to speak to Melbournian larrikins, Teenage Dads. Although they were very much infatuated with their air con and trail mix, they were happy to talk about their upcoming live set and new single.

Having noticed the ping-pong table, a discussion as to who the most athletic band member ensues (the jury is out as to whether it’s Vince or Angus, but rumours of a 60-inch vertical leap have been spread). We learn that the latest single, although written two years ago, is a tribute to Jordan's girlfriend who is his "favourite friend". The band tells us that they are to be joined by some "inflatable friends on stage", and that the inflatables' presence is purposefully questionable. When asked who Teenage Dads are most looking forward to sharing the line up with, they tell us they are excited to see Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Chloe Dadd and a potentially fictitious secret Guns N' Roses set.


Hemlocke Springs

After rehydrating and re-applying SPF 50, we headed over to the Never Let it Rest stage, to see North Californian alt-pop sensation Hemlocke Springs. Energetically and vivaciously dancing to a live drummer and track, Springs sang and screamed her way through an impassioned set. With her blue braids flying across the stage, she belted out her most viral hits that saw her gain millions of streams through TikTok, bringing real warmth to her audience. We then headed to a more quiet part of the festival to talk to her about her performance and her journey from biology to music.

When asked where Springs gets her infectious energy on stage, she tells us “Delusion, ego, all the Gods and Goddesses” and lets her body finish the rest of the sentence. Springs explains to us that her songwriting was an escape from her intellectual mind, and her “Way of turning off a bit". "I found myself really wanting to learn, and really wanting to have fun and chill out a bit,” she said.

Springs reveals that her 80s references – such as Prince and Depeche Mode – are “Nostalgic, but even more than nostalgia, they take me to a different space. I really enjoy being taken to a different space in my mind and that's how I want people to feel when they listen to my music.”

When she’s on tour, Springs keeps herself together through walking and watching anime, and is looking forward to returning to her thoughts to keep working on new music. Springs during her performance asked the audience if they were in love, so naturally, we had to know if she was in love too. “I wish!” is her giggling response, with her key requirements for a lover being that they are “Alive, and from any age to the grave.”

We have no doubt that she will have an array of suitors knocking down her door in the near future.


Angie McMahon

We then had the opportunity to speak to Angie McMahon ahead of her full band set on the Good Better Best stage. In a silken camisole and braids to stave off the ever increasing heat, we spoke to the artist about the balance between intimacy and breaking loose on stage. Whist McMahon may have almost passed out in the Brisbane heat, she is happy to be in Sydney, having fun and looking forward to playing songs off of her latest record. She's particularly excited to play her song Divine Fault Line, which she debuted in Brisbane a few days ago, where she endearingly admits she "fucked up". When speaking about her development from 2019’s Salt, through to 2023’s, Light, Dark, Light Again, she says “It was set alongside the journey of [her] getting deeper into [her] 20s” and saw the artist “grow through some riskier decisions.”

As an artist that champions the mantra ‘Make mistakes, it's okay’ as lyrics in her song Letting Go, we wonder what her most recent mistake was, and unfortunately for Brisbane, it was starting Divine Fault Line in the wrong key. However, as McMahon notes, “It's nice to sing about making mistakes because then people probably expect you to make them!" She laughs. "That’s actually my life mission, set the expectations low!”

Armed with some new shimmering reverb pedals and distortion pedals for her guitar, McMahon is keen to play with intimacy and let loose on her next shows before she heads to the USA in March. Audiences can expect a narrative arc that's based on McMahon’s instinct as she constructs her set lists, and whilst the story might be unclear, she’s “Sure it’s there subconsciously.” When asked what songs by other artists speak to her, or songs she’d wished she’d written, Tom Waits’ Take It With Me is top of her list, which may explain her cover of that song on Women Sing Waits.

After watching an enraptured audience for McMahon who played many hits off Light, Dark, Light Again, we set off finding the best street style in a sea of jorts and Y2K inspired tops. After a brief rendezvous with the Heaps Gay DJs and a traditional festival feed, it was back to watch RAYE, with her full band in bowties.


RAYE, HorsegiirL and Faye Webster

RAYE is beaming with pride as she performs songs from her latest album, My 21st Century Blues, which has seen her leave years of working for other labels to become a highly successful independent artist. Team RUSSH muses as to whether it is the TikTok effect that is seeing crowds embrace more genres – from soul to pop to RnB and indie rock. This is put into action as we leave the artful singing of RAYE to head to something completely different: Stella Stallion, aka HorsegiirL. With graphics still containing the 'Getty' image logo and the set being opened by Horsegiirl waking up to an aggressive alarm clock, the audience lapped up her set as she took them from a morning in the stables to her take on the Bomfunk MC’s Freestyler. For a change of pace and a chance to catch our breath, we headed over to the Hope Springs stage to catch Atalantan singer-song writer, Faye Webster. From hyper-pop to hyper-feelings, the audience was filled with young indie darlings sporting signs that said "Faye Webster you make me cry, in a good way!"


Unknown Mortal Orchestra

Whilst we were unable to speak to Dominic Fike ahead of his set, we did spot him back stage discussing his love of Disney films as we made our way back to speak to Ruban Nielson from Unknown Mortal Orchestra ahead of their set about Hawaii, Leonard Cohen’s light through cracks and the paranormal.

Neilson confesses that whilst the Sydney weather may be less muggy than Brisbane, he wants to wear his ‘grubby’ clothes, saying “There is no point in wearing stage clothes in this weather.” Neilson tells us that the most recent fifth album V was co-written with his brother, who drums on the record, and speaks a lot to his Hawaiian family heritage. Neilson recently moved his mother back to Hawaii, allowing him to spend more time there in between his black basement in Portland, Oregon and Palm Springs. He tells us that Portland, although lacking the Lynchian dwarf in his basement, is very Twin Peaks country, so has been using time in Hawaii and Palm Springs to interject some Leonard Cohen-esque light through a crack into his recordings.

Though he is a self confessed ‘depressive person’ Neilson is not a fan of his music being seen as too solipsistic and uses humour as a ‘strategy not to take himself too seriously.” Nielsen explains, “I feel like when people say my music is serious I get really offended because I feel like it's really not, I just try and keep it fun, and it’s fun to me, even though I say a lot of things that I really feel. So that's why I need jokes, or what I think of as jokes, in there.”

When asked what the best joke on V is, Neilson’s favourite is, “you were hotter than a cheap laptop. It’s not a great lyric but it’s a good joke.” The new record has elements of ‘adult related radio rock’ with Toto, Fleetwood Mac and Steely Dan being cited as influences that we will be trying to listen out for on our next spin. Nielsen explains that these influences were often being played on the radio in Hawaii and that it’s “stuck in the 70s, which is pretty compatible with [him]”, he even reveals that there are some old sort of creepy hippy towns that allow him to “seek out the spooky.”

Although we discuss the possibility of Neilson seeking the spooky full time as a paranormal ghost hunter, it is perhaps best left to his friends who have shared strange recordings with him of inexplicable sounds. These could be used on the next record, but only with the sage and holy water standing by.



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