Melbourne band Alpine: set the ball rolling with beefed-up takes on their crisp indie-pop.
ST JEROME'S LANEWAY FESTIVAL
Sydney College of the Arts, Rozelle, February 2
It was dark by the time the realisation hit home.
It had been a strong, if not classic, Laneway Festival. We had seen some of the most fascinating left-of-centre acts around and, happily, as many from home as abroad.
We had enjoyed the smartly reinvented site, which for the first time took advantage of the slope down to the trees to provide a sight line-friendly natural amphitheatre for its two main stages.
What we hadn't really heard, however, were the kinds of raucous, reckless guitar riffs you'd regularly expect at a festival championing what could be broadly described as alternative pop.
And even though Vancouver guitar-and-drums duo Japandroids finally provided such exhilarating, fun sounds in one of the sets of the day, its absence hadn't mattered.
This year, Laneway's must-see acts tended to celebrate rhythms over riffs, more "in your hips" than "in your face".
Melbourne six-piece Alpine had set the ball rolling in the afternoon with beefed-up takes on their crisp indie-pop, made yet more engaging thanks to two uninhibited frontwomen who looked like they were having the time of their lives.
Similarly, New Yorkers MS MR – whose name had cheekily (but wittily) been used to signpost the site's toilets – roused their crowd with racing drums and synths upon synths.
Mercury Prize-winning Brit crew Alt-J brought down energy levels a touch too far, basically because their music lends itself more to headphones than outdoor stages. But their unusual combination of hypnotic harmonies, dance beats and alt-pop guitars had its moments.
As night fell, their compatriot Jessie Ware restored order in the tempo department with her encouragingly modern take on soul.
The simultaneous programming of Japandroids and the Australian artist of the moment Flume meant we had to drag ourselves from Japandroids, which proved a disappointing decision from the "live performance" perspective, given he's one man doing little more than playing hip-hop and electronica tunes on a laptop.
Still, even if Laneway's line-up didn't always fire this year, the festival again proved it knows who to bring so that the more discerning music fan can make up their mind themselves.