Laneway. I went to Laneway once when it used to happen at the Perth Cultural Centre – this place in the middle of the city where our little Art Gallery and little State Library and little Contemporary Arts Institute all nestle together. For some reason I was at a stall that time, I can’t remember why, and for some reason I was selling a thing I made called “Lol Bags” where you paid a dollar and got a bag full of lollies (candy) and then I whispered a joke in your ear. Daniel Johnston played, and it was when someone I knew had just been on tour with him and told me about him wandering around whatever place they went to, far and wide, and him being very sweet and they’d just find him, gather him back when the time came for a show.
So, this time it was in Fremantle. Fremantle is becoming more and more a magical place in my mind. This time again the evening involved riding in the moonlight over the traffic bridge, where I’d seen those gutsy tiny teenage girls jumping off to fly far down into the river below… But that happens later.
I rode my bike to the train in the city, jumped on, and spent a lot of the journey to Freo thinking about “fame” and what it brings. I was looking at people who seemed like they might be going to the Festival too. One boy had delicious denim overalls on, and a tucked in t-shirt and a teeny cap way back on his head, and big black boots showing nicely with the overalls rolled at the bottom, and a box of cigarettes nestled into his turned up tshirt sleeve, held there by soft fabric and his dedication to looking cool. Anyway, so there we were, near one another on the train, and I thought how if someone else on our carriage was one of the people he was going to see an “indie rock star”, he’d be sneaking looks at them all the time, maybe sidle up to them and say “hey, I don’t want to be that guy, but I just want to tell you I really love your music, and can I get a photo?”
So I was looking round our train at all the people, and imagining how things would be if we gave everyone the attention and honour we give to “famous” people. I tried to look at each person on the train as if they had some amazing secret talent, I turned an old man into a jazz piano legend, heading back on the train from his big show to drink whisky with all the other legends. I turned a middle aged Vietnamese lady into the lead singer of a droney punk metal band, older than when she was touring every day, but still able to make a massive crowd go “WOH” as she screamed from stage.
Anyway. The festival was full of music I wanted to see: Dianas, Peter Bibby, Pond in the overlapping friendship-and-music-i-love bracket, and Connan Mockasin, Angel Olsen, Mac Demarco in the just-music-i-like bracket. Connan Mockasin was the main one I was itching for though, and he was playing at the same time as the mate Pete, so I abandoned Pete after a few songs for the Connan stage. My friend Edd showed me the song “It’s Choade My Dear” when it came out and I must have watched Connan floating down that river a hundred times with those lemon slices on his eyes and pouring out music that seemed completely familiar to me even though I hadn’t heard something really like it.
Well, Connan and his band were just how I’d hoped, weird, good at everything, kind of quiet, kind of glittery – in attitude rather than appearance. They were joined at some points by Mac Demarco and members of his band, Mac pulling up Connan’s shirt in a very very slow reveal which later I was told had become a normal part of their respective sets – shows of semi-comic intimacy and long make out sessions beside the microphone. Anyway, this was very early in the day, and just the true believers were there, and honestly, just this one act satisfied me because I felt pretty lucky just to see them.
Angel Olsen was also my favourite, managing to draw the crowd into her even though the venue seemed so wrong for her. I see her in my mind in lounge rooms and dim bars and churches and bookstores and theatres playing, but not in 40 degree heat in the sun, sweating in her black jeans and everyone in the audience melting in the daylight and her music just drifting outward across a big lawn. But she and her band managed to gather the feelings in and create a room out of their music, themselves, and the huge crowd witnessing them.
And Courtney Barnett was also my favourite. I was set up to like her even more this time, after Pete told me how lovely she is from knowing her on tour, and also I’d seen her before, being powerful, real, generous. This time she seemed even more generous to the crowd and everyone was 100% on her side and even still she could win over an extra section of each person’s heart. It’s so strange to say but her song “Avant Gardener”, her big hit, gives me shivers! There is something deep in that song, especially in the “I’m having trouble breathing in” chorus that has spiritual and energetic power. I got all goosebumpy and wondered about it – is this because so many people have listened to this song, while having a hard time, and it’s lifted them up – saved them – that it’s got this power? Who can say.
And Pond were my favourites. I made sure I was right up the very very front, where I always am when friends play, and all completely squished into the bodies of many young men, my friend Simon making a place for me because he knows my devotion, and just getting to bask again in their greatness, looking personally like a young man in my friend’s Evil Knievel cap and trucker shorts.
Mac Demarco played after Pond and all the Mockasins and others were seated at a banquet alongside them, and Connan got up for the long make out session, and Gumby (Jay Watson) got up in his red leather jacket with nothing underneath and just some lil black shorts on and sang along to one song. Oh Gumby. We had him as a guest at our Late Night Talk show a few nights after and I got to sit on his lap and ask him “The Love Seat with Amber Fresh” questions like whether he ever faints when he looks in the mirror and what romantic things he does with his girlfriend. Anyway! Born to perform, like Mac Demarco, and all his band and like Mac’s mum who introduced him and told us she was gonna stage dive but then backed out because the audience were just not frothy enough for it to seem safe. But they were frothy. Just more quietly frothy.
There were many more bands of course, in between, and after, but it was time for a break. 40 degree heat! I found Nick and gave him his presents – a shirt and a singlet, because he never buys clothes, like me – and found Ash and decided it was time to swim. We went down to Bathers Beach and dipped our bodies right into it, that salty saving sea, and a few minutes later Joe Ryan and Jamie Terry arrived at the very same spot and dunked themselves too and Joe and I made spas for one another by pumping our legs in the water, and they said “Come back into the show after” and we told them “We can’t! There’s no pass outs” but of course, they couldn’t understand, because they are the rock stars, and we are the people on the train, with no chance to go back in once we’ve left the show, but still Access All Areas passes to the best thing around that day which was of course the sea.
Even though we couldn’t get in though, we knew something good was still to come. Some of the Mac Demarco people were set to play a little after show at Mojos, and this turned out to be the musical highlight for a creep like me. See, I like it when you don’t know when the songs are going to end, or what’s going to happen. That’s why I liked Connan the best, and why at Mojos when Walter TV and Andy Boay got on stage an hour late and without half their band, I was most excited.
It was GREAT. Walter played some sad lovely songs on his own, while Andy was all crumpled behind the drumkit, on the floor. Then they tried playing together, Andy without a drum seat and staring in his great way at Walter and all things kind of falling apart. And then, somehow, a little beam of light emerged from the crowd in the form of George Foster, of Dream Rimmy and Space Man Antics and all-round-amazing-guy fame. “Are you a drummer?” Walter asked, and with a humble nod, George was integrated for one night only into the band, taking the place of Mac or whoever usually would have taken the task.
So they all saved the night together, not that it needed saving, but finally assuaging all the people who’d paid good money to see famous people do something. They all kind of locked in together, George keeping up and adding his own flavour to it all, and the other two grinning and grimacing as they made their way through a weird, shambolic set that was simultanously great and shabby and sounded to me like the worm Alice in Chain’s rooster was eating. Yeah, it sounded like a great worm enjoying the dirt and it’s own fruity imagination.
So Laneway, I give you all thumbs up, even though you’re a festival, for bringing all things we could love closer to us, close enough to adore on and off the pedestals, in and out of the big ocean of things we’re all swimming in.