Whatsound Awards: Laneway Edition Last Saturday, we made our way down for the Melbourne leg of Laneway to catch the talent of massive acts such as the superbly haunting Purity Ring, the perplexing Battles, and the most honest Vegas showman Shamir. But their are some achievements that were made at the festival that simply need to be recognised formally as what makes Laneway one of the few touring festivals to survive in Australia. They are as follows: Best Performance by an Alien Pretending to be Human – Grimes Walking away from the set of headliner #1 Grimes, only one conclusion can be made in the confused state of mind you are in after what just happened, and that is as follows: Claire Boucher cannot be of this planet. The trash–punk aesthetics, the Olympian vocal gymnastics, the bizarre stage presence, all of it points to one thing: Grimes is definitely an alien. From the Russian version of Art Angels’ ‘Scream’, her vocal chords being shredded as she wails and beats the floor of the stage with enough fervor to make you worry about how many bruises she’s gained since the start of this tour. Her back–up dancers/singers/generally awesome folk are also on point, their movements synced up with both each other and the music perfectly while simultaneously adding a strange surrealist feel to what is happening onstage. Finishing a mixed up version of ‘Oblivion’, Grimes introduces the finale, the fantastic new single of hers ‘Kill V Maim’. And while it doesn’t summon the same level of hype as the song before it, the song really showcases every one of her strengths. Tight production, intense and by the sounds of it exhausting vocal work, and fantastic dancing. It isn’t human how good this is, so to arrange this, Grimes has to be an alien. It’s the only explanation. Most Dedicated to Their Fans – Big Scary Normally most fans greet never before heard tracks being played live as sort of a moment for a breather, but those folks aren’t Big Scary fans. Showcasing at least five new songs, the crowd actually gets more hyped the more unknown the track is. This love is not one–sided however, since the band clearly cares for their fans. Why else would they stop midshow after an audience member collapsed, restarting the track from the beginning only after being assured the man was safe. Best Cover, Best Singalong, Best Act to Smash Tinnies To – FIDLAR It takes a while to click to just what is happening since the crowd is going absolutely wild and the verse lyrics have been replaced entirely with meowing. But then the chorus comes down like a house made of straw and the words ring clear as day, as most original FIDLAR songs do. ‘If you want to destroy my sweater–’ the crowd screams along, though this isn’t anything new. In fact, the set has seen arguable more intense singalongs than dancing, and more beers raised to the sky in cheers than anything else. The band plow into their first album opener ‘Cheap Beer’, sending tremors through the crowd as the drunken mosh seems to stretch a kilometre back. It’s fun, even if you only know half the lyrics, though you probably will get drunk through diffusion of everyone else’s muntedness. Most Determined Yet Exhausted Mosh – Chvrches There’s a mass exodus from the Grimes pit over to the other side of the festival grounds in order to get Chvrches. Despite arriving 10 mins late (festival life is pedantic) the band are just coming out to the fanfare they deserve, the stage radiating a vibrant electric blue as they emerge dressed in black. The crowd screams and cheers but looking around you can tell it’s definitely the end of a long, hot, day and that’s not even considering how trashed the average person is. Folks are collapsed on the ground but damn it, they’re doing to make the most of their situation. They sing and shuffle and have the best time that the tiredness can allow because, well, it’s Chvrches and they’re giving a hell of a performance. Lauren Mayberry tells a story halfway through the set of how programmer Iain Cook had informed her that she ‘looked like a wizard, but in a good way’ which makes sense seeing as her voice this evening can only be described as magical. Her voice pierces the night sky with tracks like ‘Recover’ and ‘Empty Threat’, and Martin Doherty does a fantastic job singing for ‘Under The Tide’ (which I’d never thought I’d see live). And the crowd gives it their all, even if they can only give it sitting down. Despite this, the band are still clearly hyped, Mayberry proclaiming ‘this I our third Melbourne show this week’ with a grin stretching ear to ear as the band catch their breath between songs. It’s obvious that they understand the tired excitement more than anyone else here. Loudest Act in Show – HEALTH Was there any doubt that HEALTH were going to be the act responsible for the most exploded eardrums? In direct contrast to FIDLAR, the other all caps band on the lineup who incidentally were finishing up as HEALTH began, the band are all business, almost stonefaced through their entire set. Two of the trio onstage have an elaborate setup of pedals, mics, and other much more obscure gear at their feet which gets tweaked during every song, allowing for tracks from their synth heavy latest album DEATH MAGIC. The band is just as brutal in their stage presence as their sound, drummer Benjamin Jared Miller beating his kit so hard you can feel it over the festival grounds, and bassist John Famiglietti turning his hair into a whirlwind while throwing his mic into an amplifier. Most Deserving Of A Later Timeslot – Banoffee Producer Banoffee has made quite the rounds of late, appearing at Falls and releasing various Eps left and right, with Laneway acting as yet another milestone on her already accelerated rise to the top. So, as she plays in the wee hours of 12:30pm, it’s interesting to note that the crowd spills out into the path 350m from the stage. Biggest Contrasts from Expectations – The Internet When you hear that an act called The Internet featuring two previous members from the notoriously obtuse hip–hop collective Odd Future are playing a show, you make certain assumptions about what you’re going to see, mainly some ridiculous things. So while expecting this, to my surprise I find, well, The Internet, the serious and simmering soul group. Frontwoman Syd the Kid switches between singing and spitting some of the most poignant poetry the festival has seen. Meanwhile, her backing band . It’s one of the day’s most powerful sets of the day, but to someone who has never heard of the group it is completely out of the blue. Act Most Deserving Of a Massive Crowd – High Tension Melbourne’s High Tension have been fucking destroying the country for several years now, so to see them finally appear on the line–up for a festival like Laneway is rad. The band give it their all, coming out to The Force Awakens intro which strangely fits with their sound (the BWAHHHHHH movie trailer horn sounds helps a fair bit), vocalist Karina Utomo tearing up her vocal chords and stomping around like a demon possessed. It was the kind of set that you’d expect to see at a stadium, but midday at Footscray only a lucky few found themselves witness to the dark yet mostly tongue in cheek tunes blaring out of the stage. Next time the group shows up however I’m sure this won’t be the case. Illest Fitting Line–up Addition – Hermitude On a line–up consisting of a noise band, a Vegas showman, several drunk punks and headlined by one of the most experimental pop producers in the world today, it takes a lot to seem out of place, but Hermitude pass with flying colours. Walking into the Far West Stage as the DJs play feels like walking into an alternate universe where every show is actually a Future Music set, which the crowd try really hard to enforce. Two minutes into arriving a man starts flicking Corona at me, telling me ‘hey, why don’t you smile?’ Every now and then a harsh Aussie accent comes from the stage with a couple of words of hype, but it still doesn’t really feel whole enough to be a set, especially when the rest of the day have been filled with acts giving their absolute all. Most Changed Up From Studio Recordings + Most Like A Rocko’s Modern Life Character – Japanese Wallpaper It takes a true level of hype to fill up a stage at two in the arvo but by jove, does Japanese Wallpaper pull it off. Wading through the crowd is like moving through The Swamp Of Sadness while listening to Elliott Smith. If you were expecting the breezy and entrancing electronic act Japanese Wallpaper, you would certainly be surprised by his full backing band. The atmosphere is still just as haunting, but it comes in the form of a gorgeously free flowing guitar melody and Wallpaper’s vocalist Gab Strum sending shivers down the spines of all those watching. The highlight of the set however has to be when Airling makes an appearance, the two musicians complimenting each other’s styles brilliantly. That being said, I had a moment of distraction when it hit me that Strum kinda looks like Shelbert from Rocko’s Modern Life, so that also needs to be recognised. 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