St. Jerome’s Laneway Festival: Making Its Mark on Detroit
By David Pauley
Five stages, 25 performances, and over ten hours of music. This is what Laneway Festival is all about…the love of music!
St. Jerome’s Laneway Festival is all about being in the moment and evolving as the music evolves. The festival chose their lineup wisely, preferring talent who are up-and-coming, new, and exciting within the indie music scene. It is no surprise that when they decided to bring the festival to the United States, they picked Detroit – a city which is up and coming as well.
After spending time in Detroit last year, the Laneway co-founder, Danny Rogers, said he knew the city was Laneway’s next stop and proudly claimed Detroit as its first American outpost. “Detroit is having its rebirth and as Laneway continues to evolve, we can identify with a city that is continuing to evolve as well,” Rogers said. He continued, “It seemed like a great fit and this lineup seals it.”
The Laneway Festival began back in 2004 when Jerome Borazio and Danny Rogers, in a back alley in Melbourne, Australia, decided to take their monthly event to the next level. They envisioned a one-day long festival. Today, almost ten years later, the festival has expanded to seven other cities across the globe, which includes five cities in Australia, as well as festivals in New Zealand, Singapore and, now all the way to Detroit in the United States.
An approximate 7,500 people poured into Meadow Brook in Rochester Hills on a beautiful, picture-perfect day. The festival grounds were set up very well and easily accessible, and there were no extremely long lines. The area had plenty of space for people to hang and relax away from the stage, as well as nicely-sized fields set up in front of the stages. All five stages were set a good distance apart and that made things easily navigable, but also allowed for checking out multiple acts quickly with ease. The sound systems were top notch as well, and the sound from the other stages didn’t interfere with each other. There was a really well-balanced vibe in the music throughout the day; with each stage more or less geared toward a certain genre.
The crowd was so relaxed, even the artists came out from their VIP tents to mingle with the crowd, snap photos, and check out other artists’ performances. The Laneway Festival has clearly achieved their goal as what they like to be called, “the world’s biggest small festival.” It’s a festival for both the artists and the fans. Those present could hear the chatter of artists backstage talking about what acts they wanted to see throughout the day, just the same as you would hear people in the crowd. With all the performances and bands, the festival definitely had a feel that it was bigger than it was, but at the same time it had that small, intimate setup and feel, as if you were seeing one of these artists in a small club with only a hundred or so other people.
There wasn’t just music at the festival, as Laneway did an excellent job of showcasing the entrepreneurship drive of the people of Michigan and Detroit. I saw many family clothing vendors and food trucks in attendance. There were also many local artists set up randomly throughout the grounds doing live paintings. At the end of the night, they displayed all the pieces together in a gallery for everyone to see as they were leaving.
The festival had tons and tons of music spanning many genres, but at the same time, many of the artists were mashing through genre barriers. The stages seemed to each have a theme. The Derrick Stage ranged from a collection of fast, aggressive rock to light, moody melodic, along with singing and psychedelic solos. The Savages, War Paint, and The National were among others who rocked out the Roscoe Stage all day and night. The National ended the festival and was no disappointment to any in attendance. The Roscoe Stage also featured performances form Deerhunter, Phosphorescent, and the subtle relaxing alternative sound of Washed Out. The Movement/Ghostly Stage showcased mostly Michigan-based talent throughout the day. Performing there were the likes of Shigeto, Heathered Pearls, and Adult, as well as Mathew Dear, who set aside his usual turntables and performed with a live band. Dear’s deviation resulted in a riveting electric and emotional performance.
The pavilion hosted some of the bigger acts such as Chvrches, Icona Pop, Solange, and Sigur Ros with Sigur Ros. The bands played ambient melodic sound which had the effect as to almost hypnotize the crowd with the sets. The last stage was Meadow which was located in the middle of the other four stages, and showcased the likes of Chet Faker, Alunageorge, Run the Jewels, and Flume. Run the Jewels (Killer Mike & EL-P) stole the stage with their bass-thumping energy-filled set. Their set was definitely one of the highlights of the festival. The festival in Detroit was such a hit that sources have already confirmed St. Jerome’s Laneway Festival will be back in 2014. I am already looking forward to next year after what I witnessed this past weekend at St. Jerome’s Laneway Festival, 2013.