When I first got to New Zealand, I bitched and moaned about the lack of good live music opportunities. I’m a fucking idiot. The Laneway Festival 2015 lineup is ridiculous. Look at this. Look at this lineup, right? It’s nuts. For a one day festival, there are so many amazing acts that it’s just about impossible to decide who you’re actually going to get down and see. Hell, maybe you don’t even know who some of these people are. But why wouldn’t you try to learn? That’s like not trying sushi because eh, pizza’s fine. You’re gonna miss the sushi festival and it’s only after sushi gets crazy big a little bit later that you realize, man, I really should have shoved all that sushi in my ears when I had the chance.
Some of the artists are small, and some of them are a bit niche. So to break down who these guys are, and who you should see, I bring you my new column. Out of the Lineup. There are no Usual Suspects here, but you’ll learn to love them anyway.
Honestly, this lineup is stacked enough. It’d be easier to write a list on the, like, one or two bands you shouldn’t care about missing. But here we go.
- Banks, the pseudonym of American artist Jillian Banks, makes dark and dreamy electro-R&B, part of the new wave of what people are calling PBR&B (otherwise known as, black music for white people). It’s tumultuous and moody, and her voice has a playful lilt to it. Her live shows play up that playfulness and she interacts with the audience just enough to keep them on the verge of hypnosis. If you’re looking for an act to sway to while falling in love with the singer, this is your lady.
- If Banks makes black music for white people, then Belle & Sebastian makes white music for white people. No, for real, it’s statistics. They make Bon Iver look like DMX. But that doesn’t mean they’re not awesome. Their lighthearted folk is the perfect thing to feel good about in the afternoon. You could have moves like twigs (read further…) and still wind up dancing like a drunk bro at a Dave Matthews concert, because it brings that out in people.
- You may have heard FKA twigs‘ name before. Even better, you may have heard her music. But British-born singer/dancer Tahliah Barnett’s art is meant to be seen. Sure, the weird, part electronic, part gasping singing style of her music is appealing on its own. But twigs is a dancer at heart, and I don’t mean she does ballet. I mean, her limbs contort like the body of a woman possessed, threatening to snap off and fly away on their own volition. Like the shadow of a tree against a horror film’s bedroom wall. It’s fascinating to watch.
- There are few bands with the kind of stage presence of Future Islands. The lead singer is just so goddamn excited to be there, and his foul mouth and dance moves just make you want to fucking rock. It’s not even that heavy of a beat. But he’s so magnetic, and when he sings it’s like he’s trying to shout his soul down into the microphone and purge it forever. “Seasons” is their major song, but you won’t even care when you hear it because he makes every song sound like a hit single.
- Flying Lotus (see the page picture) is more than just a DJ. His experimental electronic music appeals to a… stranger set of people (he makes all the music for Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim block, for example), but it draws in awesome collaborators like Kendrick Lamar and Odd Future. Much of it gets closer to hip-hop than electronic. It’s not the set you’ll be looking for if you want to pop a molly and jump around like a maniac, but if you want to lose your mind for a bit, you’re set.
- Jungle is somewhere between hip-hop, electronic, funk, and pop. It’s hard to classify but easy to dance to. If there is a set you should try to get to the front for, it’s this one. In my experience, the back is always fun no matter who you’re seeing, but Jungle’s crowd is usually so good about finding a groove that you’ll want to be fully engrossed in it.
- St. Vincent made one of the best albums of the last year (though a lot of people on this list could say the same thing). She’s a bit of a weird one, though if you’re paying any attention at all so far you’ll know that’s what I’m into.
Here’s where it gets harder. All of these acts are worth your time, and I’ve only relegated them to the second tier because I’m not quite as excited for them as the previous few. But that’s like saying I’m less excited about the lobster when I’m having a wagyu steak. What is it with me and food metaphors today?
- Angel Olsen‘s softer folk music belies her onstage persona, which is pretty damn kickass.
- Angus & Julia Stone struck gold with “Big Jet Plane,” but that song is just one in their repertoire of equally awesome songs.
- Jon Hopkins plays some downtempo electronica that I’d love to chill to. If he’s got an early evening set time, it would be a great choice for coming up to.
- Literal Fuck is one of the homegrown Kiwi bands starting to hit it big. They’re like a dark, punk pop with a good vibe. They’ll probably have an earlier time slot, which isn’t exactly conducive to the atmosphere of their music, but it at least means a conflict is less likely.
- I’ve seen Little Dragon a few times now, and every time they’ve been amazing. It’s just happy music. It make me feel good. I almost wish these guys and B&S were during the day so I could enjoy the sunshine, but something tells me they won’t be.
- Lykke Li is a Swedish pop artist whom, I admit, I haven’t fully followed since her first album, which she’s gone on to say that she’s not proud of. But from what I’ve heard of her new stuff, it’s just as great, albeit a bit different.
- Mac DeMarco is getting pretty big lately, and his easy-listening folk pairs well with his don’t-give-a-fuck attitude, enhanced by the fact that his own mother is billed higher than him on the Australian legs of the Laneway festival. Good for an early afternoon show.
- Princess Chelsea is another Kiwi act coming up right now, and like many of the acts on this lineup that I like, they’re a bit more mellow and weird than some of the harder groups out there.
- Race Banyon is one of the few purely electronic acts on the lineup, and while he’s not up there on the level of Avicii when it comes to earworms, he’s more danceable than most of the stuff I’ve recommended.
- Rustie‘s biggest hit thus far has been a collab with Danny Brown, and his production does lend itself a little more towards hip hop, but he’s a DJ at heart, so he’s another good choice for dancing a little harder. You’ll have to wait till the set times drop to see where you’ll be.
- Man, I love Sohn. Just good melodic pop with an electronic, R&B twist. If you missed the How To Dress Well concert in Auckland a few days before this, then here’s your chance to get the same aesthetic.
- Tiny Ruins makes a kind of low-key folksy music with a lot of emotion, like if Broods or Lorde were doing acoustic versions of their own songs.
Those are my choices. But, again, there are really no artists you should avoid on this lineup, except for maybe Bespin who, as far as I can tell, don’t even have any music out yet and must have gotten on the lineup by winning a contest or having a convenient relative somewhere. So roll the dice and see who you do. And pray there are minimal conflicts, though on a lineup this big, it’s inevitable. Let’s check back in once the lineup is out and see exactly how much heartbreak the organizers have in store for us.