Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Changing Lanes Festival

After much wrangling with the local council, Sunday saw the inaugural Changing Lanes Festival in Sydney's Newtown. With cheap-as-chips tickets selling out in a heartbeat, the event's debut was hotly anticipated and, joyfully, it lived up to expectations, with a fine mix of music and art throughout the day.

Spread over one lane and The Bank Hotel, punters had the choice of three stages for their musical pleasures while, twixt the two venues, they were able to quench their thirst and hunger and browse at market stalls. Nicely laid-back with an audience of chilled music lovers, the vibe was similar to the early days of the St Jerome's Laneway Festival.

Kicking things off was a solo set from Richard (In Your Mind) Cartwright (above). The first time I saw RIYM, I really didn't get it. However, alone with an acoustic guitar, Cartwright makes much more sense. His strange warble sounded delightfully fragile in a Daniel Johnston/Conor Oberst kinda way and his short, sweet set was a great way to start the day.

Earnest Ellis might have a strong voice and big, epic songs, but, not for the first time, they soared right over my head. Conversely, Cabins' performance (above) didn't so much sail over the audience as drill its way relentlessly through their bodies. Their bone-shaking set - which included a cheeky cover of Edwin Collins' A Girl Like You - was loud with a capital L.O.U.D. and their catchy indie with alternating vocalists was the highlight of the day.

But for a couple of exceptions, I've always found Aussie hip-hop to be a fairly embarrassing caricature of its Stateside big brother, and Thundermentals' cliched set did nothing to change my mind. Anyone with decent taste should have instead headed to the Hip Hop Stage where Count Doyle and Captain Franco were not playing anything that resembled hip-hop, but rather mixing some delicious sounds from yesteryear.

Back on the main stage, Bridezilla (above) looked resplendent in red as they performed a handful of promising new songs in their 30-minute set, the last of which really showed the band's desire to push themselves in new directions. This set-closer saw Millie Hall put down the saxophone and take centre stage, playing keys and sharing lead vocals with Holiday Sidewinder. Written by Hall, the poppy number was infectious enough to suggest it will soon be quite the crowd-pleaser, with Hall, Sidewinder and guitarist Pia May delivering some 60s girl-group singalong harmonies.

By the time headliners Tame Impala took to the stage, many of the crowd had found vantage points by climbing walls and hanging off fences and went suitably nuts to the Perth band's psych-groove sound, before the party shifted to The Bank Hotel, where Jingle Jangle DJs were getting things going with some old school rock 'n' roll. As the evening went on, the likes of Levins and HOOPS kept revellers entertained.

Such was the success of this first festival that, next year, you can expect more artists, more markets and more bands. However, there is no doubt that, while this festival is set to grow and grow, it will do so organically rather than chasing the dollar. Anyone who attended on Sunday left with the feeling that this was the start of something really rather wonderful.

Photos courtesy of Emma Daniels. Check back at later in the week for more photos from Changing Lanes.

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