Another year, another Laneway Festival has come and gone. With the closure of Neon Lights last year, St. Jerome’s Laneway Festival remains the only up-and-running premiere indie festival in Singapore – surpassing the short-lived likes of counterparts Hostess Weekender, The Gathering, and Camp Symmetry. And yet, this year’s edition of Laneway presented a mixed bag.

Held on Saturday, the eighth edition of Laneway saw the likes of alternative R&B act Anderson. Paak, now Grammy-winning indie stalwarts The War on Drugs, shoegaze outfit Slowdive, Canadian lo-fi singer Mac
Demario, trip-hop producer Bonobo and others perform at the event’s spiritual homeground of Gardens by the Bay.

This year, much ado was made over the removal of the well-loved White Room, the awkward far-flung positioning of the Cloud Stage, and the overall less space that revellers were given to roam about. Additionally, in terms of line-up, it seemed a tad incongruous to give perennial favourite Mac Demarco an early evening slot instead of headliner status, after hyping him up as part of the big reveal. Nevertheless, Laneway 2018 went smoothly and without hiccup – with brilliant weather and even greater music.

Laneway started out hot – blazing in fact – with nary a cloud in sight. Revellers who streamed into the festival grounds early caught the likes of regional upstarts like Malaysian PBR&B wunderkind Alextbh, Indonesian shoegazers HEALS, homegrown post-rockers Amateur Takes Control, and indie darlings Obedient Wives Club.

It didn’t take long for the action to begin, with fervent Australian indie rockers Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever
gracing the Bay stage. The Melbourne quintet absolutely tore the stage up with their sporadic riffs, intense pace and yelped vocals. Those that made a 10-minute walk over to the Cloud Stage were were greeted by the pulsating, otherworldly beats of North Carolina duo Sylvan Esso, while those that remained at the Garden Stage were rewarded with the confident, sultry performance of bright-eyed indie-pop starlet Billie Eilish.

Odd Future affiliates The Internet were up next, with lead singer Syd, guitarist Steve Lacy, and keyboardist Matt Martians sharing the spotlight. Three-time homecoming hero Mac Demarco followed, easing into perennial fan favourites such as “Viceroy”, “Chamber of Reflection” and “My Kind of Woman”. At the Cloud Stage, linchpins
Loyle Carner and Moses Sumney spearheaded the masses with their left-leaning brand of hip-hop and baroque pop respectively, while at the main stage, returning shoegaze juggernauts Slowdive enthralled with spellbinding singles from their latest acclaimed self-titled effort.

It soon came for the highlight of the night: hip-hop act Anderson. Paak and his backing band The Free Nationals. To simply pigeonhole Paak as a rapper is an understatement – the Californian native is an all-round beast and virtuoso when it comes to performing.

Although initially plagued by sound difficulties, Paak played the affair off by segueing into funky opener “Come Down”. Paak was on fire that night; flexing his drumming muscle by performing complex drum triplets and solos, while spitting Kendrick-esque bars laced with soaring vocals. The wildest cheers were produced when Paak eased into his evergreen single with Haitian-Canadian producer Kaytranada – “Glowed Up”. This reminds us all: When will Kaytranada perform his debut show in Singapore?

The night took a more melancholic turn after Paak’s show. Former Fleet Foxes drummer Father John Misty took the stage shortly, playing poignant indie folk-tinged tunes off acclaimed albums I Love You, Honeybear
and Pure Comedy. British producer Bonobo arrived with his seven-piece band moments later, churning out mellowed kaleidoscopic bangers during his 45-minute set, echoing past instrumental soundscapes of Laneway alumni Tycho.

Headlining the night was American indie outfit The War On Drugs. The band’s headliner status came as a welcome surprise to people, with some punters expecting the more popular Mac Demarco to take the top spot. On hindsight, this showed the foresight of organizers – considering the now Grammy-winning acclaim the band received for their fourth effort, A Better Understanding. Adam Granduciel and co. wrapped up the night with gentle guitar
solos, devastating pathos and emotional lyrics – showing that they can truly be the next The National or Arcade Fire in due time.

In all, Laneway Festival 2018 must be praised for its superior line-up, their eye for emerging talent, and a stellar smorgasbord of food (big ups to you, Ubereats!). However, the same compliments can’t be made for this year’s arrangement of festival grounds: the removal of the White Room and far-flung positioning of the Cloud Stage meant fewer acts performed this year, an overall smaller space, and more time was shuttling in-between sets.

However, it was a huge improvement from last year’s curation of acts – and let’s keep it that way. Here’s to many more fine years, Laneway! Cheers.

Laneway Singapore was held on the 27th January 2018. For a look at the run of dates around Australia, head to the official website

Photo by Rueven Tan (Provided)