St Jerome's Laneway Festival Auckland 2018 review: The trees were the heroes of the day

Slowdive performing at St Jerome's Laneway Festival - Auckland 2018.
Slowdive Photo credit: David Watson

Central Auckland during a monster heatwave isn't usually on most people's dream list of locations, but it was where thousands of music lovers gathered on Monday afternoon to hear their favourite underground artists at Laneway 2018.

I was absolutely out of my depth - my Spotify playlists are more of the top 40 variety.

Luckily, I was with a group of friends happy to educate me, so after making my way around two separate pre-Laneway gatherings for, um, research, we made our way down the inner city streets to Albert Park.

It turned out hydration of a different kind was going to be very, very necessary. Thousands of people were cramming in to see Melodownz and Billie Elish kick off the day in the 30 degree heat.

We watched two girls actually drop before they got to the gates.

The lines in the baking heat made me very sympathetic to farm stock and I briefly considered veganism. I then very quickly unconsidered it when I got my hands on a Serial Griller burger inside the gates.

We made it through the packed crowds to see the Queen, Billie Eilish, who at 16 was easily the coolest person there. This was proven when she and her brother broke into some coordinated dancing like we were at their '90s family Christmas - it'd just be cringe for anyone else but these two.

Two guys dripping with sweat kept up a consistent wave next to us, and every time she looked over during 'My Boy', an argument broke out over who she made eye contact with.

Melodownz performing at St Jerome's Laneway Festival, Auckland, 2018.
Melodownz Photo credit: Connor Crawford

While the sound quality occasionally made hearing those high notes difficult, the rising star of Interscope got the biggest cheer when she remarked to the crowd "this weather can really go s**k a d**k".

After the baking mosh pit of Eilish, it was time for some brief respite under the trees - the true heroes of the day. Thank God for the Albert Park location and the Good Samaritans wandering around spritzing their fellow show-goers with water, everyone got a chance to catch their breath and stretch out in the roots of the Ombu tree.

One member of the group commented that his two lie-downs were the highlight of Laneway for him - surely worth the cost of his $160 ticket.

Then it was off to find Loyle Carner, on the Thunderdome stage, which I eventually came to the conclusion didn't actually exist. Every time we tried to find it we ended up back in the same spot and it resulted in a toddler-style kick-off from me that meant I had to be treated like a small child who's chucked a tantrum.

We managed to catch the last of his set, though, which proved the elusive Thunderdome had the best sound quality of any of the stage of the day. The South London native got emotional in between tracks, thanking everyone from his mother to the fiercely supportive Kiwi crowd, before spontaneously previewing some of his new stuff for the delighted audience. 

While some of the biggest hype of the day was for The Internet - proved by the crowd pushing all the way back to the Pump water refill station (another MVP of the day) - the show by the usually flawless Californian soul/hip hop group was a let-down.

It wasn't them, if anything they were getting as frustrated as we were, as the sound quality turned 'Dontcha' into a crackley mess.

"I couldn't figure out whether it was good or not," one of my friends described it accurately, if not particularly eloquently.

"Everyone was dancing so I was like, 'oh this is good' and then I would actually listen to it and I was like, 'oh, no it's not".

There were no such qualms as the sun went down and the show was closed by the highlight of the day for me. It was back in the Thunderdome for Baynk, the former engineering student made good who's been performing at some of the biggest festivals around the world.

Banyk performing at St Jerome's Laneway Festival, Auckland, 2018.
Banyk Photo credit: David Watson

What a way to see in the day - mixing Outkast with Rihanna to get the slightly sleepy crowd back dancing. Success hasn't given him an ego; his original tracks were interwoven with big hitting dance numbers to keep energy high for that last hour.

Unexpected saxophone solos and a guest appearance from Nika for 'What You Need' were a perfect finish.

And suddenly, it was all over, even the water stations dried out and shut down before the dazed crowds really understood what was happening.

As rumours circulated that Uber surcharges were bumping transport to costs higher than even their ticket for the day, a mass exodus flooded Wellesley street as we all discussed what was one of the best Laneways yet.

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