After years of problems with overcrowding and stage access, the St. Jerome’s Laneway Festival is set to embark on a new era in Adelaide.
The historic precinct of Port Adelaide will host the festival for the first time in 2014 at Hart’s Mill, on the banks of the Port River. Rip It Up caught up with Laneway Director Danny Rogers to get the lowdown on the new site, and went for a guided tour with local festival Producer Craig Lock (pictured). Laneway’s ethos has always been about thinking ahead and moving forward. In 2010 they were forced to make a tough decision and abandon Caledonian Lane – the festival’s original site in Melbourne – for a bigger venue outside the CBD. In 2011 they became the first major Australian festival player to break into the Asian market, launching Laneway Singapore. That same year they hosted an event at SXSW and curated a stage at Field Day in London. It comes as little surprise then that the festival organisers have selected Port Adelaide – an area recently outlined as a future cultural hub by former Thinker-In-Residence Martin Elbourne – as the new home of Laneway in Adelaide. Elbourne’s involvement with the festival is no coincidence, either. “Martin and I have been colleagues for years,” explains Rogers. “I reached out to him and mentioned that Laneway was on the lookout for a new location and that it was at that point where if we don’t find a new site that is on par with the other cities then I don’t I’ll be able to hold it there again. He responded within about two minutes saying, ‘Mate, I’ve already found the site.’” While Elbourne’s suggestion of Port Adelaide got the ball rolling, it was local Laneway Producer Craig Lock who pin-pointed the site at Hart’s Mill. Right on the riverfront, the new festival location dwarfs its predecessor, allowing ample room for five stages and (fingers crossed) eliminating the possibility of overcrowding. “Yeah, that definitely shouldn’t be a problem next year,” laughs Lock, who also co-owns local music company 5/4 Entertainment. “We’re really excited to be involved with the festival again and I think the new site is incredible, and incredibly unique. No one else would do a music festival here…they just wouldn’t. I think people will really enjoy it.” The riverside promenade will be lined with food and market stalls, as well as trees. As festival-goers enter the new-look Laneway from Nile St, they will be greeted by the two main stages to their left, which will operate alternately à la Big Day Out or Soundwave. Smack-bang in the middle of the site will be the monolithic Hart’s Mill, although punters will only be able to appreciate the impressive Victorian building from the outside. “We’re gonna light it up and stuff, so we’ll certainly feature it,” explains Rogers, “but it’s a derelict space at the moment. There’s a really cool shed next to it that we’re going to use for some cool stuff, so you’ll still feel like it’s a part of the festival.” Hart’s Mill will be lit up but unused. In front of the building is where the main stages will be set up. Not pictured: “Really cool shed”. Behind the mill and its “really cool shed” will be a third stage just metres from the waterfront. Hang a right at the end of Mundy St and follow the tree-lined promenade – likely to feature food and market stalls – all the way to the Nelson St bridge and you’ll arrive at the fourth stage. And tucked around the corner from there will be the festival’s trump card: a fifth stage in the Waterside Workers Hall, the home of Vitalstatistix Theatre Company. The indoor stage will be curated by local arts crew Format, Rip It Up can exclusively announce. As for getting there and back, Lock says that while nothing is locked in yet there are plans for extra trains to head up to the Port on the day, with shuttle buses carting punters back to the city after the close of play. If public transport isn’t your thing, there will be a free 24-hour car park operating within walking distance of Hart’s Mill. The Waterside Workers Hall will house a fifth stage curated by Format. All in all it’s set to be a massive step up from the pokey laneways of City West campus, and a hugely impressive coup for Rogers and his team. Coupled with the festival’s star-studded line-up – which includes global chart-topper Lorde, sister act HAIM and ‘next-big-thing’ Vance Joy – it’s unsurprising that reaction to the festival has thus far been overwhelmingly positive. “Ticket sales are stronger than they’ve ever been,” says Rogers. “We’ve already sold more tickets to the Adelaide show than we have any other year. We’ve sold 3,300-3,400 tickets already, which is incredible. The most tickets we’ve ever had on the site in Adelaide is 3,200 and this year if we sell out we’ll have just over 6,000.” The fourth stage will be situated somewhere in this carpark at the end of the promenade. The Falie may or may not be in dock on the day. And while he remains tight-lipped about potential stage scheduling at Laneway next year (set clashes remain a headache for festival-goers everywhere), Rogers has dropped a couple of hints at who could be playing when. “I still try to have a no-headliner policy. Lorde, she’ll play at six or seven o’clock in the evening. She’s not going to close the show because I’d like someone like The Jezabels to close, or Warpaint. I want to question the way people listen to music at shows and not make it about one act; make it about seeing a body of stuff. You might not know it all but you’re interested to see new things and make a day out of that.” The third stage will be placed behind Hart’s Mill, ‘signposted’ by this empty billboard. He even hints at someone he’s got his eye on for the 2015 instalment of Laneway: “I’d love to get someone like Grimes on the festival, that’d be fun. She’s got a new album coming out so we’ll see what happens.” Watch this space. With constant talk of ‘vibrancy’ and an urgent need to revitalise some of Adelaide’s less trodden paths, Laneway’s move to Port Adelaide couldn’t come at a better time. And with the Hart’s Mill site itself set to be developed in the coming years, Rogers is confident he’s found Laneway’s new permanent home in Adelaide. He is extremely grateful to his new landlords. “Not since we moved to Footscray in Melbourne have we been met with such enthusiasm from the locals,” he gushes. “I don’t think I’ve had one negative comment to deal with. When you do this for a long time, you get councils and people that don’t have the vision for what you’re trying to do and don’t understand what you’re bringing to the precinct. You get over it pretty quickly. But you also really appreciate the ones that come at you with open arms because it’s a big deal.” Emerging arts hubs, expanding music festivals, cooperative local government – maybe things are really starting to change in Adelaide. Whatever the case, 2014 looms a pivotal year for Rogers’ Laneway Festival as it takes root in a new home in the City of Churches. Or should we say, City of Chvrches. Laneway Festival debuts at Hart’s Mill on Fri Feb 7. Tickets through Moshtix. Photos: Andre Castellucci