Laneway finally returned to Auckland on Tuesday, moving to a new venue at Western Springs.
The iconic all-day festival made its long-awaited comeback after a four-year break, burning away memories of last year’s flood cancellation and the pandemic on a scorching hot day.
Known for its tastemaker lineup of local and indie talents with trendy newcomers from across the globe, St Jerome’s Laneway Festival, spanning Australia and New Zealand, has long been a crowd-pleaser. But 2024 marked its biggest year yet in Tāmaki Makaurau, surpassing the boutique vibes of past venues like Albert Park or Silo Park.
With global heavyweights like Steve Lacy and Stormzy appearing alongside local favourites like Home Brew and Erny Belle, and the sun blazing at 27°C, the popular festival pulled in nearly double its usual crowd, swelling to over 23,000 punters.
Sure, the intense heat beating down on every inch of the stadium had us yearning for the shady nooks of Albert Park, but was the music worth it? Absolutely.
Debut sets from LA’s Blondshell, belting out her grunge-infused hits like “Sepsis” and “Kiss City”, and buzzy duo Paris Texas, blending rap and punk with raucous fervour, stood out as early highlights. London singer-songwriter Raye was also a treat for Aotearoa fans, having recently become the most nominated BRITs artist ever. She captivated a swooning audience with her soulful R&B tunes and charismatic banter, enchanting everyone despite the afternoon heat.
When UK rapper AJ Tracey hit the stage, the atmosphere really hyped up – a sweaty mosh pit ensued, with one fan eagerly accepting Tracey’s invitation for a joint rap session on stage. As the sun dipped low, Dominic Fike’s breezy guitar melodies and powerful vocals set the mood just right, sliding smoothly into Steve Lacy’s wistful R&B tunes. Back at Laneway after seven years since his debut with alt-hip hop group The Internet, Lacy now headlined the show with a loose approach. He freestyled most songs and took requests from the audience, currently “in between eras” after releasing his second album, Gemini Rights, in 2022.
Getting around the grounds was easy, with two main stages side by side, and another tucked away in the speedway area, a short walk away. Acts like Dope Lemon and Unknown Mortal Orchestra performed to smaller crowds here, likely due to the distance. Up the hill, a fourth stage hosted EDM artists and DJs such as Nia Archives and horsegiirL.
To beat the heat, they set up a few shade sails, always crowded with people seeking relief, along with water sprayers and free sunscreen and water. There was also plenty of food options, from freshly made pasta from Karangahape Road favourite Pici to scoops of Duck Island ice cream.
But the real peak came with Stormzy’s electrifying headline set, complete with fireworks, fire guns, and cascading confetti. The grime legend delivered an unforgettable hour-long performance, leaving us all buzzing long after his final bars faded away. “I want you all to leave here with your spirits lifted,” he declared, and with the anthemic closer “Vossi Bop” echoing in our ears, that’s exactly what happened.