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Lameways, here we come

Melbourne is known for the intricacies of its laneways hiding all manner of dive bars, hard-to-find record stores, designer-owned fashion shops and enough coffee to drown the city. The St Jerome's Laneway Festival seems like a good extension of this - setting an indie soundtrack to the best back streets. But what do you do when it goes mainstreet?

The day started late as the gates didn't open until well after 12 which ate into the set of WA wunderkind Tame Impala. Leaning heavily on their fuzz pedals, the Imps were Deep Purple in shorts. With their time cut by 25 minutes, the lads did a playful cover of Blueboy's Remember Me at the core of their set that worked the crowd just right, but missed a great chance to get originals to a new audience on the large Lonsdale St Stage.

One of the more comfortable stages was well out of the alleys on the lawns of the State Library. It was also free so the crowd were a lot more relaxed than those who'd forked out for tickets. Machine Translations brought their percussion-heavy line-up here that was only a timpani short of being Big Pig. Still J-Walker produced a set that wandered through acoustic folk to jazzy meanderings. Chinese New Year celebrations drowned out the odd chorus with cracker explosions. At one point Walker looked up at the audience which favoured the lawns rather than the library stairs directly in front and said: "It's like playing to a building."

Two stages - Lounge and Red Bull - were inaccessible without a long wait (security shooed us away saying it had been two hours and they hadn't been able to let in any new punters). Ironically both were on Caledonian Lane, once home to the original 'intimate festival'.

Still the downhill view onto the Lonsdale St Stage saw good bands. Port O'Brien played their second show in the Southern hemisphere here - sounding like they'd eaten their fair share of Uncle Tupelo records. The poppy singalong, I Woke Up Today' went down a treat. They were followed by Deputy Lord Mayor Susan Riley who 'rocked' - you could tell by the number of times she told us Melbourne rocked and that the sanitation workers were positively mineralogical in their duties today (ie they also rocked).

There's no doubt the festival has outgrown its roots, but moving onto Little Lonsdale St was a bad choice. The uphill stage was obscured by a mixing desk that was in a pointy tent in the middle of a narrow street. Frustrated punters tried balancing on fences and pushing at barricades and many were turned away from Girl Talk.

International visitors, Stereolab brought their infectious Franco post-rock to Lonsdale St just as the sun was coming down. They were followed by a Augie March who rocked their way to the gentle finale of 'One Crowded Hour'. Lead singer Glenn Richards grumbled a joke to the crowd "Weird festival huh? Not enough tickets or too many?"
It's a fair gripe. There were 8000 tickets sold at the laneway festival that's come onto the streets. Several stages were either inaccessible or unvieawable and Facebookers have been cranky about about paying over $100 to see a limited range of bands. Even with a press pass, local paper The Age pronounced it 'festival chaos'. The view seems to have been better at the Brisbane franchise. As Melbourne's laneways festival spills into more cities and onto the streets it's an idea that's too big for fans of intimacy and lurches between a streetparty and disappointment especially with so many other festivals competing for fan's hard-earned.
Number of post-ironic Ghostbusters' t-shirts: 9 - cue sequel to cash-in on cult status.
Stupidest anti-smoking badge: "Rock out with your butt out" - for a pun to work it has to be on two levels. The second meaning might refer to saggy jeans, but it's not an attractive image.
Most ill-advised cover: The Temper Trap finishing with 'Dancing in the Dark'.

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