EVEN from the very first Laneway in Melbourne’s Caledonian Lane there was always a sense this little festival would outgrow the alleyway that spawned it.
But with space at a premium and after an eventful year sprawled across multiple CBD spaces, co-promoters and best mates Danny Rogers and Jerome Borazio knew they had to get out of the city.
The pair stumbled upon Footscray Community Arts Centre (FCAC), about five kilometres west of their old digs, with city views, the Maribyrnong River as a backdrop, and a gritty carpark stage at Moreland Street that nodded towards the festival’s urban roots.
The Dirty Three – Danny Roger’s all-time favourite act – played an unforgettable set at Moreland Street in 2010, as did Florence + The Machine, who was part of a holy trinity festival booking that also included The xx and Mumford & Sons.
(PHOTOS ABOVE: KANE HIBBERD/LANEWAY FESTIVAL/SUPPLIED)
Back in 2010, Laneway’s decision to relocate to Footscray – nicknamed “Footscary” at the time – was met with a few curious eyebrows.
But the area’s rejuvenation over the past decade has happened in tandem with Laneway’s growth.
In 2019, Laneway Melbourne will be on the move once again – but this time it’s not going far. The heritage-listed Footscray Park – close to Footscray station and just a short stroll from the old FCAC site – promises more grassy spaces, shaded areas, amenities, and the facilities to cope with the demands of an ever-evolving event.
“We’ve really enjoyed working with the residents and the council, and the support we get from that place is incredible,” says Jerome. “It just feels like a home out there, you know?”
To mark a new chapter in Laneway’s 15-year history, Danny, Jerome and a very special guest recount their favourite Footscray moments, starting with stumbling upon the original Footscray site in 2009.
Danny: We were searching the city for a location after being totally booted out of the city of Melbourne for crimes we didn’t commit.
Jerome: At the end of the day it was Coles Myer that caused us headaches, but we had amazing support from City of Melbourne.
Danny: I cruised down to Footscray one fateful afternoon to see a hip-hop collective called Curse ov Dialect perform. I walked into the back of the Footscray Community Arts Centre and immediately was struck by this unique location and amazing view over the city. I then decided to go for a walk along the Maribyrnong River and I immediately started to get butterflies.
Jerome: Well, [that site] had never been used to that extent before. So It was breaking new ground which, you know, obviously Laneway’s been known for. It hadn’t been done before, and it was a showpiece for the rest of Laneway, so it was an important move and it was quite beautiful down there by the river.
"There was one moment when I got up to introduce Mac and I looked out and all I could see for blocks and blocks and blocks were people standing in the extreme heat of the day waiting to see him play."
Danny: The history, the grittiness and the river made me very excited. I rang Jerome and told him to get his ass down here asap, I think we might have a site.
Jerome: It was definitely a step up from where we were in the aesthetics stakes. Also Danny and I are from the west [of Melbourne], so we had confidence in the site, we had confidence in the area.
Danny: I remembered the area from the early Hardware raves that I’d attended and also because the underpass was a famous scene in Romper Stomper.
Jerome: What I think Laneway achieved there was to help change perceptions of Footscray, and we also showed how close Footscray is to the city. There’s been a lot of positives that have come out of it.
Danny: When The Dirty Three confirmed in 2009, I have to say, that was a moment where I thought everything else from here will be what it is. I have booked my all time fave band. Over the years since then there have been so many amazing acts I can barely even begin to imagine what life was like before this show.
2010: A Good Draft Year
Jerome: That first one [in Footscray] was quite incredible. Mumford, The xx, Daniel Johnston, Florence, all in that one year. If you look back at that now, you think to yourself that it’d be a 50- to 60,000-person lineup. You look back at it quite fondly. Did we really do that? We’ve always had a bit of luck with artists breaking, but that was a standout. Danny and I talk about it in football terms. So we talk about it like the draft. It was a solid year in the draft, and we just picked well.
Danny: The years when I lived in London were useful as I was seeing a lot of international talent well before anyone had a clue about most of them. We flew a bit under radar when the bigger commercial festivals were dominating the agents’ minds for top level fees.
Jerome: I remember Florence climbing up, not the scaffolding, but the trusses in her high heels. I was just like, “Oh wow. Hopefully we’ve got insurance to cover this.” So that’s what I specifically remember – just standing there in between the barrier and stage watching her climb the lighting tower. Just going, “Fuck. What’s gonna happen here?”
Danny: She stopped the show and asked that a spotlight be put onto a lunatic that had scaled a few roofs and was watching from some water guttering. She basically said, “Get the fuck down you idiot or I’m stopping.” The whole crowd turned and faced him and he was like a rabbit in headlights. Run rabbit, run. People started to scream. It was insane.
Jerome: It’s hard to sometimes watch full sets at Laneway because you’ve got multiple stages and 35 acts. And you do wanna see all the acts. I’d literally try and see every act in every show. But with Daniel Johnston I just remember I didn’t go anywhere for the whole set. I was there from the start right through to the end.
Danny: Daniel took a nap halfway through his set. His band just carried on and then someone woke him up and he played the rest of the set. A true highlight was to have such a unique talent play Laneway and definitely the first one to take a sleep through their own set.
Danny: I ran a bet with [bassist] Sean [Yeaton] that he would wear one of those flower necklace things 24 Hours a day right through Laneway. He was very committed to this bet and I was too, so in Melbourne I had a few spies photograph him and we caught the great man having a minute without it on. He even wore it on Rage. Love these boys to the moon and back.
The Agnes DeMarco Show
Danny: The single greatest booking to ever grace this site though was Agnes DeMarco. Mac’s mom came Down Under on a whim and hosted our festival in 2015.
Agnes DeMarco: I got a call from Michelle Cable who is my son Mac’s manager asking me if I want to do the do this gig and I just about lost my mind on the spot. I told her “yes” I would do anything it took, quit my job, lose a limb, whatever. I was in all the way.
Danny: She blew us totally the fuck away.
Agnes: I had homework to do. I had to listen to and research all the artists that were to be performing so that I could have something relevant to say when I introduced them. I studied like a fiend for months and listened to everybody’s music to realise what I was dealing with … It was blistering hot and I loved every second of it. I carried my little binder containing my introductions with me and hopped up on stage like I was born to do it. It was probably the most fun I’ve ever had in my whole life.
Danny: Agnes proved that mums really do nurture their kids and give them the essence of love, joy, creativity and beauty.
Agnes: There was one moment when I got up to introduce Mac and I looked out and all I could see for blocks and blocks and blocks were people standing in the extreme heat of the day waiting to see him play. It was overwhelming and almost brought me to tears. I am so incredibly honoured to have been part of it all.
Danny Brown, Lorde & A Couple Near Disasters
Danny: About halfway through the day the year Danny Brown played  everything was running pretty smoothly. I was starting to get pretty chilled which was always a dangerous thing to do. I got in the golf cart because I promised Lorde I’d watch every show. It was the first festival run she’d ever played in the world and they were pretty nervous. I got into my golf buggy and just as I was getting into it I bumped into Wally DeBacker (aka Gotye) – who I hadn’t seen since the Grammys. I was really excited to see him so I threw him into the golf cart.
I was driving past the Moreland Street stage where Danny Brown was playing and I just saw this guy storm off the stage and run into the green room area. I’m like, “Fuck. That looks like Danny Brown.” I stopped the golf cart and went straight up to the stage. I’m like, “What’s going on?” They’re like, “There’s been some technical issues.” There’s a massive crowd chanting “Danny Brown! Danny Brown!” I could feel the atmosphere getting really agitated … I went running around looking for him. He could’ve been anywhere.
I race back into the bowels of the venue and he’s just sitting there with his hands on his face and his head down. I’m like, “Excuse me man, my name is Danny.” He put his head up. I’m like, “I just want to apologise. I don’t know exactly what’s happened. I know it’s an issue and I take full responsibility as a festival promoter … No one cares that you’ve had a bit of a moment – we’ll get it fixed up.” He looks up and he’s like, “Man, that was some shit you guys pulled.” He stands up, he’s actually massive – he’s like 6”5. It’s just me and Danny standing in this stairwell. He’s like, “Dude, it’s like playing in the NBA and being given a flat ball.” And I’m like, “Totally bro. And he’s the ball and I’m pumping it back up.” I pretended to throw him a ball. I didn’t know what to do. I was shaking but I was also like, “Let’s do this.” And he was like, “Well, if my guys are still up there on stage then I’ll do this.”
Well, his guys had packed everything down expecting him to not come back. I saw one of my guys and I’m like, “Fucking tell them to get back on stage no matter what. Tell them Danny is coming” … They just start running back to the stage. I started stalling him a bit even though we’re about 15 minutes late. Danny goes back on and the crowd goes nuts. So I jump back into the golf buggy and Wally [Gotye] is like, “What’s going on man?” I’m like, “Oh dude, don’t worry. I’m just dealing with some shit. Let’s go down and see Lorde.” [Laughs]
Jerome: I think she was 16 at the time, and just the way she commanded the stage, you just knew she was gonna be a megastar. She was just so humble and pleasant to be around, but when she was on that stage you could just see she was just magic. It was like, “Yep, this is where she’s meant to be.”
Danny: So I was burning down to see Lorde at the main stage and that’s when I nearly run over her mum. She was taking pictures on an emergency exit and I was racing down to the stage where and I missed her by the wings of a bee. That could have been a disaster. She was like, “You were supposed to be here 10 minutes ago – and you nearly ran me over!” I was like, “I know I know. I’m sorry. I had some shit to deal with. Do you want some champagne?” She’s like, “Yeah, sure.” [Laughs] That was 20 minutes and once that’s settled I’m like, “Fuck this, I’m getting a beer.”
Laneway’s Greatest Feat
Danny: What most people don’t realise when they show up to Melbourne is that we bumped in this show from start to end in just 48 hours. Yes, 48 hours! It’s one of the reasons we have decided to move so as not to destroy the beautiful souls that help us create this show.
Agnes DeMarco: That festival runs like a well-oiled machine.
Jerome: We just like challenging ourselves, you know. That’s why we’re moving to this new site.