Laneway’s clashes pose the ultimate question: should I stay or should I go?

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Is the grass always greener on the other stage?

The first time I went to a music festival at Brisbane’s RNA Showgrounds was October 2000. The Cure had the headlining slot at Livid that year and, after a long day in the brutal Brisbane sun, their set of largely Wish and Bloodflowers material was starting to drag.

The clash is an inevitable part of any multi-stage festival. But, two decades on, I still don’t know what the hell to do about them.

I left the show. Lou Reed was closing one of the smaller stages and I ended the night watching him belt out a handful of his proto-punk classics.

It was the right call, and I wish I had made that call sooner.

Almost 18 years later, in the exact same venue, I spent an entire day tossing up whether I should hold out and experience an entire set, or if I should use the event as a sampling platter of some of the best indie-leaning acts on the planet.

It’s the ultimate ‘quality over quantity’ debate and a testament to the embarrassment of riches on offer.

I opted for quantity. Unlike that same decision in the year 2000, I’m not sure it was the right call.

It felt greedy trying to soak up little pieces of different acts, most of whom were outstanding. It felt stupid, and a little churlish, to leave a great set in the hope there’d be something even greater on the other side of the showgrounds.

As enthralling as it was to hear the gentle-but-devastating songs from Aldous Harding’s new album, a small part of me yearned to see more of Father John Misty whose first six songs blew us away at the main stage.

Dragging myself away from the brilliant Slowdive was torturous, particularly given we’ve waited so long for them to visit and can’t be sure if the band will ever be back on Australian soil again. But I couldn’t bear the thought of missing the amazing Anderson .Paak & the Free Nationals, who are one of the best bands on the planet, in any genre, right now.  


I’m not sure the decision to leave ultra-cool Canadian jazz group BADBADNOTGOOD to catch some of Bonobo’s luminous live show was the right call. But I’m not sure it was the wrong call either. And skipping out on Sylvan Esso in order to catch Moses Sumney felt both wrong and right

It’s not that I was leaving bad sets to see good ones, or vice versa, the standard was consistent. And it’s not as if the festival has any choice but to put bands up against each other. The blame doesn’t lay with the organisers.

In fact, I wonder whether the decision to spread oneself thin or stay put at a festival depends on your current mood and headspace, which makes it hard to give a definitive answer as to what the best approach is. I envy anyone who has a strong stance on this and sticks to it.

The clash is an inevitable part of any multi-stage festival. But, two decades on, I still don’t know what the hell to do about them. Now, what to do about Grace Jones and Beck at Sydney City Limits?