Just under 100 days out from the 8th St. Jerome's Laneway Festival, the organisers sent us an invite to go on a venue tour with Mark Kneebone, one of the festival directors and co-founders. He wanted to give us the lay of the land, show off the size (ooh it’s a big boy) and give us a couple cheeky hints on what the schedules going to look like.
We found the morning pretty interesting and we thought that our George fam who are already getting hyped up for the day, might want to know what we learned.
So, here’s our comprehensive Laneway 2017 Venue Guide.
Laneway crowd - Getty Images
Why Albert Park
Mark Kneebone puts it pretty simply, and if you’ve been to Laneway before, it’s hard to fault him.
As the festival grew in popularity, Silo Park was simply getting too small, too hot and too cramped.
So with cooperation from their friends in the Auckland Council, the Laneway organisers have secured the Albert Park precinct, Princes Street and parts of Auckland University.
“The festival will run all the way up from the bottom of the park to the Pullman Hotel. From the edge of the park all the way down to Symonds Street. So roughly, give or take, this site is about twice the size of the last festival site but we’re keeping the exact same capacity,” Mark Kneebone explains.
Why the same capacity? Because they want to avoid all the problems they had with space and shade at Silo.
One of the glaringly obvious difficulties with Albert Park is that it’s a heritage site. Laneway can’t even trim trees… they’ve got to leave the place exactly how they came into it. So all the stages will be custom built - yep, between trees, lamp posts, benches and statues.
Kneebone expands, “It’s going to cost more and take more time but it’s going to look better, and the band will have a better time which hopefully means they’ll play better.”
Like previous years, there’s going to be four stages. However, the big difference is that they’ll all be separate from each other, and bigger in capacity. Three of them are currently unnamed, so we’re just labelling them with numbers for the moment.
Stage Two will be situated behind the band rotunda. Kneebone guestimates they’ll be able to fit at least 5,000 within this space. The rotunda will transform into the techie station. Bar that and a shit tonne of toilets (puns for days) this space will be left open - so people can do exactly what they’re supposed to do, enjoy the music.
Stage Three is up the hill and to the left of Stage Two, facing Kitchener Street. Kneebone reckons this will be slightly bigger than the wharf stage at Silo Park, fitting around 4,000 people.
Stage One (AKA the Main Stage) proved to be the biggest challenge for the organisers. It’s also the reason why they settled on Albert Park despite very seriously considering a number of other locations.
For the final hour of power, Kneebone explained that you’ve got to have a big enough space for the majority of the festival to crowd into and watch the headliner. So, the plan is to block off the entirety of Princes Street.
Placing the stage at the top of the road, opposite the Pullman Hotel and allowing a crowd of around 9,500 to fill up the rest of the street.
And the final stage: The Thunderdome. Kneebone claims this small, eclectic space is one of his favourite points of the whole festival,
“We didn’t wanna lose that, we kinda had to have a smaller stage that you can take a lot more risks with the programming.”
One of the big problems in the past, however, was that with a capacity of 500, the Thunderdome was far too small for the calibre of bands playing inside. “Violent Soho are playing in Sydney to a crowd of 6,500 this weekend. There they were playing on a three by four stage in Silo Park. So yeah, there were a few interesting conversations with managers of bands who were playing in this space during the lead-up…”
Kneebone wants to keep the idea of the Thunderdome alive but to accommodate for a larger audience.
This year the Thunderdome is taking up an entire street. Setting up on Albert Street, just past the Maidment Theatre and letting the audience mosh all the way back up to Princes Street.
Because of the bigger, separate stages Kneebone promises, “there’ll be an expansion on the amount of bands that can play, but more importantly bands will be playing longer this year.”
Stage Two is likely to see Flight Facilities close.
Stage Three will be home for the rest of the electronic lineup. We’re talking Clams Casino, Mick Jenkins and Floating Points.
Mick Jenkins - Getty
The Main Stage promises an hour-long closing set from Tame Impala and Glass Animals look like they’ll be featured around 5.00pm.
The Thunderdome doesn’t have anything confirmed but Mr Carmack and K2K are who are currently being bandied about as closers.
Mr Carmack - Getty
With all that said, however, Kneebone made a point to stress how much scheduling can change.
When he first drafted this year’s schedule, Glass Animals were sitting at 2.30pm. They’ve already made a two-hour jump.
“By the time the festival rolls around it could be 8:00pm. Bands get more popular,” Kneebone explains.
For the year Lorde played - or rather didn’t play, Kneebone ended up framing the first and last schedules, “In the first one I had her in the Thunderdome when the doors opened, playing at 11:45am. The last one, she had her own headline night - For 10,000 tickets! It kinda gives you an idea of how quickly it can move in three months.”
Laneway is making sure beersies will be available as soon as you walk into the venue. There’ll be two, big-ass bars to the left of the main entrance at the Wellesley end of Princes Street.
In fact, Kneebone promises there’ll be twice the amount of bars as last year - only with the same capacity of people. So theoretically this should mean you won’t be waiting around for fifteen minutes in a booze line and missing half a set of anything.
The aim is to have a maximum of 5-6 minutes wait time during the peak hours of the festival.
The Auckland University quad has been blocked out for the Friends and Family of Laneway Bar.
Boutique bar, The Vivian returns with all your best local, organic wines. Here you’ll find a massive selection of fancy vino’s selling at a way cheaper price than what you’d pay for in a restaurant.
And the craft beer bar will also make a comeback, with six different refreshing treats and double the amount of lanes so, again, half the wait time!
Makes us thirsty just thinking about it.
The larger area surrounding the fountain will be the markets, food and chill zone.
People will have lots of space and shade to take a break from the musical orgy. They’ll be able to fuel up and enjoy a conversation with their friends.
Laneway’s hoping with all this space and shade people will be encouraged to get to the festival earlier and enjoy the full 10-hour day.
We know there will be around about 20 boutique food vendors who will largely set up around the middle of the park.
If the Bird On A Wire spicy chicken sandwiches that Laneway shouted us after the tour is any indication, food is going to be fucking delicious.
But if you’re more inclined to a hot dog and a punnet of tomato sauce drenched fries than any of that fancy shit, you’ll find the grease station at the Wellesley end of Princes Street - which also happens to be right by the festivals main entrance. Too easy.
Kneebone concedes it’s going to be a logistical challenge.
The University will remain open for the day, with parts of it closed off. There will be a security fence around the entire University. People won’t be able to access the festival from the University, and they also won’t be able to access the University without a current student ID.
What a mammoth operation.
The St. Jerome's Laneway Festival 2017 takes place on the 30th of Jan.
Find more info about the line-up here
Or nab your tickets here.