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The location of Falls Festival is gorgeous. Falls Festival lies about 10 minutes inland from Lorne, a busy little beach town on the Great Ocean Road. The pristine drive along The Great Ocean Road showed off a mouth-watering ocean view. The sun radiated from a bright blue sky, scattered with wispy clouds. The soft blue ocean meandered gently into secluded beaches and rocky outcrops. The traffic moved at a snail’s pace, but there were no complaints. Limbs hung out of car windows, soaking up the blissful day. Lorne is but a slight detour, as we turned inland. Leaving the coast behind us, we climbed uphill into the thick bushland that lay beyond. In little more than 10 minutes we were greeted by friendly staff and gruff pommy security, who emptied our belongings onto the road in search of alcohol and glass. Bah!
The timing of our arrival couldn’t have been any better. We’d lucked-out and scored a prime camping position about 5 minutes walk from the festival entrance. It was close to toilets, showers and the bizarre Pleasure (village) and was sitting pretty well next to the main walkway. As the erection of tents concluded and the first drink was thrown back, Muscles vocals floated by our campsite on the wind “woo, ahh, woo, ahhh”. Any nostalgic excitement was quickly extinguished by rumours that he was doing a piano set. Cue: drink.
We wandered into the entrance on dusk to see the crazed antics of The Cuban Brothers. At the peak of their lunacy one member removed his G-String and yelled emphatically, “Don’t take Ketamine! it will shrink your penis!”, as he stood fully naked with a mangina. The Bamboos followed with deep funk and soul, climaxing with I Got Burned, the absence of Tim Rogers‘ vocals unnoticed.
The highlight of the night was undoubtedly Furnace and the Fundamentals. Remixing their way through innumerable covers with a live band, Furnace traversed the entire back catalogue of every epic dance floor-killing song that ever existed with finesse and energy, sending the crowd into complete hysterics over and over again. What an end to the pre-party.
Saturday was the official first day of the festival. The festival area itself is quite compact. The Valley Stage sits at the bottom of a steep hill, flanked on either side by stalls and bars. The Grand Theatre sits on top of the hill – a huge red and white striped tent. Good food and drink was easy to find, and the stallholders were friendly and always keen to chat.
King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard were the first to get the lazy crowd moving, starting a mini mosh pit with their punk-fused psychedelic rock. Splayed out across the stage seven members wide with the drummer in the centre, the grubby punks rocked out emphatically, as we bounced around in a mess of bodies and hair.
San Cisco provided a small change of pace on the Valley Stage, their sweet adolescent indie pop swooning the crowd like a kiss on the cheek from your high school crush. They sounded great live, in particular their cute-as-hell drummer, whose kit sounded superb. Sigh…any woman who can drum can have my heart. Tight as hell, the crowd sung Awkward and Rocket Ship with gusto. Their performance even allowed an overlooking of the terrible lyrics to Rocket Ship for a dance.
A big shout-out must be made here to the DJs who ignited the fun-filled dance offs that transpired between bands. They really kept a constant flow of energy over the course of the festival.
By the time Bombay Bicycle Club were on, the rain had arrived, making the hill facing the stage a giant slip-and-slide. A group of clever chaps made up of Channel V’ers and Art Vs Sciencers formulated a human tunnel (of legs) on the steep hill facing the Valley Stage. At one point there were 15 people lined up, and the only person who could make it all the way through was Jim Finn (from AVS) whose smooth jacket made him a human juggernaut. The summery vibes of Bombay floated up the hill, sending smiles over shivering bodies. Some tunnellers broke rank to dance to Shuffle, then ran back up the hill for a slide.
The good vibes continued as the rain halted and Django Django arrived in signature matching T-shirts. Opening with the throbbing synths of Hail Bop, they delivered their quirky guitar-driven synth pop from the very beginning with bundles of energy. It was the third time I’d seen them in 2012, and man did they bring it again, the bees knees of dancy synth pop. Playing the bangers from their stellar debut release, they had the crowd chanting, tribal dancing, and jumping for joy to their percussive goodness. Sped up versions of Default and Storm were massive, and Skies Over Cairo and Loves Dart were rapturous. Finishing with the apocalyptic siren of Wor, many were left gobsmacked about what they’d just witnessed.
Day One headliners The Hives arrived. Howlin’ Pelle talked. And talked. And talked. A few bangers were played, such as Hate to Say I Told You So, Walk Idiot Walk, and Go Right Ahead, plus their trademark teaser to Tick Tick Boom. The band turned a bit sour when a few drinks were thrown at the guitarist. Howlin’ Pelle shouted into the crowd, “If you f**kers throw another beer at my brother, I will come down there and kick your arse”. It was probably all talk though, seeing as they did talk a lot.
Day Two was opened by the driving rhythms and guitar riffs of Art of Sleeping. One of the crazy benefits of camping right next to the festival is that there is nothing like being woken by good music, let alone some of the best live music on offer.
A leisurely stroll into the festival on lunch was met (once again) by amazing music. This time Ball Park Music had the stage, ushering a chirpy “cheers c**ts” to the audience as I eagerly awaited my bacon & egg roll and coffee.
The real surprise package was inside the Grand Theatre tent where Regular John delivered a sweltering set of hard rock. Their sound delved into 90's alt rock territory with new single Slume, with a slight Billy Corgan tinge in his voice.
Jinja Safari pulled a large crowd in the Valley, but those expecting their usual antics were left disappointed. There was no stage climbing or Pied Piper follow-the-leader runs. Maybe it’s a sign that they’ve become serious musicians in recent times. As their music matures so do they. Their energy is still as enigmatic as ever, with live bongos and a naked saxophonist banging out tunes.
SBTRKT was one of the most highly anticipated sets of the entire festival. Given the strange time and setting of 6pm on the Valley Stage, SBTRKT arrived to monstrous applause and buzz, with Sampha on vocals and keys, and mastermind Aaron Jerome on live drums. The live drums allowed for some juicy live remixing of the percussive elements of each song. The biggest was Wildfire, which was masterfully mixed, so much so that no one even picked up on the intro until the synths and standard rhythm kicked in. Sampha’s vocals were stunning: so rich during Something Goes Right and Hold On, all the time layering percussion and samples with huge effect, simultaneously giving each song a different sound and feeling. SBTRKT recordings already have monstrous dancy energy, but live they take it to the next level, pushing it up a notch on heavier dance tracks like Sanctuary and Heatwave. Stellar!
Flume could have been mistaken as a headliner – the crowd in the Grand Theatre tent was so tightly packed that it clogged the entrances and squished those inside. People were climbing the fence on the road side through thorn bushes to get a glimpse of the dance music maestro. A warning had to be ushered before he started, it was so full. Opening with the trademark wob wob of More Than You Thought, he tore through his back catalogue. No crowd erupts as massively as they do to Flume. Dance offs were rife. People got low. Bodies flailed to and fro, up and down. There was moshing on shoulders. Hair flailed around like crazy. His latest single with Chet Faker was the most chilled of all his tracks. A new overlay of Kendrick Lamar’s Drank dropped over the top of The Anthem instead of his trademark Biggie Smalls mix.
Many were forgiven for confusing Flaming Chips with The Hot Lips. It was late, and they were both equally hot. Catching the end of Flaming Lips after Flume was tasty, his visual show an absolute ball-tripper to say the least. Singer Wayne Coyne ran around smashing a giant gong, which lit up in blinding flashes of light every time, hordes of female dancers crowding the side of the stage with psychedelic dance moves. Hot Chip were a step away from their psych rock, opening with Shake a Fist. Live, Hot Chip are an entirely different prospect. Their nerd chic oozed confidence as they nerd-danced around their instruments enthusiastically, the bass reverberating up the hill. Their female drummer Sarah Jones absolutely smashed her kit, incorporating some quirky instruments like a Caribbean steel drum, which didn’t look out of place next to DJ decks and guitars. Over and Over was an unbeatable classic that didn’t seem out of place among new tracks Night and Day and These Chains. Their Fleetwood Mac cover of Everywhere was a nice touch on an awesome set.
The weather on Day Three of Falls Festival sealed the run of great weather, proving to be just as hot as the rest. I began the day on the highest hill to soak it all in. A sea of tents, cars and marquees curved their way across the open fields, encased by tall, towering gum trees. The sun shimmered off thousands of car windows in the valley. Trails of people scuttled along the paths that dissected the human settlements.
First Aid Kit captured the essence of the gorgeous summer day with their stunning Swedish folk music. They appeared on stage young and pretty, with a distinctive Bohemian vibe. Their long, straight hair hang lank over their cute animal tees. Two cute little girls danced around on the stage next to them as they sang The Lion’s Roar and Wolf with guts, their voices belying their youthful appearance. Their influences are far between. They stated a love for ABBA and then finished a song with a heavy riff from The White Stripes.
Sampology brought us into the night with a tribute AV DJ set with some masterful mixing of movie clips that was at times punchy and at times disjointed to account for the speaking of artists. No one really minded the long-winded 20th anniversary speech by the festival organiser and his parents because 2 Door was here to bring in the new year in style.
A beautiful full moon and scattered cloud flanked blue neon-lit trees and a yellow-and-red-lit stage as Two Door Cinema Club arrived to huge applause. From the opening of No One Can Talk, it was clear that they have matured past their age from the young party starters they were off the back of Tourist History. They were so tight at times it was hard to tell the tracks apart from the recordings, from which they rarely strayed, ripping through their biggest hits in Undercover Martin, What You Know and Cigarettes in the Theatre. They warmed up the crowd for the new year coming with new tune Next Year, then broke in the new year with banger What You Know. The sky exploded with confetti and hands as everyone indulged in a random or pre-planned snog to break in the new year in class (or lack thereof). Two Door Cinema Club – all class.
(Photo by: Laurachel Ventus)