After a huge New Years Eve ushered in by Alison Wonderland, the Falls Festival Byron Bay crowd looked surprisingly bright eyed and bushy tailed as they tackled the sun. Storms were forecasted for majority of the festival but it seemed they were nowhere to be seen today as Cold War Kids took to the stage in the heat of the day.
The Californian band who’ve just released their fifth album Hold My Home, recruited a loyal crowd, many of them hoisted up on shoulders. The band sprinkled tracks from the new album all the way through their set but it was the older ones that drew the biggest reaction. As lead singer, Nathan Willett, took to the piano at the end of the set it was clear we were about to be treated to Hospital Beds. It was a stirring finish to a strong set. While the quality of the bands studio albums may have dropped over the years, there is no doubt that they still know how to command a crowd.
Jagwar Ma took to the stage next admitting that they had, had no sleep the night before. Despite that they seemed to be loving the energy of the crowd, with their weariness quickly dissipating. A pulsating beat ricocheted around the natural amphitheatre as the band laid on top a woozy concoction of reverb-soaked vocals and dizzying guitars. Their set was built with tracks from their 2013 debut Howlin’, which, if anything, had got better with age. Come Save Me, benefited from the sunny atmosphere and instrumental track, Four, made it impossible to stay away from the mosh. Let’s hope next time we’re watching Jagwar Ma, they have a new album under their belt.
Speaking of bands that need a new album out, The Temper Trap took to the natural amphitheatre next armed with a few new tracks from an album that is due out this year. The two new tracks that they played stuck with a Coldplay-esque, arena-rock aesthetic with oohs and aahs that immediately resonated with the crowd. It helped that the tracks were surrounded either-side by favourites like Love Lost and Fader. Even Trembling Hands from their lesser-received second album found favour, with an amphitheatre-wide singalong. Of course, Sweet Disposition was the main event and, maybe it was just nostalgia, but it was stirring event after all these years.
It seemed nostalgia was the theme of the day with The Presets following Temper Trap. The duo who peaked with their second album, Apocalypto, still drew a huge crowd and delivered a hearty-set of thumping electronica. The darkness definitely worked in the bands favour with the whole set sounding like an underworld disco, particularly with the strangely creepy, Ghosts. My People is always a spectacle but some of their newer tracks gave it a run for its money with Youth In Trouble going harder than any other song.
A quick dash from The Presets, over the hill, found us in the sweltering arms of Run The Jewels. The duo of Killer Mike and El-P took to the stage promising, “…we will burn this mother f#*ker to the ground!” And that is exactly what they did. The energy in the Forest Tent was palpable with sweat dripping from the brow of every punter. Run The Jewels gave no time for rest as they churned out heavy-hitter after heavy-hitter. Blockbuster Night P.2 was an incredible sight to see as was 36″ Chain. At one point it seemed like everybody in the tent was creating the Run The Jewels logo with their hands. As “run them jewels fast, run them, run them, run them jeweles fast” swirled around our heads, it was pretty clear that it’s going to be near impossible to beat Run The Jewels this year. The duos chemistry, probably created by an unlikely friendship, is unbelievable.
Switching the dial just a notch, punter hiked back over the hill and into the tropical world of La Roux. La Roux’s second album, Trouble In Paradise, was criminally ignored and this seemed like her chance to prove to the crowd just how good it really is. La Roux’s live show is a well thought-out, perfectly manicured set that never strays from its ’70s-rooted, tropical style. It took barely moments from the crowd to start bopping along to newbies like Kiss And Tell and Sexotheque. The latter had people singing along by the second chorus. Highlights from her second album kept the crowd hanging on and despite one punter throwing a shoe on the stage and some others chanting, Bulletproof, out of turn, it seemed she’d charmed with her smokey British accent and sleek moves. La Roux thanked those who bought her second album before she launched into Bulletproof, giving the largest singalong of the festival to date. It was goosebump-inducing to look back on the massive crowd, all with hands-in-the-air. Let’s hope people go home and give La Roux another listen.
From the underrated to the overrated, Empire of The Sun took to the stage to finish the night. They were the replacements for Robyn and Royksopp, and while they definitely brought the beats and the energy, the whole thing was quite a trip. It felt as if we’d stumbled into an Eastern European nightclub and were gyrated by giant luminescent sword-fish. Props where props are due, We Are The People still dazzles with its euphoric chorus and Standing On The Shore is as hearty as it ever was. Empire of the Suns helmsman, Luke Steele, is clearly a creative mastermind but sometimes less is more- both audibly and visually.
With Jamie xx, SBTRKT, Todd Terje and more in our sights for day 2, bed was beckoning.