The 48 hours leading up to Falls Festival's planned kick off in Lorne was a tense one for punters and organisers alike. As catastrophic bushfires spread through Wye River, Separation Creek potentially heading for Lorne, the fate of the festival was left uncertain. It's nothing short of wildly impressive that festival organisers were able to relocate the entire event to Mount Duneed in just a single day.
While presumably many held doubts about the organisers ability to pull such a thing off well, the Falls crew did an incredible job at getting things ready for Monday morning. Given that the Mount Duneed estate has hosted A Day On The Green many times before, they were an ideal back up plan. The venue is perhaps less scenic than Lorne, with definitely less options for shade- but it still had the atmosphere that you'd expect from Falls.
The third band to play that evening, Sex On Toast were a perfect fit for the first day of the festival. The ten piece acts performance exuded insane levels of high energy throughout its duration, it's exactly what everyone needed after standing in the heat all day. Their faux 80's aesthetic bought the funk, without ever feeling like it was overly tacky or satirical. Though the crowd was still thin by this point, their set set the vibe for what was to come for the rest of the day.
Next up was the self proclaimed 'Mexican president of the United States', El Ves. Easily one of the more ridiculous acts on this years line up, El Ves' set was a vibrant event. A proud Elvis impersonator, the performer shared some of his namesakes standard moves and tunes, while also implementing his own quirky shtick, complete with magic tricks and an influx of tear away outfits. Having been in the business since 1977, it's unsurprising that such a seasoned performer could cultivate a set that had the whole audience smiling. With two attractive, campy girls by his side, El Ves made many references to Australia's current immigration problem- urging punters to move closer with a cry of "I know you're Australian, I know you're scared of immigrants, but this is a real rock and roll show!". Despite the political dialogue that was interweaved through the set, it was delivered in such an upbeat manner that it was impossible to feel uncomfortable. Though definitely not for everyone, El Ves was really a sight to behold.
The novelty of El Ves was a brilliant intro into what was in store for us next, which was of course, the parody king Weird Al Yankovic. His performance starts with a live video of him walking through the venue, while singing Tacky (his take on Pharrell's hit, Happy). By this point, the crowd has well and truly become huge- with a surprising amount of people singing along, word for word. Weird Al disappeared backstage between each song for an outfit change (including but not limited to, a fat suit, star wars get up, and what appeared to be an evil scientists costume), while the audience watched pre-recorded video skits during the interim. While each song performed had it's merits, the highlight was by far White and Nerdy- the soundtrack to our collective high school/young adult experiences. The crowds excitement during the track was palpable, it was a strange sight to see such a large audience connect to a parody song, to say the least- but interesting nonetheless. Seeing Weird Al in the flesh is just that, weird. It's nothing anyone needed, or wanted to see- but it's satisfying, somehow.
The excitement still lingered after Weird Al's set, which was an ideal time for Fleetmac Wood to perform. The DJ collective who plays remixes of Fleetwood Mac songs played a quality set, however it lacked the same entertainment factors that the preceding acts held. Had their set time not been placed between Weird Al and Art vs Science, they likely would have been unable to maintain the same large crowd, with the same level of energy. It was a slight lull in an otherwise stellar opening night.
Thankfully, Art vs Science were able to pick the pace back up the moment they left the stage. The crowd was thick and exuberant, and with a quality set like that- it was no wonder why. The stage was illuminated with terrific lights, their display of neon-coloured crystals matched to the beat of their music- it was hard to not feel involved. The band shared some fresh material, while also playing some of their favoured dance anthems, with Magic Fountain and Parlez-Vous Francais? going absolutely off, as was expected. It was the perfect ending to the first night, leaving considerable excitement for what would come tomorrow.
The Bennies set the pace for the day, with an exuberant set that would have coerced even the most sunburnt punter into dancing. Dressed in tie-die shirts and leggings, the band kicked off their set with a cry of "let's get fucking weird!". Which, when gauging crowd reactions- is exactly what happened next. While at times the first day of Falls lacked strong crowds, The Bennies pulled a sizeable amount of people to the Valley Stage. Their psychedelic reggae vibes were perfect for this festival, with the band producing a very happy, very high energy atmosphere for the day. Despite the good feels that were felt all around, the band managed to take a couple of moments out of their performance to pay their respects to Motörhead frontman, Ian Fraser "Lemmy" Kilmister, as well as locals affected by the bushfires. Describing the recent tragedies as "really fucking shit", frontman Anty urged punters to donate. Mount Duneed was the only date the band played throughout the Falls Festival, a shame considering the high calibre of their performance.
Next up was Hiatus Kioyote. Front woman Nai Palm looked incredible in her Egyptian themed outfit, complete with cat ears and golden chains- but that was nothing compared to her insane vocals. Her powerful voice paired with the bands neo soul vibes allowed their performance to be one of the biggest highlights of the day, and possibly the entire festival. The pinnacle of the set was Breathing Underwater, a song Palm was excited to relay has just recently received a Grammy nomination. As the set progressed the energy of the crowd began to wane, not because of the set but rather the intense heat.
The dreariness felt due to the intense heat also hindered the beginning of Leon Bridges set. While the funk and soul music he played was truly remarkable, it likely would have had more of an emotional effect on punters had they not been all at risk of heat stroke. His performance was solid throughout it's entirety however, with an old school style so authentic you'd be forgiven for thinking that Bridges had been around for much longer than his 26 years. From his grey suit, to his and his bands choreographed moves- this set embodied everything a great soul performance should.
The boys from Dune Rats delivered a vastly different performance to Bridges, but that's not to say it wasn't just as great. Their hectic cover of Blister In The Sun was ideal for the day, with the rest of their set being just as chaotic and insanely entertaining. Brisbane Locals, Dune Rats embody the wild child aesthetic many Australians love, or love to hate. The crowd loved it, clearly- as proven by their roars of excitement as an audience member was invited up to 'do a shoey', aka drink a beer from a dirty shoe. The highlight of the performance asides from their relentless energy was Red Light/Green Light- one of the bands most popular songs, which was delivered perfectly on point.
American songstress Halsey followed, in her first ever Australian performance. The reception she received was an immensely strong one, with even the singer getting overwhelmed midway through the set, crying out "This is what every fucking festival should be like. None of us are too cool or too bored, we're just here to enjoy music!". Her vocals were absolutely incredible, with her confidence creating a great atmosphere. Closing on her hit Hurricane, it's clear that big things are to come from this young singer.
As the sun went down and the weather started to cool, people began to get rowdy. Clearly, it was the perfect time for the Hilltop Hoods to perform. Their set was as expected, great if you like Aussie Hip Hop, terrible otherwise. They performed well, however, their audience was filled with the kind of people non festival goers love to mock- the roughness was so intense that even the band had to stop their set just two songs in, to tell people to calm down. Before their finish, they made a shout out to the festival organisers, noting that we should be grateful to those that "essentially built a festival for you guys within 24 hours".
Thankfully, the energy in the crowd settle just in time for The Wombats to take the stage. While it's only been a few months since they last toured the country, their set translated to a much higher energy performance in a festival setting. The band wasn't holding anything back this time around, playing so hard that one of the bass guitars strings broke by the second song. They also give a shout out to Lemmy, with Murphy stating that “Today was a good day, apart from Lemmy dying, we give him one last send off as we pay our respect and get lost in the moment", before ripping into an amazing performance of Let's Dance To Joy Division.
Anyone would be forgiven for choosing to spend the day back at their campsite with their feet in the esky- however the acts on day three were far too inviting and punters still made it out to enjoy the day. Though the trip uphill to the Grand Theatre was a rough one, Young Fathers made it worth the trek. Their explosive tribal rhythms working in conjunction with their intense attitudes allowed their performance to become something truly captivating. The insane amount of exertion they put into performing was admirable, with the cymbal being struck off the drum set at one point due to how hard it was hit. The band kept up their shtick the entire time, barely interacting with the crowd and sticking solely to playing their music.
While Young Fathers may have not interacted directly with their audience, Mac Demarco was of course, completely the opposite. The second he takes the stage he lets the huge crowd know that he and his band members had to pee, but now they're ready to play for us- and play they do. Demarco's music is perfect for summer, between the bands shit talking and chill tunes- everyone is feeling a lot cooler than they were beforehand. It's the first show newest band member Jon Lent has played in Australia, and as he doesn't have a role in Freaking Out The Neighbourhood he takes to crowd surfing instead.
While Demarco's set was easily one of the biggest highlights of the whole festival, it was close to being topped by Courtney Barnett who played shortly after. It's no wonder she has received considerable critical acclaim over the past little while, she completely dominates the stage and the crowd the comes with it. Her blunt lyrics and vocals, paired with her impressive guitar shredding is something that would strike up awe in just about anybody- which is perhaps why she's so widely renowned in so many different demographics.
As Barnett wraps up her set, the vibes in the festival mellow out considerably. Which is possibly why it took a few tracks for Garry Clark Jr to connect with punters. His performance was solid, and his guitar solos were absolutely incredible to watch. As his set progressed, the crowd thickened considerably, giving him a well deserved reception.
Day turns into night, and the kids at Fall Festival have a lot to look forward to- starting with RÜFÜS. Stating that they've been working on a lot of new material for the past year and a half, the band graces us with some new tunes from the upcoming LP Bloom. Their as solid as they always are, and a nice transition into what was yet to come.
While RÜFÜS got the audience's morale up, it was nothing compared to what Bloc Party evoked. From the moment they took the stage, the atmosphere shifted into something totally insane, and totally amazing. Front man Kele Okereke was joined by new members this time around, adding a fresh energy to the mix. Though the set was interrupted by an alarming sound glitch, the band recovered almost instantly and carried on with The Love Within- bringing the set to a close, much sooner than anyone would have liked it to.
An appropriate follow up, Disclosure was up next, and it pretty much goes without saying that their show was great. Their light show possibly overshadowed their music, with the standard 'Disclosure faces' placed over all the guest vocalists that couldn't make it to Mount Duneed. While it's undeniable that Disclosure are a solid act, throughout the duration of their show it felt that at times it was a little bit lacking. It could be due to the fact that they sound identical to what they do on record (which is obviously, not a bad thing), or it could be due to that they were closing- but it was hard for them to maintain the same energy that preceded their set. With that said, it ended on a high note with guest Brendan Riley joining the brothers for Moving Mountains, before the hour long performance finally closed with fan favourite Latch.
The final day arrives, and it's the hottest one yet. Clocking in at 42 degrees, if you managed to find yourself one of the few shaded spots at the venue, it would be advisable not to move anytime soon. Gang of Youths had the first set of the day, at the completely unshaded Main Stage. Despite the ridiculous heat, they managed to pull a sizeable crowd from their impressive set. The band seemed overwhelmed at points by the crowds reception, with their front man stating that "nine months ago, no one cared about Gangs of Youths, and now we have people that care. 2015 was the year of caring!". Likely, after their impressive performance- they've found a few more people that will care in 2016.
Afterwards came Meg Mac. Her powerhouse voice urged the remaining people to come out of hibernation and to the Grand Stage, for a set that was worth every minute of standing in the sun. She performed a new song, Ride It before launching into a performance of Grandma's Hands which could not be faulted.
While much of the fourth day was spent looking for shade, and the ongoing quest for more water- Birds of Tokyo were impossible to miss. Kicking things off with the Star Wars theme, the band launched into a killer set that had everyone moving. Complete with a ridiculously great rendition of Eye of the Tiger, their performance was what we all needed to get into the spirit of the festival. Their set closed with I'd Go With You Anywhere, with the crowd singing along almost louder than front man Ian Kenny.
Playing just as it started to cool down, Elliphant delivered one of the most insane and engaging sets of the day - exactly what we needed to start the New Years Eve party. Wearing a Falls Festival staff shirt, she urged the crowd to participate successfully. Running over time, she had to cut her set earlier than she'd like to, despite her pleas otherwise, but her performance of Too Original, her collab with Major Lazer, made it all worth it.
As the night draws closer to midnight, the atmosphere is one of intense excitement. Due to the extra tickets sold for bushfire relief, the festival is absolutely packed- and everyone is loving it. Before Foals take the stage and blow us all away, the festival organisers take the stage to thank everyone that made this possible. Before and after images of the Mount Duneed estate are shown, honing in exactly just how tremendous an effort this really was. We don't really get a moment for it all to sink in however, because the moment they leave the stage Foals kicks it into gear.
Throughout the festival, there was much talk of who the 'perfect' band for the NYE countdown was. Some preferred Disclosure, while others wanted The Wombats. I can assure everyone now though, after witnessing Foals in the last hour of 2015- there was no one better to bring in the new year. They launched into their set with Spanish Sahara, and ran through all our favourites before the countdown began. Popping bottles of champagne over the crowd, 2016 begun- followed shortly by an earth shattering performance of What Went Down. It was the perfect way to start our year.
All photos by Michelle He.