REVIEW: Falls Festival at Byron Bay

Everybody’s favourite New Years festival, Falls, has slowly risen to the tops of the ranks of live Australian music. Starting from humble beginnings when bands such as Pennywise, The Living End, and Jebediah headlined all the way back to 1996 and 1997, the flagship camping experience has successfully been epitomised as the ‘good times’ festival.

As you all may well know, the difference between a single gig and a whole-day festival is substantial. Crazily inflated drink and food prices aside, the latter is much more venturous (and a ton more draining on your body, considering you’re seeing around ten acts throughout the day).

There’s a very similar leap in differentiating experiences between the single-day festivals and camping festivals. For example, items such as ice, fruit, and vegetables are a scarce commodity, and even basic necessities such as morning showers and flushing toilets are unattainable without having to line up for long periods at certain times. However, the drastic and instantaneous change of lifestyle from the regular world holds hands with the onset of a fantastic culture filled with communal toothpaste, drinking circles and an easy way in to being best friends with your neighbours.

Then there’s that other really important thing – the music. Falls this year had an incredible lineup, boasting Alt-J, Empire of the Sun, SBTRKT, and John Butler Trio (who I can barely believe he’s played Falls seven times now). Not only is the attraction of the vast range of bands the primary focus for the majority of attendees, they’re responsible for encouraging the campers go through the effort of walking seven minutes to the festival area to dance so hard that they burn off the vodka shots, Strongbow ciders and peanut butter sandwich breakfasts.

So, you make your way into the festival grounds, probably by way of Byron Bay – a small town so intensely filled with beautifully lax seaside vibes that you’re just about ready to call your parents and tell them you’re never going back to your hometown again. You heave your throwaway clothes, deck chairs, and tents through the everlasting line of security checking for alcohol. You set up camp, and you’re ready to deal with the inevitable shoulder sunburn, dead phone batteries, and terrible bouts of sleep for four days, because you’re with your best friends and you’re so ready to party.

You drag a couple of your friends to see some of your favourites on the first day – Thelma Plum, Dan Sultan, and Northeast Party House – and if you made it out of DZ Deathrays‘ mosh without getting knocked out by some shirtless lads, you brush your teeth at the taps with seven other strangers awkwardly standing beside you in their pajamas and you prepare for the worst goddamn sleep you’ve ever had in your entire life.

Waking up at Falls isn’t all that peaceful. You’ve either got your feet in a puddle, or you’re in a makeshift sauna, or your neighbours are blasting Darude’s ‘Sandstorm’ at 6am. It’s okay, though – you’ll get used to it.

Defeated, you walk outside and begin your day realising that you’ve got about thirteen hours to kill before the Boogie Nights / NYE acts start. Most of that time would be spent not at the site given how infatuated you still are with the idea of surrounding yourself with sand and waves. Wherever you go, though, it’s a pretty killer way to spend the last day of 2014.

Queen of partying Alison Wonderland was chosen to take out the countdown spot, following acts such as Badbadnotgood and Client Liaison. Falls is a completely solid way to party your way into 2015, given that you’re on a big hill with amazing acts and 12,499 other people. Anything can happen to anyone here. It’s wonderful!

New Year’s Day is the day that really kills you. I mean, you’re already feeling pretty dead with your ears ringing, terrible hangover and (maybe) the sinking feeling of you having no idea where your phone is. You push through, though, because the next 48 hours are where all of your favourite acts – Vance Joy, The Kite String Tangle, La Roux, and whoever else – are packed in.

The lax nature of the festival has done its job of washing over you so subtly that you’re totally fine with missing the first three hours of talent, so long as you can sit in this chair with your friends in the shade. Nothing feels more satisfying than getting away from the sun. Despite this, you make it to the stages and you’re pleasantly realigned with the pure bliss of being a fraction of an energetic crowd, where one way or another you and every single other person are experiencing the exact same thing and just feeding off of one another’s energy. Jagwar Ma kill it, The Presets make you dance harder than you ever have before, and Empire of the Sun finish the night off with a stunning theatrical performance.

Day four is total struggletown because you’ve eaten all the good food, spent waaaay too much money on drink tokens, and clocked up a total of probably around 12 hours sleep for the past three days. Not only that, it has the likes of Bluejuice, Tycho, and Wolf Alice, and it feels so tempting to just do nothing but lay under a tree at the main stage.

The majority of campers probably ended up lazing around until the almighty pinnacle end of Falls, where Cloud Control, SBTRKT, John Butler Trio, and everyone’s favourite Alt-J just about had the main stage exploding with talent. Whether you took that route, or the way of seeing Bluejuice off (RIP) by seeing their powerful show and then dancing the night away with Jamie XX and Todd Terje, there’s no doubt you had a killer night.

The following morning – the true ending of Falls – is incredibly bittersweet. Actual showers and porcelain toilets feel so attainable, and you just can’t wait to rest under air conditioning. In spite of all these temporary desires, you realise soon after that although Falls will make you sweaty, sunburnt, broke, and exhausted, you’ll miss the feeling of the culture in the unique world around you and you’ll be craving the same incredible experience all over again in a year’s time.

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