Four days of Falls Festival (2016)

DAY 1:

Teenage wunderkind Mallrat opened the Grand Theatre stage to draw in the early settlers. She was a bit shy to start but warmed up pretty quickly as she began to lay down her catchy rhymes. The crowd was lucky enough to get a sneak preview of a few new songs never played before, one of which she said was helped made by The Jungle Giants and The Belligerents. It’s a sure-fire winner. Mallrat threw in a Drake cover of ‘Pop Style’ and taught us the chorus of her ironic tune ‘Uninvited’ as we all raised our festival wristbands up in the air.

This year’s Boogie Night’s theme was everything gold. Glitter, tinsel and sequins soon spread far and wide. By the time Northeast Party House were ready to rock, the Grand Theatre was heaving. They shared one of the first tracks they ever wrote and played at Falls Festival when they debuted in Lorne back in 2014. They were glad to be back, and so were the fans. Feeding off each other’s energy, the rowdy crowd began forming circle pits and a cover of Blur’s ‘Song 2really got punters excited.

Broods
Broods

Client Liaison brought their 90s office party to the stage, complete with water coolers, fake plants and even an old Apple Macintosh to control their AV. The sound of kookaburras filled the air and they completely embraced the Australian spirit. Lead singer Monte Morgan even picked up his didgeridoo for a solo during ‘Where Do We Belong’. They cracked open some Fosters’ tinnies and shared them with the front row as they got stuck into a cover of Arman Van Helden’s ‘You Don’t Know Me’ complete with a shiny gold outfit change. We imagined ourselves cruising down Collins Street in their in their stylish ‘Off White Limousine’ and let loose with them on a cover of Savage Garden’s ‘I Want You’.

Self-proclaimed hip-hop godfather Grandmaster Flash brought the Bronx, the rap, the funk, the pop, and everything in between as we put our hands up and got down to whatever beat he mixed up. Flash gave everyone a lesson in early hip-hop and told us that it was all about the vinyl. He took us back in time with some old-skool breaks as he scratched away as some of his greatest records. Paying tribute to the late George Michael, he played a medley of his hits to pay respect. The whole theatre sung along in unison to ‘Careless Whisper’. It was magic. Flash had so much music to play in so little time but he certainly knew what the crowd wanted to hear as he continued to keep the party alive right until the very end of his set.

DAY 2:

Campers were awoken to rain and thunderstorms, but luckily it cleared just in time for Gretta Ray to bring some sunshine to The Valley Stage. It was Ray’s first time playing at a music festival and a pretty big deal for the 17-year-old. 2016 might’ve been a bit of a bummer for some but for her it’s been huge, especially winning Triple J’s Unearthed High with her hit song ‘Drive’. For those who’s year may not have been so good, she dedicated a song called ‘Blank Canvas’ to the possibility of starting over in the New Year. She tried out a new song, that’s currently getting mixed over in America and due out next year, which will be something to look forward to.

For British/Russian singer-songwriter and producer Shura, it was her first-ever gig in our country and the crowd helped her lose her Australian gig-virginity. Her music took the audience to disco heaven with hypnotic 80s vibes to get people on the feet and dancing in no time. She played tracks from her debut album Touch, full of sweet pop vocal hooks and combined with dreamy electro synths. The futuristic space inspired track ‘White Light’ was the perfect crescendo to finish as Shura aggressively tapped her synthesizers for a final instrumental.

AlunaGeorge peaked early and proved to be one of the biggest highlights that attracted a huge crowd. Entering the stage with a drink in hand and a bright orange outfit, Aluna flew solo and brought the party with her. Knowing all the right songs to play, she zoomed through all the hits and popular collaborations with Zhu, Disclosure, Kaytranada, Jack Ü and Baauer. The crowd absolutely lost it for ‘I’m In Control’ and DJ Snake’s remix version of ‘You Know You Like It’ as they jumped around to the infectious beat shouting all the lyrics.

Illy amped the energy to warm up the crowds and celebrated how amazing Australian music is with his Triple J Like A Version Aussie music medley. He hasn’t played too many shows this year, but he told the crowd that he was very impressed with the response for ‘Catch 22’ and his biggest hit ‘Papercuts’. MØ unfortunately pulled out at the last minute due to illness but Golden Features stepped up to the plate at the very last minute to fill in and get the masses dancing as he conjured up some grimy beats with plenty of earth-shattering drops.

Childish Gambino
Childish Gambino

Ta-ku took everyone on a journey that was all about losing love and finding it again. Dedicated to all the lovers, he conjured up some very soulful and soothing beats to groove along to. Wafia joined him on vocals as they performed their EP Meet In The Middle live for the first time in full. It was a special moment for the match made in heaven who complement one another perfectly and continue to push each other creatively.

Broods exploded with their full-scale live band right from their very first song and title track of their latest release Conscious. They maintained great momentum all the way through until the very end as Georgia Nott worked every angle of the stage to make a strong connection with the audience. Choosing to play more of their upbeat electronic driven tracks worked well for the later timeslot to give the crowd exactly what they wanted.

Childish Gambino arrived at midnight and the crowd was electric. He wanted to make sure everyone was having a good time and to feel the energy when the beat dropped. He wanted everyone to lose their minds. And that is exactly what went down. With a full band to help him out, nearly every song had a different vibe that explored a new direction and his energy was infectious as he danced around uncontrollably. By the end of the set he could feel that the crowd was feeling a bit rowdy and so he served up some heavy rap on ‘Retro’. ‘3005’ was the last track of the night and the crowd sung along to every word as if their lives depended on it.

DAY 3:

Bel asked everyone to come closer to the front of the stage because she promised that she was going to make people move. She had never played on a stage as big as The Grand Theatre before but she certainly knew how to make the most of it with a great presence. Her style is intriguing and has a powerful spark of gloomy undertones. Having only released her first single a couple of months ago, she announced the rest of her body of work is due out in February next year.

For something a bit different, comedian MC Andy Saunders showed off his beat boxing skills and hilarious songs about relationships. He explained why cyclones should have better names and pitched his idea for attitude hand wave gestures as an Olympic sport. The Stevenson Experience also used music to drive their act as they sung about the ups and downs of being identical twins and topical issues of 2016.

Sahara Beck captivated the audience with her powerhouse vocals and county folk charm. Her quick guitar rhythms got hearts racing and feet moving. After finishing her own set she returned to join Darren Middleton for a beautiful duet of their song ’Unless You Want Me To’. Middleton continued on solo as the Grand Theatre became his lounge room. He opened up to share his personal acoustic folk stories with a common theme of moving on from the past and stepping in to something new.

Tired Lion set off their ferocious rock n roll and let us in on a secret that they were recording a live Triple J Live at the Wireless performance. The crowd made sure they were as loud as possible so that they could be heard. The band shared their New Years resolutions and Sophie Hope encouraged everyone to believe in any possibility to dream big. As a special gift, they did a cover of Blur’s ‘Song 2’ and encouraged some audience participation during ‘I Don’t Think You Like Me’.

It was hard not to get lost in the moment with Ry X as he cast a spell over the crowd and hypnotized the audience with his ethereal sound. With a soft raspy falsetto and slow instrumental build up, the audience had to be really attentive to feel the emotive rush of his sonic energy.

Catfish and The Bottlemen
Catfish and The Bottlemen

Modern Baseball had just flown across the world on a 30-hour plane ride and were blown away by the Australian audience’s response to their music as the crowd shouted every lyric back to them. They sung songs about what they described as terrible places very far away from our country – so they assured us it’s was all ok and for us not to worry. Their catchy guitar riffs and punk-rock style was perfect for an afternoon of jumping around and head banging along to their catchy tunes. 

Bernard Fanning started off real nice and easy with a few lighthearted songs from his new record Civil Dusk including his new single ‘Reckless’. Fanning told us that the last time he was at Falls Festival in Lorne was 20 years ago in 1996. Fellow band member Dan Middleton joined Fanning on stage for a special mini Powderfinger reunion to perform ‘Sunsets’. He would usually play an encore but because it’s a festival he asked everyone to pretend that he’d gone off stage and the audience fake-cheered for him to come back for ‘Wish You Well.’ Fanning payed respect to those we’ve lost this year. A stripped back piano ballad version of ‘These Days’ particularly channeled his connection with the late Prince.

London Grammar welcomed us with a hauntingly beautiful rendition of ‘Night Call’ to send chills down our spines. Hannah Reid’s falsetto was pitch perfect and combined beautifully with the small string section beside her. The first gig they ever did in Australia in 2013 was in Lorne and they were happy to be back. They continued with ‘Flickers’ followed by a few verses of their Disclosure collaboration ‘Help Me Lose My Mind’. They shared a couple of new songs that will be featured on their highly anticipated second album, which Reid told us they’d been working on. Fans instantly fell in love from the very first listen. It was Hannah’s birthday so the audience sung to her before their final song ‘Metal & Dust.’ They assured us they’d be seeing us again soon.

The Grand Theatre programming was suspended due to an incident during the end of DMA’s set so only the Main stage remained open for the rest of the night. As a result, unfortunately KLP, Just A Gent, Generik and Moonbase Commander were unable to play. Violent Soho and Alison Wonderland continued to entertain the masses out on The Valley Stage long into the early morning.

DAY 4:

The crowd braved the rain for Hockey Dad as they warmed their audience up and got them moving around to some lively surf-pop. Billy Fleming had a big night and so had a bucket waiting next to his drum kit just in case…and he needed it midway through, but kept on going like a true champion. The crowd cheered on in support with a few early morning shoeys to keep the party going.

An introductory voiceover recording of philosopher Alan Watts played through the speakers. We heard an explanation about the spectrum of love, “We know that from time to time, there arise among human beings people who seem to exude love as naturally as the sun gives out heat”. It seemed as if Hælos channeled the sun’s energy to create their powerful and entrancing ambient sound. They conjured up a sense of dark euphoria with their aesthetic beats.

Hein Cooper serenaded The Valley with his effortless falsettos. He’d started the year off at Falls Festival and ending it right back at the festival again. He shared a few new songs that explore more electronic elements which is a change of pace from is usual acoustic folk and suited well. A cover of Aloe Blacc’s ‘I Need a Dollar’ was a nice addition to end.

A voiceover announcement welcomed Parquet Courts who are ‘3 quarters Pisces, 3 quarters Texan, 3 quarters in their 30s and 3 quarters in committed relationships.’ We were left to work out who the bachelor is. During their performance dancing was encouraged, preferably something improvisational to let the spirit of American rock and roll flow through our bodies.

Marlon Williams and his band The Yarra Benders, reminisced about their last New Years Eve and crooned many songs about lonesomeness. Williams shared a brand new song called ‘I’m a Vampire Again’. He told us how he wrote it about Halloween in LA on the way to see Nosferatu at the opera, he regards it as a therapeutic experience in hindsight. He captivated listeners with his performance of ‘When I Was a Young Girl’ as his impressively lengthy notes echoed throughout the theatre.

Alison Wonderland
Alison Wonderland

It’s really quite remarkable that City Calm Down released their debut album In A Restless House over a year ago and were back again with an even bigger following to play Falls Festival a second year in a row. They’ve been tinkering around with some new material and gave us a preview of a new upbeat and danceable track called ‘Closer’. Their new live show came with the addition of live horns to really add something extra special. A cover of The Smiths’ ‘This Charming Man’ was a fun moment for all to enjoy before they took us back to 2010 with ‘Pleasure and Consequence’.

With a name that means ‘master’ in French, Lemaitre showed off their skills and brought some energetic party vibes to welcome in New Year’s Eve. A cluster of coloured prisms flashed on the screen to identify their brand of supercharged dance-inducing electro-pop. They were pretty excited about seeing some kangaroos earlier in the day and we helped them celebrate the moment by jumping around uncontrollably. They got so excited that they forget their place in a song but made a quick recovery.

It’s been 8 years since Jamie T played Falls Festival and he told all the haters to go fuck themselves. His set was fierce and energetic. His punchy rapping and infectious melodies were packed with energetic motion right until the very end as he kept his audience on their toes and singing along. He counted down New Year’s Eve early because ‘he’d be in a car out of there by then’ finishing with ‘Zombie’ to celebrate.

Vallis Alps played to what they described as the most incredible audience they’ve ever had as the Grand Theatre filled to capacity. There were plenty of feel good vibes going around as they shared some new unreleased songs loaded with joy and happiness. They took their remix of Trove Sivan’s ‘Ease’ and added some fresh lyrics to create something new of their own. They created a beautiful ambient electronic sound matched with crystal clear vocals. Yellow lights reflected off the disco ball to create a starry sky to add a touch of magic to the moment.

Thrilling guitars and catchy hooks powered Catfish & The Bottlemen’s confident and polished indie-rock performance. Lead singer Van McCann introduced each song and made it feel like every track was an encore. He moved with phenomenal energy as he swung his guitar around his waist like a true showman.

The festival was ready to say one final goodbye to 2016 with The Avalanches as they counted down the clock to bring in the New Year. Oscar Key Sung joined the group to contribute some vocals as they mashed and mixed up a range of funky retro samples for one big party. Their continuous energy was undeniable but their set felt scattered and disconnected at times. Their performance was enhanced by a visual display featuring video clips with a mega-mix of classic film and TV moments to complement their mash-up sound. As the clock struck midnight the group shot confetti cannons over the audience and a single firework was set off in the crowd to welcome in 2017.

The Avalanches
The Avalanches

Words: Michael Prebeg.
Photos: Alex McGregor.

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