Walking into the Falls Festival grounds on Day 1 didn’t seem too impressive; gates, toilets and showers were missing as the main stage was still under construction. Employees and contractors scurried around in trucks and tractors pulling it all together.
The story of how everything came together, was much more impressive however. Due to the Festival’s usual site of Lorne being located in a high fire risk area with dangerous conditions and an already existing blaze, the entire festival setup moved from Lorne to Mt Duneed Estate, just past Geelong in 30 hours. An incredible effort by everyone on the Falls festival team who against all odds, helped the show to go on.
It was a boogie-heavy start to the festival, with patrons funnelling into the Grand Theatre tent at the very top of the hill to catch Weird Al Yankovic. Full of comic theatrics and costume changes, Yankovic played a set full of tracks the majority of the youthful crowd had more than likely performed at their respective primary school concerts.
Fleetmac Wood reimagined a slew of their namesake’s classic and lent good vibes to a sea of dancing patrons, while local heroes Art Vs Science dominated the stage for the remainder of the night with their jovial collection of tracks from debut record The Experiment, and their latest release Off the Edge of the Earth and Into Forever, Forever.
With the Valley Stage now fully constructed, Day 2 saw the real beginning of The Falls Festival. Kicking off by paying the traditional respects to the native land owners, the ceremonial start quickly transitioned back into the music with Ainslie Wills. The lady who made her beginnings in Albury did not disappoint the small crowd who had gathered at the start of the day. Her strong vocal presence and charming songs were a welcome wake up call to those who were there. While, presumably, those who missed the performance were still in their tents recovering from the night before.
As the crowd began to thicken, The Bennies brought the trouble, as their ludicrous set had everyone going wild. Drinking and smoking on stage while performing their punk rock hits wasn’t even the highlight, as front-man Anty expressed his concern that The Bennies weren’t scheduled over New Years. This was quickly followed by a New Years countdown in the middle of the day, a casual two nights before the actual thing! Needless to say, The Bennies left the crowd on a (figurative) high and hungry for more.
As the sun began to set, the weather cooled to what felt like freezing temperatures compared to earlier in the day. Thankfully Paul Kelly & the Merri Soul Sessions warmed up cold hearts with their relaxing soul tunes, a nice contrast for the wild night ahead. As many sat down eating their dinner and consuming their pre-drinks, the resonating voices of the star-studded lineup Paul Kelly, Clairy Browne, Dan Sultan, Kira Puru, Vika & Linda Bull had the rest of the crowd standing up singing along to the classics.
As the night finally hit, Hilltop Hoods were the ones to bring it to life. MC Suffa, MC Pressure and DJ Debris were glad to finally be back on home turf playing live shows and belting out their hits – including playing their new single ‘Higher’ for the first time. The crowd was ecstatic, and even those who were further back were still singing the lyrics at the top of their lungs. Though, at one point the music – much to the crowd’s confusion. It was then that MC Suffa explained what happens when you stuff something up in the Hilltop Hoods crew and called DJ Debris down for twenty push ups as everyone counted along.
But even with ‘Cosby Sweater’ still ringing in everyone’s ears, the night was not over. Not yet. The British marsupials Matt, Dan and Tord, better known as The Wombats hit the stage at midnight. If anyone was getting tired, hits such as ‘Greek Tragedy’, ‘Let’s Dance to Joy Devision’ and ‘Tokyo (Vampires & Wolves)’ kept everyone awake and kicking. As always, the crew produced excellent vibes as their classic indie rock tunes brought an explosive end to Day 2 of Falls.
As the Festival continued to progress, the mornings became a difficult affair for some. While the schedule encourages sleep-ins, the weather became less forgiving as the heat rose quickly, forcing people out of their tents and under the shade cloths within the festival grounds for relief.
The Grand Theatre became the go-to shade destination, as people flocked to hear up and coming acoustic artist Hein Cooper. His talent seemed to be lost on the weary crowd, many of which sat through the set due to the heat. However, his style and lyrics seemed to perfectly align with the slow start to the morning, causing more people to join the crowd as he went on. Overall his set was well worth the watch and a great discovery for those who were unaware of him prior to Falls.
A major highlight for Day 3 was undoubtably Alpine. The powerful stage presence of Phoebe and Lou had the crowd jumping despite the beating pressure of the sun to stay under the shade. The crowd favourites ‘Foolish’ and ‘Hands’ were met with thundering applause, as beer cans and flip flops were thrown in and around the crowd by unruly members.
The energy was running high on Day 3, and local favourite Seth Sentry kept it going after Alpine’s hard-to-beat set. His booming hip hop beats and classic confident attitude kept everyone wanting more, as large inflatable beach balls made their way around the crowd. The wind kept sending them back towards stage right, but no one seemed to mind as he smashed out ‘The Waitress Song’, with the spectators repeating every lyric and DJ Sizzle surfing the crowd.
But the day was far from over with legendary Mac Demarco and Jarryd James performing at the same time on separate stages. Both attracted big crowds as Jarryd James was clearly humbled and at times, nervous by the presence of such a large audience. Mac on the other hand, was right at home on the big Valley Stage as the applause could still be heard from the Grand Theatre during Jarryd’s softer songs.
The unique Courtney Barnett was up next with her local attitude and lyrics the perfect distinction from Mac’s Canadian themed set. The crowd stayed put as she played the favourites such as ‘History Eraser’ and ‘Depreston’, turning the mundane events in her life into masterpieces of original music and song writing.
Another highlight of Day 3 had to be City Calm Down, attracting a major crowd in the Grand Theatre. The band were stoked to be playing to their largest audience ever and each song only brought more applause and cheer. Blending synths and horns with indie rock sensibility, City Calm Down played a rapturous, and at times orchestral set.
With a successful day in the bag, the night was only set to be even bigger as RÜFÜS and Bloc Party made their way to the Valley Stage later that night. The scene was a recreation of the night before with Hilltop Hoods and The Wombats, but the fancy dress was off the charts. Let’s not forget the small dancing man with glitter make-up on! And the tall dancing man with the glitter make-up on. Actually, the many dancing people with the glitter make-up on.
Despite the circus of a crowd, the acts were no joke as RÜFÜS and Bloc Party both had new music to play, and the audience reaction was a highly positive one. Bloc Party blended a collection of their old, old tunes (‘Waiting For The 7.18’, anyone?) and a stack of tracks from their newest record Hymns, set to drop at the end of the month.
Disclosure sent the third night of Falls off perfectly, with brothers Howard and Guy Lawrence translating their dance heavy jams immaculately live.
The contrast on Day 4 was almost comical, as those who had been at the Festival for the last three days began to show their wear and tear. At the same time, car parks swelled with newcomers pumped and ready for a big New Years Eve ahead. The heat seemed to bother them much less than those who had been enduring it since Monday.
The crowds felt larger as acts like Jesse Davidson, Gangs of Youths, Meg Mac and Holy Holy took the stage during the early afternoon. However the shady actions were still filled to capacity for those who preferred to watch it from a distance – out of the sun’s unforgiving stare.
Gangs Of Youths were the highlight of the afternoon – attracting a mass audience, keen to listen to the emotionally inspired lyrics of their latest album The Positions. Frontman Dave Leaupepe was incredibly grateful for their recent success as he kept repeating ‘Thanks for giving a shit,’ before making a run through the crowd to give spectators high fives.
The Maccabees took the early evening slot as the crowd began to prepare for 2016. As the heat began to release, everyone could finally relax without needing to carry around bottles of water to survive. The British indie rock band, hot off the success of their recent album Marks To Prove It, got the crowd in the mood for the big night ahead.
Birds of Tokyo took the stage next as the crowd’s singing seemed to eclipse that of the bands on well-known songs such as ‘Lanterns’ and ‘This Fire’. Meanwhile at the Grand Theatre, the less well known electronic duo Vallis Alps were smashing out new music that had yet to be heard by even their manager. But the crowds positive reaction seemed as though they had nothing to worry about.
Swedish rapper Elliphant hit the stage at sunset, followed by Børns who played in place of The Avener – the artist unfortunately had to pull out of the festival at the last minute due to illness.
Wrapping up 2016 in absolute style was British indie rock legends, Foals. Running emotions high with ‘Spanish Sahara’ before breaking the crowd down with their heavy hitting alt-rock stylings, the band showed their musical breadth. Tasked with counting the crowd into the new year, Foals pulled out copious bottles of Chandon and some pals from The Maccabees for ‘Two Steps Twice’ and the subsequently huge NYE celebration.
The success of the 2015 edition of Falls Festival is an absolute credit to festival organisers. Overcoming challenges at every turn, the festival was patched together in a matter of hours – with no major upsets or logistical nightmares. Realistically, no other company could of pulled that off. And that’s the reason this festival has stood the test of time.