Falls Festival managed to pull off what was previously thought impossible. With fires still threatening the Otways, there was no chance the Erskine Falls sight in Lorne would proceed. But Falls have friends and favours, it appears.
My Duneed Estate, just outside of Geelong, was the replacement sight. It’s used more commonly for A Day on the Green but for this week, it would be overrun by the young and munted. At first I thought the replacement site would be a disaster, but I soon ate my words.
The sight was actually larger than Lorne, with a hill that seemed to climb on forever (not as steep as Lorne, but noticeably longer back). As for most other factors, the organisers had, in some feat of super natural ability, replicated the festival in 2 days! The stage setups, bars, food vendors, shelters – the whole deal – had not been compromised by the last minute shift. It was a bloody stellar effort.
Of course, then there was the relentless heat, ants of wrath, expensive drinks and droves of dickheads…
Musically, the lineup went ahead unchanged – from trippin to rockin, classics new and old, ska, stoner, dance, indie – Falls, as per usual, had it all. And through the music, the aforementioned negatives seemed to be forgiven.
Boogie Nights. Well, that happened.
Day 2 featured early local fare, including The Bennies, whose stoner party rock had revellers dancing in the afternoon sun, before the smooth soul of the ultra-dapper Leon Bridges set a completely new tone. Falls were on the mark booking Bridges at this stage and I can now highly recommend him.
Halsey and Paul Kelly held the late afternoon slots. The former was a surprise, holding a formidable stage presence and evoking the most genuinely huge crowd reaction I’ve heard at Falls following her song ‘Ghost’. Then Paul Kelly’s Merri Soul Sessions brought the class, with Clairy Brown and Vika and Linda Bull killing it on lead vocals throughout the set.
It really started to heat up on Day 3, with the site’s lack of shade taking its toll on the afternoon crowds (where did they all go to hide?). Alpine had a tough slot early arvo, but produced an energy that was somewhat hard to believe. Likewise, the energy held on the main stage with Courtney Barnett, who shook off any ideas of subtle, with guitar thrashing and hair flailing.
Gary Clark Jr was the epitome of cool, pulling in more and more listeners as he went on and displaying a legendary talent on the guitar. Afterwards, Ngaiire was keeping things cool up in the tent, with a stripped back soul session that demonstrated her own impressive vocal talents.
Sandwiched between Rufus (who are proof that if you make something shiny enough you’ll excite the majority) and Disclosure, Bloc Party’s indie rock needed to pull out all stops to keep the party vibe. For the most part they succeeded, with favourites like ‘Ratchet’ and ‘Helicopter’ right on target.
New year’s eve started off beautifully with a swag of local acts. Little May kept things cool in the top tent, demonstrating a distinctly Australian folk rock, before Meg Mac and Holy Holy impressed on the main stage, with the heat meaning the latter struggled to pull a sizeable crowd despite deserving one.
The rock theme continued throughout the afternoon, first with Londoners The Maccabees releasing a solid performance despite the heat they of all people would be struggling through. Harts overlapped in the top tent, absolutely nailing it. That guy is going to be a superstar. Finally, Birds of Tokyo brought the anthems to the main stage and arms to the air, probably as much in reaction to the drop in temperature as to their tunes.
Elliphant accompanied the sunset of Falls’ last day, delivering a strange Sweden meets Jamaica kind of rap. Her banter may have been at times comical, but she knew how to rev people up and had a great time.
Finally, midnight was counted down by Foals, who delivered a varied set with quieter lulls and elated highs. Yannis Philippakis owned the set as he literally stood on top of the crowd, while the band produced a stellar guitar jam to lead into 2016.