Despite the uncertainty surrounding the festival concept in Australia at the moment, The Falls Music and Arts Festival in both Lorne and Marion Bay had broken the trend and sold-out both events. This year’s impressive line-up showcased a number of favourite from both Australia and the World. Despite gradually being invaded by the new ‘upper-class bogan’ hybrid over the last few years, there was very little to complain about, taking exception to the botched up countdown at New Years Eve.
After a bit of car travel (a precursor to what would happen later), we arrived at the Falls Festival in Lorne on the first day. With four-day tickets, we were able to enjoy a day of settling in before the main acts started but the festival had put on a range of unique acts, some kitschy, some a bit more novelty. It was a bit of fun to hang out in the Grand Theatre to listen to Peter Combe play through some of my child-hood favourites, in particular Newspaper Mama, and Spaghetti Bolognaise. It was a sure-fire way to get the crowd singing along. The only other act we managed to catch on this night was French darlings Nouvelle Vague. Their gorgeous French chic interpretations of Billy Idol’s Dancing With Myself, Depeche Mode’s Just Can’t Get Enough, Dropkick Murphy’s Too Drunk to Fuck and my personal favourite, New Order’s Blue Monday, were all particular impressive in the musical arrangement and uniqueness to the originals.
Feeling reasonably refreshed after the easy night the night before, we were prepared for the first major day of music. Bleeding Knees Club brought they’re raw, lo-fi sounds down from the Gold Coast, and put on an energetic if one-dimensional show. I’m a fan of the band and thoroughly enjoyed Teenage Girls and Have Fun, but the set seemed to merge into one amorphous blob. Maybe something to work on for the young lads. I’ve always a bit sceptical of tribute albums, especially when performed live, but Easy Star All Stars somehow managed to pull off the Pink Floyd classic, appropriately re-titled Dub Side Of The Moon. I did find it hilarious that the set started at 4.20pm, but as the smell of smoke hovered around the Valley Stage, there was a sense of enjoyment from all as the group dubbed their way through all of Dark Side of the Moon. Money was an obvious highlight, replacing the iconic cash register intro with the sound of somehow drawing from a bong, but finishing the set with covers of Karma Police and With a Little Help From My Friends. The line “I get high with a little help from my friends” has never been more applicable. With a brief nap following all that excitement, Beirut took to the stage to perform the mellow indie-folk. A combination of unfamiliarity with their work and my anticipation to get some movement going for CSS, I simply could not get into their set. I’ll admit that they were incredibly talented musicians, and some of their songs were particularly catchy, but not for my mood at the time. On the contrary, I was really excited for CSS. They were pretty much the exact opposite of the Beirut set. Less inspired musically but more energetic, not to mention the smoking hot guitar/keyboard player in the Nirvana shirt. CSS is one of many bands which I first heard on a FIFA Soundtrack, and their electro-pop was predictably entrancing, without being amazing. Music Is My Hot, Hot Sex and Off The Hook were both well-received, and the antics of Lovefoxx more than matched the enthusiasm of the music. The highlight for me for the first day was the closing set to Regurgitator. The Gurge were playing their Australian classic album Unit in full, but it was their performance that was repulsive and absorbing at the same time. Dressed in tight lycra and accompanied by videos featuring genitalia and love-making, the band blitzed through classics I Like Your Old Stuff Better Than Your New Stuff, Lick My Arsehole and of course, Polyester Girl. It was a bizarre but enjoyable way to end the night.
As we started day three, the festival was filling up. As the two day ticket-holders begun to flow through the gates, you could feel the atmosphere really improving.
Even though I have never been Grizzly Bear’s biggest fan, I had heard good things about bassists Chris Taylor’s side-project CANT. Stuffed up in the Grand Theatre tent with a 2.20pm slot, only a small group of punters come to watch what would prove to be one of the better sets of the festival. Escaping from the heat, the electro-pop stylings were quite extraordinary as they echoed around the tent. The heavy synth sound was soothing against the harsh temperatures from the outside.
Upon completion, we headed out for one of 2011’s buzz-bands. I enjoyed a dance to Grouplove at Splendour in the Grass, but this time chose to absorb their sound from the top of the amphitheatre. The LA natives , blitzed through their colourful pop set, including highlights of Itchin’ On A Photograph, Tongue Tied and Naked Kids, before finishing their set with crowd-pleaser Colours. It was an accomplished set, but with the mercury rising, I did feel too enthused to get involved.
It’s not usually until a few days after, that I decide what I truly enjoyed at a festival. Fleet Foxes were definitely one of them at Falls. Before the festival, I’d group them in the same basket as Beirut; folk-indie, musical but not exactly party music, but unlike Beirut, I found Fleet Foxes far more dance provoking. Highlights were Mykonos and White Winter Hymnal, in what would be a perfect platform for the remainder of the evening.
Headlining the night were British indie rockers The Kooks. I’ve always had a bit of a strained relationship with The Kooks and found that it continued on the night. While their hit songs where amazing, I felt their set was a bit long and dragged on through periods. The crowd felt a similar way as chants for Naive started barely halfway through the set. But focussing on the positives, She Moves In Her Own Way and sing-a-long Seaside served to energise the crowd, and Naive was a brilliant way to finish the set. But they really pale into insignificance when compared to the Arctic Monkeys set on the next night.
After losing a member of our camp during The Kooks, we missed Pnau while we went hunting. I was too disappointed, and I could hear the majority of the set over the speakers anyway. I was not overly impressed.
Finally, we’d made it to the last day. It started for us with a mid-afternoon set from Miles Kane. Not as popular here as he is in the UK, where he may have had an evening slot, the former Rascals frontman, and friend of Alex Turner played a set that showcased a classic British indie Rock set. Wearing John Lennon style sunnies and a black and white polka dot shirt, Kane was the spitting image of one Liam Gallagher. Again to a smaller crowd, Kane dominated tracks from his solo album, with summer melody Quicksand and lead single Come Closer key points in the set. His track Kingcrawler would not be out of place on the next Last Shadow Puppets album, his collaboration with Alex Turner that is due next year.
One of the interesting points of difference with Meredith and Falls is the way the crowd takes to a new band. The Jim Jones Revue are not particularly foreign to Australian audiences, but their 50s Rock n Roll struggled to grasp the buzzing crowd. It was the kind of band that would have been awesome at Meredith, and I tried to get people involved it what was an aggressive yet authoritative set. Jim Jones seemed frustrated at the lack of response from the audience, and perhaps might be better of travelling to the Supernatural Amphitheatre next time were his talents would be more accepted.
In one of my major regrets of the festival, we only arrived three-quarters of the way through Aloe Blacc‘s set. With the naive thought that we would only know the one song, I was disappointed to hear that “he was a bolter for best act.” Maybe next time.
But we were there for The Grates. In particular, goddess Patience Hodgson. As spot-fights flared up between groups of men over who loved her more, The Grates played a solid Aussie alt-rock set, spreading their set over their three albums ranging from Silence Is Golden and Carve Your Name to Turn Me On. The set was not overly amazing, but most eyes were on Patience.
So, I’m a pretty huge Arctic Monkeys fan. So I was hugely excited for their set. The last time I saw them was on their BDO tour sideshow at The Palais, a venue which does not suit them. But two albums later, and the Monkeys are very accomplished on stage. Alex Turner is no longer the long-haired lay about he once was, today sporting a classic rock look, looking more like Elvis or James Dean than his contemporaries. Similarly, their music has also changed. From the excitement-machine that was Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not to the romanticism felt in Suck It And See, they could have played all night. Opening with Don’t sit Down Cause I’ve Moved Your Chair, there was an even balance between albums, with the exception of Humbug which was only represented by Crying Lightning. But there were no complaints. I Bet You Looked Good On The Dancefloor was played mid-set, surprising some, as they finished the main-set at 11.59 with Suck It And See before leaving the stage. Returning two minutes later claiming they thought “someone else was doing a countdown” Fluorescent Adoloescent was followed by When The Sun Goes Down, before being joined on stage by Miles Kane for 505. It was a particularly brave choice for a final song, but one which was embraced by us at No Jackets at least. In the years since their last two, the Monkeys have matured. The arrogance is still there but is now pushed more into the music.
Crystal Castles were the ones to try and follow-up and they failed miserably. I’m willing to admit that it’s not my type of music, but I have given them a chance and both times I’ve seen them this year, they have been awful. The only thing that would have saved that set would have been Robert Smith himself appearing to sing Not In Love. Which he didn’t. In fact the only worse act at the festival is what happened after them.
After Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs pulled out about 10 days ago, there was another hole in the timetable. Various rumours went around again, but in the end, the organisers just paid a DJ. Who was AWFUL! He’d play 30 seconds of a song, then change it without even trying to mix, before spontaneously playing an entire Rage Against The Machine song. But we were in such good spirits that we just danced and laughed. We kinda headed in for Lotek and a bit of a dance, but I only remember them covering Rock It by Little Red like they had done on Like A Version. I think it was good.
I feel my festival experiences peaked at Golden Plains earlier this year. Each subsequent one has not been as good as it’s predecessor. But the diversity of crowd and overall line-up made Falls particularly memorable. Despite my car dying and the 9 hour trip home 🙂