As we were driving out of the Falls Festival for another year, I took one last look at the hill, the Valley Stage and the top of the ‘rave tent’. I turned to my mates in the car and said “I hope that wasn’t my last Falls Festival”.
In fact I have said that same thing each year since my first time at Falls in 2007/08.
As far as ‘feeling right’ goes, Falls Festival over New Years, with good music, people and beers, is just about perfect.
I am going to run through this year’s festival in different categories:
– Dance music
– No-one knows them but they are fuckin’ awesome
– Where the fuck was everybody?
– The Smith Street Band
– The Village
– The Experience
Hot Dub Time Machine took the cake for me. I am not the biggest fan of DJ’s, unless they play music with words. Hot Dub Time Machine’s blasts from the past, playing year to year hits over the past four decades was spot on for me.
Now I said I’m not a huge DJ fan, I do like up and about dance music though, especially when there’s guitars, drums and trumpets involved… Thumbs up to you, Twinsy and Chk Chk Chk. Both turned it on in their own way. Twinsy are young, fun and very talented. Obviously both ‘Take Me Home’ and ‘Waterbombs’ were the killer tracks. As for Chk Chk Chk, lead vocalist had everybody watching his hips shake (while only wearing very loose fitting boxer shorts) to the bass-pumping dance-punk beats the band was throwing out. Adding to that, many in the crowd were trying to emulate his wiggling, groin thrusting moves.
Hermitude had the hill pumping in the very early hours of New Year’s day, with highlights like ‘Speak of the Devil’ and ‘Hyperparadise’. The curveball of ‘The Lion Sleeps Tonight’ provided a nice sing along as well, not that anyone can really hit that ‘ee-e-e-e-um-um-aweh’ line. Now I know the word ‘vibe’ has had a sudden downfall after it was used by just about every hipster in Brunswick 18 months ago, so I feel reluctant to use it… But the ‘vibe’ during Hermitude was spot on… Fuck I’m uncool.
NO ONE KNOWS THEM BUT THEY ARE FUCKIN’ AWESOME
I’ll start with a band who are fast becoming a bit of a favourite of mine, The Murlocs. With three of the five guys also in King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, it’s no wonder The Murlocs have nailed their sound to perfection… And it can be a very easy one to fuck up.
Loud, distorted garage music with harmonica and speakerphone vocals, there is a lot of room for error and little for perfection, but yep… They have perfected it. Go watch them sometime. Adding to the music, I enjoyed their very simple banter with the crowd as well. The very first sentence from lead vocalist Ambrose Kenny Smith was ‘Where’s da pingaazzz?’… It was 12pm on day one.
Next was a recommendation I was given, the band was Perch Creek Family Jugband. A group of siblings who mix banjo’s, tap dancing, acapella, crowd involvement, washboard’s, double bass and any other obscure instrument you can find, Perch Creek were possibly the happiest band I saw at the festival, playing their tunes to a very spacious Grand Theatre. There was jumping, clapping and arm-linking throughout the whole set, all with a smile from each punter.
WHERE THE FUCK WAS EVERYBODY?
Now surely everybody… EVERYBODY, knows the Smiths. Well, Morrisey gets a lot of the limelight, however not too far behind him is Johnny Marr, who is perhaps just as much the brains of the operation. This is the man who Noel Gallagher has based his whole ‘look’ around. It’s the man that Noel Gallagher has said, and I quote, “If there’s anyone (in the world) who knows how to play guitar, it’s him”. It was almost cringe worthy the amount of people missing from this guy’s performance. It didn’t go unnoticed by him either.
Before playing the two Smiths hits ‘How Soon Is Now’ and ‘There Is a Light That Never Goes Out’ (which he finished with), Marr made his appreciation clear to those who made the effort to come watch. Further to that, in what I read as a great big ‘fuck you’ to everyone sitting on the hill, the two Smiths hits were dedicated to crowd standing at the fence and not just sitting down. As far as his performance went, he played the typical English arrogance perfectly and walked around the stage like an absolute boss.
The Violent Femmes were another band who did not get the crowd numbers they deserved. Perhaps everyone might have been expecting them to play ‘Blister In The Sun’ last, because it did build throughout the set, but as a whole it was probably a little bit underwhelming for their set which included the heartbreakingly beautiful songs of ‘Please Don’t Go’ and ‘Prove My Love’.
MGMT: Shit live band. I thought perhaps the infamous Meredith performance from five years ago might have been just a one off. I’m not sure it was. They did not have any connection with the crowd at all. In saying that, I’m pretty sure everyone loved the three songs we were all there to see ‘Time To Pretend’, ‘Kids’ and ‘Electric Feel’. I also enjoyed the likes of ‘Introspection’ and ‘The Youth’, but I don’t think many others did.
The Roots: Fuck, maybe I shouldn’t have started with these two bands, it’s sounding negative. The Roots went far, far too long. Far too long. It was good up until a certain point, playing ‘The Seed (2.0)’ and a cover of ‘Sweet Child of Mine’, everyone was right in to it. However with no less than 6 encores spanning over about half an hour (I’m being generous there too), by the end everyone had enough. It was best described to me as being similar to a Family Guy gag, you know how they persist and persist, so as it is funny, then unfunny, which then makes it funny again? Well yeah, that was the Roots encore.
The Wombats: Fuckin’ sick! Loved it. Bassist Tord Øverland Knudsen bounced around like a maniac from the start to finish, while lead singer Matthew Murphy had the crowd in his palms. Whether it was giving the quick rundown of what each song meant (eg. falling in love with a prostitute) or telling everyone to lift to third gear when getting in to ‘Techno Fan’, it was a wave worth riding with all 20,000+ punters on the hill.
Vampire Weekend: To be honest I did not know how much of a great live act they would be and I didn’t know they had it in them to hold the audience for the full 1 hour 20 minute set, but they did it… and did it very well. The first kudos goes to them for continuing unaffected with ‘A-Punk’ when ‘a punk’ (see what I did there) threw a flare on stage. The second kudos to them is for nailing the countdown for the New Year as well, something that has been an issue in the past.
Neil Finn: Words can’t do this guy justice. The sun was setting in the background and Neil Finn belted out the Crowded House and Split Enz classics. Hats off to him for holding the voice that is just as strong now in his veteran status, as it was as a teenager in NZ when it all kicked off. He played 2 or 3 news songs, one being ‘Pony Ride’ which has me super excited for his album due in February. Finishing with an acoustic version of an all-in sing-along of ‘Better Be Home Soon’ made it almost the perfect set. There was weeping, group hugging and sing alongs. It was a set I won’t forget.
Crystal Fighters: Perhaps the band with the most energy and fun on stage I have seen. Crazy costumes, crazy instruments and very catchy tunes.
With the sex appeal of Brode Dalle and the stage presence of Karen O, lead vocalist for The Preatures, Isabella Manfredi, had both males and females falling in love with her performance. The great thing about the Preatures is not only were the eye catching moves something to watch, they are a very good band. ‘Take and Card’ was the first of the hits to be played, and then when one of the songs of the year ‘Is this How You Feel’ dropped, the hill turned in to a dance floor.
I love a good mosh, I really enjoy it a lot. So when I trekked up the hill to see Violent Soho, I was full of confidence and energy and I made sure my shoelaces were in double knots. I eagerly went straight towards the front, elbows up, chest puffed out. Within seconds I realised that perhaps I was out of my depth. I ran in the middle of the push circle, which was no less than 15 metres long and 8 wide, shaped in an oval and fuck me, that thing was big and dangerous and I fell flat on my face within two steps. I went in once or twice more, making sure my mates saw me in there so I looked super cool, but this is my confession to say I was like a little girl, especially after seeing a chipped tooth, two blood noses and a guy get knocked out. It was all great to watch though… And the band? Well those dudes are killing it, arguably the album of the year, backing it up with a highly energetic live show. Lead singer Luke Boardam loved the crowd antics as much as I loved the way he belted out lyrics like ‘Fuck you! Fuck You! I won’t trust you!’ and ‘YEAH! YEAH! YEAH! YEAH! YEAH! YEAH! YEAH!’.
Perhaps the busiest the rave tent got for the whole festival was during Rufus, who from all reports was great. My intentions were to see Rufus, however it was definitely a blessing in disguise that it was so packed and I couldn’t be bothered with being squashed, hot and unable to move. So I went to the Valley Stage and caught Pond.
Nick Allbrook is one of those guys who have so many genius idea’s with music and he does not filter any of it. Much like Stu McKenzie from King Gizzard, he is incredibly talented and really gives us, the listener, something new (and often brilliant) to listen too. We all know how well Tame Impala have done (with the help of Allbrook, who left the band in May last year) and Pond is certainly heading in that direction. As well as the music, his on stage presence was something else. You only need to check out a picture or two of him from the set to work out what type of a show he put on.
THE SMITH STREET BAND
These dudes are in rare form. There aren’t many bands at the moment matching it for cult following, amazing live shows along with the songs (how about those lyrics!?) to back it up.
Right from the start of the set, when vocalist Wil Wagner blasted out the first line of ‘Sunshine & Technology’, the mosh got going and it did not let up until the very last line of ‘Young Drunk’, the final song of the set. In between all of that was the crowd surfing, sweating, hugging and singing along to all the great Smith Street tracks.
Those who were perhaps sitting on the fence about the Smith Street Band beforehand were certainly converted when Wagner pulled his trademark ‘shoey’ stunt. This is where a random shoe from the crowd is thrown on stage (it seems to happen at all their gigs for some reason?) and Wagner skulls his beer from it… Long live rock n roll.
In my seven years of going to Falls, this was my first year at the village. Whether it is due to the amount of acid that I don’t do, or whether I am more interested in the music on the other stages, the Village has never grabbed my attention.
The fact that the rave tent this year pulled up stumps at 4am on the final morning (usually it is 6am), had me knowing I still had a bit left in the tank and I needed to grasp on to my Falls experience because it was once again fading out of my reach for another year.
The Village is exactly that; a village. A crazy carnival-like atmosphere with a small stage (DJ at this time of night) and outrageous activities. The one which really caught my eye was the clothesline which had bikes tied to it and worked like a merry-go-round. Essentially if you wanted to ride a bike endlessly in a 10 metre circumference, you could. People think of some cool shit, don’t they?
Falls Festival is incredibly well-run and puts on a very good show. All we (the punters) have to do is turn up and have a bloody good time.
Whether you like music, beers, goon, laughs with mates, camping, riding around on a clothesline bike, moshing, raving, tap dancing or anything else, Falls can accommodate your needs.
Fittingly, I will use a Smith Street Band lyric to give my final message.
Falls Festival, when it comes to New Year’s… I don’t want to have fun with anyone but you.