Falls Festival 10/11.

By Chris Mitchell.

Falls Festival has changed a lot over the years. But one thing remains the same. New Years Day sucks, but the big pile of rubbish the morning after can often make for some fun times.

From humble beginnings, Falls is now one of the biggest festivals of the season. For better or worse, this has definitely had an effect on the event, beginning with the frankly frightening welcome from some of the staff on the way in. However, once parked and set up, it was the same Falls we have become accustomed to over the past few years.

For LNL, the Tuesday night was sacrificed, along with Kitty, Daisy and Lewis, who by all reports were as fun as you would expect, and a big 3 days was the plan. Wednesday, and the weather had come to the party, with perfect festival conditions greeting Eagle & The Worm, Last Dinosaurs, and Sally Seltman. Unearthed favourites Tim & Jean were fantastic, definitely ones to watch in 2011 (insert Art Vs Science comparison here).

Hip Hoppers The Cool Kids might not have been the most well known act on for the day (and one reviewer may just have chosen this time for a drinks break), but “It was awesome” was the immediate reaction from those present. Kiwi Ladyhawke busted out her synth-pop goodness to an appreciative audience as the sun went down and expectation grew for the night’s main event.

The little preview in the Falls booklet described The Living End as one of Australia’s greatest living rock bands. After this set it seemed a most apt description. Chris Cheney is one of Oz music’s greatest frontmen, and the trio tore the stage to shreds as they ripped through anthem after anthem. Prisoner Of Society, Second Solution, West End Riot, they were all there. Bodies flew everywhere, minds were lost, and I’m pretty sure I still have bruising in some weird places.

After the awesomeness of The Living End came the shambles of Peaches DJ set. To put it simply, it was crap. Any energy built up by Cheney and co was quickly lost as Peaches uncomfortably moved behind her decks, popping out occasionally to kinda dance to whatever nonsense she was spinning at the time. We sort of want that hour of our life back, thanks Falls.

Thursday brought with it more perfect weather and the promise of more musical delights. The Middle East, Boy and Bear, Children Collide and Big Scary all played well received sets, and Falls veteran Ash Grunwald did the right thing and played the Dolphin Song to a crowd that simply demanded it.

Woman of the year Washington was energetic and entertaining, Angus & Julia Stone drew a huge crowd and did what they always do. It was a good set, but it would be nice to see the brother and sister duo take a couple more risks on stage, and try and deliver something more than they currently give on stage.

The Stones had mellowed out the Hill, but Public Enemy did anything but. Treating Lorne to a full rendition of seminal album Fear Of A Black Planet, it was obvious that time had not wearied Chuck D, Flava Flav or the music itself. Still as current and important as ever, the hip hop legends provided a lasting Falls highlight.

Falls regular and Australian legend Paul Kelly played a greatest hits set. One of, if not the most important singer-songwriter in Australian music history, it is always heart warming to see different generations singing along to To Her Door and God Told Me To. You can talk about big festival moments, but Mr Kelly’s set was just massive moment after massive moment.

We do like us a bit of Paul. But sorry, I’m gushing.

Interpol headlined Thursday night, and the Interpol freaks that were there had, like, the best time. Those not Interpol fans failed to be won over by the American nerd-rockers set, with Slow Hands being the only real highlight. Hipster heroes the Klaxons showcased songs from across their new and debut albums and did what they could with an audience that were a little weary from their big day out.

New Years Eve brought with it crazy weather, huge winds turning the whole site into something resembling Dorothy’s Kansas. You almost expected to see that cow from Twister flying around in the air as whole tents reached heights of 20 to 30 feet.

Musically, Dan Kelly’s Dream Band, World’s End Press and The Morning Benders rocked The Grand Theatre, while down on the main stage, Gold Fields, Cloud Control and The Beautiful Girls were impressive.

Cold War Kids were very cool, inciting the biggest sing-along’s of the day so far with Hospital Beds and Hang Me Out To Dry. Beatbox wizard Beardyman was both hilarious and awesome. In fact, you almost felt stupid dancing to a dude making noise into a microphone. Stupid, but it was stupidly fun as well.

Tame Impala proved very popular as the heat died down, while The National, owners of one of the most critically acclaimed albums of the year, weren’t quite the success many expected. They played a solid, if unspectacular set which failed to hold the attention of many.

What followed was THE BEST set of the entire festival. The Rapture were made for festivals, their dance-rock-art-punk styling’s blowing the crap out of the Erskine Falls natural amphitheatre. Slamming through every hit they have ever had, The Rapture incited so much dancing and frivolity that some of us nearly needed a mid-set lie down just to cope with the overload of excitement. An hour of pure excellence that will be hard to top.

Charged with bringing in the New Year were headliners Joan Jett and the Blackhearts. With the film The Runaways thrusting Jett once again into the spotlight, and I Love Rock And Roll still an iconic tune, the awareness and sense of history was definitely there. Unfortunately, amongst the botched countdowns and following the spanking Rapture gig, something was a bit amiss during this set. Nothing wrong with Jett and The Blackhearts, they were clearly a band that had been doing this for a long time. Perhaps a timetable reshuffle would have been appropriate, a straight swap with The Rapture would have sufficed and made for a new years for the ages.

Sleigh Bells and A-Track finished things off with a bang, masses staying behind for a 2011 party that went well into the early hours.

Up on top of the hill, the likes of Beardyman and The StreetParty DJ’s kept the tired and emotional on their feet, much to the disgust of my body for the next few days. Incredible, breathtaking shapes were being thrown around, and the many people struggling to stand up after a long festival made for some very interesting dance moves.

A quick trip on a wheelie bin and a visit from security later, and it was mid morning and time for bed. Another Falls successfully tamed, another Falls successfully run. It’s a very slick production these days, and thankfully the trip out was one of the quickest we have encountered at a festival.

So, in short, Falls has definitely matured as a festival, but it’s still a cracking good time. And it still frickin’ hurts for weeks after. Best Day Ever? It might just have been.