While we're all still feeling the effects of a solid four days of madness, re-evaluating the brilliance of The Falls Music and Arts Festival at the Mt. Duneed Estate is very necessary. Following the tragic events around Lorne, which cost hundreds of families their homes and threatened the very occurrence of this festival, we would like to express our heartfelt solidarity with those affected, and to the firies that kept everyone safe.
With these events ongoing, the afternoon of the 26th of December was a very tense time for all ticket holders, anxious to know whether the festival would go ahead despite the risks, or be cancelled all together. News that the festival would go ahead at the relatively close location of Mt. Duneed Estate was welcome news for all. Falls was a go.
While we couldn’t physically catch every single act, we hope our re-cap will bring back some fond memories for those that went, get you keen to undertake the adventure next year, and fully comprehend the scale of event organisers' success in moving the entire festival within two days.
Starting relatively late to allow punters' arrival and set up, the first day of Mt. Duneed Falls marked a whole lot of meetings with fellow campsite neighbours, who inevitably everyone got to know a whole lot better by the end of the festival. Of the nine initial performances, special mention must go out to Sex on Toast whose unique funky tunes beckoned in the start of a huge musical smorgasbord that was to come.
Drawing a huge crowd in the large Grand Theatre, “Weird Al” Yankovic kicked things off with some witty and funny parodies, all of which were accompanied by hilarious and well scripted videos and outfit changes. While some of his lesser known parodies led to punters bopping to the original songs, classic Weird Al such as ‘White and Nerdy’ was well and truly enjoyed for its own genius.
Later, Art vs Science had the massive crowd worked into a frenzy. Utilising a very live performance based keyboard and beat pad setup, these already cemented Australian dance legends had us all moving to hits like ‘Magic Fountain’ and ‘Parles Vous Francais’. It is worth mentioning that throughout the first day, toilets and facilities were still being very obviously set up. A fact which bothered absolutely no one.
Day 2 and crowds were eager to catch a brilliant bunch of artists, many of whom were playing their first Falls set before embarking to the other two locations. Ainslie Wills and The Babe Rainbow both deserve high praise for their bubbly and soothing sets, however it was The Bennies who really brought the brain shattering energy that would dominate the rest of the day. Front man ‘Anty’ and the boys brought their self proclaimed ‘Psychedelic Reggae Ska Doom Metal Punk Rock from Hell' to a sea of fans. The skin tight leggings worn by ‘Anty’ epitomised what a stupidly raucous time it was.
Up next, the equally extravagantly dressed Hiatus Kayote brought their own brand of Jazz to an enthralled crowd, ‘Nakamarra’ being a crowd favourite. Leon Bridges' steady smooth tunes were loved by punters, who we were often over-heard saying this was their favourite act. His poignant emotional songs and rich vocals can be attributed to the love felt by the crowd.
Later, renowned batshit crazy boys Dune Rats took the stage, inflatable sex dolls and all. Matching the intensity of the Bennies, the Dune Rats stormed through their set with surf rock anthems such as ‘Red Light Green Light’ and ‘Dalai Lama Big Banana Marijuana’. Their special mention to the organiser’s great efforts and those affected by the fires further sold our hearts to the Dunies (plus all their merch proceeds went towards those affected).
California based Wavves continued the chaos, with their fast paced, bruise worthy performance. Reminding us of Fidlar, these guys perfectly brought the energy of their recordings to the stage, leaving a few daring punters a little worse for wear. Adelaide boys the Hilltop Hoods (who seem to play almost every festival) then played a killer set to an audience happy to keep their energy up between surf rock and hip hop. ‘Cosby Sweater’, ’Chase that feeling’? You name it, all the hits were out in fine form; the (Blackwood) Hood’s showcased their undisputed brilliance.
To end the night Brit Pop legends The Wombats had people singing along to a lot of their newer releases like ‘Emoticons’ and ‘Greek Tragedy’, whilst still maintaining a strong presence of their older classics, ending a bloody superb second day.
Feeling the effects of last night’s events, crowds nonetheless flocked to earlier sets on day 3, with stand up comedy from the likes of Randy, providing a respite from the heat. Highlights of the day included the quirky and masterful Mac Demarco whose presence was perhaps one of the most anticipated of all artists. Fans could be heard singing along to his beautiful brand of rock and love songs for miles. Distortion, minor chords the whole Mac experience was there, with a friendly bunch of dudes around him who seemed to love every minute of it. At one point a bushfire joke by one of the members was unnecessary and in poor taste, however most of the crowd were able to see past it and enjoy the remainder of the set. Mac’s genius can’t be disputed with tunes such as ‘Another one’ and ‘Freaking Out The Neighbourhood’ proving this to all.
Half an hour later, Courtney Barnett (Australia’s very own genius) took the stage. An absolute trail blazer, Barnett’s national and international success in recent months has been an absolute joy to watch. Her set left nothing to be desired with her confessional slacker rock drawing a huge crowd. Barnett’s lyrical honesty has always held a place in our hearts, so to see her perform in front of a crowd enlightened to her Dylanesque brilliance was truly special.
Later, blues revivalist royalty Gary Clarke Jr threw down some insane riffs and solos at the valley stage. The Texas guitarist has been described as a natural hybrid of both the past and future of Blues, and we have to agree. Rufus soon after wowed us all with their alternative dance numbers, all being played live with the use of beat pads and traditional instruments. Though the climax of the night came in the form of the Bloc Party - Disclosure double whammy. Both acts stormed through their back catalogue of songs with confidence. Interestingly, Disclosure refrained from playing their famous “When A Fire Starts to Burn” as a response to the fire’s in and around Lorne, for this we have to give them major respect. All in all the 3rd night was ended with a tangible energy and excitement in the lead up to New Years Eve.
Day 4 (a.k.a The Oven)
Falls campers will remember being abruptly woken up on the morning of New Year's Eve, as a result of an absolute scorcher of a day. Sunburn was rife, ice sold out and hot winds seemed to torment those already suffering. We heard stories of people with second degree burns who had to evacuate later that night with heatstroke and dehydration. In the words of one punter “no one was prepared for this heat”. In the face of this adversity, artists were severely restricted in the shadeless Valley Stage, with sweltering fans preferring the shaded Grand Theatre.
Peter Bibby and co were the first to take advantage of this phenomenon. We’ve discussed Bibby’s genius here, but to see his songs with a full band (including Pond’s Nick Allbrook) was brilliant. Unfortunately Adelaide prodigy Jesse Davidson’s performance was certainly a victim of the heat, with a small group of fans battling the sun to see his undeniable talent.
Somehow either a brief cool change or a particularly gutsy bunch of fans allowed Gang of Youths to attract a sizeable congregation. Gang of Youths' sense of drama was insane in their often five minute long epics, with front man David Le’aupepe’s rising vocals, they pulled off perhaps the most dramatic set of the entire festival.
Special mention must also go to Melbourne band Money For Rope. Their five-piece, which included two drummers, enabled a raw punk sound, to which Julian McKenzie laid down some seriously rowdy vocals. Not knowing of this group before coming to Falls, we have to recommend that you check them out, we’d love to see them in Adelaide someday soon.
More great acts came and went, before Swedish powerhouse Elliphant took the stage. Elliphant’s part hip-hop, part trappy dance music was intense, her movement and passion only firing up the crowd even further. With Elliphant’s mesmerising words “fight fire with fire”, the welcomed cool change only served to heighten excitement; many began to lose their inhibitions (legs). Before the final act of 2015 the festival organisers came out and shared a few kind words with the crowd, thanking them for their support, whilst giving festival-goers the opportunity to show their own gratitude for what had been a phenomenal experience. Indeed an overwhelming feeling of mutual support characterised the entire festival, with artists, staff and the goodwill of people allowing for a beautiful triumph against adversity. As Foals ended the night and the countdown began, we couldn’t help but feel overwhelmed at the miraculous series of events that had led over 19,000 people to welcome in the new year together.
As a whole we are absolutely blown away at the brilliance of the Falls Music and Arts Festival and we can’t wait to do it all over again next year.
Check out the full gallery HERE!
All photos by Wade Whitington