Our trip out to Falls Festival came and went quickly this year. Read on for our review of some of the highlights of the weekend’s festival goodness.
Let us not for a second consider this to be an attack on the overall splendidness of the afternoon kip; it is truly a wondrous thing and you would be both a fool and a Communist to suggest otherwise. It does however on occasions have its downsides, say for example on day one of the Lorne leg of the Falls Festival where Kota Banks and Hobo Johnson and the Lovemakers came a distant second and third respectively to being comatose. I’m sure that they were excellent in their own right but the sheer effort involved in putting up a tent put pay to any thoughts of maintaining verticality. After a thoroughly relaxing sojourn, verticality was finally achieved and it was actually time to see some bands.
After enduring a highly questionable schnitzel, it was time to see Mallrat. Whilst unfortunately not a spinoff of the mid-nineties classic, it was significantly better than anything Shannen Doherty did after. I challenge anyone to sit through anything more than The Smiths theme song in Charmed and not question the life choices that they have made that have bought them to this point. It is almost as infuriating as How I Met Your Mother, which I have reliably been informed is actually a “comedy”. Quite how it managed to acquire this adjective is beyond my meagre comprehension. Anywho, Mallrat’s set was diverse and showcased her range and ability. For someone so young, she has a commanding presence and pleased the crowd no end with a set that included her cover of Hey Ya which is likely to be the furthest departure from the original that you can imagine, which is kind of the point I guess. It wasn’t quite the Sarah Blasko version though…
Next up was Hockey Dad. If the Grand Theatre was full for Mallrat, it was positively close to rupture for Hockey Dad. The use of Groove Armada’s Superstylin’ as an opener created the perfect atmosphere as the 2 piece unleashed a frenetic set that belied the early kick off time on the first night. The sound was somewhat akin to The Mess Hall deciding that they wanted to sound like Ash or that if Ash decided to cut Mark Hamilton loose so that they could be bass free, presumably so that they could extend their repertoire of Star Wars songs outside of Cantina Band. Although probably not though.
After this it was time for Ocean Alley. Ocean Alley are probably best described (maybe that is a bit strong; “adequately described” perhaps?) as a fusion of funk, reggae, surf rock and other stuff. It was quite mellow and took the crowd on a journey to a faraway place where doing things probably wasn’t likely to be on the cards. It was like an interesting version of Jack Johnson which is an incredibly difficult concept to grasp, given the sheer oxymoronic nature of the two concepts presented. Long story short, as the metaphorical haze descended, everyone was taken off to their happy place, sha la la la. In what was becoming a recurring theme, the scrounging for Hottest 100 votes with Like A Version covers continued with Baby Come Back. Whilst being the world’s largest music democracy, Kent Brockman summed it best with the immortal line “I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: democracy simply doesn’t work”. Whilst the concept is sound, the major flaw is that people just don’t know how to vote. How else do you explain the success of Alex Lloyd, The Offspring, Macklemore, Powderfinger etc etc etc? I could go on but I think the point has been made. And then the giant balloons came out for Confidence and everything was all lovely.
The loveliness was then significantly dialled back for the star of the first night, Dizzee Rascal, ‘innit? For the hour long set, it was back to the early to mid two fousands and everyfink was tip top, just not sure about the colour. Dizzee was fixed up, lookin’ sharp and even had time to unleash a bit of dirtee love with Florence which never goes astray at any time. It was pretty much what you’d expect from the experienced hype machine and the plague of geezerdom proved to be remarkably infectious. Lucky for all involved that said geezers were in turn blown away in an increasingly apocalyptic scene and the fact that the tent was still standing was an incredible shock for all involved.
The award for the most anachronistic set of the festival would have to go to Amyl and the Sniffers. What would have been perfectly at home at three in the morning at the much loved, incredibly sticky and sadly departed Pony Bar did seem somewhat out of place at “rock o’clock” or lunchtime as it is known to others. Not that this seemed to worry the band greatly; the set would have been exactly the same at whatever time it was held. There were no pretensions here; it was raw and a hell of a lot of fun. You wouldn’t think that you could get a mosh going with 5 people, yet here we are. In a world and industry that is becoming increasingly sanitised, this was the polar opposite and probably as loose as you can get on a Saturday morning.
The force of nature that is Briggs was up next. Rising up from the Badlands of Shep, Briggs railed against a society which fair to say does seem to have a slight margin for improvement. When Idiocracy stops being a satire and starts to become a documentary, it is probably time to check on your supplies in the bunker as this is only going to play out one way. But never fear, we are a good solid three to six months away from that so if ignorance is bliss, then try and wipe the smile from my face. Like a modern day prophet, Briggs can see the writing on the wall and called out the injustices faced by his people and also the plight of Iceland, but not the one with the Northern Lights. Whilst the “Senator Briggs” bit is a laugh, it would be refreshing to actually have a politician who believes what they are talking about and isn’t just setting themselves up for their post political career as a lobbyist a la Martin Ferguson who went from being the Energy Minister to a prominent lobbyist for the Resources sector. No question of a conflict of interests there. This would never happen in a Briggians revolution which is already well underway with Nooky and turntable in tow.
Many things are impossible; trying to divine a King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard setlist is one of these things. You can have all the tea leaves in the world which may give you a monopoly on the world tea market, but still won’t tell you what King Giz are likely to play. I see you your Fermat’s Theorem and raise you a back catalogue that exponentially increases in size every 3-4 minutes. Guessing the song is a write off but even trying to get the right genre is a bit of a stretch. “Kind of old but not” could work as a placeholder as there were definite traces of The Doors, Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd circa Set Controls for the Heart of the Sun. All this whilst not being derivative which is truly amazing and something that Greta Van Fleet apparently failed to do. The Pitchfork review saved me the effort of having to listen to the music as it was equal parts scathing and hilarious. This piece was an opus and a highwater mark for the medium. Praising Pitchfork does not come naturally and makes me feel morally compromised in ways that I cannot even begin to describe, but I’m sure that their deliberately contrary opinions will have me offside within minutes and normal service shall resume. Sooo yeah, King Giz were without doubt the winner of the second day.
Whether or not the Victorian weather decided to be particularly accommodating for the Swedish guests that were First Aid Kit is unknown, but they would have felt right at home as it was suddenly bloody cold. As the temperature rapidly dropped towards absolute zero, the sisters had the crowd enraptured with the alt-country sounds that could only originate from the prairies of Scandinavia. About the only thing that was warm was the reception to King of the World. So too for Wolfmother which in that sense made it completely different from the band of the same name as people actually wanted to hear it. Again the music came with powerful messages which Juice Wrld would fly completely in the face of 24 hours later. What an interesting character he turned out to be…
Cut Copy’s set was a triumph in bringing back the mid 2000’s which is surprisingly quite a long way away now. They were however far less successful in bringing back the temperature. It was Summer in name alone and the likelihood of sticking around to see Anderson. Paak was in serious jeopardy given the two hour break between sets presenting a great opportunity to nap back at the campsite. The chances of this escalating to a sleep was significantly closer to a probability of 1 than it was 0. Whilst still upright, it was a chance to enjoy these legendary performers with a set that drew from their entire back catalogue. As suspected however, it was the In Ghost Colours cuts of Hearts on Fire and Lights and Music which gained the strongest reaction from the enormous numbers on the hill. With strobes aplenty, this revisited the halcyon days of the festival scene in Australia when the likes of Future and Stereosonic toured across the country before imploding so spectacularly, much like one of the several poorly designed Death Star variations.
For those playing along at home, I’m sure Anderson .Paak was great…
Given that the line up on the third day was fairly massive, maybe it shouldn’t have been a surprise that the Grand Theatre was far from full for the early sets, including Ceres. This was a loss for all who weren’t there as this was an excellent set. Sharing the same DIY aesthetic as their contemporaries The Smith Street Band, they are very much cut from the same cloth although with fewer fans it would appear. This makes very little sense in the same way as the inclusion of the Moro in a box of Favourites. A Moro is definitely and categorically no one’s favourite. It is a crack at a Mars bar, just not a very good one. Surprisingly, I digress and the set was all incredibly earnest with punk and dare I say it; emo-ish tendencies shining through, particularly in the last two songs. These proved to be the highlights despite Tom Lanyon apparent reluctance to sing them as he likened the level of difficulty to the answer to “Life, The Universe and Everything”, which is of course, it is “tricky”. These fears proved to be ill-founded as they were comprehensively nailed.
Ruel was up next, but that had a bit too much of the Biebers about it so the scissors were bought out and it was cut loose.
Then it was onto the discovery of the festival, Dermot Kennedy. With a voice that makes you go “phwoar”, this stripped back and unassuming set was an unexpected highlight. The sheer power of the voice was completely incongruous with the body that it was being projected out from. This was Asterix drinking the magic potion but instead of thumping Romans into the Middle Ages, he instead crooned them into submission. The Irish sounds evoked memories of Mumford & Sons without the ukulele, tweeness or incapacitating fits of rage. This was a captivating set from an artist who has a massive future and won’t be playing too many more mid-afternoon sets.
Then there was Juice Wrld. Yes, well, that happened.
Moving onto Cub Sport which was everything that Juice Wrld was not; it had substance and wasn’t solely focused on the acquisition of currency, munitions, pharmaceuticals and “bitchez”. Just because you can say anything you like in a society that permits freedom of speech, it doesn’t mean that you have to. Whilst not believing in censorship, I firmly believe in the key rule of the Meredith Music Festival. Anywho the synth dripped sounds of Cub Sport filled the Grand Theatre with a pervading sense of peace and calm which certainly isn’t the worst thing in the world. It was a special festival experience that was shared by all, with “all” being the operative word.
From there, everyone went to see Vance Joy, which was a great result for all involved as it meant that I didn’t have to.
After that it was time for my subjective highlight of the festival, Interpol. Their New York City background could not have been further removed from regional Victoria, but that didn’t stop NYC from getting everyone all emotional despite the lack of subways or even the sheer probability that a subway would ever make its way to Lorne. Whilst the 3 tracks from Marauder were warmly received, If You Really Love Nothing in particular, this paled into insignificance in relation to those off the seminal Turn On The Bright Lights. Whether it was the fact that the temperature had the passing polar bears exclaiming that “this is a bit brisk”, or whether it was because Obstacle 1 is a particularly moving song, goose bumps were raised at this prime-time slot. Paul Banks’ baritone was in fine form as were Sam Fogarino and Dan Kessler. The addition of Brad Truax on keys and vocals was a masterstroke as it gave an extra layer of depth whilst Brandon Curtis has the highly enviable task of performing night after night one of the greatest basslines in musical history, the opening to Evil. As they enter their third decade of existence, it still appears as though there is plenty of life left in the good ship Interpol.
Finally there was Hilltop Hoods who are at every single festival, every single year. You know what to expect and like the proverbial metronome, they kept it constant and always deliver. In this sense they are the Anti-Australia Post. You know what would be good guys? If you actually delivered parcels rather than just carding them because that interferes with some obviously far more pressing prior commitments. It’s not an unreasonable request. In fact, it is your job, of which you have one.
It really wouldn’t be Falls Festival without it being really cold and bailing on the last act and in order to keep this tradition going, I skipped Flight Facilities. Let’s for a second assume that everything went really well which works out delightfully in this context as there is no right of reply. And with that mes amies, we have a wrap.