For its 25th birthday, the annual Falls Festival treated itself to a line up complete with a handful of festival favourites, a scattering of international acts and a tonne of home grown artists. Living, breathing, singing, and dancing proof that Triple J’s commitment to Australian music is paying off in spades and influencing the national music industry, programmers and punters alike.
While this week’s announcement of the 2018 Coachella line up has the international music scene questioning the longevity of the world's heritage music festivals. The popularity of our local performers – with DZ Deathrays, Peking Duck and Angus and Julia Stone pulling crowds on par to those gathered to watch international drawcards Foster the People and The Kooks – indicates that the lifespan of Falls Festival looks set to sustain itself for another 25 years at least.
Here’s the thing. Festival lineups have become a bit samey over the last couple of years, with all manner of experts blaming streaming services like Spotify for influencing the way that we consume music. The standard mix tends to be one big name reunion, a couple of breakthrough indie pop or rock bands and a shed load of hip hop and dance acts. And while only two or three years ago the former tended to sell the tickets, draw the biggest crowds and waft through their set on a wave of nostalgia, it looks like the tide may have finally turned, in Lorne at least.
No band proves the popularity of Aussie music like Dune Rats. Last appearing on the Falls schedule in 2015 when they played a stinking hot afternoon set, this year the raucous trio found themselves with a primo evening slot on the 29th December. Dunies know how to keep an audience entertained. From the moment they entered on razor scooters to Limp Bizkit’s Rollin’, through to their Sponge Bob influenced logo, and the giant inflatable Young Henry’s beer cans that they had bouncing through the audience. While a cynical eye might look at it as a subtly incorporated plug for their 2017 collaboration with the Sydney based brewery, Dune Rats practice what they preach and have worked extremely hard to build up their reputation as a group of fair dinkum, beer drinking, dope smoking ‘slackers’. A sentiment that resonates and translates extremely well into merch sales, it seemed like every other attendee was seen in a Dune Rats t-shirt at some stage over the four-day event.
While Dune Rats started the party on day two, it was Adelaide native Allday who drew one of the largest crowds on the 30th December. Preluded by sets by American Rapper D.R.A.M and British dance act Jungle, who both managed to warm up the chilly audience nicely as temperatures plummeted and sporadic rain fell. Although both were great, these performances seemed like nothing but support acts for boundary-breaking Allday, who successfully mixed both genres during his hour-long slot.
Now based in LA, the young rapper tossed out a majority of songs from his 2017 album, Speeding, and inspired mass sing-a-longs to his eclectic mix of electro-tinged hip hop. In a similar vein to Dune Rats, Allday’s lyrics centre around the themes of partying and getting fucked up. But all is handled with a sensitive touch, his Little Lord Fauntleroy bob and schoolboy docs lending him an air of sensitive new age Rapper.
Liam Gallagher doesn’t seem to be the type of guy who’d appreciate the sensitive new age tag. But his show, which followed on from Allday, was tinged with crowd-pleasing Oasis covers and lots of good banter. While some of us were hoping for that long-awaited Noel and Liam reunion, it looks like we’ll have to keep on keeping on and be satisfied with the younger Gallagher’s semi-regular tours down under. Even though he travelled the country not too long ago with his Beady Eyes, this summer festival run has been billed as Liam’s first official solo shows in Australia and his hour on stage was the talk of Saturday night.
There’s magic in the air on new year’s eve. With early performances by Melbourne locals Alice Ivy and Alex Lahey out of the way, there was a collective march up the hill to the Grand Theatre to catch Ecca Vandal, the teeny performer showing off her immense vocal skills and urging the amassed audience to dance as she ushered in evening from her vantage point on stage.
If we hadn’t had experienced enough local talent, Wil Wagner and the rest of The Smith Street Band played their hearts out as the sun dipped on the last day of 2017. When Makers interviewed Smith Street drummer Chris Cowburn back in 2014, he praised Wagner’s ability to. “articulate himself really honestly, like no one I’ve ever met before”. And it's this openly displayed passion that continues to draw audience numbers years later. The band closed their set with 2016’s ‘Death to the Lads’, and with lyrics which focus on the plight of the modern world, it sounded like the perfect way to wind up what has been a pretty emotional year globally.
With the new year countdown approaching and the promise of a fresh start, it was time British party band Glass Animals to get our dancing feet moving and shake off any of 2017’s remaining cobwebs. Although they were just in the country for February’s Laneway Festival, it’s always a pleasure to catch a Glass Animals performance.
But the night wasn’t over and it was left to American hip hop duo Run the Jewels to guide us into 2018. Run the Jewels have amassed a pretty solid tour history here in Oz. In 2014 the played Laneway, Southbound and Falls, they also embarked on a successful run of sideshows supported by Joey Bada$$.
With that previously mentioned Spotify phenomenon apparently responsible for watering down our consumption of music, it’s also pretty fair to assume that it’s given performers a sense of freedom when it comes to experimenting with a variety of genres. Once considered the class clowns of the hip hop scene - in 2015 they released a remix album that consisted of cat meows as beats - the pair has become increasingly political with their raps and rhymes. Working their way through a set tinged with overtones of American imperialism and anti-consumerism, Run the Jewels were without a doubt the perfect way to wave goodbye to the political shit storm that was 2017.
So while the rest of the world may be worried about the future of music festivals like Coachella, it seems pretty clear to this reviewer that there are bigger issues to deal with.
Meanwhile, here in Australia it pretty safe to assume that both the local music scene and travelling festivals like Falls are doing more than ok – a sentiment that we hope shines over all aspects of 2018.