The Event: Falls Festival, Lorne 2014
The closing note of Queen’s ‘We Will Rock You’ fades and a palpable excitement builds as a projected clock counts down the seconds, ebbing closer and closer to midnight. Lead singer and drummer from the recently reformed Spiderbait, Kram, is working his way awkwardly around the stage, rhetorically asking the assembled audience when he’ll be asked to host the ARIA awards, before turning his attention back to the digital timepiece and beginning the new year’s countdown.
It’s a slightly strange moment on what had been an unusual new years eve at Falls Festival Lorne, with the noticeable absence of the annual parade leaving a hole in the festivities earlier in the evening. But Kram’s midnight announcement is met with thunderous applause from a sea of eager festival-goers. The valley surrounding Erskine Falls echoes back with cheers and catcalls, flares and fireworks explode as the Finley born performer exits the stage and The Presets begin a blistering post new year’s countdown set.
The beloved Aussie duo has been on stage for little over 5 minutes when a flare is thrown into the photographer’s pit. Security swarms as carpet begins to smoke and a thick haze settles on the first few rows of the audience. Julian Hamilton and Kim Moyes continue to play, seemingly unaware of the smog and eager to please the hyper throng that has turned out to watch their first performance of 2015.
I stand near the stage wrapped in several layers of clothing. Although the day started out at a perfect 20 something degrees (new years eve offered the best weather conditions for the entire festival), the night has turned decidedly frigid; it doesn’t seem to have bothered the majority of the attendees I note, catching a glimpse of a guy dressed in little more than a pair of shorts - My gaze returns to the main stage as I wait for my photographer companion to complete her “three songs and out” duties. As the herd of snappers makes their exit from the front of stage the sudden decision is made to leave before the end of the Presets set. It’s been a long couple of days and now is the perfect time to head back to Melbourne.
Falls is always exhausting but we’ve had it decidedly easy compared to most, although good food, coffee and some excellent vintage shopping are all fully available to the general public. Not to mention the beautiful surrounds, comedy, face painting, circus acts and music on offer.
Over the last few days I’ve managed to catch sets from some really great performers (Empire of the Sun, Jagwar Ma, Glass Animals), discovered some new favorites (Big Freedia, DMA’s) and have complied a massive list of albums to download on my return home. I’ve seen musicians get in trouble for smoking indoors, been offered glow sticks while in the queue for the toilets and asked by an inebriated punter if I was a figment of his imagination…Spoiler alert, I wasn’t.
Although festivities officially started on Sunday the 28th with performances from a host of bands including Client Liaison and hip hop legends Salt ‘n’ Pepper, it wasn’t until Monday the 29th that things kicked up a notch with headlining sets from The Temper Trap and DZ Deathrays (the latter being added to the bill after the cancellation of Julian Casablancas + The Voidz).
The weather was miserable with scattered showers and chilly conditions but that wasn’t enough to keep crowds away from Melbourne’s own North East Party House who had had a mid-afternoon audience dancing up a storm with their special blend of indie dance music. Unfortunately a real storm settled in toward the end of their set, leaving follow up act Dan Sultan performing to a disappointingly small crowd, as a majority of punters headed elsewhere seeking shelter from the steady rainfall.
By far the biggest buzz band of the day was Milky Chance, the German group have been attracting global audiences with their reggae tinged “folktronica” and their live set solidified their excellent reputation as they performed tracks off debut album, ‘Sadnecessary’. Lead single ‘Stolen Dance’ was the highlight of the show, greeted with rapturous applause from an inspired Monday night crowd.
Tuesday, and the second last day of 2014 had the most varied and appealing lineup with Sticky Fingers, Cloud Control and SBTRKT playing over the course of the day. The weather remained cold and miserable, but the first day of performances in The Grand Theatre gave a chilly audience the chance to keep warm with performances by Run The Jewels, Remi and The Black Lips.
John Butler sounded pitch perfect and got things moving with his early evening performance. He was a great choice to play before British electronic artist La Roux took the stage; the combination of laid back jams followed by dance music meant that the assembled crowd was large, varied and up for a good time.
As the sun rose on the last day of the festival it appeared that the clouds and wet weather had left for good. A slightly worse for wear looking crowd took full advantage of the sun, many stripping down to shorts, T shirts and summer dresses, basking in the summer heat.
One-man band Kim Churchill won over the audience early in the day and paved the way for killer performances by Vance Joy, Megan Washington, Cold War Kids and an enthusiastic farewell set from Bluejuice, all before the clock struck twelve.
English band Alt-J sounded flawless as they performed songs off the Mercury Prize winning ‘An Awesome Wave’ and their recently released follow up, ‘This Is All Yours’. Vocalist Joe Newman’s lilting vocals pitch perfect, blending seamlessly with his bandmates uplifting sound.
And then it was over.
Time to beat the crowds and return to the city. Back to life with the internet, mobile phone reception and fresh vegetables after a 3 day festival diet of fried food and cider. Thanks again Falls, as always you were an awesome way to usher in the new year.