Falls Festival started on a humid yet pleasant Thursday afternoon. Hosted near the Erskine Falls, not too far from the Lorne city centre, the grounds are flanked by forests: pure nature. With tents and camp sites prepared, punters moseyed down to the Grand Theatre to catch the first acts of the festival.
The first group, Haiku Hands, were a delightfully fierce trio. Rapping empowered lyrics over explosive beats, the group were a fiery force on stage. Synchronised in performance, dance and dress, the crowd were already well and truly warmed up for the night ahead. This gigantic beginning was followed by another act: Total Giovanni. Clad in their coordinated sleazy tracksuit get-ups, the boys wound back the clock with their ‘70s and ‘80s inspired funk. Songs like ‘Can’t Control My Love’epitomised retro funk and as a consequence pulled in a huge crowd. There’s no mystery as to how the band could pull in such a large crowd. The confident and silly stage presence the band’s two lead-men have is absolutely infectious. The day’s first three acts all seemed to be related in some way. Coordinated choreography, synchronised fashion and loud beats were a common theme throughout these first acts.
Confidence Man tied up this theme with gusto and power. Opening the set with the group’s mysterious three veiled instrumentalists playing alone, Janet Planet and Sugar Bonesjumped on stage to join their band mates, and danced their hearts out. The group have been labelled as the most fun, if not the best live act in recent times, and it’s hard to not see why as the crowd, and even a rogue security guard fell under a frenzied dancing spell. Songs like ‘Bubblegum’, ‘Better Sit Down Boy’ and ‘Boyfriend (Repeat)’explored a mix of different dance genres and saw the band’s two leaders dancing a range of different moves; owning the stage.
From the new to the classic, recent ARIA Hall of Fame inductee and national treasure Daryl Braithwaite walked on to Queen’s ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, creating a massive sing-along from the crowd. What started as a seemingly strange choice for a mostly young audience transformed into one of the most invested and passionate crowd for the whole festival. Braithwaite himself was a charming frontman sauntering around the stage and quite successfully hiding his age. Having never lost his cool from his Sherbet days, Braithwaite was home on the stage. Playing songs from his solo catalogue and some Sherbet hits, Braithwaite and his band played classic rock to thunderous applause. Many of the young punters knew most of the lyrics to tunes like ‘As The Days Go By’and‘Howzat’by heart, which was a wholesome sight to see. But no reaction was more explosive than to his massive meme hit, ‘The Horses’. In what could’ve been a very dance heavy moment saw friends embrace each other, swaying in time to the song’s iconic introduction. Delving into a 10-minute-long variation on the song, there were acapella sing alongs and even a horse mask that Braithwaite threw into the audience. It really could’ve been the last act of the festival, if not the last act of people’s lives. The audience and the band were connected so well, and so sincerely there was only an air of love and togetherness. Being a tough act to follow, The Jungle Giants followed up the rock legend expertly and powerfully. With three albums under their belt now, the Brisbane legends seamlessly performed a career spanning set with classics ‘She’s A Riot’to newer hits ‘On Your Way Down’and ‘Bad Dream’. With an even bigger crowd forming after Braithwaite, the atmosphere under the Grand Theatre’s high ceiling was sweltering and electric. With the band’s most recent LP, Quiet Ferocity, being one of most popular Australian albums of the year, the crowd knew the whole set like the back of their hands. The set was diversified up with the tender ‘You’ve Got Something’ making many a punter shed a tear and an instrumental tune with the band’s bassist and drummer playing alone on stage. Amongst synchronised crowd jumping and audience clap-alongs, the Brisbane quartet produced a perfect set for the night.
As it seemed the night was about to wrap up after that last huge set, Thundamentals burst onto the stage heralded with much applause and excitement. Tu-ka and Jeswon were dynamic MCs jumping up and down and across the stage, hyping each other up and hyping up the crowd. With the first night well and truly over, punters retreated to their tents to rest up for the second day.
The second day started differently to the Thursday. With gloomier weather, involving foreboding clouds and a rainstorm, the Welcome to Country began without a hitch. Welcomed with traditional songs and dances, a crowd gathered, both under shelter and under the wrath of the rain, to pay respects to Kolakngat, Koori and Wathaurong Aboriginal peoples that once occupied the land. Staged down the hill from the Grand Theatre at the Valley Stage, punters shifted down the steep valley with caution to witness the ceremony. Another symbol of solidarity in the festival was seen when the Indigenous welcomers joined the crowd in the rain to dance together, despite how wet it was.
The first act after this was Stella Donnelly, who walked on the wide stage alone with just one amp and a guitar. Having recently won Best Unearthed Act in the J Awards, Donnelly’s prowess as a musician is clear when she’s on stage. Her gorgeous voice paired with her flawless guitar picking and strumming made for a delightful set of frank lyrics and entrancing dulcet tones. Each song had its own unique sound and story behind it. ‘You Owe Me’delved into a story of an old boss of Donnelly’s, with grace and wit. The now famous ‘Boys Will Be Boys’also discusses often-excused sexual assault cases through a heartbreaking but serene song. Donnelly’s voice sounded identical to the studio versions, which once again proves her beautiful abilities.
From one act to something completely different, Manu Crook$’s DJ hyped up the crowd with three infamous tunes. Lil Pump’s ‘Gucci Gang’ and the now, quite dead internet meme, Big Shaq’s ‘Man’s Not Hot’got the crowd ready for the larger than life Sydney rapper. Leaping around the stage, Manu Crook$ is a spirited MC, calling for the crowd to put their hands in the air and dance along. His DJ was also the perfect hype man, yelling many ad-libs and telling the audience to get “turnt”. He was an entertaining act with many danceable trap beats played behind airhorns, walls of deafening bass and earth shattering kick drums.
As the crowd slowly widened at the bottom of the valley, it was time for another big change in acts, brought this time by Luca Brasi. Led by a lead singer toting a bass guitar, the four piece pop-punk band from Hobart erupted into their set. Performing a slew of tunes that ranged from punk to emo, it’s clear this quartet is one of Tasmania’s best outputs with an invested crowd intensely moshing and singing back the lyrics. Parading a great deal of their most recent album, If This Is All We Are Going To Be, their status as one of Australia’s best punk acts was out for all to see.
With gravelly lead vocals with matching harmony vocals the band are a powerhouse of classic punk and emo. Their huge cover of Paul Kelly’s ‘How To Make Gravy’, especially just after Christmas, created a gigantic singalong, which continued into the detonating ‘Anything Near Conviction’to end the set.
Having had the high octane of Luca Brasi, Ocean Alley took the atmosphere down a notch with chilled and psychedelic stoner rock. A massive six-piece band, they performed washed out psych-rock that bordered on reggae. With ranging tempos and differing grooves, the band delved into the depths of the psych genre with fuzzed out guitar solos with plenty of trippy effects to melt faces. With a calm, collected and thankful front man with an assertive voice drowning in reverb mixing with a band who was completely in sync and solid, the whole set had the crowd grooving and shaking.
As the gloomy weather persisted through the day, as if on purpose, the clouds broke and the mist around the trees lifted, to reveal the sun. As the sun finally shone down on the grounds, Julia Jacklin and her band appeared on stage. The group went on to play bright folk and country tunes to punters soaking up the new sunlight. With simple and understand instrumentation, Jacklin’s heavenly high notes floated on top of gleaming guitar arpeggios and warm bass notes. Pulling a lot of her set from her acclaimed album Don’t Let The Kids Win, the audience sang every song word for word with their arms and lighters swaying to the beat. Delving into a cover of The Strokes’ ‘Someday’, the swaying continued as the original was flipped on its head to become a slow burning ballad. Jacklin proved her reputation as one of the most anticipated acts for the festival.
After a cold change and a call for punters to pick up warmer gear for the night, DZ Deathrays warmed the air right back up. The trio were enormous, blasting through a thrashing stampede of heavy punk tunes. Famous for their gargantuan riffs and insane drumming, DZ’s multiplied the amount of moshing and flailing Luca Brasi had earlier in the day. Explosive songs like ‘Reflective Skull’and ‘Pollyanna’ utilised the band’s signature makeshift guitar that sounds like a lead and bass guitar. With a new album expected in 2018, the band showed off some new material, which melds funkier elements with this established raucous sound. DZ’s were on full cylinders the whole way through their set, all the way until the end where they closed, somehow, on an even higher note with ‘Gina Works At Heart’, utilising dramatic confetti cannons.
With a pink sky symbolising twilight, Afroman’s ‘Because I Got High’heralded the entrance of Dune Rats. The band’s entrance on a wild stage decked with decorations was met with roaring applause. Suffice to say, every word was sung back to the band as they explored the two albums in their discography. Songs like ‘Dalai Lama Big Banana Marijuana’, ‘Bullshit’ and ‘Funny Guy’ were a treat for the now far-reaching crowd, stretching up the steep hill. A fan was even brought on stage to play a slightly butchered but impressive rendition of ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’. Punters gathered and yelled together the lyrics to, what is arguably one of the stoner anthems of our time, ‘Scott Green’. All in all, Dune Rats were a strong and robust band, igniting a huge set and setting the crowd up for the first international act of the festival.
Foster The People slowly gathered on the stage to open with classic single, ‘Houdini’. Having released their third album, Sacred Hearts Club, earlier this year, the set was a mixture of hits from their three massive albums. Torches hits like ‘Call It What You Want’, ‘Don’t Stop (Colours On The Walls)’ and ‘Miss You’ were immense, as well as tunes from Supermodel like ‘Coming Of Age’ and ‘Pseudologia Fantastica’. Lead singer Mark Foster shuffled around the stage with confidence and swagger, throwing off a leather jacket to reveal a singlet early in the set. This swagger seeped through newer hits like ‘Sit Next To Me’ as well as an odd cover of The Ramones’ ‘Blitzkrieg Bop’. Foster then stopped the show to reflect on the painful year 2017 was. Praying for unity and love, Foster sent punters off with two final songs. At the end of it all, the group’s set was delightfully entertaining especially when it was rounded off ‘Pumped Up Kicks’. With one final act left for Night Two, fans eagerly waited as crew set up the complex stage decorations for one of Australia’s proudest musical achievements.
With a massive V-shaped deck and gigantic glowing cubes decking the stage, Flume was in top form. Playing a range of hits from ‘Sleepless’ to ‘Never Be Like You’to his remix of Lorde’s ‘Tennis Court’, his DJ set was a loveable mix of spectacular dance tunes. As well as this, the set was flawlessly fluid, with many tracks melting into one another with ease. Other heavier songs like ‘Smoke and Retribution and ‘Lose It’had the gaping sea of bodies dancing, some on top of shoulders and some all one their own. The entire spectacle was trademark Flume, as Harley was a lovable personality and his music was just pure fun. With the second day of exclusive Valley Stage shows complete, Day Three was to come where finally punters had to choose between the Valley Stage and The Grand Theatre, making some of the most difficult decisions for the next two days.
The day began again with gloomy and wet weather, but nonetheless, slowly waking up punters braved the rain to make it to the third day’s first act: IV League. The local Melbourne band played a range of delightful dream-pop with wide walls of sound and twinkling guitar tones. The band’s lead singer had an impressive range, shrieking and hitting high notes all the way through the set. This is truly a band to look out for, as it seems it’s only up from here for these guys. Following this up was a change of pace entirely, from music to comedy. Continuing at the Grand Theatre, Josh Earl, Tommy Desalo and Luke Heggie pulled in a huge crowd. With Josh Earl acting as MC he led with some slightly cheeky stabs at some Australian musicians with his acoustic guitar and sung a hilarious, and relevant song about grammar nazi punks. Tommy Desalo, was a spritely and bright comedian whose demeanour was infectious. Listing off brilliant jokes about travelling and karaoke, the crowd was enticed and growing. Noise bleed was a huge issue though, and although it wasn’t detrimental to the performance, the sounds of other bands made the delivery of some jokes hard to hear. Luke Heggie had a much more flat and conversational delivery which made a lot of the jokes hit much harder than they usually would. Discussing perverts and adulthood, the three comedians chose perfect jokes not only for the context but for the audience as well, and as a result, had the crowd from start to finish.
Down back the slope of the hill to the Valley Stage, Bad//Dreems started playing not shortly after. The five-piece from Adelaide propelled through a series of murky and rough Australiana-rock tunes. The band was rough around the edges in the best possible way with vicious guitar tones and wild drums. It wasn’t long before a mob of moshpitters and crowd surfers appeared, and things only picked up when recognisable hits like ‘Gutful’ and ‘Hiding To Nothing’ pushed the pit to its limits. Ben Warwe, the band’s vocalist, above all else, is a performer pacing and strutting around the stage and his band mates, taking whiffs of whiskey here and there. Rounding the set off with ‘Cuffed & Collared’ and ‘Mob Rule’, Warwe jumped into the eager moshpit, crowd surfing his way around the pit.
As the sun finally came out to stay, it was time for Methyl Ethel, with a special guest. Stella Donnelly took over guitar, keyboard and back up vocal duties for this performance. If anything, the band’s quality was heightened above their usual top form standard. From ‘Rogues’ to ‘Drink Wine’ to ‘Femme Maison/One Man House’ to ‘No. 28’, the quartet pumped out punchy retro sounds. Playing for an audience now proficient with their two acclaimed albums, the songs came to life as the crowd repeated the words back to the band. ‘Twilight Driving’, of course, was a treat for all punters, but as ‘Ubu’ started, a familiar riff started playing from the Grand Theatre. Picking between the end of Methyl Ethel’s set and the beginning of Camp Cope’s set was difficult, but fans of both bands sprinted up the sloped hill to catch ‘Jet Fuel Can’t Melt Steel Beams’.
As the band’s final song played out, it was time to venture down the valley again to see US rapper and singer: DRAM. Well known for his single ‘Broccoli’, DRAM still pulled a huge crowd. Singing soulfully and rapping smoothly, his DJ’s beats were made for grooving and shaking. A live drum set also added to his set’s danceability, heightening the kick of each beat. Throughout his set he constantly chanted “spread love” with his audience and as a special treat walked into the crowd to sing his last few songs with the crowd. Yet again, it was back up the hill once more (you see the pattern here?) to catch Jen Cloher. With many punters fixated on DRAM, Cloher’s audience was unfairly lacking but this didn’t dispirit her or her band as they flew straight into their set. From song to song there were blaring; twangy guitar solos and classic rolling basslines that made the band a much more classic venture from the more modern alternative.
Back down at the Valley Stage, Jungle’s massive stage had set up and was ready for launch. The massive seven-piece soul group from the UK produced a huge but organic sound. One of the most enjoyable bands of the festival, every second Jungle was on stage was captivating. Playing a number of hits from their 2014 debut like ‘The Heat’, ‘Time’ and ‘Busy Earnin’’, the band’s sound was vivid and real, which went a long way with the band’s close fans. Teasing a new album, the group played two new songs ‘B-54’ and ‘Buy Yourself A Dream’, which both sounded so authentically “Jungle” while also having a fresh coat of paint. Jungle proved that they are indeed a “live” band, with the same rogue security guard having a boogie to their tunes, Jungle were a delight of an act to see and stand as a personal favourite act of the festival.
With many punter’s calves sore at this point, it was another trek up the steep hill to see UK rapper Dave perform his set. Diversifying himself from DRAM, Dave had production with more organic instrumentation and rapped trickier flows with unique rhymes and inflections. Dave held his own as well by having tremendous flow endurance, never once seeming out of breath or tired from the amazing words he was spitting. Playing simultaneously in the valley was Allday, who similarly to Dave, persisted well through the whole set spitting bars through hits like ‘You Always Know The DJ’, ‘Emotion’ and ‘Send Nudes’.
After that, Oasis fans ran full speed ahead towards the barriers to catch its ex-front man, Liam Gallagher. Acting cool as he was in the Oasis days, Gallagher didn’t conform to the usual festival stage dramatics by never taking off his wet weather jacket, and standing stiff in front of the mic. His coolness hasn’t wavered and nor has his singing ability as he performed near perfect renditions of ‘Morning Glory’, ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll Star’, and ‘Some Might Say’. With a new backing band, life was brought back to older Oasis tunes, and Liam’s solo tunes from his new album As You Were such as ‘Bold’ and ‘For What It’s Worth’ were just as punchy. Fans quite literally bowed in adoration to the performer, even chanting “Liam” at the end of every song, which, when he cracked a smile from time to time, seemed to delight Gallagher. The crowd were clearly mesmerised to see one of the original masterminds of Britpop up on stage as they sang back every word he sang. Of course, and making a snide remark about triple J’s recent Hottest 100 of All Time before doing so, he played ‘Wonderwall’ with nothing but his guitar and his drummer. After being called back to play one more song, he left the audience with another acoustic rendition of ‘Live Forever’, which seemed to make many crowd members’ lives complete. On the same stage, not too long after, emerged US folk powerhouse Fleet Foxes. Now that it was well and truly night, and the moonlight lit up most of the grounds, the sweet folk sounds suited the mood perfectly. The seven-piece band had every instrument on stage imaginable from guitars to a mandolin to a flute to a double bass to a baritone which all complimented each other gorgeously. The band performed many songs from their debut album, such as the well received ‘White Winter Hymnal’ as well as ‘Your Protector’ and ‘Ragged Wood’. Fans of the albums would be glad to know the band’s live sound is much more punchy and vibrant than the more relaxed studio counterparts, which made crowd pleasers like ‘Helplessness Blues’ and ‘Myknonos’ really shine. Robin Pecknold, the band’s front man, had a gorgeous voice that echoed across the grounds, especially when he hit glorious top notes, without a vocal break of any kind. Older songs were tied together with newer songs like ‘Fool’s Errand’ and ‘Third Of May/Ōdaigahara’ in a sort of medley style, with no breaks between songs. Beautified even more by scenic imagery projected behind the band, Fleet Foxes were a great way to begin the end of the night.
Turning up the intensity a bit was British sweethearts The Kooks. Just a simple quartet, the band that now has a “best of” album explored the best parts of their decade’s worth of music. Front man Luke Pritchard performed older songs like ‘Match Box’, ‘She Moves In Her Own Way’ and ‘Ooh La’ with just as much life and youth as they would’ve sounded ten years ago. Other songs like ‘Junk Of The Heart (Happy)’, ‘Always Where I Need To Be’ and ‘Around Town’, all from three of their other albums respectively, proved the diversity within the band’s discography. With new song ‘Be Who You Are’ thrown into the mix, the entirety of the set was pure indie rock bliss. Fun sing-alongs to ‘Seaside’ and ‘Naïve’ to end the set were also great testaments to the band’s title as one of Indie Rock’s best.
Only given a little bit of respite between acts, not before long, a mysterious voice sounded to introduce Peking Duk. With recordings of Richard Wilkinson and Big Lez from The Big Lez Show, the dramatics of the duos set were only just beginning. Starting the show with a classical overture of some of their hits, the boys didn’t wait long to dive into one of their biggest hits: ‘Stranger’. Promising on social media that their Falls set would be something special, the smoke billowing out of smoke machines and an insane audio-visual display kept that promise. Now behind the decks, the duo played an onslaught of dirty and pumping remixes, from ‘Seven Nation Army’ to S Club 7’s ‘We Like To Party’. Moving from their desks to instruments at the front of the stage, the boys, with a drummer, performed originals like the ‘The Way You Are’. The group’s live instrumentation mixes perfectly with the electronic backdrop, especially on the soon to be released tune, ‘Wasted’, which was massively explosive. A selection of guest performers was brought out to perform with the group. Ben Woolner from SAFIA appeared live to perform his roles in ‘Say My Name’ and ‘Take Me Over’ and sung her part on ‘Let You Down’ and ‘Fake Magic’. Separating up originals with more and more remixes; Peking Duk perfectly worked the crowd and did not disappoint punters who were becoming from a massive day of acts. As the set came to a close, fans went back to their tents for the final retreat before the biggest day of the festival.
It was now New Year’s Eve and there was a buzz in the air. There was an atmosphere of anticipation for the massive acts to come, which was satisfied easily by the exciting Brisbane outfit Hatchie. Led by an angelic sounding front woman, Hatchie performed serene and blissful dream pop, perfect for the morning crowd. The group produced smooth and lovely soundscapes dripping with washed out effects. Joined by The Creases front man, Joe, on acoustic guitar, the group was a tight one. With a layer of warm bass and guitars complimented by echoing snare hits, a cover of the Cranberries’ ‘Dream’ and an original ‘Try’ were a delight to hear. One of my personal favourite acts; I’m really excited to see how Hatchie continues. Following on from Hatchie was another pack of comedians to break up the music with some laughs. Sam Taunton was up first and worked the crowd superbly with a range of hilarious and relatable jokes. Delving into the woes of changing bed sheets and awkward sex stories, Taunton had a fast delivery, zooming through his stories, while still maintaining the audience’s interest and attention. After him was Nate Valvo, with an outstanding set of hard and fast comedy. Somehow talking faster than Taunton, Valvo deeply discussed parents and being gay in modern Australia in hilarious ways. Smashing so many jokes into such short time, Valvo was an exhilarating comedian, who is up for more and more greatness in future. To wrap up these two amazing sets was Urzilla Carson who walked on to great applause. Ashamedly the only woman comedian on the bill, Carson proved again that women do it better with a brilliant and physical performance. Carson earned the audience’s interest and applause with every joke. The whole group again used the audience to their advantage, poking fun at festival culture and youth issues to ease down the fans awaiting more bands to come on.
At bottom of the hill, the opening riff to ‘Drive To Drink’ started, cueing that it was time for Jess Locke. Locke’s music complimented the now sunny and cloudless day. Fans basked in the sun and relaxed as the dulcet, slowburning sounds of ‘Universe’ and ‘Bitter/Better’ echoed out across the grounds. Locke drove the band with her splendid voice and rock bed guitar work that lay as framework for her band’s jangly guitar and forceful drums.
Shortly after this, Alice Ivy set up on the same stage. An incredibly slept on artist, a small crowd of initial punters grew to a wide of bodies by the end of her first song. Bending the limits of multiple different genres, Ivy melded the thumping beats of EDM with the luscious guitars of indie pop, which makes her a very tough artist to pin down. This made for a diverse and surprising set with punters having no way to predict which way the set would go next. Based on the quality of Ivy’s performance, and the way in which the crowd was engaged, it’s strange that she didn’t have her own massive DJ deck or a late night slot like Flume, as she seems to deserve it.
Trekking up the hill once more straight after Alice Ivy, punters ran to catch The Creases. Having recently released their debut album Tremolow, the band presented cuts like ‘Is It Love?’ and ‘It’s Alright’ in their usual cool and composed fashion. At home on stage, their front man, Joe Agius, sauntered around the stage, with a tambourine in hand. In a sort of tit for tat situation, Hatchie helped out the band with back-up vocals. The five-piece was incredibly fun to get behind as the earworm hooks songs like ‘Everybody Knows’ were chanted back to the band by all.
As the band was wrapping up, Alex Lahey was just getting started back down on the Valley Stage. Pulling in a large audience straight away, Lahey shot through her older hits like ‘Let’s Go Out’ and ‘Ivy League’ with gusto. Holding her guitar high for all to see, Lahey is an absolute treasure to watch on stage. Having completely smashed 2017 with her debut album I Love You Like A Brother, it was no wonder most punters knew all the words to the album’s namesake, ‘Every Day’s The Weekend’ and ‘Lotto In Reverse’. Her band’s grungy rock was a force to be reckoned with as her and her guitarist’s red-hot solos tested the limits of their guitars’ fret boards. Deeper cuts from the album, particularly ‘Backpack’ translated gloriously to her live show. Ending on a triple threat of her cover of Natalie Imbruglia’s ‘Torn’, ‘You Don’t Think You Like People Like Me’, and finally ‘I Haven’t Been Taking Care Of Myself’, it was clear from the size of the crowd that Lahey is one of the most important artists going right now.
With the crowd now shifting from the top of the hill to the bottom of the hill to catch the afternoon acts, some devout fans stayed put at the Valley Stage to see Manchester darlings Everything Everything. “Everything” is quite an apt way to describe the eccentric five-piece indie rock band. With four albums up their sleeves now, all four of which have differing wild guitar solos and varying political themes, the set was a mix of anti-Trump and anti-Brexit sentiments delivered through the falsetto voice of Jonathon Higgs. The aformentioned devout fans were familiar with the flickering electronic sounds of new songs ‘Can’t Do’, ‘Night Of The Love Knives’ and ‘A Fever Dream’ which all came to life on stage. Higgs was a brilliant show man on stage, walking on top of speakers to get closer to the fans. Massive chants also started for older hits like ‘Cough Cough’ and ‘Kemosabe’ which both sounded gargantuan. The punchy drums and keyboard stabs of each song sent everyone into a dance craze. Planning to end the set with the band’s ultimate party song ‘Distant Past’, technical difficulties saw the band compromise with older song ‘MY KZ, UR BF’, which, personally, I was fine with.
Soon after the end of that set, ultimate sibling duo Angus & Julia Stone took to the stage. Fans roared and cheered for the brother and sister and their band as they walked on to a stage decked with a gigantic eagle tiki statue. Predominantly playing tunes from their 2017 album Snow like ‘Nothing Else’ and ‘Chateau’, the group played some of Angus’ solo tunes, which he performs under the moniker DOPE LEMON, including ‘Marinade’. The two siblings work in tandem perfectly as their duets match beautifully. Their duets are made all the more beautiful by shimmering guitar tones and quite, subtle drum playing. A tough choice was to be made during this set as at the peak of the hill, a band that was originally “TBC” started halfway through the Stones’ set.
Polish Club seemed to blast the roof off of the tented Grand Theatre with dark, original rock ‘n’ roll. Polish Club are pure, authentic fun as they fully embraced their “TBC” status and made sly remarks about other bands playing at the festival. This cheeky attitude came out in spades during their live performance, by producing a gigantic sound with just one guitarist and a drummer. The duo had no melodrama or stage decorations, they were just straight to the point rock. Fans adored this, as a gaping mosh appeared not two songs into the band’s set. With the Stone’s playing down in the valley, the two couldn’t have been more of a polar opposite, and fans wanting a taste of both stuck to the sides of the Grand Theatre to duck in and out. ‘What You Know’, ‘Come Party’ and ‘Gimme Money’ were performed like the duo was a machine designed to play rock ‘n’ roll.
By the time both bands had finished up, the highly anticipated The Smith Street Band got things started. Having a stellar year releasing their acclaimed fourth album, More Scared Of You Than You Are Of Me, a massive new fan base flocked to the edge of the barriers to see the band up close. Front man Wil Wagner was on his A-game, shouting and screaming the deeply personal lyrics everyone has come to love and relate to. Fans knew new songs ‘Birthdays’ and ‘Shine’ from memory. Other sing-alongs saw Wagner acting as a conductor, leading the crowd to sing his songs for him. Throughout the whole set the band were energetic and boisterous, blasting through the sing-along classic ‘Surrender’ and a lifelike cover of The Killers’ ‘When You Were Young’. Some fans just stood still and observed, embracing friends and letting the music and emotion seep in. ‘Death to the Lads’ ended the set on an even higher note.
With Smithies fans well and truly satisfied they parted, to make more room for the Glass Animals fans. Glass Animals absolutely put on a show, led by the flamboyant and untamed Dave Bayley. Picking hits from their two studio albums like ‘Gooey’, ‘Youth’ and ‘Life Itself’ fans and people not aware with the band could dance to the band’s strange EDM meets rock sound.
As Glass Animals wrapped, an hour or so remained in the year of 2017. For many, this was it. This was what everyone had come for. To be stewarded into 2018 partying in style. And what better what to move from one year to another than to spend it with two of raps most talented and forward thinking names: Killer Mike and El-P. Walking out to Queen’s ‘We Are The Champions’ Run The Jewels appeared under a blown up version of their famous symbol of a fist and a gun. Huge numbers from their most recent album, Run The Jewels 3, like ‘Legend Has It’ and ‘Talk To Me’ were hard-hitting tracks that left fans breathless from attempting to sing-along. Cuts from Run The Jewels 2 such as ‘Oh My Darling Don’t Cry’, ‘Blockbuster Night Part 1’ and ‘Close Your Eyes (And Count To Fuck)’ paraded the dynamic duo’s insane ability to stay completely in sync while tag teaming complex flows. The two rappers were a delight between songs to, cracking jokes about spoken word poetry and adorably interacting with one another. At one point Killer Mike pointed out Run The Jewels’ three golden rules: 1. Act as a community and look after each other, 2. Don’t put your hands on a woman you don’t know and 3. Wild the fuck out. Exploding through older tunes like ‘Sea Legs’ the time for New Years Day approached faster than expected. Pulling us all into 2018 was the sentimental ‘Thursday In The Danger Room’. As the countdown slowly counted towards zero, when the New Year finally hit, everyone kissed and embraced friends in the last moment of unified solidarity at Falls Festival. Ending the set on RTJ2 deep cut, ‘Angel Duster’, punters applauded and farewelled two of rap’s best talents.
Weary campers called it a night and went back to their campsites or their homes but the restless punters stayed behind for Vince Staples and Heaps Gay DJs.
The four days of Falls Festival are draining and tiring, but memorable. All of the bands mentioned in this review shaped punters in many different ways over the festival’s run. With lifetime friendship’s made and new band’s discovered, Falls Festival 2017 was absolute fun and a pure joy to attend.
Highlight: Jungle, Everything Everything and Run The Jewels.
Lowlight: Some of the inherent sexism towards female acts. “Tits out for the boys” isn’t a funny joke and it’s not funny to yell at supreme female musicians.
Crowd favourites (1 per day): Day 1: The Horses by Daryl Braithwaite, Day 2: Scott Green by Dune Rats, Day 3: Stranger by Peking Duk, and Day 4: Death to the Lads by Smith Street Band.