Review: Falls Festival
For some, celebrating New Year's Eve 2011 involved cramming into the city centre to watch a dazzling fireworks display, for others it was a raging house party - and for the more sensible and chilled out among us, a quiet night in and bed before midnight meant the start of 2012 was free from hangovers and full of optimism.
This intrepid reporter chose none of the above, instead opting to head to Lorne, Victoria where - along with 16,000 other music fans - New Year’s Eve and the days before would be spent enjoying some of the finest bands from around the world at the 'Falls Music and Arts Festival' in the picturesque Otway Ranges.
Now in its 19th year, ‘Falls’ remains a perennial favourite among the festival-going public, and it’s easy to see why. The giant natural amphitheatre surrounding the main stage provides a brilliant vantage point for the audience, the vibe amongst the crowd is relaxed and inviting, the food is exceptionally good and if there’s a festival or indeed a music venue with cheaper drinks, I’m yet to hear of it.
But of course, the major drawcard for this festival has always been the music and 2011 was no different, with one of the biggest line-ups yet. With more than 70 acts from around the world strutting their stuff it’s impossible (and frankly a little boring) to methodically cover all of the acts from the festival, but here are a few of my personal highlights…
The indie rockers with members from the UK and the US pulled out a classy set that had the audience singing along and dancing in the mid-afternoon sun on the third day of the festival. Closing with two of their biggest and catchiest tracks, 'Tongue Tied' and 'Colours' meant they left the audience smiling and wanting more.
I’d never heard of DJ Yoda before Falls Festival. If that costs me credibility points so be it, but if I ever get the chance to see him perform again I’ll jump at the opportunity. My curiosity was piqued when I read his bio in the festival guide which describe DJ Yoda’s performances as “taking audiences on a trip from underground rap to TV themes, nursery rhymes, country, soul, reggae, 80’s pop and back again, the man is a one man excitement machine.” Performing after CSS was always gonna be a tough act to follow, but DJ Yoda absolutely nailed it.
2011 was a massive year for the little Kiwi band that could, cleaning up at the New Zealand Music Awards and winning fans around the world off the back of their debut release ‘Passive Me, Aggressive You’. With an album chock full of catchy tunes the New Zealanders had little trouble drawing a huge crowd into the amphitheatre to watch them on the main stage, and while the set was light on banter it was filled to the brim with danceable indie rock, and the crowd loved every minute of it.
Hailing from Baltimore in the US, Dan Deacon is like no other act I’ve ever seen. He’s all about crowd interactivity and working crowds into a frenzy by getting them to play games that are somewhat akin to pre-school playtime. I caught his twenty minute solo set in the late afternoon on New Year's Eve, and in no time I found myself running around in a giant circle with a group of complete strangers.
I may be a bit biased - I’ve been a big fan of these guys since their hugely popular debut album ‘Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not’ and I’ve enjoyed their three subsequent albums just as much as their debut, but the Arctic Monkeys' set at Falls was simply brilliant. The band swaggered onto the stage oozing confidence and cool, opening with 'Don’t Sit Down ‘Cause I’ve Moved Your Chair' off their latest LP, but the biggest response of the set was reserved for the song that catapulted them to international stardom, 'I Bet That You Look Good On The Dancefloor.'
Even a bungled New Year’s countdown couldn’t sour the set as the Arctic Monkeys left the stage at 11:58 only to re-enter 5 minutes later apologising to the crowd as they had anticipated someone else coming out to do the countdown. Frontman Alex Turner made the quip “do you want to do a countdown, even though it’s twenty past one” and the crowd laughed and cheered. Turner led the countdown and the even though it was already well past midnight everyone got involved and tried to grab the nearest person for a cheeky kiss. Unfortunately I was too slow on the uptake as everyone seemed to already be paired up...
Following the countdown the Monkeys played another three tracks, including 'When The Sun Goes Down' and closing with the epic '505' off their second album. Never released as a single, but a personal favourite of mine, I couldn’t have been happier with the set from start to finish.
Other awesome sets that definitely warrant a mention include Crystal Castles, CSS, 360, Arj Barker, Aloe Blacc, Young MC, The Kooks, The Grates, Kimbra and Fleet Foxes, who all turned in a wicked performance.
Did you head along to Falls 2011? Let us know what you thought by commenting below!