So 2014 ended with being out of town for a few days, pitching a tent and calling a small patch of dirt home for a few days, seeing out the year at Falls Festival in Lorne. So at risk of whatever the weather gods had planned, it was time to get the camping gear packed. Probably not quite Bear Grylls survival style, but it was shelter.
An empty field of patchy grass and hills became swamped with tents in various incarnations as well as swarms of people trekking around but it before long it was time for the music…and after the trek from camp to the Grand Theatre the party had clearly started. A sea of people, smoke and flashing lights accompanying the sounds of Client Liaison was like travelling back in time. Think white suits, big hair, and synth pop reminiscent of the early 90’s (to compliment the DOS styled website of course). Digestible, in small doses.
Salt-N-Pepa…so much promise for an hour of nostalgic joy. Sure, Spinderella had a blast spinning some tunes and the gals still have the moves but it would have been great to hear an hour’s worth of Salt n’ Pepa tunes rather than a few tracks from the catalogue intertwined with paying props to old school hip hop and some random collection of well known tunes from other artists. Still perplexed about why Nirvana got thrown into the DJ mix…best not to over think these things sometimes.
But Monday was a different story. The music had to wait until the afternoon, but the day was as eventful as any with gale force winds and pouring rain, witnessing a massive tarp tear and fall in the process. Blocking any fluttering thoughts of trekking back to camp to check on the status of the tent, the music came first. First, with another chance to see Dan Sultan rocking out with an ever-growing festival crowd leading to the finale for Kimberley Calling. Perhaps a few less fist pumps than the usual show, but with all the energy and good tunes you come to expect.
Probably a good thing to check the festival schedule on the board by the main stage, DZ Deathrays were up next, contrary to the printed set times so checking on that tent would still have to wait. It was the only decision to make… these guys are absolutely killer live and glad that Reflective Skull made it into the set, despite the slight twinge of regret in not getting this into my votes for the Triple J hottest 100 countdown.
Dragging myself away from the music only for domestic duties (returning to camp to find every gazebo overturned, but the tent still completely intact and dry – phew!), it was time to trek back to the music to see The Temper Trap – old tunes, new tunes and crowd pleasing favourites to share, and with every minute filled with anticipation of seeing these guys back in Melbourne the following week.
Tuesday brought a day full of music – a more typical festival experience for yours truly, cramming in as many bands and artists as one can physically manage by being in only one place at a time. It started with every intention of going to see the Melbourne Mass Gospel choir, only to be distracted by the sounds coming from The Village…so much so that I backtracked my steps to the entrance and walked in to see what was going on to discover Wyla, a sibling trio from Queensland. Hooked on the harmonies and song writing within minutes of watching.
But back on schedule meant going to see Jim Lawrie, along with a few other early birds deciding to get their day started with tunes. Too early for some it seemed, but with breakfast and coffee in hand for others, amid aimless wanderers a little easy listening to some solid indie tunes accompanying the sunshine was the way to go.
Trekking up the hill to the Grand Theatre was becoming mighty hard but it was unquestionably worth it to see The Pierce Brothers live. Forget even trying to get a sense of what this might be like live from listening to a recording – nothing is going to be able to capture the pure energy and delivery that you get. A broken guitar wasn’t going to stop these two, and when scaffolding and crowd barriers are turned into percussion, and three instruments being balanced between them (including a didgeridoo) it was hard not to be impressed. Not only sensational to watch, but it sounded awesome too.
With no preconceived preferences of what to see next, and a great degree of difficulty in passing up raw garage pop DMAs got my attention. Perhaps a little nostalgia filtering its way through as a muse for these sounds, or recollections of hearing their material on the radio…whatever it was, it was worth stopping by.
Asgeir was a must see, but again knowing that there were tickets awaiting for the show in Melbourne the following week offered a degree of freedom to explore another stage. So foregoing the opportunity to hear a full set, the playing times on the elusive festival set time board by the main stage offered the Black Lips…but this was a time to rely on ye olde printed set times in hand. Instead, a short wait to be followed Remi eventuated. Not the usual thing that would be making the cut for acts to see if it weren’t for the miscommunication.
Enough of venturing outside the box, the familiar sounds of Jagwar Ma soon followed but with a what seemed to be a bit of an altered delivery – less radio edit, more extended mixes and beats. But without doubt a more spacious and comfortable listen than checking out George Ezra, where everyone seemed to be squeezed into one mass of flesh vying for a view of the stage. Escaping with all limbs intact and without too many toes being trodden on was a feat in itself. Note to self: rote learning of the lyrics to Budapest is essential to being one of the crowd.
Taking a vantage point of the Valley Stage from afar provided a different perspective of the crowd gathering to check out Cloud Control, but in truth it avoided another round trip up and down the hill. Still, a pleasantly surprising set exceeding expectations before checking out the mellower sounds of Movement – not for any other reason other than some word of mouth chatter back at camp.
John Butler Trio – absolutely mandatory, necessary viewing and listening so an appearance at Falls was no exception. Cheery sounds, extended jams, sing-alongs, it was all there with the usual JBT vibes and an overabundance of energy impressing more than a few bodies present.
For sheer contrast, the sleek pop delivery from La Roux came after dark and persisting with the cold for a little longer, a few years’ hiatus from performing live in Australia was made up for with this set.
It’s rare that I would ditch an act to go home (camp), but even the impressive staging for Empire of the Sun wasn’t enough to lure me to linger around in the cold for another hour. Too much fanfare to endure before the music finally started…maybe next time…
But this was only a temporary break, and certainly not defeat because it all continued on day four (still standing….). And let’s face it, alarms are so passé as a wakeup mechanism. What you really need is a brass band before lunch, and a brass band we got with Horns of Leroy. Any weariness was quickly shaken off with this lot, never too early for a little dancing or participation….and certainly nowhere to hide from not joining in.
From a cavalry of horns to the one man band stylings of Kim Churchill. Hearing these tunes in the past, you’d be forgiven for assuming the need for a band on stage but apart from the occasional hand this was all Kim’s show.
Admittedly, Wolf Alice wasn’t an act I could recall by name…and the tunes didn’t seem particularly familiar either but I was obviously the one that had been living under a rock because a sizeable group of cool kids were all in the know with this one. So I pretended to be cool and in the know by standing there too…
From rock to the delightfully sweet sounds of Thelma Plum…even with a little profanity slipped in for emotional effect and crowd pleasing times. Far mellower than what the rest of the day had offered to date, but that wasn’t going to keep anyone away from this one with the crowd ever growing as the set progressed.
It didn’t last long though, the crowd died down and grew again in time for some damn solid rock from Kingswood. Never disappointing, and a killer set as always and somehow always managing to up the ante with every gig. I do vaguely recall a little QOTSA being dropped into one of the songs – nice work indeed.
More rock followed, finally being able to cross off Spiderbait from the list of bands to see live at least once…a band that has been around for longer than my ears have known but by far one of the highlights of the festival. A drummer he may be, but that certainly didn’t stop Kram from stealing the limelight and running the show, including a brave entry into the crowd.
Comparatively, I’ve seen more of Bluejuice than I have probably ever needed to but with the festival slot being one of their last ever performances, it would have been sacrilegious to skip a near final appearance with all the usual antics and revelry on stage and beyond.
But all was balanced with the subdued maturity of Alt-J on stage – minimalist staging, a few fancy lights and sounds to appease the growing masses building as the impending NYE countdown approached. As impressive and entrancing as the sounds are, Alt J as a live act is still a little puzzling given that there isn’t a lot happening on stage and not much to actually see.
And with that, the end of the music arrived – avoiding all the NYE countdown fanfare meant also missing The Presets but the sounds travelled far enough through the festival grounds to hear. I guess that counts, sort of…while still being forever grateful that someone returned my little camera to lost and found to restore a little faith in humanity as the new year rolled in.