AU ABROAD

Festival Review: Falls Festival Day Four ft. Vance Joy + Bluejuice + The Presets - Lorne, Victoria (31.12.14)

It was as if the gods suddenly looked down on the Lorne site of the 2014 Falls Festival and told each other, 'You know what? They've suffered enough with the rain.' - the clouds disappeared for our New Year's Eve in the forest and the temperature rose considerably, a perfect atmosphere for our final day at the festival. Moods were high (weed was probably helping in that regard, too) and the music was totally fitting as one's soundtrack to the end of the year.

Kim Churchill was an early highlight, following on after some great opening sets from both Fishing and newcomers GL, in both the Grand Theatre Tent and down on the Valley Stage. Churchill commanded a large crowd early in the day, such a size I would've easily expected for Vance Joy later in the afternoon (we'll get to James' set...), and cut an impressive figure on the Falls main stage. Just him and his instruments, Churchill also displayed a disgusting amount of co-ordination; such a dextrous performer, I spent most of my time watching him play with ease. Read: I struggled to comprehend keeping such rhythm.

I'd not seen Wolf Alice since SXSW and ever since Tom Odell had bigged them up to me even before that trip, I've been hooked on the Brits, so to see them finally brought out to Australia was a genuine highlight of the festival for me so far. Guaranteed some new fans as a result of their afternoon set, Wolf Alice rolled out some of the more rock fuelled tones of the day. Ellie Rowsell has developed so much as a lead vocalist and reminds me slightly of a Bertie Blackman/Isabella Manfredi hybrid, if we want to draw Aussie comparisons. I hope it's not long before they can make a return trip, more people out this way need to see Wolf Alice in their element.

Megan Washington has made 2014 her own, with her new album bringing her much love and the obvious long-awaited return to the live scene. The lady took to the Valley Stage around 3:15pm and had people dancing, singing along to new material and old, all the while letting loose and preparing to party into the New Year herself. She's always had such a strong connection with her band mates and seeing as it's been quite a while since I've seen her perform, it was cool to see that this element hadn't changed.

I headed up the dreaded hill of the ampitheatre and once I'd caught my breath, commented on my now barely existent state of fitness, I was able to catch a bit of Kingswood, who let's be honest, have been one of the AU's favourite bands of 2014. I think this is the fourth time I've seen the Melbourne rock band since September and in no way has the novelty worn off. I can't even comment on them as an entertaining live act, I've probably said everything that's required in previous reviews. Take a quick search back through their artist hub to revisit - they're totally A Grade.

Vance Joy had been spending some time in the VIP area during the day and of all the musicians who had come through over the past four days - maybe with the exception of Jamie xx and The Black Lips - his presence was one that people noticed the most. It's funny to think of the trajectory his career has travelled along in the past 12 to 18 months to get to this point, winding up 2014 with a large festival such as Falls, before looking down the barrel at another intense year with his own headline national tour and then the arena spectaculars with Taylor Swift. It was obvious that his set was going to be one people turned out for and in the heat of the late afternoon sun, Vance brought some massive sing along sessions through to Falls Lorne. Of course, "Riptide" was the big one, but I was happy to head "Red Eye" and "Mess is Mine" in particular.

Cold War Kids continued the momentum Vance had generated soon after, the LA rockers proving again why they are such a loved festival band. "All This Could Be Yours" stood out early for me, while set favourite "Hang Me Out to Dry" was also placed well in the set for peak audience reaction. We're talking a 6:30pm-ish crowd who's now many beers deep and wanting to get completely up in arms for NYE! The final sets of Falls were set up to bring that noise and energy through strongly - Cold War Kids fit that brief extremely well.

Following on a set from Spiderbait which also brought with it the first circle pit I'd seen at Falls so far, Bluejuice took their turn with the crowd, for what would be the final time in this part of Victoria and one of their last in general. Winding up their career with the Falls and Southbound tours, the Sydney band had one of the most raucous crowds the Valley Stage had seen all festival and it's understandable, really. After almost copping a flying microphone to the face, I ducked out of the photo pit to get my dance on with friends in the crowd to their music for the last time. When you're watching any band you like break up or do a final run of shows it's always bound to be sad, but when they're also friends of yours, there's an added pang there that's hard to shift, even if you're having a ball dancing and singing along. It hit hardest during "I'll Go Crazy" and "Act Yr Age" and I could tell I wasn't the only one who was wanting to grasp onto the experience for as long as we could. By the end of the set, both Stav and Jake had stripped down to their underwear, boobs had been flashed and one guy had stood on a mate's shoulders completely naked. A chaotic, hilarious show, having Bluejuice on a New Year's Eve line up was brilliant programming on the festival's behalf.

To be honest, I'd forgotten Alt-J were on tonight's bill a few times during the past few days, such was the calibre of the bands to be discovering in the lead up. I missed them at Laneway last year, so seeing them tonight was a perfect chance to make that opportunity up. As a live band, the British group are impressive; following on from such an in your face type set from Bluejuice, the moodier tones of Alt-J didn't bring the vibe down any, but provided a great contrast and switch up. "Tessellate" is an incredibly sexy song delivered live and no doubt got many in the mood as the official countdown would be posted on the screens at different points during the set from here on. Wrapping up just on 11:30pm, Alt-J set it up well for the final half hour of the year.

Spiderbait's Kram brought his kids on stage to banter and hype up the crowd as the clock ticked down towards 12, with people peeling out onto the top of the hill to count it down. Though obviously, the first few minutes of 2015 was filled with screams, cheers, kisses and hugs between strangers and friends, it was slightly anti-climatic having even just a small gap in time between 12am and The Presets' set. Not that many people would have minded, I'm sure.

Another festival favourite, The Presets exceeded all expectations I'd had. I wasn't too sold on their Groovin' the Moo choices earlier in the year, but I had put that down to having seen them multiple times over the last few years. Tonight though, Julian and Kim played a set that reminded me in a few ways of seeing them for the first time all over again. The stage set up and visuals weren't as good as I have seen, but in terms of the music, I loved the way they'd played around with some of the beats and wove their classics in with the newer material.

Spending the end of the year partying with friends and loved ones is always a mint way to bring in a New Year, though there is something uniquely special about a festival like Falls. I know Marion Bay has the picturesque nature going for it and Byron Bay has the new-kid sheen still glowing brightly, but Lorne will always have a special place held by many and I'd always recommend it as a destination for those looking for an escape off the grid with some amazing music.