AU ABROAD

Festival Review: The Falls Music and Arts Festival, Day Three & Four - Lorne, Victoria (30.12.13 - 31.12.13)

It was day three of Falls 2013, and the only thing thicker in the air than the smell of overflowing long drops was the feeling of excitement for the incredible acts that were soon to grace the stages.

The day kicked off with some much needed coffee within the festival grounds. Much to my surprise, Brooklyn baroque rockers Grizzly Bear were up bright and early for their sound check…which turned out to be almost their entire set. This gave me an excuse to leave their real set a little earlier because, despite a slight interest in the band after the release of Veckatimest, they’ve always struck me as pretty boring and whiney. Yeah, I get it, it’s deep and beautiful and full of intricate detail… but it’s all a bit self indulgent isn’t it? (I feel like that comment could potentially make me a lot of fixie-riding enemies – no hate).

After the major Grizzly Bear spoilers, half a jar of Nutella at my campsite and a couple of hours spent trying (and failing) to brush the dreadlocks out of my hair, I trudged back to the festival to catch The John Steel Singers. I was a huge fan of these guys’ 2013 release Everything’s A Thread, but unfortunately, their distinctive chaotic, layered sound meant the vocals were slightly drowned out in a live setting. Still, I had fun bouncing along to their poppy set.

After a quick cider break, I braced myself for the rowdy fans of Violent Soho, who played the afternoon set in The Grand Theatre. Entering halfway through “Covered in Chrome”, I was met by a tent full of smoke and head-banging-bogans. At the fear of being trampled, I left pretty soon after. They sounded good, but it was just a bit much for me at 3:30pm on a sunny Lorne afternoon.

Back at The Valley Stage, sexy Texans White Denim were gearing up to start. I started listening to these guys after the popularity of their Southern-pychadelic jam “Drug” a couple of years ago and found myself absolutely obsessed with them, particularly their second album Fits. So I was pretty eager to see how they could kick it live. They started off a little slow, with lead singer James Petralli’s vocals a lot less gutsy than how it sounds on record, but about halfway through “I Start to Run” (my jam) it was as though something just clicked and they completely turned it around for the remainder of the set. Petralli’s husky, bluesy yelp was out in full swing, guitarist Austin Jenkins (AKA at least 7 feet of guitar shredding genius) was killing it, Steven Trebecki’s face transformed into the most wild bass face I’ve ever seen in my life and I swear Joshua Block broke at least four pairs of drumsticks. Plus, they all had these giant goofy smiles pasted on that just made it look like they were having so much fun, something a crowd can always appreciate. It was, and this is a huge call, my favourite set of the entire festival. So much so that I sprinted to the merch booth immediately after to buy myself a White Denim t-shirt, and I NEVER do that (sidebar – I didn’t actually end up buying one because I realised I’d spent most of my money on food). They have a sound that is difficult to pinpoint, kinda like early Black Keys with a splash of Mutemath and Eagles of Death Metal…but also completely different. Anyway, they’re awesome and if you haven’t checked them out before, DO IT NOW.

Chet Faker killed it in the late afternoon, as usual *rolls eyes*. He reminds of the popular kid in school that everyone hates because they’re so good at everything.

Pond noise raped the PA system with an insanely rocking set that had me wondering how the hell so much noise can come out of Nick Allbrook, the tiniest most childlike-looking man alive. It was a flawlessly frazzled set of screeching psychadelia, my only complaint is for the douchebag in the unicorn costume.

The night acts consisted of Crowded House legend Neil Finn who was great fun to sing along to, followed by Crystal Fighters (who I accidentally missed because I was taking a necessary disco nap), The Wombats who totally blew me away, and dance-punk band !!! (Chk Chk Chk) who were WAY too much fun to dance to, especially “Heart of Hearts” and “One Girl/One Boy”. Nic Offer probably could have done with some slightly longer shorts though.

The last day of both Falls Festival and the shocker of a year that was 2013 started with my daily intake of coffee and bacon, followed by The Preatures. Their unique blend of gothic soul and classic rock is so alluring to me, but I’ve said this before and I’m sticking by it: Isabella Manfredi is gorgeous (kind of like a young Demi Moore) with a wicked, uber sultry voice, but I just can’t get past her overwhelmingly condescending onstage presence. Maybe it’s a punk thing.

Canadian hipsters Born Ruffians brought all the poppy dance moves with a squeaky set full of catchy hits born out of their 2013 release Birthmarks, followed by Big Scary, whose emotionally raw music was a little heavy for early afternoon. Fellow Adelaideans and beard enthusiasts Wolf and Cub were up next. After seeing them at Ed Castle late last year, it made me realise they are definitely the small, dingy pub type, not really suited to a day time festival. I was a little surprised they didn’t melt or burst into flames from the heat.

Finally, it was time for every nostalgic indie kid’s dream, Johnny Marr, which to be honest I was a little concerned about. Johnny Marr’s unmistakable guitar twang is amazing, utter perfection…But it’s his guitar talent combined with Morrissey’s baritone that makes The Smiths such icons to begin with, so it was a little strange to me seeing their most famous songs performed with only one real Smith. Even stranger to see hundreds of pseudo hipsters bounding down the hill at the sound of the opening chords to “How Soon is Now?”, flailing their arms and yelling, “Oh my god it’s the song from Charmed!!!”. Still, Johnny’s energy and Manchester-geezer attitude were better than I could have imagined, hearing him say “fookin” was like all my Christmases had come at once.

My entire Falls experience was made after his performance, when I mustered up the courage to introduce myself to him backstage, all the while giggling like a school girl unable to pull my gaze from his surprisingly thick black mop of hair (if somebody could clarify whether it’s real that would be great, it’s been a long three days of hardcore googling).

A few post-Marr shots of vodka and a mini nap later, I awoke to discover I had missed The Rubens (who I really hope didn’t hear me drunkenly explaining to a friend backstage how I was going to “rough up their faces a bit” because they are just “too clean” for rock and roll – vodka brings out my gangster alter-ego) - I found myself a comfy position on the grass for Violent Femmes. Compared to Johnny, these guys were absolutely shocking. They had no energy, no chemistry and not even any real passion for music anymore it seemed. It’s definitely time for them to hang up their instruments and go to bed.

The Cat Empire were up next with a wild set mirrored by the most excitable crowd I have ever witnessed in my life. They performed well, but for some reason didn’t play “Hello Hello”, which to me is inexcusable. As a popular band, it’s your duty to play the songs that made you famous; it’s what the fans want to hear!

Vampire Weekend rang in the new year better than I could have imagined. Perfect sound, perfect crowd interaction, and perfect babeness, from Ezra especially. Opening with “Diane Young” was a genius move and starting the encore with “A Punk” was even better. I don’t think I’ve ever danced so hard in my life, which explains why my motor skills have been seriously below par for the past three days.

So there you have it. Despite returning slightly fatter, redder and huskier (and probably a few thousand brain cells dumber), I made it through Falls Festival 2013 and lived to tell the tale. Way to celebrate your 21st birthday Falls you crazy son of a bitch.