Falls Festival is like its own little world. It has its own unique fashions, routines and even language that develops – I guess that’s what happens when you drop a whole heap of young people in the wilderness for a week.
But at the end of the day, besides the freedom, sun and seemingly never-ending, carefree times, people make the often tumultuous road trip up for the incredible music on offer (or at least we did!).
I tried to make it along to as many acts as possible, on both the big and small stages, in between much-needed retreats from the heat to the beach in Byron Bay. Across the four days, here are my list of acts that really went above and beyond the expectations of putting on a good festival show.
Most Triple J listeners would have heard Glass Animals’ hit song ‘Gooey’ last year, but what struck me most about their performance is the fact that they had enough great songs that they were able to play this in the middle of their set. Filled with dirty beats and slinky smooth, breathy notes, Glass Animals were an unexpected standout performance that had the crowd boogieing from start to finish. The lead singer, Dave Bayley, also wins the award for sexiest dance moves at Falls.
If there’s one thing we’ll miss most about Bluejuice breaking up, it’s their live shows. Filled with raw energy and always surprises, it’s impossible to have a bad time at a Bluejuice concert. Falls was no exception as halfway through the performance they threw buckets of glow sticks out to the crowd, proclaiming: “Best 50 bucks we’ve ever spent”. Flocks of loyal fans packed into the stage tent and overflowed out across the grounds for this one, just to get a piece of their final burst of contagious energy.
Being a bit of a veteran at SAFIA gigs, I can safely say that this is the best I’ve ever seen them perform. Lead singer Ben has developed an electrifying stage presence that turned a fairly empty early afternoon tent into a crowded, thumping dance party. Dropping a new single and playing some old favourites like their ‘Cavalier’ cover and ‘Listen To Soul, Listen To Blues’, SAFIA had one of the most polished set lists at Falls.
In terms of best acts to dance to at the festival, Bullhorn probably takes the cake. See, it’s a seven horn band with drums and a truly badass MC over the top. So it’s fair to say they’ve got a pretty powerful sound. The personality of MC Roman Albert took this band from your run of the mill jazz band on the smaller stage to a full on visual and sound experience. I haven’t yet stumbled across a recording that does these guys justice, so definitely one to catch live!
What was particularly interesting about Kingswood was the fact that they were playing at the most difficult, heat exhaustion filled part of the day, and yet, the crowd suddenly found a burst of energy to shout along to them. As one of the only raw rock acts at the festival, they owned their sound and worked their fans hard. I remember distinctly lying on the grass with my friends in a sweaty, comatose state from the heat and sitting up for a moment all together to say “Wow. These guys are really good”. So Kingswood – sorry we were so sleepy during your set, because you truly did an incredible job.
It’s such an action-packed four days of entertainment that it feels like I’m going to need a while to recover! But festival-going is certainly now on my list of best ways to escape for summer, and I will be back one day. What a way to bring in the new year! As for now, I’m looking forward to another awesome year of Australian music. It’s gonna be epic.
By Erin Rooney