There’s nothing more exciting than waking up on New Years Eve and preparing yourself for a day full of live acts in the sweaty, blistering heat. The first few drinks of the day went down swell before I did painful trek up the hill to the amphitheatre for some of Australia’s best bands, starting with Hockey Dad. They treated their crowd opening with ‘Homely Feeling’, followed with ‘I Need a Woman’, ‘I Wanna Be Everybody’ and even a brand-new song! Hopefully more details of that to come soon. They ended their set with ‘Sweet Release’, joined on-stage by the Ocean Alley boys to test their batting skills smashing tennis balls into the crowd before they played.
Ocean Alley had an extraordinary year as they played to a sea of new and old screaming fans as they opened with ‘Corduroy’ and ‘The Comedown’. They played most of their latest album including ‘Frostbite’, ‘Overgrown’, ‘Bones’ and ‘Knees’ which was sung by the entire amphitheatre. Their classic Reggae bobber ‘Yellow Mellow’, popular original rendition of ‘Baby Come Back’ were enjoyed and Hottest 100 favourite ‘Confidence’ ended their huge set. Ocean Alley may have been one of the first acts of Falls, but their performance already cemented themselves as a favourite of the festival.
Electronic four piece Cut Copy took on the large Byron crowd next, obviously a must see considering their role for most of us as teenagers. Their signature noughties electronic tunes had the crowd moving, however would’ve been more effective in the evening with their lightshow to have full effect. Apart from that, they managed to nail their set of bangers with ‘Black Rainbows’, ‘Nobody Lost, Nobody Found’, ‘Hearts on Fire’ and ended with ‘Lights & Music’.
The sun had finally set but the scorching heat stuck around, the NYE excitement was well underway until the word was out that British rapper Dizzee Rascal had pulled out due to sickness. A massive blow to the NYE celebrations. An upset crowd was quickly lifted by the sensational Anderson .Paak & The Free Nationals that appeared behind a huge curtain starting with the ‘The Chase’. The entire crowd was so engaged in the funk that no one realised the headliner missed the new year countdown, so we went back five minutes and brought in 2019 properly. Anderson .Paak put on an absolute show for the packed amphitheatre, how that man raps and drums at the same time is beyond anything and he’s the best at it. His new year set was phenomenal that included hits ‘Put Me Thru’, ‘Heart Don’t Stand a Chance’, ‘Bubblin’, ‘Lite Weight’, ‘Come Down’ and his latest single ‘Tints’. Huge start to 2019 and Yes Lawd! you guessed it, Anderson .Paak & The Free National took the crown for the best act of Falls Festival.
As expected, there were a few sore heads wondering around the festival on day two. Always remember the number one rule of Falls Festival; It’s a marathon, not a sprint. The second day had an earlier start with more acts, which meant more running to and from stages. First up was Tia Gostelow that packed in the Galaxy Stage and treated her Falls crowd to majority of her original material including ‘Phone Me’, ‘Hunger’, ‘Strangers’ and her Like A Version cover of Empire of the Sun’s ‘We Are the People’.
West Thebarton followed straight after and absolutely blew up the packed tent. The Adelaide seven-piece were so loud, their three guitarists overpowered front man Reverend Ray’s signature husky vocals. However, they still sent themselves and crowd nuts during ‘Stuck on You’ and ‘Bible Camp’. Their cover of Florence and the Machine’s ‘You’ve Got the Love’ was played and ended their set with a highlight of my Falls Festival. During the bass break of ‘Moving Out’, front man Rev ordered his crowd to hit the deck and jump up on his command, very Slipknot like and executed remarkably.
Next up was the only underage person at Falls Festival, the incredibly talented teenager RUEL played at the Forest Stage to a crowd much older than himself. The superstar performed his entire ‘Ready’ EP including ‘Dazed & Confused’, ‘Say’ and ‘Not Thinkin ‘Bout You’. He also performed the Like A Version that kickstarted his career with M-Phazes on Jack Garret’s ‘Weathered’. The teenager definitely stunned his crowd with his incredible voice and ended his set with his first single ‘Don’t Tell Me’ and ‘Younger’.
It was back to the amphitheatre for none other than King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard that smashed their set to a large, hyped crowd. They opened with seven-minute-long ‘Rattlesnake’ causing rapid movement in the mosh that created tornado dust storms in front of stage. They jammed an unexpected range of new songs including ‘Crumbling Castle’, ‘The Fourth Colour’, ‘Deserted Dunes Welcome Weary Feet’, ‘The Castle in the Air’ and the ‘Great Chain of Being’. Gizz are a band like none other and somehow manage to stay so tight with no breaks, I headed into mosh during fan favourite ‘Gamma Knife’ and as expected walked out with a bloody mouth. I enjoyed the rest of their extraordinary set at the edge of the mosh ending with ‘The Balrog’ and ‘The Bitter Boogie’.
A drastic change in music, but I headed to the Forest Stage for the one man, funk machine Touch Sensitive that played to a tent full of dancing fans. He came as band covering bass and synth duties, with a drummer and vocalist which really laid down the funk. It was filled with banger after banger with ‘Pizza Guy’, ‘No Other High’ as well some drum and bass jams that grooved spectacularly. His latest single ‘G.A.L’ went down an absolute treat with his crowd and ended with his hit tune ‘Lay Down’.
The evening arrived as I headed back to face the dreaded steep hill with many others to catch a big set from Australia’s favourite masked producer Golden Features at the amphitheatre. His god like presence appeared over his decks lit up by candlelight starting with the belter of ‘Always’. He played most his new loved material like ‘Medicate’, ‘Falling Out’ and ‘Worship’, with a good dose of classics like ‘Do You’ and ‘Funeral’. The lightshow that came with each thunderous drop turned the sea of people into a wavy beach with the amount of bouncing bodies in front of him. Golden Features owned his crowd the entire time with his sensational set of huge bass and excellent light production to end it with his late night favourite ‘Guillotine’.
The last act of day two were English rockers Catfish and the Bottlemen, although late to stage they were welcomed very warmly by their large Byron crowd. Before roaring into their opening song ‘Homesick’, front man Van McCann addressed his vocal issues to the audience but still gave his absolute all in stage presence. Fans of the UK four-piece showed they knew all the words and were often handed vocal duties especially during ‘Soundcheck’, ‘Twice’, ‘Cocoon’ and of course ‘7’. Unfortunately, their set was cut short due to the state of Van’s voice, however ended their phenomenal set with a long and heavy version of ‘Tyrants’. Catfish and the Bottlemen were the perfect end to day two, they played extraordinary well considering the band’s wear and Van’s voice that was hardly noticeable. Excellent end to day two, one more to go.
There were some very rough heads roaming around, but there were people to see in very little time. The final day started at the Forest Stage for Eves Karydas that has received some great airtime with her latest album. Karydas played songs from her album like ‘Honest’, ‘Couch’, ‘Damn Loyal’ and ‘Further Than the Planes Fly’. Just as she got her crowd moving, unfortunately she was struck with a long technical issue that cut her set short.
I returned to the Forest Stage praying the technical issues were solved as I crept into a small space in the large crowd for Jack River. She performed front and centre glowing in a sparkling, gold Dolly Parton like getup that seemed like a rough choice due to the heat but suitable for her performance. River is another artist that had a huge year with songs ‘Ballroom’, ‘Confess’, ‘Fool’s Gold’, ‘Limo Song’, ‘Fault Line’, ‘Talk Like That’ and ‘Palo Alto’ that luckily all made the list. She started her 2019 with a stellar performance.
England’s own The Vaccines followed on the same stage, the band have just bounced back from breakup and with the addition of their new Aussie keyboardist Timothy Lanham from the Sunshine Coast. The UK band smashed out a quick setlist as front man Justin franticly moved around stage during ‘If You Wanna’, ‘All My Friends Are Falling In Love’ and their latest single ‘I Can’t Quit’. The UK rockers put on an awesome show for their Byron crowd.
Interpol were my last performance at the Forest Stage and were highly recommend by many people. Honestly, I hadn’t heard of Interpol before Falls Festival which I deeply regret because I was completely blown away by their performance. I didn’t know any of their songs besides their hit song ‘Evil’ that the whole crowd got excited for, so Interpol were the band I regret not studying before Falls Festival. I’ll be sure to do my study next time.
I headed back to the amphitheatre for the last time to catch the end of Glasgow’s CHVRCHES, they’re another group I’ve never gotten into but were magnificent. They sounded fantastic, vocalist Lauryn was exceptional on vocals and did a great job to somehow refuse to do a shoey. I caught only their last three songs ‘Clearest Blue’, ‘The Mother We Share’ and ending ‘Never Say Die’. Great way to bring on the day three headliners.
Flight Facilities brought Falls Festival to an end in 2019 and set their Byron crowd alight one last time. Their cockpit decks lit up the faces in the amphitheatre as they brought out a new singer for each of their housey, funky tunes. Favourites such as ‘Need You’, ‘Clair De Lune’ and ‘Heart Attack’ had their place in the setlist. The duo was quite surprised with their turnout on the last night, assuming majority of Falls would have already passed out. On that note, they ended their set and closed Falls Festival with their banger ‘Crave You’. What an end to another Falls Festival.
There were many good acts that stood out Falls Festival, but Anderson .Paak and The Free Nationals took the crown. That man is something else, he’s just a phenomenal musician and performer, so I’m sure there will be no disagreements with my choice.
My top 5 acts of Falls Festival Byron are below:
1: Anderson .Paak & The Free Nationals
2: Catfish and the Bottlemen
3: Ocean Alley
4: King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard
5: Golden Features & Touch Sensitive (IT’S A TIE)
As per usual Falls Festival brought an excellent start to the New Year seeing some of the best international and Australian acts, I also walked out as a fan of some new bands as well. Happy New Year!
Words by Christian Kafritsas. Pictures by Dom Gould.