Welcome to Falls Festival Byron Bay the sweltering heat of the sun had already begun setting on our skin. As we set out for what was the first day of the Festival in sublime settings that is Northern Byron Parklands, Yelgun. As you walked through the paths that linked the aptly named Forest, Galaxy and Valley stages, there was a colourful sense of community, illustrated by the uniforms of glitter, diamantes, skimpy outfits, breezy shirts and wide-brimmed hats. The first act on the bill was none other than Party Dozen, an unusual act of the modern mainstream, consisting of the duo Kirsty Tickle and Jonathan Boulet. Dozen’s music is based on improvisational techniques which garners an intense experimental sound that is definitely more thought-provoking than pleasurable or relaxing to listen to. A highlight of this set was witnessing Tickle blow through the bow of the saxophone rather than the mouthpiece making for a unique whining sound.
Continuing with a big force of energy and mastery of their instruments, the next act was DZ Deathrays and boy, did they attract a crowd. The Forest Stage tent was stretched to capacity as everyone came to witness the flowing unkempt hair, thrashing of guitars and big sound of the Rays. Later in the afternoon, we made our way to the biggest of the stages, the Valley. Everyone was pumped to witness a true icon of Australian music Daryl Braithwaite perform. Surveying the sweaty, glittery faces of the crowd, it was obvious that this possibly wasn’t the demographic Braithwaite had been expecting… Braithwaite made it only to his second song of the set before he had to quell the requests for his most popular and iconic song, The Horses, requesting patience from the crowd. The crowd obeyed and danced along to the set, and when the extended version of The Horses finally began the crowd erupted, singing word for word in a harmonious unison that was truly enamouring to be a part of.
The night continued with an energy that only surrounds New Year’s Eve. Foster The People brought an incredible sound and charisma that only Mark Foster can muster. Greeting the crowd with “Hello you sexy Aussies!” you really do feel it. A definite highlight of their set is watching Foster dance from each side of the stage, twirling and stepping with purpose and rhythm.
Bringing in the end of the year was electronic master Flume, with the biggest smile on his face, spraying the crowd with confetti as people embraced the end of the year with their new year’s kisses, singing, hugging and smiling. This was a truly wonderful moment to be apart of, as the crowd became one there were intense feelings of love, happiness and unity than can only be achieved by an audience at a festival.
It is now day two and our bodies all grimey drenched in sweat it is the price you pay of being at a 3 day festival. Making it to the Galaxy Stage for one of the first highlights of the afternoon, Detroit singer-songwriter Flint Eastwood. Before beginning the first song, she gets the crowd pumped! Moving from left of stage to the right, passionately awakening the audience with her greeting. The energy in her music, it’s a fusion of hip-hop, electronica and rock is enormous and extraordinary. When she broke into her biggest song: Queen the crowd’s singing could be heard from the fringes of the festival site. To kick it next on the Galaxy Stage was Manu Crook$, a hip hop artist hailing from western Sydney that delivers a powerful flow that entrances his audience. Summing this one up rather briefly, Crook$ is definitely one to watch in the hip-hop scene.
Melbourne trio Camp Cope, , began performing to an audience that already knew every word and every breath inhaled on their tracks. Witnessing how wonderful the power of music is and how it connects strangers with one another in a crowd. There were times where lead singer and guitarist Georgia “Maq” McDonald gave the audience the spotlight to sing as she stood back and smiled. I do believe it is important to touch on the political scope Camp Cope brought to the festival, raising an important perspective on the lack of female artists on the Falls Festival bill.
They also highlighted the fact that all the festival female-fronted acts had earlier slots in the set times and performed on smaller stages. This is important to think about, because these actions continuously marginalise female-fronted acts, maintaining the stigma that they are inferior to male-fronted acts on festival bills. Camp Cope has also been rightly pointing out the issue of sexual assault at festivals, after two incidences of sexual assault had been reported at Falls Festival this year in Marion Bay. The previous year documented incidents of sexual assault and rape at the same site, where police charged two men. Artists on the Falls bill like Alex Lahey, Thundamentals and Cosmos Midnight wore black t-shirts with “The person wearing this shirt stands against sexual assault and demands a change” written on them in at Falls Festival, Fremantle. You can check out their Camp Cope’s Instagram to see more on this issue.
It wasn’t long before the Valley Stage opened up and Allday brought a ferocious energy that had everyone singing along to his hits, including Sides and Claude Monet. It was around the second song where there was a technical difficulty, as his visuals stopped working and an error message appeared on the screen behind the rapper from Adelaide. “I was wondering what you guys were laughing at!” Last act in the night was Run The Jewels, the force and flow of their rapping is something that is incomparable. The crowd was fired up and ready to dance. What a high note to end the second night of Falls.
On the last day, everyone’s bodies are aching from running from stage to stage and lack of sleep, covered in mud and sweat, it can only be topped off with rain and boy when it rains it FALLS. The day begins with Wafia, who gives an incredibly magical performance on the Forest Stage. The presence of Wafia on stage comes purely from her incredible vocal talent and heartfelt music. Dave was next up, a hip hop artist from South London who is a powerfully eloquent storyteller with a forceful flow. He freestyle on the second song of his set on the was met with the awestruck faces of the audience.
Ecca Vandal is accompanied by a live band in the Forest Stage delivering a commanding sound that leaves not one head turned. Watching Vandal jump around on stage musters all the energy you have left to dance. Vince Staples was another highlight of the day. The floor was puddles of mud but that didn’t stop a packed crowd deafening the Forest Stage as Staples made his way to the microphone. Staples dominates the room, although the lighting is dim and his body is just a silhouette, his presence is tangible. Leaving Staples to see Peking Duk, I feel rejuvenated. Peking Duk always spare no expense when it comes to entertaining their crowd. There’s encompassing visuals, lots of smoke and confetti. If that isn’t enough, there is also guest appearances from the likes of ILLY. The Valley Stage is left packed after Peking Duk and quivering in anticipation for The Kooks, who absolutely killed it, marking a wonderful and huge end to the Falls Festival in Byron for 2017/2018.