It was the festival that almost didn’t happened. Bushfires on the coast of Victoria saw the gorgeous greenery of Lorne abandoned for the not-nearly-greener (but certainly most welcome) pastures of Mount Duneed Estate, and Falls Festival was a-go.
While the Falls Festival Facebook page banter reached new levels of awesome — Is there anything more Aussie than the suggestion of moving the festival to Shannon Noll’s backyard? — festival staff and volunteers were pulling 20 hour days to confirm a last-minute location switch, saving the masses from ruined New Years celebrations.
While there were a few obvious oversights such as a lack of shade in the main arena, a long hot walk without shuttles for the campers, a couple of sound issues (Bloc Party, you poor bastards) and an ice shortage that saw tinnies go warm, what the Falls crew achieved to pull this thing together was so impressive that the negatives don’t matter.
While there were a number of contenders for Best On Ground, homegrown alternative dance trio RÜFÜS were the standouts. Any time these boys storm the stage it is a sight to behold, but this set was something special. The hill jam packed with adoring fans, who sang along to almost every word in every song, with Sundream, You Were Right and Take Me easy favourites. Lead singer Tyrone upped the ante when he dove into the front row of the surging crowd, which chanted his lyrics back at him.
Crowd interaction was rife throughout the three days on the hill. Gang Of Youths, for example, made good on their ever-growing momentum to prove why 2016 is going to be ‘their year’. While Elliphant reminded us that her incredible set at Splendour In The Grass was no fluke, she wasn’t the only woman representing on the main stage.
Courtney Barnett owned day one early, channelling the likes of Janis Joplin and Courtney Love and blowing us away with hits like History Eraser and Pedestrian At Best. She was beaten only perhaps by The Wombats, whose closing set on the first day, culminating in the momentous delivery of Lets Dance To Joy Division, stood up as one of their best.
Super special moments came from the soulful funk sounds of Gary Clark Jnr, whose guitar skills were reminiscent of Hendrix or Rossington, and perhaps more surprisingly Melbourne Ska Orchestra, whose crowd may have been the smallest, but was no doubt the happiest.
Less surprising were the sets from Aussie festival favourites Hilltop Hoods and Birds Of Tokyo, who may not have delivered anything overly new or progressive, but each held the crowd in the palms of their hands, and proved why they are some of the country’s best.
This Falls Festival will always be remembered as the one that nearly didn’t make it, and there were many musical moments which made every minute of heatstroke worthwhile. Falls’ organisers, staff and volunteers worked so hard to run the show, which was ultimately hard to fault under the circumstances.
To those legends — thanks for keeping us safe, and for giving us three days full of great music and wonderful memories. Happy New Year everyone.
Gallery: Falls Festival, Mount Duneed Estate 28.12.15 – 01.01.16 / Photos: Nikki Williams