Falls Festival 2017/2018
North Byron Parklands, Yelgun NSW
December 31st, 2017 to January 2nd, 2018
Featuring: The Kooks, Foster the People, Liam Gallagher, Daryl Braithwaite, The Smith Street Band, Luca Brasi, Dune Rats, Camp Cope and heaps more.
Tent-debilitating storms, sound issues, delayed flights – those are never a surprise when it comes to multiple day gigs, especially with Falls Festival turning 14. Yet the twists and turns come from how punters and artists deal with what they’re given.
Relentless rain, searing humidity and news of sexual assaults at Marion Bay hung like dark clouds over Byron Bay, but it was refreshing to see many take it in their stride, and some leap just that bit further.
As early as they could, punters rolled through the gates to get the lay of the land (mostly food stalls, bars or ping pong tables). However, the heat’s intensity was matched by Brissie punk rockers DZ Deathrays on the Forest stage, who opened the fest with an infectious intro riff.
There were plenty of jump-along moments and thrown shoes, fuelled by frontman Shane Parsons’ snarled vocals as the first circle pit opened just three songs in.
With the sun still high, and the crowd having experienced a range of sets, it was 6pm when country rock veteran Daryl Braithwaite called out from the main stage, “How good is your year?“.
What was coming together for the man himself was his expressive falsetto, banter about the crowd’s AFL supporters for Richmond, and pounding electric mixed with soft acoustic guitar. The soul-infused vibe halfway through eventually gave way to the predictably instant frenzy to ‘Horses’ as fans sprinted down the hill (although there was some disappointment that the musician only played the song once).
“Look at all you gorgeous fucking Aussies.” – Mark Foster (vocalist)
Approaching midnight, in the place of punk brutality and timeless singalongs came indie rock swagger from California’s Foster the People.
Foster strutted his way powerfully across the Valley stage during newer tune ‘Pay the Man’, while Mark Pontius ripped into a crushing drum solo a few songs later. ‘Pumped Up Kicks’ was the expected highlight, but a blistering cover of the Ramones‘ ‘Blitzkrieg Pop’ won over the uninitiated.
New Year’s Day’s approach, though, signalled an end to a more or less predictable start. It was from here that we saw strength of character, culminating into a collection of stories from some of the event’s key survivors.
WAAX firing from all cylinders after sleeping on an airport floor
If there was ever a reaction to having to sleep in a less-than-ideal position at Ballina Airport, it would be a powerful, primal scream. Or several. In front of a small, vocal crowd.
With frenetic movements reminiscent of Tired Lion‘s Sophie Hopes and compelling vocal tremours harking back to Shirley Manson from Garbage, frontwoman Marie DeVita owned the stage. Supported by groovy bass rhythms and dripping with emotion, a late Courtney Barnett cover rendered skeptics ‘Pedestrian at Best’.
Camp Cope’s heartfelt rally against the Marion Bay sexual assaults
“Music has a problem.” – Georgia “Maq” McDonald (vocalist)
Singer-songwriter Alex Lahey had brought the summer rock party vibes across the ground, and Melbourne alt-rock trio Camp Cope took to the Galaxy stage next with a measured power.
Misogyny in the music industry and wider culture has been a vocal talking point from the rockers, garnering outright respect and hot criticism. Yet it made complete sense seeing McDonald put her hand in the air as she called out the unacceptable nature of sexual assault.
That strong, steady stance extended throughout, from ‘Jet Fuel Can’t Melt Steel Beams’ to a more chilled out middle, before a late injection of energy with ‘Lost: Season One’.
Luca Brasi coming out on top after flight trouble
The Tassie punk four-piece were slated to bring their devastating rhythms earlier in the day, however a delayed flight pushed them back to the late afternoon. A lazy vibe had built around the Galaxy stage, which was quickly demolished when frontman Tyler Richardson walked casually onstage.
The whole band looked to be raking in the positives, and that shone through. There was a compelling conviction as Richardson locked eyes with the audience singing “Feel the heat in your heart“ during ‘Say it Back’, while newer material was backed by plenty of grit and pace.
Brutal wailing guitars and shoutout to mates Camp Cope sealed the deal that Luca Brasi weren’t going to let anything get in the way of an awesome show.
Dune Rats putting the middle finger up to the massive storm threatening their set
Storm clouds had been rolling throughout the day as punters sought solace from the humidity, and it was closing in on 6:30 when they let loose. Bodies flew left and right, some running in sturdy raincoats while others were left brutally open to the elements, and it seemed like the Dunies‘ hour was going to be up before it even began.
The storm, while not fierce enough to stop their set entirely, opened up more than a few mud pits, and the Dunies channeled this to their advantage. The dirty guitar riffs were choppier, inflatable beer cans were still rampant, and Danny Beusa‘s guttural vocals were filled with a higher sense of urgency as they ripped into standout tracks ‘6 Pack’, ‘Scott Green’ and ‘Bullshit’.
It was the closest thing to a European festival that we’re going to get. The Dunies only stopped the show to let drummer BC Michaels himself join the massive mud slide fest-goers were riding on, running from the hilltop.
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“How about we cut the bullshit and play some rock ‘n’ roll?” – Reverend Ray (vocalist)
The Dunies left their mark, and the last day promised more storms to come. It was a stellar, if still hot early afternoon though, with seven-piece West Thebarton not letting the near-empty crowd get to them.
Rich vocal interplay between Ray and the other musicians, infectious shredding and a marked performance from Caitlin Thomas (drums) created a standout vibe. There was a very different vibe later in the day though, when an out-of-sync performance from Melbourne rockers The Smith Street Band brought a strange vibe to the Valley stage.
It wasn’t long after The Smithies that the rain really started re-bucketing, this time longer than the night before. That didn’t stop punters from walking eagerly towards Liam Gallagher, where the ex-Oasis singer kicked things off with fan favourite ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll Star’ from his former band’s debut record Definitely Maybe.
While the show was filled with plenty of solo cuts from 2017’s As You Were, it was a feast for Oasis fans, from the upbeat ‘Morning Glory’ to underrated gem ‘Some Might Say‘.
What was slated to be an emotion-dripping, slow number in ‘Universal Gleam‘ turned abrupt when Gallagher chose to stop the song under a minute in. Yet nothing would get in the way of one of the fest’s biggest singalongs to ‘Wonderwall’, with Gallagher staying gracious to the end.
Now 11pm was the hour that most had been waiting for. It was time for English indie rock mainstays The Kooks.
It was all confidence from the quartet. Frontman Luke Pritchard immediately assumed a power stance, the band kicking us off with blistering drums and seasoned harmonies during ‘Eddie’s Gun’. Pritchard slid blithely across the stage during the set, while Hugh Harris (lead guitar) impressed with his short, tight solos.
Awash in golden light, the band let punters echo the intro to ‘Bad Habit’, before the silkiness of their harmonies dominated on ‘She Moves in her Own Way’.
The tight show – and the festival – culminated into one of the group’s biggest tracks ‘Naive’. The groovy guitar licks took over the ground as we grooved our way to midnight.
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With a grueling three days came sizeable grit, unforgettable moments and spirit from some of Falls Fest’s heaviest artists. Even though the rock and punk acts aren’t the focus of the three-day summer event, that takeaway is enough.
Review by Genevieve Gao.
Photo Gallery by Nikolai Pajarillo. Please credit Wall of Sound and Nikolai Pajarillo if you repost photos.
Foster the People
The Smith Street Band