Falls Festival 2018
December 28-31, 2018
Featuring: Interpol, Amy Shark, Amyl and the Sniffers, Toto, The Vaccines, West Thebarton, Chvrches, Hobo Johnson, Dermot Kennedy, Ceres, King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, DMAs, Catfish & The Bottlemen and more…
It’s hard to believe that back in 2015/16, Australia’s festival scene collapsed. Once a relentless inflating bubble, cancellations, postponements and declining ticket sales caused a catastrophic burst, thus creating a deep seam of bewilderment, bitterness and boredom.
The previously untouchable and venerable Big Day Out was first to go. Future Music, the country’s largest electronic dance music promoters, soon followed and entered liquidation. Soundwave dissolved and Stereosonic’s parent company filed for bankruptcy. Even hip-hop festival Supafest was shelved. In the space of 18 months, everything we loved was gone.
While the loss of these staples caused concern, it paved a path for smaller boutique events to flourish in the marketplace. Think Groovin’ The Moo, Beyond the Valley and FOMO. However, it’s the destination-driven New Year’s portal Falls Festival which has seen the greatest success. Starting in 1996 as a small one-day concert held in Lorne, Victoria, Falls now presents simultaneous events across four locations, in which artists are bounced over the course of the festival.
Delivering an overzealous regard for its talent, grand veneration for its attendees and unrelenting commitment to its overall experience, it’s little wonder why Falls continues to sell out each year. Its tranquil locations probably help too – Lorne’s site is flanked by the dense Great Otway National Park bushland, somehow still only minutes from sandy idyllic beaches.
An annual congregation of some of the finest and emerging acts, 2018’s Falls was no different. With more than 40 (!!) artists announced in the first line-up, a thorough review of this four-day bender would eclipse several thousand words. With that, the below are but a few highlights across the festival grounds.
Hailed as today’s modern Shakespeare, Hobo Johnson is the embodiment of anxiety. Unapologetically raw, Hobo Johnson and the Lovemakers are like a softcore LA Dispute, only more confusing. On his first tour of Australia, the lovechild of Post Malone and Morty from Rick and Morty opened Falls with an intense set of emotional real-life experiences. At times cringey, a word of warning, this new hybrid genre must be approached with an open mind. But once embraced, it is wildly refreshing to hear an artist not rhyme for most of the time. Naturally, viral hit ‘Peach Scone’ was warmly welcomed and was followed up by an onstage shooey.
King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard are without doubt one of the most absorbing listens today. A spectacular psychedelic splash of retro rock, it must be noted that King Gizz’s freewheeling ambience and frazzled hullabaloo can be taxing to the eardrum at times. That being said, this is a band at their current proggy best. Jackhammer rhythms. Deafening basslines. Beefed-up guitars. And wild screams. Having dropped five albums in 2017, taking their overall total to thirteen records in seven years, I would bet on the boys hitting twenty by 2020.
Brimming with confidence, seasoned veterans and pioneers of Australian retro-electro-disco, Cut Copy still easily earn their smiles ten years on. Shimmering with irresistible warmth and glossy optimism, their catchy choruses and rapturous hooks are unforgettably gorgeous. Grooves ‘Hearts on Fire’ and ‘Need You Now’ compete for standout performances of the set, the former a sunburst stadium-sized melody, the latter an effervescent 80s synth swoon that is hard not to love. En vogue, and timeless, slow burner ‘Lights & Music’ may be the greatest triumph in summer pop, building in a climactic cresting swoop with absolute precision.
Festival headliner and monster drawcard Anderson .Paak and The Free Nationals are a melting pot of silky electronic funk, sexually debauched bass and astonishing psychedelic textures. Beaming with high energy, taking turns rapping, singing and drumming, .Paak’s enthusiasm is bombastic. Bouncing around the stage with infectious bravado, .Paak toed the line between unhurried rap and celestial soul effortlessly. Arguably one of the best of his kind, it is hard not to get caught up in the pageantry of this future Coachella headliner – with ‘Milk & Honey’, ‘Come Down’ and new track ‘Bubblin’ clear standouts. Leaving a lasting impressing on the Lorne crowd, .Paak’s world dominance has only just started.
Hailing from the Gold Coast, talented indie pop singer-songwriter Amy Shark has achieved so much, and rightfully so. Recently striking national recognition with her heart-broken numbers, Shark’s irresistible sounds are masterfully backed by simple instrumentations and raw emotion. With her sincere poetry, Shark is commanding from start-to-finish, blatantly honest and excitedly engaging. A ‘Teenage Dirtbag’ cover delightfully joins the crowd in unison, before emotion-drenched power ballads ‘All Loved Up’, ‘Adore’ and ‘I Said Hi’ sent everyone back to their tents with a smile.
With a grainy, melancholy voice built of folky structures and subtle electronica, rising star Dermot Kennedy has a vibe that summons attention. Beautifully silhouetted against minimalist lighting, the troubadour’s unique blend of percussive sounds and acoustic undertones are a cataclysm of sentiment, haunting the audience with each word. Performing a set mostly composed of new material, with a few nods to the older classics ‘Glory’ and ‘All My Friends’, Kennedy is an exquisite song-writer who will no doubt pave the way for the next generation.
Rounding out the third day, indie-rock nihilists Interpol delivered their understated emotional swell in vivid detail. There is something irresistible about Interpol. Impossibly cool, yet so crushingly real. Embracing their veteran status, deliciously dark soundscapes and matured flourishes echoed throughout Lorne. From start to finish, their unexpected bursts of dark rock and soaring melodies were vast, moving and brilliant. Golden oldies such as ‘Roland’, ‘Evil’ and ‘NYC’ were well received, while the genius that is ‘The Rover’, from new album Marauder, was a reverb-laden gift of pleasing shallowness.
Rejuvenated by the arrival of two new band members, London fivesome The Vaccines have a renewed purpose and attitude. Still drawing on their tradition of charming pop-rock interlaced with melodic angst-punk, their late summer melancholy is breathlessly exciting. Fast, bold, confident and loveably raunchy, this well-rounded Britpop explosion is broadened by frontman Justin Young’s Dylan and Waits-esq wafty croons and purrs. Irrepressible singles ‘I Can’t Quit’, ‘Post Break-Up Sex’ and ‘Your Love is my Favourite Band’ prove the lads are no one-trick ponies.
A bedrock of rock and pop, Toto are a band whose shiny jazz-inflected legacy will live on longer than anyone would have imagined. With forty years of musical history, the kings of power rock ballads and extended percussion solos were at their most popular before most of us were conceived. That being said, thanks to a recent resurgence, their sparkling flourishes and collective talent have become a fan favourite. Enjoying a second life, in part to the internet, the rousing rockers capitalized graciously with an almost capacity crowd. ‘Hold the Line’ and ‘Rossana’ were obvious standouts, but there is nothing quite like 15,000 millennials blessing the rains down in ‘Africa’.
Effortlessly shaping instantly memorable melodies, the sensitive early-80s sounds of Chvrches are sublime to say the least. Beautifully balancing danceable utopian synth-pop with extreme emotional depth, the Glaswegian trio are proudly individualist and actually somewhat darker than you think. Latest releases ‘Miracle’ and ‘Get Out’ are a seamless fusion of frizzy emotion and confidence, while ‘Recover’ and ‘Leave a Trace’ perfectly complement singer Lauren Mayberry’s distinctive vocals without overshadowing them. Colourfully abstract, Mayberry’s range is as boundless as it is explosive, as poignant as it is sharp, all whilst spinning and sauntering from side to side on the stage. Driven by themes of discovery, wonder and aspiration, Chrvches sound like a collective agreement between electronic and rock fans. And I am all about that!
Recently crowned one of Britain’s best breakthrough acts, Welsh four-piece Catfish and the Bottlemen proved to be Falls Festival’s standout act (and New Year’s welcomers) by simultaneously drawing elements from indie, garage and grunge to stir excitement. Their amiable aggression, considerable charisma and pure passion may have rocketed them to the upper echelons of music, but it’s their superlative gold anthems which have romanced themselves into their faithful union of fans. It’s straightforward rock’n’roll, and it’s done right. Primal, energetic and intoxicating. ‘Homesick’, ‘Pacifier’, ‘7’ and ‘Cocoon’ provoked devastatingly communal singalongs, while ‘Tyrant’ undoubtedly proved Catfish and the Bottlemen are in a league of their own.
To be frank, Australia’s festival scene has become a right mess. And whilst this isn’t specifically our fault, the last few years have seen an almost blanket saturation of similarity. Thankfully, Falls likes to be different. Consistently hosting globally renowned acts, as well as a plethora of fresh meat and homegrown talent, the festival itself is a wonderful balancing act of flavour and a sign of the times. You get the chance to see about everything at Falls, and in today’s market, this is both a statement to music and what’s to come.
Anyhoo, see you next New Year’s Falls!
Gig Review by Jimmy Russell @jamco17
Photo Gallery by Holly Parker @hllyprkrphoto.
Please credit Wall of Sound and Holly Parker if you repost photos.
Falls Festival Acts
In Alphabetical Order
Amyl and the Sniffers
Catfish and the Bottlemen
King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard
Falls Festival 2019
Jan 5th – 6th @ Fremantle, WA