Falls Music And Arts Festival, December 28-31, Marion Bay
The word ‘invigorating’ is often used by many die-hard Tasmanians as an apparent flattering synonym for ‘fucking cold and windy’. I used to live there, so I can tell you right now that the latter description is far more apt. Either way, I’d been hearing stories about the previous years’ glorious weather each day of the Falls Festival and was hoping for more of the same, because, die-hard ‘invigorators’ aside, the weather makes or breaks the entire event.
Having pitched my tent, I again re-discover that the night of December 29 is reserved solely for performances under the blue big-top next to the Field Stage and watch in shivering horror as shirtless teens bop and groove energetically and uncritically to the DJs’ incessant funkadelic battle sounds. OK. I exaggerate. It’s not that cold (I’m wrapped in three layers plus a dressing gown), but it’s far too cold for shirtless exploits. The night is cruisy and Anna Lumb spinning Billy Stewart’s highly distinctive version of Summertime encapsulate the groovy, relaxed vibe (if not the mercury) perfectly.
Though the music stops at 10pm, it’s still a bloody good idea to stuff your ears with some form of blue tack or chewing gum if you want to get some sleep – Tasmanian youths seem so deprived of music festival outlet that they spend the entire year building pent-up enthusiasm, all of which seems to explode on the first night with plenty of 3am yahooing and general debauchery. Anyway, the gum did the trick for me and I emerge from the tent on December 30 to a beautiful, clear-skied 25-degree day. Hurrah!
After lunch, the main stage starts to host some quality acts – The Scientists Of Modern Music play their belligerent electronic pop in front of an already pulsating audience; Kimbra’s comparatively fragile and delicate sound are next; followed by Josh Pyke’s fine brand of Australian songwriting. Aloe Blacc’s classic old soul and R&B has the crowd heaving with hit track I Need A Dollar and the performance is the day’s highlight thus far. Over at the Field Stage, J Mascis’s distinct raspy vocals complement his bluesy performance (as usual), and The Jim Jones Revue provides some unadulterated rock'n'roll energy. Back at the Main Stage, Regurgitator’s entire rendition of their album Unit is slightly flat by their previously high standards, while the Artic Monkey’s midnight set leaves me somewhat frosty. Closing act Crystal Castles try their hardest to blow the speakers (which unfortunately sound close to doing just that), but overall the day has been one of solid musical performance bathed in blissful sunshine and rugged coastal surroundings.
To my delight, New Year’s Eve day is again sunny and warm. I join thousands of blinking, squinting festival-goers and trek to the beach to brave the icy water. I buy a lukewarm coffee off one of the golf-buggy-turned-coffee-carts that roam the camping areas, before heading to the Main Stage for Beirut and the indie-pop sounds of global music – a high quality performance. Josh Thomas provides some light-hearted comedy at the Field Stage and impressively shuts down some redneck hecklers in the crowd. Missy Higgins at the main stage provides what ends up (surprisingly) being the performance of the festival, matched only by Young MC’s performance of smash hit Bust A Move. Next, the beautiful harmonies of the Fleet Foxes are a treat, while headline act Tim Finn disappoints somewhat despite his occasional Crowded House tunes warming the crowd. John Butler Trio put almost everyone to sleep through no fault of their own because the 9.45pm set time is definitely to blame. At midnight, The Kooks and the 15,000 strong audience count in the new year with a chorus of cheers, whistles, and hugs. Their performance encompasses all that a rock band should be: powerful, irreverent, and wild. Happy New Year! Pnau are next and provide some innocent dance fun and Scratch Perverts round out the festival with some quality hip hop and battle DJ’ing.
LOVED: Good weather, good scenery, good music.
HATED: The spots of frost.
DRANK: Lukewarm coffee and beers.
BY TIME RETROT
Photo credit: Falls