With more competition popping up in the New Year festival space every year, Falls have more pressure to keep on belting out a huge show. This year, Falls gave crowds a little bit of everything on the lineup to match a little bit of everything weather wise. Some days saw blistering heat and others had thunderstorms. Above it all, punters’ spirits never wavered.
The first day’s lineup brought festival veterans Mallrat, Hockey Dad and Dizzee Rascal to warm up the smaller crowd. The second day still felt like a warm up with one stage in operation, the Valley Stage. Anderson .Paak, the festival’s headliner, brought a huge performance complete with the entire Free Nationals band and even back up dancers. The set was a little more jazz-blues inspired with plenty of songs from the new album, Oxnard. Any major .Paak fan would have absolutely loved it, while more casual fans would have been feeling nostalgic to .Paak’s Laneway set from early 2018. Where were those hits?
Jack River served up some wholesome vibes for day three. River’s band emerged in all-white, cowboy-inspired outfits, playing the instrumental beginning to ‘Ballroom’. As they built the anticipation for River to arrive on stage, punters ran from all directions down the hill right in time to see River walk out in all her metallic glory. Hits ‘Fault Line’, ‘Fool’s Gold’ and an incredible cover of ‘She’s So High’ ignited a crowd choir singing along to every word. Despite whether punters knew original songs, the cover had won them over. In true wholesome style, River took a moment to commend the Green Team for keeping the ground clean. Following that, River asked fans to pick up a piece of rubbish around them and pass it forward to the stage where Green Team members were ready in the pit with bags. Although a well-intended sentiment, fans took the opportunity to throw the rubbish across the crowd. An embarrassed River mumbled, “maybe don’t throw it”. A crowd member nearby said “shit mood, but kind of cool”.
A surprising highlight was Hilltop Hoods. The group originated back in 1994, taking on plenty of tours and festivals along the way. Yet, even after two decades, they still pulled one of the biggest crowds of the weekend. Hilltop Hoods have managed to attract a more mainstream fanbase in recent years, stepping away from their Aussie rap roots. Perhaps this could be pegged down to the radio playability of their most recent music and notable collabs, such as Sia. Although not a personal favourite, it was easy to appreciate how much the Sunday night crowd enjoyed it. Flight Facilities, who played next, were no comparison to Hilltop Hood’s size.
Day four was jam-packed with killer ladies with killer voices. Eves Karydas played early in the afternoon, a last minute fill-in for Sam Fender. ‘Further Than the Planes Fly’ brought cheers of familiarity. Next was Bishop Briggs, debuting her shaved head to Australian crowds. Bishop Briggs delivered an Australian classic, ‘Never Tear Us Apart’, which was well received by the huge crowd. Accompanying her vocals was simply an electric guitar, an interesting choice as the bass and drums are the most recognisable components of the song. Instead, Briggs used her powerful voice to bring the drama necessary for the ballad. As ‘River’ played, Briggs encouraged the crowd to sing along with each “river”. She also had a sample of her singing “river” play, so that punters further up the hill could experience the song in full without awkward pauses left behind where the crowd’s singing couldn’t be heard. The energy Briggs gave made you wonder how she was not given a later set time. This party vibe should be reserved for the night.
Some honourable mentions go to Toto, with the biggest twilight crowd of the festival – even though they extended ‘Africa’ for an extra five minutes. Then again, how many people know any other Toto songs? I think we’ll allow it. Also, to Chvrches for bringing some feminism to the stage with a shirt affirming “Girls Can Do Anything”. One not so honourable mention goes to Catfish and The Bottlemen for a boring New Year’s countdown. Getting towards the end of the night and the end of their set, the British band started pausing for awkward moments between songs. It was obvious they were trying to line up the songs with the countdown, but they didn’t even talk between the breaks.
Byron Bay has been awarded the better New Year’s Eve lineup for years, having secured Anderson .Paak this year and Flume last year. Stay tuned for my petition to reinstate Lorne, THE ORIGINAL FALLS, with the more interesting New Year’s Eve lineup.
Highlight: Jack River accidentally causing a trash fight (in a wholesome way)
Lowlight: Catfish and The Bottlmen’s NYE countdown
Crowd Favourite: ‘Africa’ by Toto