5 excellent discoveries from Falls Festival 2016 in Victoria

As is the annual pilgrimage for many music lovers and enjoyers of wearing culturally inappropriate clothing, we headed to a Popular Australian Music Festival over the New Year weekend.

With plenty to choose from this year in Victoria with Beyond The Valley, New Years On The Hill and plenty more #boutique festis, we chose the classic Falls Festival in Lorne – which, as you’ll know, was relocated to the nearby Mount Duneed Estate at the eleventh hour because of the pretty devastating bushfires along the Great Ocean Road (donate some money to ’em if you can, they need it). More on that later.

I mean, it’s basically summer school, right? We went for the music and a little bit of the beer, and came out with an education to rival even the most prestigious institutions. We’ll share some hot tips with ya – here’s what Falls taught us.

Everything old is new again.

In an industry that is becoming increasingly dominated by electronically produced music, whether it’s actual electronica or just more reliant on digital production techniques, it was really interesting to see quite a few artists flip that new model on its head – and to witness the sheer popularity of it. Ol’-style-Texas-gentleman-who-can-definitely-take-me-to-his-prom-thank-you-very-much Leon Bridges was the first artist of the weekend to actually fill the whole arena, and turning around from where I was standing in the front of the crowd, everyone had started to whirl each other around, dip their friends to the ground (precarious when intoxicated, as I learnt the hard way) and there were even a couple of Dirty Dancing-esque lifts, I kid you not. Hiatus Kaiyote followed suit, their funk-soul goodness following old mate Leon’s soulful Southern crooning, as well as a bunch of other acts across the weekend who went back in time and took the audience with them. It’s this amazing juxtaposition where you can get 15000 people dancing to Disclosure and RUFUS, but the same crowds coming out to sing along to something far less commercial. If it’s a sign of how diverse pop music is going to be this year, sign me the heck up.

Halsey is a goddess of all that is well and good.

Nobody really knew what to expect from Halsey. I mean, she’s a stellar songwriter, an incredible vocalist and a huge babe, but the Victorian Falls show was her first ever Australian show so we were the guinea pigs, really.

As is standard practice for the powerhouse who has spent 2015 going from strength to strength, she blew it out of the park (out of the winery?). Not only powerful enough to have genuinely thousands of people sprint down a hill the second they heard her voice, Halsey was generous, so gracious on stage and seriously excited to be standing in 33 degree heat as we were. You no doubt saw the video below after her set, right? That’s the kind of positivity and lust for life that woman exudes to an audience. She’s magnificent. Drop everything and get to her next show.

Today was my first Australian show.

A video posted by halsey (@iamhalsey) on

Felix White is the happiest man in the music industry.

The Maccabees: Band of many awkward teenage memories, of the first ever gig I snuck into with a fake ID when I was a badass 16 year-old, of a retrospectively laughable teenage crush that was essentially just three years of innocent and ultimately unresolved sexual tension. WHAT A TIME TO BE ALIVE. WHAT A WORLD WE LIVE IN.

Anyway, said teenage crush happened to be at the same festival as me, as luck would have it! So I sought out some rare reception and texted him to ask if we might, for old times’ sake, go hang out with the Maccs. I thought it would be excellent for, like, comic value and nostalgia and to see how well I remember lyrics from 2011. But THEY WERE GLORIOUS. They write enduringly great indie pop songs, have choruses that are properly excellent to jump around like a lunatic to and, the magic ingredient, Felix White.

One of two brothers in the band, Felix is the most smiley human who has ever put a guitar in his hands. Sometimes he stopped playing to wave and giggle at people, and when someone shouted his name between songs he grabbed a microphone and did the “sorry I can’t hear you, what were you saying?” four times until he actually heard what this dude 20m away from him was saying. Even when he was concentrating, the man just plays with the goofiest and most infectious grin on his face, and it’s the most visual enjoyment of music I’ve ever seen from a band member. It’s beautiful I ran into him in the artists’ dining room afterwards, too – just sittng eating some sweet potato on his own AND STILL GRINNING TO HIMSELF. I told him I think he might be the happiest man I’ve ever seen and I thought he was going to rip his face in half smiling. Felix White, ladies and gentlemen.

Harts is not a human.

Alright Harts, old m8. That’s quite enough of your child prodigiousness for one lifetime, thanks very much. Would you get an absolute LOAD of this guy? First he’s a wunderkind guitar genius. Then Prince is like “hey man, like your work”. THEN Prince is like “hey man, why don’t you come jam at my studio in America? I’ll fly y’all over”. THEN, at a mere 23 years of age, the guy gets up and fills the Falls tent, shredding and singing and playing about four instruments at a time.

AND THEN just in case that wasn’t quite enough nonsense for one day, he played half his last song. U P S I D E   D O W N. Just bent over backwards and played the bloody guitar upside down because when you have that skill, it’s a good idea to showcase it to many thousands of people.

In summary, Harts is some sort of mental robot man. Go see him as well, that’s another one to add to your 2016 bucket list.

Humans, though, are magic.

Smiley guitar players, funk tunes and defiance of gravity aside, Falls was an act of sheer magic. How a tiny team of humans and a bunch of volunteer tradies can move an entire festival – including two major stages, food stalls, camping areas, toilets and showers an hour and a half away in bushfire conditions in just thirty hours is a real testament to the spirit of the Falls crew and the music industry in Australia. In amongst all these festival cancellations and other music industry gaffes, artists were donating T-shirt proceeds to the bushfire charity, new festival tickets were added just to raise money for those who’d lost their homes in the fires – and, most amazingly, the festival went off without a hitch. The stages were as huge and brilliantly-lit as ever, whoever was doing the sound mixing did an absolutely stellar job the entire festival, we still got a huge burst of confetti when the clock struck 2016, and honestly there wasn’t one thing we had at Lorne that Mt Duneed could have done more beautifully.

To the Falls organisers, employees, publicists, volunteers, food traders, tradies, drivers…everyone: you’re heroes. Genuine, proper heroes. You saved 15,000 people’s New Year, you helped just as many people whose holiday season would have been the worst of their lives, and you did it all within three days. Round of applause for the wizards at Falls, ladies and gentlemen – and I’ll see you next year; I’m in it for the long haul now.

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