Welcome to the first ever Howl & Echoes review of Falls Festival! Compiled by Lauren Ziegler, Emma Jones & Josh Seaegg, here’s a little collection of some of our favourite sets, best – and worst – moments, and tips and tools for a great festival. Enjoy!
- Run the Jewels won Falls
J: Hip hop Jedi masters Run The Jewels delivered a blistering high-energy set, whipping the crowd into a frenzy and performing with surgical lyrical precision. The mix of anger, humour and straight up talent meant their set was one of the best of the whole festival. It was the most ferocious mosh pit I had been part of for years.
E: Seriously, these guys rule. I actually spewed after this set I went so crazy. Killer Mike and El-P brought something completely different to the festival, and left no one unsure of their place in the hip hop, and general music world. Close Your Eyes (And Count to Fuck), Blockbuster Night Part 1, Lie Cheat Steal, 36” Chain – the list goes on of how many songs they smashed through as they brought the proverbial house (tent) down. I wish they played for longer, I wish this set was on repeat in my life forever. Run them jewels FAST!
L: I can’t get enough of RTJ (and was lucky enough to interview them this week) and this set was without doubt my festival highlight. The only set I arrived really early at to get a spot against the barricade, it was BANG, BANG, BANG from start to end. The audience lapped up every ferocious beat, and I loved how much fun Mike & El-P were having on stage. I’ve still got bruises from the heaving crowd, but it was worth every moment.
- …and Salt n’ Pepa lost.
J: The lowest point of the festival was Salt N’ Pepa. Despite the great excitement and curiosity before their set, we were left disappointed by a set mostly spent desperately filling time, playing random covers and repeatedly, repeatedly, repeatedly announcing that hip hop is in the hooooouse! They did play their four big hits (Whatta Man was played twice in fact,) but it really just felt like they were dialling it in for the pay check.
E: Are they too old to perform their own set? If so, why did they come? We wanted to see THE Salt n Pepa, not DJ Spinderella dropping Sweet Child O’ Mine and Uptown Funk. Initially I was annoyed that the organisers had put them before Alison Wonderland and let the DJ ring in the New Year with us, but in hindsight it was a much better decision, with most of the crowd just left scratching their heads as to what just happened. As one friend said when they played Smells Like Teen fucking Spirit, “I don’t know what’s going on. I’ll still get down to it, but I don’t know what’s going on.” Me either.
L: They did play their four big songs, but any shred of excitement had long since faded. There was no soul, no fun, no passion in their set. It was unexpected, I think that was the worst bit. We’d hoped for the best, but we were so wrong.
- Jagwar Ma
E: Bracing the scorching New Years Day sun still at 5:00pm at the bottom of the amphitheatre (I’m a Queenslander, we aren’t used to this daylight savings business), Jagwar Ma delivered an unreal set. Man I Need, Uncertainty and of course The Throw were highlights as the band smashed through their tunes to an adoring crowd. The addition of a live drummer (Stella from Warpaint) was a welcome change and added another factor to the already impressive set. These guys were a highlight for me at Laneway last year, and so too were they a highlight for Falls. Bring on album 2 guys, my body is ready!
- Todd Terje
E: This was probably what I was most excited for. It’s Album Time was in my top 3 albums of this year, and I was beyond any adjective of excited to see Todd in the flesh. The crowd thinned out incredibly fast as he was put up against Alt-J, but the Todd faithful stayed true. We were rewarded with Delorean Dynamite, Alfonso Muskedunder and a crowd initiated crouch-down-until-the-music-drops-then-jump-up-and-go-wild frenzy (is there an actual term for this?). Of course, Inspector Norse was perfect, as was his surprise remix of Whitney Houston’s I Wanna Dance With Somebody to wrap things up. Don’t get me wrong; I love house music, I love “bangers”, I went to Stereosonic for crying out loud! However, this type of electronic music – where you feel every beat, every synth melody, and the “DJ” is a truly passionate musician – is what truly made my festival. Looking around seeing everyone not fist pumping, not gyrating, just dancing how they feel was an incredible sight. We need more of these guys, and we all need more Todd.
- See you later, Bluejuice
E: I feel like I owe it to Bluejuice. They have been one of, if not the, most underappreciated acts of modern Australian music. For them to be around as long as they have, yet only reach a very small level of fame and stature in the music industry is sad, and perplexing. Admit it or not, if you listened to triple in the last 5 or so years, Bluejuice were integral to those years. They smashed the festival circuit, touring relentlessly and making a name for themselves with the debauchery they’d get up to. Perhaps they were too exposed? Whatever the reason, they’re all over now, and it’s sad to see them go. As I sprinted to the Forest Stage, I thanked my lucky stars I caught the final three songs of their second last set ever, after a forced disco nap from getting way too drunk for that time in the day. Hearing them perform Broken Leg and seeing just how much everyone loved them and their music was bittersweet – if we all loved them so much, why are they leaving due to lack of success? Why didn’t we show this love all along? Whatever the reason, Bluejuice are brilliant and will be sorely missed.
- Badbadnotgood were good good not bad
L: I’ve been into BBNG since I first saw them at OutsideIn last year, and they did NOT disappoint. In fact, they fucking rocked their set, despite the fact that a large portion of the audience probably had no idea what to expect from a Canadian jazz trio who really like hip hop. One thing’s for sure – jazz moshpits are the BEST. The trio really knew how to play to a festival crowd, interlacing remixes and covers in alongside their own hits. These included a Flying Lotus cover and a fucking phenomenally heavy rendition of TNGHT’s (HudMo & Lunice) Bugg’n. The musical precision and brilliance of these three is a sight to behold, and I found myself constantly hypnotised by the sheer speed of their fingers moving around their instruments. Okay, I WAS waiting for their Future Islands cover which never came, but it didn’t even matter. Even if you don’t like jazz, they’re absolutely worth a listen – especially if you get the chance to see them live.
- Australian Music is in a good place
J: 2014 was a brilliant year for Aussie music, and the Falls lineup really reflected that. Aus bands pulled some of the biggest crowds and had some of the best sets of the festival with Kingswood, DZ Deathrays and DMA’s filling the tent at the Forest Stage, while the Valley Stage filled to capacity for the likes of Alison Wonderland, John Butler Trio, Empire of The Sun and The Presets. Up and coming Brisbane outfit Moses Gun Collective certainly won themselves new fans with their psych-heavy set, while Spiderbait reinvigorated many with forgotten favourites like Calypso, and Kram’s never-ending dedication to gettin’ the party started.
L: As always, it’s so exciting to see Aussie bands on all ends of the lineup spectrum. From the upcoming acts like Airling, Moses Gunn Collective, Tora and Art of Sleeping to people like Cloud Control, Jagwar Ma, Client Liaison, DZ Deathrays, Safia and The Presets, two things are for sure: Aussie music is more diverse and vibrant than ever, and we’re here to fucking stay.
- Diversity is the key
L: One of the best things about Falls is the total diversity in musical styles, and it was in full swing this year. From the electro-wizadry of SBTRKT, Jamie XX, Tycho, and Tensnake to DZ Deathrays and Cold War Kids, to Alt-J and Black Lips, from Asgeir to Joey Bada$$, there was something for everyone. And a massive shout-out to any band who combines electronic sounds with live instruments. (We’re looking at you, Safia, Glass Animals, Movement and Jagwar Ma!) Personally I would have opted for slightly more hip hop and some more non-indie rock bands (COME ON JACK WHITE) but other than that, it was a perfect melting pot.
- Covers, covers, covers galore!
L: There were SO many covers throughout the sets we saw, it was astounding, but also really cool. Personal favourites: Art of Sleeping covering Frank Ocean’s Lost, both Wolf Alice and Kingswood covering Chris Isaac’s Wicked Games, Kingswood also covering QOTSA’s Feel Good Hit Of The Summer, Glass Animals’ now infamous cover of Love Lockdown by Kanye West, and SBTRKT taking on Radiohead’s Lotus Flower. And they’re just the ones I saw!
- The early bird gets the worm (also the best camping spot, home first, showers, food, ice and drinks)
J: Whether it’s an early rise on entry to nab a prime camping spot (the goldilocks zone is equal distance between bathrooms, festival and bar) or getting to a set early enough to settle into the perfect spot, you’ll save yourself a world of grief. Our early bird approach paid off when acts like Glass Animals pulled in attracted some of the biggest audiences, in spite of the unrelenting afternoon heat. In an attempt to make up for his tardiness, one punter even scaled the support strut of the tent to the amusement of the band and the menace of the stage manager, who had to stop the show and ask that he get down. Hehehe…
- Believe in Your Selfie
J: Forget culturally insensitive headwear, tie-dye and metallic henna tattoos, this year’s must have festival accessory was the selfie stick. I have been previously sceptical and incredulous about selfie sticks, but for the first time at Falls Festival I understood their value. Whether it was to capture you and all your mates in the one shot, or to shoot your favourite band above the hats and headdresses blocking your view, the selfie stick is fast becoming the must have item for festival life.
- Dear Falls: Please Ban Headdresses.
L: Open letter to Falls Festival: guys, please follow the path of Meredith and ban feathered headdresses from your events. Not only are they culturally inappropriate, they’re annoying as hell when they’re in front of you in a crowd. You can be 10 rows behind one, and it’ll still obstruct your view. And I’m sure that they could poke an eye or two out, which wouldn’t exactly look great for health & safety. The only advantage of a headdress is that they’re essentially a big alarm, screaming “This person is a dickhead! Don’t talk to them or their mates!” It’s time they got the boot.
- Embrace the filth
J: Camping festivals are not for germaphobes. You spend most of the time slathered in dust, mud, dirt, greasy suncream and sweat (not always your own), and if you let it get to you, you’ll spend more time lining up for the shower than you will for beers. That’s why we advocate a filthy-casual dresscode – accept the fact you’re going to be a mess and seize the opportunities you have to wash. But if you don’t have the patience for waiting for a shower you can always improvise…
L: I usually don’t shower at festivals. It’s almost a badge of honour – baby wipes lead the way, all day errday. But I gave in at Falls after the first day. It was ridiculously hot and sweaty, and the shower facilities were actually pretty lovely. But camping is dirty, it’s muddy, it’s dusty and it’s fun. Wearing your best clothes, wearing heeled shoes, worrying about your hair and your make up is only a waste of time and effort. Nobody looks good after sleeping in a tent. Just enjoy yourself!
- There’s dickheads at festivals. You just gotta deal with it.
L: We can’t always get what we want. And when you’re at a festival surrounded by 25 000 of your closest friends, chances are that shit’s gonna go down. We had a few bad incidents, like someone throwing a bottle of piss into our campsite, and someone else raiding our esky. Oh, and those guys who threw freakin’ flares into the crowd? Bad move. There’s munters, there’s people who wanna start fights, there’s people who don’t have any respect for other people’s belongings, but that’s completely inevitable, and there’s no point dwelling on it. All it’ll do is ruin the fun! Keep your stuff safe (Lockerbox, you are a legendary gift from the heavens), if you see people acting stupidly then just move away, and whatever you do, don’t fight fire with fire. Especially when that fire is real, seriously, who the hell brings flares to a music festival?!
- See something new!
J: Some of my most enjoyable moments came from seeing acts for the first time. We braved the scorching savannah on the first day, finding shade, laid-back beats and quirky visuals at Fishing’s afternoon set, the perfect vibe for sudden heatstroke. Hip hop-infused jazz trio Badbadnotgood shocked more than a few punters with their hypnotising rhythms and jazz-moshpit (yes, it’s really a thing,) but many would’ve gone home with a new appreciation for jazz, and perhaps a new favourite band. Regrettably I only caught the final two songs of Movement’s set as I arrived for Run the Jewels, but that was enough for me to put them on my “Must listen to when I get home” list.