Falls Festival in the eyes of two wide-eyed punters
We were stuck in traffic in mid-town Byron Bay. This was the final stop for festivalgoers to pick up any last minute supplies. Loaves of breads, fruit, canned goods and 5 kilogram bags of carrots were being stowed away in car boots along with copious amounts of alcohol. For some pointless reason, the festival organisers had ruled that no alcohol was going to be permitted in the camping grounds. I think the official line was something to do with curbing alcohol-fuelled violence. I’m sure it was nothing to do with selling more of their ridiculously priced mid-strength drinks. A mid-strength festival was what they were calling it. I mean that was actually an advertised fact. Who coined that term? It has all the excitement and appeal of the Horizontal Slide and the Platonic Relationship. Surely, tight restrictions on alcohol only encourage people to bring more illegal drugs, right? A pill or some speed has more buzz for your buck than a $7 Carlton Mid, and it’s easily concealed from prying security guards. At any rate, a casual glance through the campgrounds showed that neither alcohol nor drugs was in any shortage. But was that really what we had come here to do? Had we travelled twelve hours to the northern coast of New South Wales in the blistering heat just to get monged and forget our names for three days? No. Surely there was something else, some other reason for us all to be here. Whatever it was, amongst the steadily erecting campsites and the dusty roadways, in between the tepees and the distant drone of electronic beats we were going to find it. At that point though, we had just arrived, and had no idea what it was.
Over the subsequent few days we washed in sublimely powerful hot-water showers, relieved ourselves in splendidly maintained portoloos and sated our hunger on a grand variety of dishes from around the globe, including vegetarian kofta from the Hare Krishna vendor, Tasmanian gourmet sauages, and of course, the classic bacon egg roll... can't go past it. But let's face it, we were really here to fight invisible demons in the mosh pit, so we've put together some reviews of the artists that highlighted our time at Byron Falls Festival 2013.
The Roots/ New Years Eve
New years Eve is supposed to be the biggest party of the year. We all know that it never is. I mean, there is some truth to it. Somebody, somewhere, is having a better time than you. That's what makes New Year's so disappointing. You can't shake the feeling that there is something more. A better party, where better looking people go to enjoy better tasting alcohol and derive untold pleasures behind secret doors that are always locked to a pleb like you. Well, fuck them anyway. This year, with the help of the reggae infused hip-hop anthems of The Roots, we fought back in style. We descended as an unwashed horde of savage singlet wearing bovs and conquered New Years like a virulent yeast infection. The alcohol was mid-strengthened and expensive, the dust was threatening to choke us into submission, the one firework that fizzled out above our heads could have easily have been a flare and I'm pretty sure they did the countdown 2 minutes early. But none of that seemed to matter as hugs were exchanged and kisses denied, I could think of no better place I would rather be, than that little patch of grass in that little point in time. Because they showed that New Years can be good, and because they had a five minute drum battle, the Roots get 5 shitty fireworks out of 5.
Vampire Weekend nailed it. Despite Ezra's high vocal in Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa which felt as though it was rupturing ear drums, these pop-sensations lived up to the hype generated by their most recent release, Modern Vampires of the City. When the intro to Step punched in around three songs though the creaming of panties was palpable; Ezra's sweet voice ringing out and touching us all on our erogenous zones as he sang of getting old or something. Low points were few as the lulls of their less popular, dreary numbers were explosively dismembered by hits that had the whole crowd punching the air and flailing their other limbs in unison.
4 out of 5 thigh slaps.
As the Violent Femmes stepped onto the main stage, you could see the looks of disdainful disappointment emanating through their carefully unfashionable dark lenses. The crowd was sparsely dotted though the dust bowl and vagrant-type youths sat nonchalantly on the hills scratching their dusty balls. Needless to say the greying rock legends were pissed. But as soon as they beat out the first bar of the first song of their debut, eponymous album, Blister in the Sun, and everyone realised what they were listening to, a horde of lusty, dusty punk rockers were writhing about like a pack of rabid dogs. In the epicentre of the shindig a group of die-hard square-dance-junkies kicked up a column of dust that rose and fell upon the crowd and fuelled the hysteria. It was a party like you've never seen, with everything from super soaker warfare amongst the troves of shimmying targets, to spontaneous and frantic good will, as the epicentre suddenly decided they would clean up the entire amphitheatre in the space of one song. Too bad that with the dust cloud they generated some unlikely villain managed to get stuck head-first, waist deep in the bin and subsequently spill all of their hard work all over the floor again.
5 out of 5 handfuls of dust in the face.
Cub Sport's set was in the middle of the day which was probably the most scorchingest bastard of all. Luckily they came equipped with backwards caps and high pants to keep them cool. Front man , Tim Nelson, kept the set vibe casual, introducing the songs and how they were about his dog and stuff, which is brave and honourable in an age when a slip of the tongue can be instantly transmitted around the world so you may be censured by the butthurt neckbeards at large for your unapologetic stance on man/dog love. Cub Sport were spot on, maintaining pitch- perfect vocal harmonies and serenading their avid fans whilst kicking away balloons bearing their name and random troll-face drawings and other memes. These kids have talent, and an annoying knack for hooks, which I can testify to first hand as I've been humming the riff to Told You So for about four days now.
4 out of 5 backwards caps.
Hermitude: What the fuck. In a world where superstars like David Guetta get ousted for playing their set out of their ipod and twisting nobs emphatically, Hermitude are fly kicking the balls of the giants of electronic music. Transmitting live feeds from in front of their mixers to prove they got the chops, and performing spinetingling drum-pad solos and face-fornicating keyboard licks, this duo finally makes me proud to be Australian. Then the moment we had all been waiting for occurred. God looked down upon us, and wept with ecstasy as the bass dropped and shook the heavens into releasing their boon of cool, nourishing spray to wash away the sweat and dust from the horde of bovs jumping up and down like Maasaie tribesmen on crack.
5 out of 5 sweaty bovs.
As the sun set over the natural amphitheatre of the main stage, Bonobo charged the air with cool magic. Every Tomran, Dickchild and Harry Krishna swayed in the twilight breeze which swept away the angst of the day and replaced it with the tranquillity of a throng of swaying hippies. Highly palatable and serenely beautiful beats rocked the crowd as Bonobo's live band reminded us that we don't have to thrash about like masturbating baboons to have a good time. Good vibes permeated the dance floor and the striking form of Erykah Badu vocalised an energy that made us all feel like maybe everything was ok in the world as sweet plumes of smoke became a mist of pleasure. But then it was over before we knew what was happening and we all had to take more drugs.
4 out of 5 stoned gorillas.
So the Rubens are pretty good. I do hate to say it, but their sound was huge, the tones were amazing and even if the lead singer Sam Margin has the most slappable face in Australian music, his songs and voice are, um, ah fuck it, they're great. Maybe it's not the most inventive brand of rock out there, but it gets the job done. And we seem to love it. Last year, their debut album was nominated for a whole string of awards, and their single “My Gun” hit number ten in the hottest 100. So they're obviously doing something right. The gaggle of 18 and 19 year old girls that flooded the stage apparently agreed as well. The only disappointment was their last song, the one we were all hanging out for – My Gun. It definitely misfired. If My Gun is actually a really obvious metaphor for a penis, then it felt pretty flaccid.
The Rubens get 3 satisfying slaps in the face out of 5.
Violent Soho are a group of teenage looking dudes in their late 20s who like to scream about about, well, nothing really. I mean, “a pussy is a piece of skin wrapped in a pocket”?
Well it didn't stop me from enjoying the intense dynamic sound of little guitar riffs backed up against the heaviest sounds that you can hear at a mostly pop-electronic, indie fest. The mosh exploded in orgiastic convulsions, as each crunching guitar chorus washed over the crowd, with Bov's simultaneously tearing each other limb from limb whilst helping those who had fallen in the last collision. It was like watching a 200 man cage fight take place, with the winners elevated above the crowd, only to be dumped on their asses again by over-zealous security guards.
Violent Soho get 3.5 pieces of skin wrapped in a pocket out of 5.
I hadn't listened to a whole lot of London Grammar before I went to see them. I had a feeling that they would be good though. And when it was either Neil Finn plucking away the last of his faded glory or the youthful radiance of Hannah Reid, playing amidst the trees on the Forest Stage, the decision was pretty much made. I wasn't the only one who had this feeling it seems, because the audience was fucking packed. Reid told us nervously that she couldn't see how many people were watching her, and that she was a little afraid to find out. Her reaction when the crowd lights flooded the arena, showing the throngs of people who had come to see her sing was one of the best moments of the whole festival. It was one of those moments where rockstar pretension had completely broken down. They didn't give a shit about acting too cool. There was a genuine sense of awe in her voice as she thanked the crowd for the support and snapped a couple of photos. The whole experience was just so freaking heart warming that you couldn't help but like them. All in all London Grammar brought a sweet and humble prelude to the wankfest-fiasco that was to follow with MGMT later in the night. We're going to give London Grammar 5 Baaawww's out of 5.
MGMT had an impact to end Falls like a quiet, lingering fart. Technical malfunctions gave way to frustrated musicians and fans as we gritted our teeth through the one-chord or two-chord, flagellating movements of the groups newer releases. The session bassist tried so hard to look like he was interested in what he was playing that you could almost believe it, but the illusion stopped there. Along side disappointingly rendered hit singles, the band was further jibed by the frontman of Perth's Pond running on stage and hitting a button to purportedly check if MGMT were lipsyncing. It wouldn't have been a surprise, as the winner of the 'PLAY COWBELL ONSTAGE WITH MGMT' competition clearly was not really playing the cowbell. Nor was she wearing the Dark Side of the Moon light prism costume that won her the competition. Very disappoint. To top the mixture of bad energy and grating sounds, we had to endure a repetitive glitching graphic behind the band, which when combined with their new release Your Life is a Lie seemed contrived for the exact purpose of squeezing any last iota of goodness out of the atmosphere, and to make anyone who was in anyway feeling fragile at that point in time question their existence and get lost in a haze of annoying meaninglessness and repetitive confusion.
2 bad trips out of 5.
We had done it finally. We had seen the amazing bands we came to see, we braved the heat and the dust storms, we managed to finally ignore the foul odours emanating from thousands of unwashed bodies, we had been sunburnt and rain-soaked all in the same day. We had done Falls. So what did we learn? Well, Falls attracts a lot of different types of people. At first glance you can see the “boys” who had just taken off their fluoro singlets from Stereosonic and you can see the hula hooper girl from subsonic, there are the surfy dudes and their girlfriends from northern Queensland and the hipsters from the Inner West of Sydney, you can see... well, you get where I'm going with this don't you? Yes, it was easy to be cliquey and judgemental when we first arrived. Everyone nervously eyeing each other off, passing comments amongst their friends. I wasn't sure what kind of festival it was going to be, and I'm sure nobody else did either. By the final day though, we had all grown closer, the barriers that divided us in the outside world had been stripped away and a sense of community had been built. I didn't see one fight the whole time I was there, and the only time the police or the security were carrying someone away, it was just because they had had too much of a good time and were going away to spend a few hours with the rest of the mongs in the mong tent. All jokes aside, Falls is a little bit of magic, and with a bit of tweaking may turn out to be one of the best communities of festival goers in Australia.
By Wivan Flowk and Sean B
Photography by Paul Smith Facebook