After leaving Newcastle at 5am on the 29th of December we finally made it to Falls Festival (Byron Bay) at 3:30pm, ready for the next few music filled days. Tent setting up was interesting as I have only ever camped once in my life, for one night; but after a few obstacles (wind and setting up on rocks…) the tent was up and it was time for a much needed drink. The first night consisted of making friends with neighbours and playing card games by the tents before hitting bed early.
Day 2 -
Waking up the next morning I was very glad to see that the tent had not collapsed in the wind. As this was the day before the festival there was not a great deal to do besides walk around the empty festival grounds. During the afternoon we decided to jump on a bus to Brunswick heads and take a swim at the beach, something I highly recommend to anyone heading to Byron in the future.
Patrons were arriving by busloads in the afternoon, campsites started to fill up and the Festival area began to take off. Captain Morgan’s pirate ship seemed to be the place to be as people lined up to get in and have a boogie on the pumping dance floor. The atmosphere was relaxed as people scoped out what the prime food choices were and which little stalls had the best clothing. The end of the night was once again spent playing card games and swapping stories with new friends.
Day 3 – Day 1 of the Festival
Today was the day the Festival kicked off, floods of people were still heading into the grounds lugging their tents and belongings anyway they could, (even in wheelbarrows).
Festivalgoers rushed around the site excited to ring in the New Year with good music. First act up Bullhorn drew the crowd to their feet as the charismatic, nine-piece band produced some groovy tunes before Wavves took to the stage. People flooded to the Valley Stage to catch Wavves and their chaotic pop tracks full of heavy guitars.
At this point the Festival was full of quirky outfits, I caught glimpses of minion onesies, matching 80s tracksuits, storm troopers, The Bananas in pajamas and many more fun and unexpected outfits. The atmosphere when walking back towards the tents was buzzing, people were pumping music, dancing and having a good time, as they got ready to celebrate the New Year.
After a few card games it was time to head back in for Art Vs. Science, a band that I’ve never really listened to but was pleasantly surprised by, their dance pop tracks even had me up and dancing in the mosh. I found myself hoping that their set wouldn’t end but, as they say, all good things must come to an end. The wait for the next act seemed to go forever as the crowd impatiently hung out for one of the most intriguing performers of the festival, “Weird Al” Yankovic. The most impressive element of his set was how quickly he changed costume song after song. Busting out hit after hit Yankovic had the crowd on their feet dancing and laughing the whole way through, a highlight being his performance of Fat and the groovy dancing moves that accompanied the performance.
The crowd was buzzing from a mix of alcohol and enthusiasm as indie-electronic kings Peking Duk brought the party. Floods of people entered into The Valley stage ready to kick off the New Year with a killer line up of artists. Playing all their hits the crowd was alive with energy as they were lit up by the incredible lighting display that accompanied Peking Duk’s set. On a high from the unbelievable amount of energy Peking Duk bought the night could only get better.
Hilltop Hoods was a must see if you asked anyone walking around. The crowd was already pumping and Hilltop Hoods took this immense energy to the next level. I’ve never seen so many people dance and jump around without a care in the world. Nosebleed Section and Cosby Sweater were the two-standout tracks sending the crowd absolutely crazy as they screamed along with the band, whose interaction with the crowd was constant.
We partied on from Hilltop Hoods into The Wombats, thousands upon thousands of people filled up the Valley Stage ready to count down into the New Year. The Wombats were by far the best choice to ring in the New Year, with their neon lights and indie rock sound they had the crowd eating out of their hands. Playing a mix of new tracks and old hits their set was full of good vibes. After racing to find a decent spot on the grass The Wombats counted us down into the New Year, shaking up and exploding bottles of champagne into the crowd (although one did explode prematurely with comments being made from band members that this wasn’t the first time…) people upon people raced around hugging everyone in sight as The Wombats pumped out Joy Division and we rang in the New Year. An experience I will never forget.
Day 4 – Day 2 of Festival
Covered in dust and dirt, New Years morning was spent waiting inline to shower. By this stage I’m pretty sure I had a permanent layer of dust on my body, but that’s just the camping ‘experience’, right? Hung-over and sleepy patrons stumbled into the festival grounds looking for the perfect breakfast to kick their hangovers.
Chatting to some friends in the morning I was informed that Banff is an act that I NEEDED to see, and they were SO right. His indie-pop sound was something I fell in love with, I have a soft spot for ethereal music that has clever layering through the production, this is exactly what Banff was, he even had a soul element to his vocals which just elevated his sound further.
Before allowing myself to be graced by Meg Mac I decided to go grab some sweet potato chips after being told they were amazing, which they were. I journeyed over to the stage and managed to score prime position on the barrier. I was not disappointed, Meg Mac’s vocals were strong and commanding as they rang out through the ‘Forest Stage’. Her presence was captivating as she moved around stage and flowed from track to track. The highlight was her performance of Never Be, one of my favourite tracks of 2015, which I didn’t think could get any better until hearing it live. If you have ever have the opportunity to catch this talented artist live it is not something you should pass up.
UK duo Oh Wonder were a group that I was very interested to see live after listening to their music for quite sometime now. They opened with Livewire, my favourite track from their album, and created a chilled out and relaxed vibe that had the crowd swaying and singing along until the end. One thing I love about seeing international artists play in Australia is how shocked and humble they are when they see just how many people show up to hear their show. Oh Wonder constantly mentioned how stoked they were that their music was being listened to down under and how shocked they were about the amount of people singing along, such genuine artists who will go far.
Due to a timetable clash I was unable to catch Bird Of Tokyo so decided to group some friends together to grab their hot take of the set. I was informed that they played all of their hit songs, which got the crowd on their feet, putting on a decent show for everyone.
Jarryd James was one of the acts I was most excited to see and after chatting to him earlier in the day I was ready to dance along to his music. In classic style he rocked up on stage with a beer in hand (straya) and jumped straight into tracks from his new album. His presence was timid as he moved from song to song. It was an unbelievable mosh to be apart of as the crowd gave off a vibe of adoration and love for the man on stage.
RUFUS was the stand out act of the night. People raced to the Valley Stage to catch the band, they opened with one of their new tracks You Were Right, which drew in one of the biggest crowds of the Festival. In my opinion their set was the best of the entire Festival. Their catchy, electronic dance music had the whole crowd going mental. Being lucky enough to score a spot on a friends shoulders, 6 rows from the stag,e I was able to look out across the entire crowd. People were laughing, dancing, screaming and enjoying themselves immensely as RUFUS created an infectious atmosphere. I am now incredibly keen to get my hands on their new album, which is out later this month.
The festival ended with Bloc Party, having not heard a great deal of their music I was interested to hear their set as the entire day I had random people approach me and asked if I was catching them and encouraged me to see their set. With a lot of interest and excitement I headed over to the stage making my way through the masses of people to find a prime spot on the grass. Around halfway through their set I was a bit confused as people began to leave, that was until I had three different people come sit next to me and complain about the show that was being put on. I’m not sure if there was a sounding issue but the instruments over powered lead singer Kele Okereke voice and lyrics were hard to hear. People began to leave and their crowd lessened so I decided that it was time to head out to, slightly disappointed by the show that took place.
Day 5 – Day 3 of Festival
The campgrounds were very quiet, aside from the odd tent of people still partying on from the previous night. Compared to the last two mornings the crowd of people making their way around at 9am was dismal, obviously the last two days of partying hard began to take a toll on the crowd, which began to pick up again closer to 11am.
Wanting to start my day with some music I headed over to Jesse Davidson’s set with a few friends. Setting up a picnic blanket at the ‘Forest Stage’ we were joined by quite a few others who had the same plan. I’ve only heard one of Jesse Davidson’s songs before so was very excited to see what he had in store. He provided the intimate crowd with a moody set, his stage presence was hilarious as he awkwardly shifted between songs, joking about the fact Eminem had died #RIPEminem.
The next few hours were spent laying in the sun, soaking up the calm festival atmosphere as I waited for Soak’s set. SOAK was one of the artists I was most excited to see live. Her ethereal tones rang out through the area as she flowed from song to song to a small set of fans, opening up the Valley Stage for the day. I’m now finding myself counting down the days until I can see her again.
Day 3 was the day I discovered I’d been missing out on so many glorious food options because I’d been too busy racing from act to act. I decided to grab myself some pizza and more of those delicious sweet potato chips, a decision many people seemed to have made as well because the line up was super long.
After some exploring and catching up with friends it was time for the act I was by far most excited to see, Halsey. Gaining prime position, second row centre the atmosphere around me was full of anticipation as the clock ticked down. Halsey launched onto stage and immediately the crowd was drawn to her. She knows how to work a stage, as her presence was commanding and confident. The large crowd she drew sang along to every single lyric as she dominated the stage. Halsey is an artist who knows how to connect with her audience and give them what they want, a very special talent.
Finding myself with another hour or so spare I headed back to the tent and met up with friends for a round of ‘Kings Cup’. As the game intensified we realized we had missed half of Elliphant’s set, real disappointment as I’ve been told she absolutely nailed it. Realizing the time we raced over to catch Foals. Also not up to date with a lot of the music Foals has released I was intrigued to hear what they’d play. Lead singer, Yannis Philippakis bounced around stage shredding the guitar, along with fellow band members. By far the best moment was Philippakis’ attempt at crowd surfing. The crowd mirrored the energy the band gave out as they drew probably the second biggest crowd of the festival.
The biggest crowd of the festival was drawn by Disclosure, which I found as no surprise. Thousands upon thousands flooded the Valley stage, jumping from hit to hit the crowd was alive as we jumped and danced our way to the end of Falls Festival. Disclosure was the perfect act to close the festival with their dance hits being major winners with the crowd. They were so well received that even Miley Cyrus paid a visit to the festival to catch the set (Insane I know!).
As Dislcosure’s set came to an end floods of people headed over the ‘Captain Morgan’s’ pirate ship to party on into the morning. I thought this was prime time to grab a woodfired pizza with some mates before we headed back to the tent for some much needed rest before our trip home the next morning.
Falls Festival could be summed up as a dusty, music filled experience with great food and attendees that were there to enjoy the chilled out atmosphere and good music that was on offer. I 110% recommend it to anyone looking for something different to do over New Years. Although, the camping was a bit rough so a hotel near by may be a better option…
Also just a shoutout to all the volunteers and hard working people who put this festival together and were the backbone in creating such a well-planned event. You are the real heroes of the event.
By Gabrielle Clement