Falls Music & Arts Festival

Falls Music & Arts Festival

The first day of the inaugural Falls Festival at Byron was a huge success, so much to do and not enough time on a well spaced out site. The Falls team have delivered a showcase event that has set the benchmark for future events up this way.

Access and parking was a breeze due to most punters already onsite and setup comfortably in the camping area. The festival also has a green parking plan that encourage visitors to car pool with the $30 fee being redeemable with 4 or more people in the car. Entry was easy and plenty of vollies on hand to assist. The sea of teepees in the camping section was a visual delight. Plenty of food options - the Moroccan Mini burgers are a treat and hand picked market stalls to spend those $$$.

The site is large taking advantage of the beautiful natural landscape features - the Amphitheatre stage was spectacular, it took no time at all before the temptation to roll down the big hill could no longer be resisted by some. The site layout is completely different to the Splendour Festival held in July. Layout of the numerous stages meant there sound bleed from main stages was kept to a minimum (this will be tested today as the Forest stage will start up).

The Village with its Taj Mahal styled entrance has been coordinated by local Mullumbimby Music Festival director Glen Wright. It features local musos, artists and a fabulous theatrette 'Petite La Grande' where you can catch a show like Captain Syphilis and his deckhands (say it will a NZ accent). Partake in some craft and design your own costume for the skeleton wedding set for Thursday.

Aah the music...The 2 piece London based The Correspondents delivered a high energy set at the Amphitheatre with decks providing the showcase for the amped dance moves and vocals. Finishing with a piggyback through the crowd and a declaration of Byron being the best Falls Festival of all three. Marshall O’Kell got em moving in the Brasserie and the Guerilla stage acts played to the chilled out punters on the hill.

Not often you get Jabba the Hut, Storm Troopers, Power Rangers, Mr Squiggle, Avatars and numerous aliens in one location - it looked like the bar scene out of StarWars...all part of the Falls fun. The winner of the Intergalactic Boogie Night Fancy dress was The Darkside of the Moon she gets to play a special part in costume on stage with MGMT for their set on Thursday playing the specialised instrument The Cowbell. Check the pics this costume was a 3D cover Pink Floyd album. I seem to remember seeing a spaceman kicking a football over near the Forest Stage and a giant space skipping rope.

Between set entertainment at the Amphitheatre by Legs Akimbo united the crowd in a mass karaoke of Bohemian Rhapsody and Teenage Dirtbag. Clairy Brown & her Bangin’ Rackettes commanded the stage with their set including a standout cover of 'What a Man'.

Japanese outfit Mountain Mocha Kiliminjaro funked out the crowd with a hot instrumental set. Hot Dub Time Machine played before The Roots from Philadelphia owned the stage to see us through to midnight and beyond...these guys did not break the entire set. They moved seamlessly from rap, roots to reggae, hip hop to jazz sampling some George Benson and rock covering the perennial favourite 'Sweet Child Of Mine' to the crowds delight, this band just kept moving and did not want to stop. The sousaphone player Damon ‘Tuba Gooding Jnr’ Bryson rocks, long with hot guitar riffs by a band who have been playing together for over 25 years. A great way to see in 2014!

Expecting bigger things today as all stages will be up and running with The Forest Stage coming on board and a slightly larger crowd with an extra 15% on top of the opening day’s numbers.

A slow start for many including yours truly on NYD with many finding solace under or up a shady tree out of the hot sun recovering from the excess of a big NYE 2013!

Walking as quickly as our legs would carry us from the car park hearing some well known 80's English tunes sounding like they were emanating from a grand jukebox. Thankfully there was a 20 min delay to the start of ex The Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr's set due to guitars being held up on a flight from Tassie we were able to catch a short but memorable set. He covered the Smiths track Big Mouth Strikes with those distinctive jangly guitar sound which struck a chord with the Falls crowd. Johnny reacting to the heat of the day played a slow song as the sun was taking it's toll on him, then a cover of I Fought The Law the Sonny Curtis penned song made popular in the late 70's by The Clash, then proceeded to the Pet Shop Boys Gettin Away With It and ended up closing the set with the classic Smiths' song How Soon Is Now.

The Forest Stage kicked in today with so many trees it gave a cool shady spot to see the War On Drugs which many decided to take advantage of. At the Amphitheatre Bonobo (sounding much like Massive Attack) then The Rubens, much anticipated by the enthusiastic fans waiting during the sound check they took over the stage opening with The Day You Went Away and declared they didn't want The Falls party to end!

The Jack Daniel's Barrelhouse was a new venue for us today even though it had been up and running since campers started arriving on Monday. From the UK Darkhorse, a 4 piece outfit featuring 2 on the decks and sampler/keyboard, a guitarist & female vocalist. The singer's voice was amazing, covered After Midnight and Blue Boy's 1997 track Remember Me. She could hold crazy sustained notes. Darkhorse knew how to draw the crowd & get the place movin' as the Barrelhouse filled quickly with the music blasting to the outside from a stack of speakers set up on the exterior of the purpose built corrugated tin shed (but it is airconditioned!!!)

Grizzly Bear back at the Amphitheatre pulled a huge crowd then the force of the latino soul funky beats The Cat Empire cranked the action up a notch by playing many favourites and some new songs to the dance frenzied Falls crowd.

!!! closed out a great set on The Forest Stage, "dance punk" with the lead vocalist busting great dance moves which many of the audience following. Vampire Weekend were brilliant with their polished set showing some Paul Simon 'Graceland' influences. Lead singer Ezra Koenig (working the green overalls) showed why the band had made the Rolling Stone magazine's Top 100 songs of 2013 with Hannah Hunt.

For those who needed space to chill and groove the Silent disco on top of the hill was the place to be. Others chose ?uestlove's DJ set on the tables in the JD bar. This was really pumping to the mixes of everybody; he sampled from old time Motown, soul and rock 'n' roll with the likes of Stevie Wonder, The Police - Roxanne and Bob Marley Is This Love?, Michael Jackson's Beat It the Rolling Stones Satisfaction and Australian rocker from the 60's Johnny O'Keefe Shout. A great way to finish the night of Day 2 of The Falls at Byron!

We returned to find Bombino, who where making their first visit to Australian shores on the main Amphitheatre stage playing their desert fuelled sounds. Hailing from Niger, West Africa this 4 piece delivered traditional rock, infused with blues and a smidgen of reggae. Omara "Bombino" Moctar's guitar chops are up there with the best of them as is the rest of the band he has surrounded himself with. It is little wonder that Dan Auerbach from The Black Keys has sought him out for a musical collaboration. Dressed in traditional dress this was the world music snap for the Falls.

Bobby Alu on the bespoke bamboo guerrilla stage was laying down some baritone ukulele reggae with his band. While at 4pm over in the Village, paper heart confetti was strewn everywhere for the Skeleton Wedding taking place. A "Falls in love" ceremony with maypole ribbon dancing by bridesmaids to unite together the eight-foot recycled skeleton couple. A colourful and whimsical affair with many painted face guests dressed in their handmade costumes including a Snail (complete with aluminum caravan/shell) and his wife. In the meantime on the Forest stage Irish lad James Vincent McMorrow closed out his set. The air-conditioned JD bar was a welcome spot to cool down and catch some local tunes from Band Of Frequencies with their soul/blues/funk which was welcoming to the ears on this hot afternoon.

High voltage rock psychedelic punk outfit Pond strutted their stuff on the Amphitheatre stage. With kazoo-playing front man Nick Allbrook (possibly Iggy Pop or Mick Jagger's lovechild) exuding massive angst; this guy is the epitome of living a true rock lifestyle. He cooled down the crowd by throwing water at the moshpit, dead anting and twirling the mic for the masses. The band delivered some quality songs from the genre but detoured slightly with a great ballad sung by the guitarist early in the set.

The Violent Femmes played their 1982 debut self-titled album in its entirety, which meant they started with the very appropriate 'Blister In The Sun'. They couldn't believe after all this time - 31 years they would be still playing this album. Gordon Ganos' distinctive voice hasn't lost anything and he incidentally discovered he was balding...amazing what you see when you have yourself projected on the big screen. Brian Ritchie hailing from Milwaukee but now Tassie resident sported his extreme Cavalli cat-eye sunglasses and along with ex Dresden Dolls drummer Brian Viglione. The inclusion of a Cajon player expanded the band to a four piece for the whole set. A three piece brass section joining those already on stage for 'I’m So Lonely' and staying on for the last few tracks. Gano breaks out a violin and Richie relinquishing the bass guitar for the Xylophone which made for a great rendition of 'Gone Daddy Gone'. Other popular tracks played included 'Held Her In My Arms' with crowd karaoke.

Neil Finn kicked off with some Split Enz and pretty much his entire set the crowd sang every lyric, given the age of the crowd their parents had conditioned them by playing the songs so much. Finn cheekily quipped to punters Fall At Your Feet to be the song your parents made you to! Playing with a full band including his son Liam, Finn showed off tracks from his huge back catalogue of classic tunes. Proving he possesses the songwriting Midas touch. Finn releases a new album soon and included new track 'Pony Ride' in the set. Closing out the set with a solo performance of Better Be Home Soon on a 12 string guitar a Falls feel-good sing-along moment was had.

The biggest crowd was reserved for Liverpool band The Wombats and were felt by many to be the set of the night. One punter made the call "the best band he had ever seen!" This band held the massive heaving crowd captive despite the heavy downpour that kept some of the photographers from The Pit. Perhaps The Wombats should have been chosen to deliver the closing set for the last night. MGMT arrived to their own fanfare to end the Festival; started slow and kept it there. Many people seemed to filter off into the night less than 4 songs into their set.

The Byron Falls Arts & Music Festival experience official program is now done and dusted for 2013/2014. Time now to spend packing up that campsite and heading on back to normal lives…to save up for next year’s Summer while reliving those Falls Fest memories.
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