Any punter who had been to Falls previously would have immediately felt this year was different upon walking into the festival grounds. With a strange new layout, annoyingly longwinded entry system and great new initiatives including the reusable cups among other eco-efforts made, 2020’s Falls Festival was a different beast.
This year felt more crowded despite less ticket sales, perhaps due to the compact new layout. It provided less open space for walkways, creating a lot of jams especially when trying to move from stage to stage or when trying to get to the toilet block. It did, however, leave a larger space for viewing of the main stages, which was definitely needed with the huge headliners scheduled this year.
With the sun kindly shining down on the first day, local folk star Jack Davies hit the stage with his lovable backing band the Bush Chooks to charm audiences and ease them into the weekend. Meanwhile on the main stage, Scarborough locals Sly Withers played a range of their tracks and a cheeky cover of The Backstreet Boys’ I Want It That Way.
The high energy continued with Bad//Dreems. Lead singer Ben Marwe had some targeted remarks about our PM, the first of a few to be heard that weekend. The band performed a well-rounded set of bangers, such as Mob Rule, Salad and Cuffed and Collared.
Revelational artist Baker Boy was a Saturday highlight. Starting off with Black Magic, the rapper kept his feet moving the whole time, as he changed costume and performed tracks such as Cloud Nine and Cool as Hell. Finishing off with Medijihn, it received a roaring cheer for its didgeridoo solo.
Looking like a gypsy queen in orange, Vera Blue took the stage. Matching her presence was a mystical voice which powered through All the Pretty Girls before playing a song dedicated to the ladies, the amazing Lady Powers. Montaigne may have appeared on stage looking somewhat like a clown with her face and body paint, but her performance was anything but a joke. Stunning audiences with her vocals and dance moves simultaneously, she played tracks new and old including favourite I’m A Fantastic Wreck.
As has become a staple, Falls brought another classic music act to our ears. Last year it was Toto and before that Daryl Braithwaite. Kicking it up a notch this year, Falls brought us “The Voice”, John Farnham. Suited up and ready to rock, with great between song banter, the icon played all his greatest hits, bringing the place bounds of joy with Age of Reason, A Touch of Paradise, Pressure Down, That’s Freedom and of course You’re the Voice. Finishing off his set with a tribute to his mates, AC/DC, Farnham certainly was the Talk of the Town.
Holy Holy arrived from the outset with great guitar tones being a highlight, as well as their cover of Lorde’s Green Light which enlisted the help of Montaigne onstage. Other standouts from their terrific late arvo set included Frida, True Lovers and epic closer Teach Me About Dying, the latter also starring Montaigne.
Over on the main stage, everyone was dancing at Milky Chance, with their set being at the perfect time in the afternoon where it was starting to get cooler and the sun was getting ready to set. Ego and Stolen Dance become the perfect soundtrack. Crooked Colours started off their set with one of their more popular songs from 2019 album Langata, Hold On. Standing out against the colourful background with white matching coveralls, the boys drank champagne through Do It Like You and finished it off with their immortal track Flow.
Legendary Auatralian dance act PNAU have been doing this festival business since the earliest Big Day Outs and started with a completely gold stage, to match opening track Solid Gold. Singer-songwriter and choreographer Kira Divine makes the group’s current performance with her neon hair and vivacious stage aura. PNAU’s dynamic electronic tracks such as Go Bang and Chameleon had the crowd in a euphoric state. It’s hard to remember them ever having a bigger (or better) show in WA.
As per usual, Peking Duk were set to party, and that is what they did, opening with Stranger and only continuing with the hits from there until they ended on a High. Their set featured live vocals and instruments in a new set up, cuts of cheesy hits including (I’ve Had) The Time of My Life, Seven Nation Army and ABBA’s Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight), and even an acoustic moment. It’s safe to say Adam and Reuben kept their ultimate party starters title, despite the stop start nature of their set jolting a little after the PNAU masterclass.
Vampire Weekend had a tough job following such an explosive pair of dance acts and triple j favourites, and sure enough the start of their set was met with sections of the crowd leaving – a sight that looked worse given their stage’s awkward positioning right next to the main gate, an entry/exit system the organisers might want to revise for next year. But the New York afro-pop cum pastoral rock (see: new double album Father of the Bride) legends were still in fine enough form to steal the show. An hour wasn’t long enough as they delivered a curious setlist touching on each of their four albums, the interplay between new guitarist Brian Robert Jones and frontman Ezra Koenig a particular highlight as they traded licks.
They’ve changed up their setlists throughout their Australian tour and while the likes of Ya Hey, Hannah Hunt and White Sky felt like big omissions – raising the question of why they only got a one hour headline set – the run home of Cousins, Oxford Comma, A-Punk and Sunflower could hardly have been better.
As the sun rose on another day, and a much hotter one, Falls was filled with punk acts early on, creating a nice contrast to the day before. ARIA winners Amyl and the Sniffers proved why they won with a high energy performance featuring birthday cake for their one of a kind leading lady.
WAAX experienced their second power outage for this festival run, during which lead singer Maz DeVita kept the crowd engaged and the energy high. Clearly in a sweat, DeVita was committed to her performance, creating an appealing set, which contained some of their best songs such as Labrador and I Am. Their cover of Stevie Nicks’ Edge of Seventeen was considerably one of the better covers for the weekend.
Visiting all the way from the UK, The Japanese House was a quiet moment amongst all the punk early. On the “bullshit stage” as Halsey later called it, she was a hidden gem of the festival. Her raw live vocals were incredible, with her live show somewhat stripping her songs back from a few of their synth elements. It was a dreamy moment, especially during the likes of Lilo and the acoustic rendition of Saw You In A Dream. It was a shame that her self-professed “last show for a while” was in front of so few people.
Despite lead singer Jack McEwan suffering from pneumonia, Psychedelic Porn Crumpets still impressed with bangers like Cornflake, Found God In A Tomato and their brand spanking new one, Mundungus. Dope Lemon gave a pretty subdued performance, with Angus Stone playing his whole set impassively. However, he picked up with Uptown Folks which unfortunately ended the set 10 minutes early. Having only recently returned to the stage #1 Dads played a beautiful set. Playing two songs about family, Sister and Cousins, a further highlight was Gus Rigby’s saxophone solo in Camberwell.
One of the worst clashes of the festival was between Lewis Capaldi and Yungblud. Both performers delivered, however, with Yungblud providing one of the most energetic sets across the two days and Capaldi providing one of the most emotional. Arriving onstage in a skirt and makeup, Yungblud was not here to mess around. His dedicated fans shouted the words back to him, especially during his breakout hit I Love You, Will You Marry Me. Meanwhile, Capaldi, a somewhat unusual booking for the festival, made audiences fall in love with him, and dedicated countrymen were proudly displaying the Scottish flag during the singer’s set.
It’s well-known that Matt Corby is crowd shy, and true to form he was not a big talker. However, this was a bonus with his performance as he relied more on his gospel-like vocals to create atmosphere. After playing his breakout song Brother, Corby seemed to visibly relax, even sharing a joke with the audience whilst singing Lay You Down. Besides his better-known songs, his performance of a New Day Coming was a particularly enjoyable experience with Corby hopping onto the bongos.
Disclosure’s set was much anticipated, but it slightly disappointed, as the duo left punters hanging on until the very end before playing tracks that the majority of the crowd recognised, although the huge singalong to Latch, the track everyone was waiting for, almost made up for it.
Halsey was a huge draw for Sunday and it was easy to see why, with a strong entrance singing her 2019 release Nightmare. Her fierce attitude to performance proved she wasn’t lying when she sung “I can put on a show”. Halsey had a long chat to the audience about her last time at Falls festival four years ago, when she played on the “bullshit stage” at 2pm, a harsh statement for the artists this year in that spot. She recovered by saying “there’s really no crowd in the fucking world like a bunch of fucked up Australians.”
For her older fans she played a couple of songs from her breakout album Badlands, such as Gasoline and Color. Halsey was a dramatic performer, closing out the 2019/2020 Falls Festival with a bang and a whole lot of smoke.
KIERRA POLLOCK, EMMA PEET & HARVEY RAE
Photos by Linda Dunjey