Falls Festival had us at hello

Falls Marion

I had never been to Tasmania. I love SBTRKT. Falls in Marion Bay had me at ‘hello’.

Regaled by an aggressively drunk Wigan slash Adelaide native (we knew this, from her constant refrain of “two passports, yer fuckers!”; she also revealed Perth was “shit”, Collingwood fans “feral”, and a surprising passion for Michael Jackson) on the coach from the airport, it was clear this was going to be an entertaining few days.

Arriving to gale force winds and collapsed tents may have briefly dampened our spirits, but these subsided on discovering that, unlike virtually every day festival in Australia, Falls serves proper strength alcohol at prices that won’t make you cry – including wine from a local vineyard, which was a nice touch.

Marion Bay is seriously – and I mean picture postcard – beautiful. The beach is a 20-minute stroll from the main site, if respite from the festival is needed – not that it is really, because this is about as laidback as festivals get. Despite selling out at the last moment, queues were very limited and the two stages (Valley and Field) a leisurely stroll from each other. After a day getting our bearings and sampling the glory that is potato on a stick, the fun started in earnest.

On the first day, I wandered over to the comedy at the Field stage for a change of scenery, not expecting much – and was more than pleasantly surprised by what was on offer. The highlight, Ronny Chieng, was voted best newcomer at both the Vancouver and Melbourne comedy festivals last year, and it’s clear why as he kept watchers near-hysterical for his allotted minutes.

Bombay Bicycle Club was treated to blazing sunshine and an astonishingly happy crowd. After a laid-back afternoon which included lovely performances by the likes of First Aid Kit and Matt Corby (pictured, right),Matt Corby_1 the London foursome brought a burst of energy to the Valley Stage with their infectious indie.

Over on the Field Stage, Coolio seemed confused as to what he was doing on the smaller stage in a place he probably couldn’t have found on a map. A weak set was interspersed by endless namedropping, but we all knew what we’d come for: a rousing rendition of Gangsta’s Paradise to finish, and that’s exactly what we got.

To celebrate the ten year anniversary of Falls at Marion Bay, superstar audio visual DJ and general whizkid Sampology had put together a special mix celebrating the decade. Despite the cold temperature (this was a few days before a vicious heatwave brought us the Tasmanian bushfires), a huge crowd stood enthralled as he cycled through the best of the best the festival has had to offer.

The rest of the first night on the Valley Stage continued in fine form: from Two Door Cinema Club’s melodic indie pop to a blinder from The Hives (they definitely won the ‘get the punters jumping up and down’ competition that day), finishing in style with British electronic dance sensation Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs, aka the marvellously named Orlando Higginbottom.

New Year’s Eve dawned, and within a few hours we were dancing along to four Scotsman wearing terrible matching shirts – otherwise known as Django Django. The quartet was nominated for last year’s coveted Mercury Music prize back in the UK, so it was a bit surprising they weren’t higher up the bill.

A personal highlight was dynamic guitar duo Rodrigo y Gabriela, who were not only brilliant, but also seemed genuinely thrilled to be seeing in the new year from a stage in Tasmania. If I was to level a criticism against the organisers, it would be that the rest of the early New Year’s Eve Hot Chip_2line-up, while undoubtedly strong musically, was a little down-beat for the midnight countdown, from a very chilled out Beach House to a subdued Flaming Lips.

Things picked up as 2013 began, however – Hot Chip never disappoints (me, at least), and this performance was no exception. A late start saw the crowd growing somewhat restless as they were left for the post-midnight hour with no entertainment – but all was forgiven as London’s finest bounded onto the stage. They seamlessly careered through an exuberant selection of their best tunes, as well as a brilliant cover of Prince’s 1999.

SBTRKT, inexplicably initially timetabled for 4pm, was moved to a more reasonable 1.40am – following Hot Chip and closing the festival. Those who know me well, know that my love for him extends towards the realm of mad-stalker-groupie, so it’s fair to say I was excited. As always, he and Sampha provided a near-flawless rendition of favourites like Hold On and Never Never – but just as at last year’s Laneways, a late start saw them cut the show short which was a little disappointing.

As we headed off in the drizzle the following morning, wrapped up in raincoats and scarves, it was difficult to believe that just two days later, Tasmania would be ravaged by its hottest ever weather and a spate of bushfires which destroyed more than 100 homes, and left thousands stranded on the Tasman peninsula. Falls, being the lovely people they are, have set up their own appeal to try and help – if you’d like to donate, you can do so here.

Review by Sonia Clarke, crowd photo by Luke Taylor. Other shots (from Falls in Lorne) by Sophie Metcalfe. Check out heaps of Falls pics at our Facebook page.