Live Review: Falls Festival Marion Bay

Photo by Peter Dovgan

Since joining Lorne in 2003, Tasmania’s edition of Falls Festival has been a popular option for anyone wanting to celebrate New Year’s Eve on the Apple Isle. Aside from potential anxiety for those with hidden contraband, just the drive into the festival’s Marion Bay setting is an enjoyable experience and offers at least an aesthetic hint of what Tassie’s Falls has to offer. As they draw closer, festival goers are presented with rolling green and yellow hills and sparkling ocean views that provide a scenic backdrop to the following days of music and festivities.

The first night, aptly titled Boogie Nights, is a cheerful introduction to the three-day festival where one can ease into the spirit without masses of people and the stress of racing between the two main stages. Art Vs Science were an appropriate band to perform this evening as their accessible electro-dance tunes and vibrant live act effortlessly inspired the party mood in the crowd. Hobart’s own Chupacabra kept the boogie alive in the Village (a quirky outpost between both the Valley and Field stages that serves as something of a festival within the festival), drenching the audience in Latin percussion and lusty harmonies.

The previous Falls had been slightly marred by its weather conditions, with storm warnings and the occasional arctic gust of wind that encouraged a shuddering foetal position. In stark contrast this time the weather was almost perfect, with a constant sunny mid-twenty degree temperature instead encouraging a trip to the beach the next morning. This was a popular pre-bands mission as Marion Bay’s beautiful beach is only a 15-minute walk from the campsites.

Photo by David Bellamy
Feeling rejuvenated after the swim, the third act to take the main stage, Meg Mac, was the perfect complement to our invigorated states of mind. Her rich and unique voice powered exhilarating soul over the already sizeable crowd, reaching its zenith with an impressive rendition of “Grandma’s Hands” and establishing the Melbourne native’s first Tassie performance as one to remember. Continuing the trend of young artists leading the charge of quality new soul and R&B, Leon Bridges made it almost impossible not to draw comparisons to some of the genres’ great singers before him. While his band weren’t overly captivating, Bridges himself resonated as a consummate front man in both substance and style.

Shifting to the Field Stage, critically acclaimed Melbourne outfit Hiatus Kaiyote tore through their set with buttery vocals and unexpected polyrhythmic changes. Front woman Nai Palm’s voice and stage presence shone as brightly as her glittering silver headpiece and the band’s future-soul grooves churned the audience into a euphoric wave-pool of spirited nodding and scrunched faces of approval.

Photo by Ian Laidlaw
Kurt Vile and The Violators inspired a fuzzy, content mood in the late afternoon with emotive guitar lines and a warm, drawled delivery of his relatable lyrics. Toro Y Moi’s chill and funky performance provided a silky entrance into a night of good music and fervent dancing, though at some late stage it personally turned from tripping the light fantastic to literally tripping as I twice sent myself hurtling into the ground after getting caught by guy ropes trying to reach my campsite– an unglamorous ending to an undeniably fun second night.

The final day began with a brain-liquefying wait in the sun for a shower and a delicious breakfast from one of the many quality food stalls lining the perimeters of both stage areas. Alpine shimmered onto the main stage just after midday and unleashed their dreamy synth melodies with contagious energy. Mac Demarco confirmed everything I’d gathered from his music and heard from others by being an exceedingly charismatic live performer. He charmed the large crowd with his signature unpretentious crooning and humour, at one stage jokingly condemning someone holding the flag of Norway for waving a confederate flag. His jangly tunes were well suited for either reclining on the hill or dancing below and the set ended perfectly with the soaring “Still Together” and a stage dive. One-time local and internationally recognised Courtney Barnett followed Demarco and her performance was free and passionate, finding a winning balance between her usual deadpan delivery and a lively, fuzzy-guitar rock out.

Photo by Belinda Diplao
It seemed the local music scene was even better represented this Falls than in years past. The new Homebrewed stage was established purely for showcasing Tassie’s up-and-coming bands and consistently drew a large audience. The Village also played host to a variety of local acts, with ALL The Weathers serving as its kind-of resident band, performing a number of times and parking a car dressed as a gigantic lamington at the entrance.

The Village was one of the major highlights of the festival, offering a range of attractions from yoga, circus workshops, and face painting to fake marriage ceremonies. After Bloc Party counted in the New Year and the night became more wild and weird, this is where many chose to direct their corporeal vessels and fully set them loose from any restrained moorings. A ten-minute dance party inside a shipping container was a surprisingly satisfying experience, with the minimal time limit serving as motivation to exert total manic energy. On the small Village stage, local DJ tandem Tyrannosaurus Decks fired out guilty-pleasure bangers and early-naughties crowd-pleasers and the receptive assemblage became even more untamed. My overzealous singing and unbridled dance moves may have traumatised those around me except that almost everyone else was following a similar approach. As the night hummed into the wee hours of the morning, the truly dedicated raged on in a large coffee stall that also served as a trip-hop/psytrance haven, but I could only muster a duck in before I had to traverse the campsite labyrinth once again and crash into my tent.

The day to head home can be fun if done right. Friendly staff members roll around in buggies bringing coffee and juice to the needy like brandy-toting Saint Bernards. Scavenger hunts produce all manner of junk-turned-treasure people have left behind in their haste to leave and lack of care. With the introduction of a Byron Bay Falls in 2013 there was concern that Tassie’s counterpart would become less popular, and though perhaps less mainlanders make the journey down now, Marion Bay seemed as vibrant as ever. More New Year’s Eve party alternatives may continue to arise, which is excellent, but when it comes to experiencing a vast selection of local, national and international acts in a friendly atmosphere and picturesque environment, Marion Bay’s Falls Festival is hard to overlook.

Jack Dunn


Review by Jack Dunn. For photo credits click the individual pictures.