Festival Review: Flume headlines a massive New Year’s Eve program of music at the Falls Festival in Byron Bay

Here for its 25th instalment, the Falls Festival has become a staple diet for the many punters up and down the east coast of Australia who enjoy listening to quality tunes to bring in their new year. Returning for its fifth edition at the North Byron Parklands, Falls managed to put in place what has proved thus far to be a well oiled and increasingly lubricated machine (and when I say lubricated, you should read: beers; but more on that later).

Kicking off on the 31st of December, everyone was in the mood to get things off to a good start. The weather was warm, humidity through the roof, tent sleeping near impossible, and the line up was incredibly well balanced. Taking place on the same site as Splendour In The Grass, it’s clear the team behind both festivals have learnt from previous errors and put on what continues to be a well serviced and thought out festival.

With three main stages in use through out various times of the festival, Falls were smart to limit the use of the smaller Galaxy and Forest stages in the earlier parts of the day in an attempt to build the party up on over at the main stage. And this masterstroke proved to be, well, a masterstroke.

With DZ Deathrays getting a small but eager crowd pumping on the Forest Stage, a mass migration by the punters was made as Confidence Man were moved to the main Valley stage at late notice. Causing a few confused festival goers (myself include) to just follow the crowd up into the main amphitheatre as Confidence Man were just kicking off, you knew Falls was about to really let loose.

Absolutely smashing through the set with their singles “Bubblegum” and “Better Sit Down Boy” making appearances, frontwoman Janet Planet had the crowd frothing for more as she displayed some of the best d-floor moves you’ll ever witness on stage. Closing out on “Boyfriend (Repeat)”, you’d never have guessed what was about to unfold in the following set.

Confidence Man.

Being named on the festival on the back of the best meme of 2017, Australian music legend Daryl Braithwaite crushed his set. While Flume may have had top billing on the line up, Braithwaite was the real headliner of the day. Knowing he’d been in the legendary Sherbert, I’d hoped he’d at the very least play “Howzat”. I was not left disappointed.

You know those acts that you think you only know one song of, but it turns out you know their entire set? Yeah, this was Braithwaite for me. Telling the frothdogs down the front that good things come to those that wait, absolute madness and mass hysteria was unleashed when “The Horses” finally made its appearance. The crowd had swelled with love with the best sing-a-long moment you’ll witness for a long time. He may have left his run late, but closing on “The Horses” could have been the best thing Braithwaite did in 2017.

With the humidity and temperatures doing a number on the vast majority of the crowd, it became apparent very early on that you weren’t going to find a lot of refreshment or quality from the beers on offer. With the strongest beer clocking in at just one standard drink, $9 and being the supremely underwhelming Carlton Dry, this is one thing Falls should consider rectifying in coming years. I understand licencing and RSA laws have something to do with it, but having drinks at that price and strength only encourages people to find other avenues for their ‘release’. It’s a serious issue with the Australian festival scene and wider Government laws, and a conversation needs to be had; this just isn’t the article for it.

With The Jungle Giants seemingly playing their 100th festival for the year, the Brisbane band got things going again with a career spanning set. Followed up by Thundamentals, the Blue Mountains group could not have played a better new years set. With their cover of Matt Corby’s “Brother” really building the crowds’ juices up, fan favourite “Sally” was probably the stand out moment from their set. Again, I knew a whole lot more of the Thundas’ stuff than I thought.

Returning to our shores after a three year absence, Foster The People went about playing an evenly paced set, that admittedly peaked whenever they played their earliest material, including “Helena Beat”, “Call It What You Want” and “Pumped Up Kicks”. With that in mind, their Ramones cover of “Blitzkreig Bop” was pure magic.

Foster the People.

Festival favourite Flume was granted the keys to opening the new year as his set started minutes before the midnight countdown. And while he seemingly kept those down the front interested, his 70 minute set seemed uneven and frankly quite underwhelming. Admittedly, I wouldn’t be what you’d call a dance music aficionado. I love a banger as much as the next person, but Flume’s set just didn’t do anything for me or half the crowd that left after the midnight countdown. He’s undoubtedly a very talented musician and producer, but the tracks from his Skin album don’t seem to be all that conducive to a festival crowd. Earlier tracks like “On Top” and his remix of Hermitude’s “Hyperparadise” got the people going, but with no guest appearances or vocal spots to be seen, his set felt flat. Maybe I just built up the new years’ beginning a little too much.

With two full days still to come, Falls Byron Bay has already delivered, and seemingly has plenty more still to come.

Photos taken at the Lorne Falls Festival event by John Goodridge.