10 things we learnt at Falls Festival Marion Bay

Vampire Weekend, The Roots and Solange all stole the show at Falls Festival ’s picturesque Marion Bay event, ALBERT SANTOS reports.

1) Marion Bay is the family friendly Falls Festival

Aside from the stunning views and the reduced capacity, compared to its sister festivals at Lorne and Byron Bay, one of the best aspects of the Tasmanian edition of Falls is that the place is so laid back that even families with children are in attendance. In a world where festivals almost exclusively cater to the young adult crowd, it’s certainly a refreshing sight and makes for a great atmosphere.

2) Bonobo and Bombino are two very different bands, but both are very good

The amount of times I heard people confusing these two acts over the weekend was countless. While their sets couldn’t have been more different, each was received passionately by fans and injected something special into the festival. Bonobo (UK DJ and producer) played smooth electronica at the main stage, with rockstar flair that had the entire crowd shimmering. Bombino (West African guitar virtuoso) played to a small but dedicated crowd at the field stage. Both were unique, captivating stand-outs in their own right.

3) Forget Beyonce, Solange is a an indie pop superstar

She dances just as well, sings as powerfully and connects with the audience as intimately as big sister Bey, all without signing a $50 million contract with Pepsi. Whether covering Dirty Projects or singing “”that song Solange brought a huge dose of star power to Falls, turning out one of the weekend’s best sets (which unfortunately clashed with another must-see: the reformed Violent Femmes).

4) Vampire Weekend are all grown up

Vampire Weekend’s Modern Vampires of the City was the curve-ball of 2013. It saw the band grow from being merely the poster-boys of tropical indie-rock to masterful songwriters in their own right. And this new-found maturity informed their live show. While there is still a transcendent joy about their performance gone from their set is the call-and-response ‘Blake’s Got A New Face’, while earlier hits like ‘Oxford Comma’ are spat out with disdain. The band seems revaltilised and challenged, and this new-found energy trickled over into a loved-up crowd at Marion Bay.

5) Scheduling The Cat Empire and The Roots on the same night was a bad idea

Normally, The Cat Empire are one of this country’s best “festival bands” – their unique funk and soul laced with its distinct Australian flavour is guaranteed to get any crowd moving. But scheduling them within an hour of possibly the world’s best funk band reduced their impact dramatically. When The Roots took to the stage to entertain a huge first-night crowd, they kept the audience moving through every single minute of their performance, putting on a set that would be matched by no other act on the bill the entire weekend. As a result, the usually well-received Cat Empire didn’t cut through and came off like a poor imitation of The Roots.

6) Never rely on POND

You’d never rely on POND to be coherent – being a rambling psych-mess is part of the appeal of their live show. So when Crystal Fighters called for the band to return to the stage for an impromptu jam session (which resulted in minutes of awkward waiting around) it should come as no surprise that band never did materialise). The awkwardness of POND’s no-show was topped when London Grammar’s Hannah Reid was presented with a Birthday cake on stage, to which she replied ”…I probably can’t eat it, as I can’t eat gluten. Sorry.”

7) Apparently no-one knows who Johnny Marr is

One of the godfathers of alternative music, responsible for some of the defining guitar riffs of the ‘80s played to a measly crowd on the first day. Shameful, considering how amazing his own music – as well as his pitch-perfect Smiths covers – were. While you could argue that most of the crowd that would appreciate Marr were sitting further up the hill nursing either children or wine, it certainly was depressing seeing the crowd quadruple in size for The Rubens.

8) You could hear Violent Soho from miles away

With Big Scary, Chet Faker and Tasmania’s very own Asta all drawing huge crowds across the weekend, there was certainly no shortage of love for Australian artists at Falls. However, it was Violent Soho who continued to dominate (both literally and figuratively) as they turned up their amps so loud you could hear them while watching Hanni El Khatib on the main stage.

9) This is Neil Finn’s world, we’re just living in it

From the first second Australia’s favourite adopted son come on stage, there was no denying that something special was going to happen. From the opening chords of ‘History Never Repeats’ to set closer ‘Better Be Home Soon’ Neil Finn (with a live band that included son Liam and wife Sharon) had the entire festival in his hands. Each moment of the set was mesmerising: The crowd singing back ‘Fall At Your Feet’ and ‘Don’t Dream It’s Over’; Kirin J Callinan jumping in for a guitar solo during ‘Locked Out, to Finn’s onstage banter and playful demeanor. It was the kind of stuff festival dreams are made of and was absolutely flawless.

10) MGMT made us miss the NYE countdown

MGMT are still a bad live band: uninspired and pretentious they clearly don’t enjoy playing the music that made them famous in the first place. But even if you were one of the crowd enjoying their set at Falls Marion, they lost most of the audience’s goodwill for running overtime ahead of the New Year’s Eve countdown. The time lapse meant that a random PA – rather than The Wombats – had to countdown the festival into 2014, bringing the night to somewhat of an anti-climax. That said, when The Wombats did arrive on stage at a quarter past midnight they did a good job of getting the crowd back in the mood.

Photos used from Falls Festival official Facebook page.