Falls Festival Day 4 @ Lorne, Victoria (31/12/2009)

The final day of Falls arrived and so did the forecast. Having suffered three days of heat already, the sweltering masses had one more to endure before the expected rain that evening. Thursday brought with it one hell of a selection of local talents, controversy over headliners and the night brought with it, well, a new decade!

Some damn fine local bands have arisen out of 2009, and on the final morning of the year three of those acts got to show why it was such a good year. On the main stage, Hungry Kids of Hungary arrived to reintroduce the good vibes for the morning. Harmonies and toe-tapping included, HKOH didn’t waste a moment of their short set and even coaxed a bunch into the sun to watch, with Scattered Diamonds rounding things out nicely.

Running up to the Grand Theatre, Kid Sam had already begun, with Down to the Cemetary playing. An impressive set followed from the Melbourne duo, who delivered one of the year’s best albums, highlighted by We’re Mostly Made of Water, which they played toward the end of the set complete with impressive extended introduction and outro.

Back to the amphitheatre’s Valley Stage, and Philadelphia Grand Jury had begun to draw in the dancers for their retro rock. The appeal of the Philly Jays is in their stage show, and this one to round out their year was no exception. Amongst tracks like The Good News and Going to the Casino (Tomorrow Night), Berkfinger and MC Bad Genius kept a high level of energy and when it came to their conclusion, I Don’t Wanna Party (Party) Bad Genius took little time to bound into the crowd to sing along with punters, whilst Berkfinger proceeded to pack the stage up whilst still singing. Philly Jays are the good time band of the year.

The John Steel Singers were up for a party as well on the shadier stage, with each member donning a red cape and jamming their way into the set as beach balls a plenty flew around the tent. Masochist and Strawberry Wine had smiles all round, before the band departed, only to return each wearing a horse head to continue playing.

Looking more like punters in their board shorts than their usual indie selves, Dappled Cities seemed very excited to have the main stage in the early afternoon. Tim Derricourt was beaming for the entire set as he delivered impressive vocals on Vision Bell and Holy Chord. An inclusion of Cream from their first album was appreciated on the set list, but The Price was the set’s winner, if only because it was the 2009 song for the band.

An unusually seated Andrew Bird had drawn a nice crowd back on top of the hill as he impressed with his multi-instrumental talents. Varied violin skills impressed on Anonanimal, before Bird took to the guitar with The Privateers. It was then a mix of both with the addition of looping effects for Imitosis, with a little xylophone added as well.

Liam Finn and EJ Barnes were having a little difficulty on the Valley Stage soon after, with the amplification cutting out. Happy with the fact those down the front could hear him via the foldback, Finn kept up his act though, and eventually all the sound returned. Whilst tracks like I’ll Be Lightning saw Finn dart from guitar to drum kit in his trademark fashion, it was the duo’s behaviour that really won over the crowd. Barnes managed revenge on an unsuspecting security guard by emptying her bottle over him and Finn did a great job of picking on those under the shade in spontaneous song.

Disappearing after Liam Finn for a bit, it was certainly an incredible sight to see the entire crowd had emerged for Art Vs Science. Not only had the crowd emerged, but so had a menagerie of inflatable animals – turtle, platypus, horse, penguin. When Parlez Vous Francais hit the speakers, the full crowd erupted, bounding in unison to one of AvS’s trademarks as the animals flew. Similar reactions were drawn for the cover of Boom! Shake the Room and Flippers, as well as a new song, Magic Fountain, which (as a song) may well be the worst thing to happen to music in 2009 (and the year was so close to finishing!)

Little Birdy couldn’t manage to pull the same sized crowd as AvS, but that wasn’t going to deter them. In a set laden with singles, it was clear Little Birdy knew what they had to produce. Hands swayed to Beautiful to Me and clapped along to Brother as Katy Steele exerted her fair share of attitude as per usual, cracking it at one punter in crowd rather amusingly.

Bringing a bulk crowd back to the main stage was London MC, Jamie T along with his band The Pacemakers, who opened with Operation and immediately had the crowd going crazy for him. Getting the crowd worked up seemed more than easy for Jamie (so much so that slowing down for numbers like Spider’s Web became irritating) but about half way through his set, after teaching the crowd the chorus to 368, he had a little help from the sky. The rain came, and boy did it come! So relieved from the heat was the crowd that they simply went with it, and Jamie couldn’t have been happier. By the time he’d come to the end of his set with a double hit of Sticks and Stones and Sheila, the crowd only wanted to mosh more.

As if Xavier Rudd can’t be entertaining enough already, his set managed to score a live lightning storm across the skies above his stage. Joined by Izintaba, Mr One Man Band himself seemed thrilled to have such a soaked crowd dancing away before him. The masses had cleared the top half of the hillside, too, which meant plenty of room for those needing space to dance to the likes of Guku (to which Rudd danced around the stage to himself). The beautiful Energy Song was a more subtle favourite in the set, but Let Me Be stole the show with one very loud sing along.

In the meantime, sliding down the hill had become the entertainment for many. Dressed in ponchos, a run and fall was sending people far, but not far enough. So much so, the inevitable makeshift slippery slide appeared.

Certainly an interesting choice for the time and place was Rodrigo y Gabriela, for whom the rain eased and the crowd increased. Theirs was certainly a set to remember with almost an hour of continuous and seriously impressive guitar work. The duo’s interaction with one another brought about a certain intimacy to their set, as it was clear how much they enjoyed playing with one another. In the few moments when Rodrigo played solo, he raced through a medley of tracks, getting a nice cheer for Seven Nation Army and demonstrating the most impressive playing you’ll see with no more than a high-e string.

Delighted to be at Falls, Moby delivered one the festival’s best sets, backed by his full band and an impressive lights show. Opening with Extreme Ways, Moby was quick to encourage a collective voice amongst the crowd, before his quirky thanks (“Thank ya thank ya thank ya thank ya”) began a catchcry right back at him. Much of the vocal duties were taken care of by Joy Malcolm, whose first order of business was to get the crowd dancing to Flower. Moby’s favourite thing about Body Rock, which followed, was watching 25,000 people jump up and down to it. Well, Falls didn’t quite have that many punters but the ones it had were certainly jumping.

Why Does My Heart Feel So Bad was one of the set’s less bouncy moments, but had Malcolm’s vocals soaring, before Kelly Scarr joined the band to sing another downbeat track, Pale Horses. Moby himself then took lead vocals for Porcelain, rounding out the trio of chilled out numbers. It was then time for Moby’s one minute 70s disco party, which began with some guitar jamming that led into We Are All Made of Stars, which sparked an excited crowd reaction. A modest cover of Walk on the Wild Side, Natural Blues and Raining Again (which it wasn’t, thankfully) all followed, but is was Malcolm taking the vocals again on Honey that stole the show (and perhaps the night) with calls of “sometimes” filling the whole site.

With 10 minutes remaining in 2009, Hilltop Hoods made their presence known as they bounded out to The Return. Still Standing quickly followed, and quickly ended with DJ Debris upping the tempo to get the song finished in time for the countdown. Midnight arrived and in came 2010, the Hilltop Hoods more than excited to have the crowd for the moment. In order to win over the crowd via “most appropriate song”, What a Great Night soon followed as the set continued on, but so did random tributes that led nowhere and some nasty puns about not having dampened spirits (thanks Hilltop, now I can’t use that one). The main issue was that Moby had made himself a hard act to follow (and perhaps there was jealously for Marion Bay getting some Yeah Yeah Yeahs action). Still, hits such as Clown Prince, The Nosebleed Section, The Hard Road and the Hoods’ 2009 hit and final song Chase That Feeling had the masses jumping along to their first moments of the year.

For those wanting a little more, the Hoods were followed by perhaps the festival’s most crazy of acts – King Khan and the Shrines. Bursting on the stage for Land of the Freak, Khan simultaneously impressed, frightened and humoured punters with his mighty potbelly and outfit (underwear and a cape, of course). Shadowed by a cheerleader for the set, it was sure one random experience, made all the more disturbing and/or entertaining by Khan’s enjoyment in likening Tasmanian oysters to eating, uh.. Let’s just leave it there.

Once again Falls Festival proved itself to be one of the year’s best musical events. The lineup, crowd and organisation were all commendable and it sure polished off 2009 nicely. Happy New Year! Here’s to a musically awesome 2010!