Falls Festival Day One (Boogie Nights) and Day Two, Lorne (28-29/12/2011)

According to the Mayan calendar the world is going to end in 2012, so with 2011’s edition of the Falls Festival potentially being Lorne’s last ever, it was the right time for a party. This year’s lineup was a smorgasbord of variety, beginning with an evening of funky ska tunes and moving quickly through three more days of every genre under the sun. And boy was everyone under the sun – with not a cloud to be seen and the sun blazing for four days straight, it was certainly a blistering way to bring in the New Year.

Day One

Kicking off the beginning of 2011’s end was the Falls Festival Boogie Nights up in the Grand Theatre: a celebration of ska, funk, go-go dancing and organs!

Saskwatch commenced and immediately set the bar high, encouraging the most eager groovers and shakers to get the party started. The nine on stage, led by the super impressive Nkechi Anele, had the party rolling, with a booty shaking horn cover of Kids and a big shout out to Melbourne mates Little Red with a busting Coca Cola.

One tick for dancing, and the next was for singing. It wasn’t any old sing along that followed though; it was a trip back 20 years to Toffee Apple, Spaghetti Bolognese and Newspaper Mama with the one and only Peter Combe.There were costumes of newspaper and plenty of call and response, but the final verse of Mr Clickety Cane summed up the joy of Combe’s set in the best way; a roaring mass of adults bellowing “Belly flop on a pizza, EWW!” was euphoric.

It’s hard not to be smiling when Barry Morgan is performing, as those in the Grand Theatre discovered. Introducing his World of Organs, Morgan’s “set” transpired as an infomercial for the very organ he was playing, as well as an excuse to deliver as many “clean the organ” jokes as one could muster. His spin and grin trademark is priceless though, and those hanging around were taken by it.

Post novelties, the night’s genuine soundtrack began where Saskwatch left off, with Anna’s Go-Go Academy filling everyone in on the moves they’d need for what was to come. Nouvelle Vague and Babylon Circus book ended the feature trio of acts for the night, but it was the Melbourne Ska Orchestra wedged between the two that had the Grand Theatre in a frenzy. With darkness and alcohol to cure any inhibitions, there was more than enough bad dancing in the crowd. The Specials’ Rudie and Madness’ Night Boat to Cairo had the floor ablaze as Nicky Bomba tore around stage in style, backed by his 20 strong band. Melbourne Ska Orchestra delivered unadulterated fun, and brought in the Falls experience in just the right way.

Day Two

The musical offerings of the Valley Stage began the following morning, as did the first of three blazingly hot days. As a special cure for any early hangovers, Falls had enlisted the explosively raw Lewis Floyd Henry from the streets of London to quit busking for New Years and get heads nodding in blues approval. Loud, rough and singing about anything from fishing to the devil, Henry quickly won himself a few fans. If it wasn’t enough for those interested the first time, he pulled out another two sets over the week on stage, as well as getting out from behind the Hessian fence to busk in the camp grounds.

The day’s early offerings were both hit and miss. Bleeding Knees Club were a miss, pulling a dedicated group of diehards to jump around down front and keeping the energy up, but falling short in their song department as each track seemed to blend into one. Guineafowl followed and was the hit, Sam Yeldham showing off his keen fashion sense and charming the sun soaked crowd.

Easy Star All-Stars performing Dub Side of the Moon in its entirety was a bit off and on. Heat and reggae were an obviously good mix and there was plenty of appreciation and smoke wafting through the crowd in their afternoon slot. An awkward warble through Great Gig in the Sky was jarring, but this was made up for by cool jams during Money and Us And Them. The concepts the band come up with are certainly strange, but a reworked reggae Pink Floyd turned out to be pretty cool. A couple of Beatles and Radiohead renditions rounded things out, with the lyric “I get high with a little help from my friends” ringing ever so true.

There was certainly a lot of love for Missy Higgins, and the hilarious hard-bogan-turned-softy stereotype during her sing-alongs was scarily common amongst the crowd. In her first gig back here in a long time, Higgins took the opportunity to test some new material, but her favourites were all the punters wanted to hear – singing loudly along to The Special Two as the songstress played piano on stage.

Armed with a swag of horns, Beirut were next to win over those gathered in the early evening. Minimalist in his performance, Zach Condon didn’t need to do too much to charm everyone, his voice alone making for a stirring set. Accordion, flugelhorn and French horn were all part of an ensemble that wouldn’t be heard even remotely similarly elsewhere during the festival, and it was easy to soak up the love for tracks like Nantes and Santa Fe.

And just as the everyone had sufficiently chilled out post Missy and Beirut, CSS made their way out to stir things up again. A costume fanatic , Lovefoxxx aptly prowled onto the stage in her best rock chick getup – leather vest with her name across the back and a wild black frizz of a hairdo. “Imagine it’s really hot and you’re all popcorn” called Lovefoxxx as she got the crowd shaking again after having promptly thrust her wig away, torn her pants off and demonstrated that she actually isn’t tired of being sexy at all. Music Is My Hot Hot Sex, Let’s Make Love and Listen to Death From Above and some hefty cow bell work highlighted CSS’s set, all secondary to Lovefoxxx’s frenetic stage presence.

Like Missy Higgins earlier, John Butler Trio haven’t been heard on stage much lately either, so they were in the right mind for a triumphant return themselves. Theirs was a set laden with singles so the masses could join right in; Used to Get High, One Way Road, Close to You and Zebra all among the tracks sparking similarly communal reactions. The best moment of JBT’s set though was Butler’s solo guitar work on Ocean, his instrumental track stealing the set’s thunder.

Getting the crowd involved is one thing, but disturbing them simultaneously is a greater feat. And that was what Regurgitator were interested in doing. Jumpsuits you didn’t really want to look too closely at, genital graphics rotating behind the band and tracks like I Will Lick Your Arsehole – this is what the crowd needed after the oh-so-kind roots hour. They jumped, they screamed and they played their best tracks (they had to; they were playing Unit in its entirety). Possibly the day’s finest hour and one hell of a round out into the night.