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Well it’s déjà vu again at the countdown for The Falls Festival at Erskine Falls, however I must say the rest of the festival went far beyond baseline standards. Sure, the usual festival difficulties were still lingering such as some alcohol choices being unavailable, entry and exit into the festival being disastrous and there was even talk about bouts of food poisoning amongst punters, but the stellar talent that was the line up for 2012 seems to overshadow these matters fairly easily. Boasting a decent dose of prominent international acts, home-grown favourites and a smorgasbord of genres, this year’s ‘The Falls’ will be one to remember (or at least for those who didn’t drink themselves to oblivion).

Day one consisted of setting up camp, dazing at the stunning scenery, mingling with the crew I’d be sharing three days of mayhem with and of course checking out the first round of acts. First off the ranks was Clairy Browne & The Bangin’ Rackettes who are a sassy, nine-piece affair, complete with a trio of soulful backup singers and dancers, plenty of brass and one wickedly talented leading lady. Tales of untrustworthy ex-lovers come to the surface, but Clairy’s humorous storytelling makes for some serious musical and theatrical entertainment. After a lazy hour dabbling in the festival food cuisines, Missy Higgins truly proved she’s back in action with a few new tunes under her belt and a healthy head of newly-coloured blonde hair! During the set, we were graced with the presence of a rogue streaker, only to hear Missy turn her head in disgust and explain that she “doesn’t like seeing penis”. I guess some things aren’t changed as easily as the colour of our hair.

Rather chuffed at the standard of the first two acts, I was in hope that Beirut would up the ante once again. Indeed they did. Although not the most engaging group of musicians on stage and as a result the audience finding solace in sitting in the grass, ‘Postcards From Italy’ sounded brilliant and suited the mood to a tee. After the sun dawned and us three-day ticket holders started getting excited for the first night of Falls antics, DJ Yoda christened the stage with an incredible mix of tunes, audio snippets and vocal samples. It’s pop art in music and it was definitely a highlight for many. Although John Butler following such an upbeat act was an interesting move by organisers, the Australian god of roots music sure brought the goods. It was a raw, earthy set and boy was there a sweet, well-matched smell in the air.

Day two began with a perfectly sunny morning – just right for festival activities. For those who rose around midday, either the rockabilly-loving Lanie Lane or two-piece, indie Brisbane band and evident grammar Nazis, An Horse opened the day. Soon following was the brief comedic stylings of Josh Thomas who although is considered by many as a pesky, fair-haired blonde kid who fakes a Brit accent for no apparent reason, did make the crowd laugh a little more than a mere giggle. The muchly anticipated Grouplove served up a high energy set and pleased fans with crowd favourites ‘Colours’ and ‘Tongue-tied’ whilst dancing crazy-like and generally having a ball on stage. People soon were taken off shoulders when Metronomy delivered a relatively underwhelming set despite playing supposed hits ‘Heartbreaker’ and ‘The Bay’. The most noteworthy thing of this set was the immense talent of the bassist and rather out-there attire of the female drummer, which was a bright gold, space-like, metallic jacket.

The day only ramped up from here with the much-loved The Jezabels gracing the stage and lead singer, Hayley Mary proving herself as a worthy front (wo)man. Their unique brand of what Wikipedia has accurately named as “intensindie” was received so well by the audience that one punter attempted to pull Hayley into the audience by her hair. A smooth recovery, a few tunes and a bask in the sun later, the brilliantly talented Fleet Foxes introduced the crowd to a new level of excellence at Falls. Lead singer Robin Pecknold’s vocals created shivers down the spines of many and mesmerized much of the crowd. I don’t doubt that the band now has at least a handful more fans after such a magical performance. Old-timer Tim Finn delivered the classic sing-a-longs before The Kooks showed the Falls Festival audience how it should be done. The well-loved songs such as ‘Seaside’, ‘She Moves In Her Own Way’ and ‘Sofa Song’ were scattered throughout the set along with just enough tracks from their most recent albums. Man of the moment, Luke Pritchard performed outstandingly and teased the crowd stupid while we slowly chanted “Naïve, Naïve, Naïve” in unison. Eventually the message got through and the final song was in fact ‘Naïve’, played identically to the record. It was the favourite act for many and for good reason. PNAU concluded my night of music with some dance tunes, but disappointingly, there were no people dressed up as strawberries to really own the stage.

Kim Churchill opened day three on the Grand Stage for those of us who appreciate the extra couple of hours of sleep. Tambourine on one foot, harmonica in mouth, fingers and hands rhythmically making love to his guitar, this guy knows how to jam. After being rather taken aback by the set I had just seen, I continued onto The Valley Stage for Triple J sweethearts, Alpine. A mellow, indie collection of tracks charmed the audience despite temperatures rising rapidly and many resorting to trying to find shade (emphasis on trying). However, this didn’t stop true fans of the band getting sweaty during the indie hit, ‘Villages’. Later on into the afternoon Arj Barker whipped out the harmonica for a hilarious musical number and warned onlookers that the world was actually ending that night and not the 12th December, 2012. Miles Kane was next up – a fellow I knew little about other than that he was touring with Arctic Monkeys. Pleasantly surprised, the British lad and supporting band rocked out hard with some screaming solos, intensely catchy melody lines and general good vibes. Seemed to me at this point that the British were making a decent impression on Falls 2012.

The Kiwi darling we have happily claimed as our own, Kimbra then owned the stage with some weird and wacky hand and bodily gestured but an incredible vocal spectacular. The only disappointment was that there was no unanticipated appearance by Gotye to perform the duo’s worldwide hit we all know too well ‘Somebody I Used To Know’ but her cover of Bobby Brown’s ‘Every Little Step’ was a crowd hit. Josh Pyke played much of his latest album and Young Blood by The Naked and Famous has been said to be the highlight of the entire festival. Then for the man who I think was born with music in his blood, Aloe Blacc who presented an unblemished show, spotlighting his ability to keep a crowd jiving. Many of his songs featured reggae influences, which his supporting band grooved to with gusto. After dollar coins had been thrown and dance-off winners had been crowned, the build up towards the New Year countdown began.

The Arctic Monkeys’ lead vocalist Alex Turner approached his mic with an Elvis-like prowl and a matching hairdo, then performed the lengthy set with ease. Although Turner didn’t necessarily bring the house down with his relatively withdrawn presence, the band itself kept beat impeccably – that is, until the countdown. That’s right, second year running, the countdown was missed. The band of the moment walked off stage two minutes before the crucial hour, only to return and explain they weren’t told they had to do a countdown. Well-done organisers. A half-assed countdown later, kisses were shared, hugs were thrown and the band went on with the show, following up the failed countdown with crowd-pleaser ‘Dancing Shoes’. First act into the New Year was the fiercely electronic duo, Crystal Castles who energised the crowd to no end with their bone-shattering bass and intense light show. This is when the party really felt underway.

So along with the good times, crazy dress ups, drunken antics, scorching heat and a few traipses through the world of weird and wacky at The Village, The Falls Festival’s display of top notch music, arts and entertainment served the entry into the New Year almost seamlessly and perhaps with a little more dignity and class than its competitor at Pyramid Rock. Let’s just hope that the past two years worth of countdown tragedy doesn’t make it to a third year running when leading us into 2013.


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