PART I – By Jake Palmer
The last minute cancellation of 2016’s Southbound Music Festival due to sweeping bush fires in the region last year left many festival-goers feeling anxious about whether or not the event would return in 2017. Additionally, the cancellation of Big Day Out, Listen Out, Soundwave and Disconnect Music Festival in recent years has created a sense of uncertainty regarding the future of large-scale music events in WA. So, as you can imagine, when the announcement came that Falls Music Festival would be making its west coast debut in 2017, local festival-goers were jumping for joy.
Upon walking into the festival it was clear that the convenience of Falls’ Fremantle location had been enough to convince many people to save themselves the three-hour drive from Perth the Busselton to attend Southbound only a week or so before. The decision to host the event in the heart of Fremantle by using multiple streets and existing infrastructure proved to be a well conceived and executed idea. By embracing Fremantle’s folk and grass-roots culture it was obvious that, wherever you looked, organisers had successfully realised their vision of transforming Perth’s historic and cultural centre into a space of creativity and self-expression. Whether it was enjoying a beer from the balcony of the Federal Hotel whilst gazing down at the alley stage below, having a laugh checking out some gut-bustlingly funny comedians in the church, seeing some old time Swing and dance music at the Town Hall or getting down to something a little more contemporary in the basement stage within the Myer Building, it was clear that above anything else the creative appropriation of space gave rise to authentic and enjoyable experiences that seem to be had by all in attendance.
The scheduling of acts seemed well handled, leaving very little discrepancy over few time table clashes; an issue that is common with so many other festivals. In order to attract patrons to the festival as early as possible, organisers decided to put on popular acts like Aluna George and Client Liaison during the mid-day slot. This proved to be a wise choice; one that ensured ticket holders received the maximum value for the cost of their ticket. Ensuring that a high level of attendance was maintained throughout the entire day seemed to be the key towards creating a sense of energy and liveliness that fuelled festival goers good time throughout the two day event.
It would be remiss of me not to mention the unfortunate last minute cancellation of Childish Gambino who had to pull out in order to be in attendance at this year’s Golden Globe Awards Ceremony in the US. Many of those I spoke to at and prior to the festival were aggrieved over Gambino’s absence, considering the international artist was one of the festival’s major draw cards. Some even expressed concern about whether the refunding of tickets would impact the festivals popularity, ticket sales and profitability in order to return to Perth in 2018. However, all qualms were lifted when replacements King Gizzard and The Lizard Wizard took to the main stage. Though the band played several shows in Perth throughout the course of 2016 following the release of their latest album Nonagon Infinity, the act seemed to be no less of a draw. In the end a packed out crowd joyfully got loose to the boys’ brand of psychedelic power rock as they unleashed their sonic odyssey upon the crowd.
All in all I feel that Fremantle Falls Festival 2017 captured a true creative spirit that in my experience many other festivals didn’t quite manage to. Yes, of course a great time can always be had at any festival when you are sharing the experience of being alongside your best mates in a crowd going wild together whilst seeing your favourite artists take to the stage, but its not the music alone that makes a festival great. A well conceived festival transforms a physical space into a cultural environment where patrons are surrounded by creativity in every direction they look and are encouraged to participate which consequently makes the experience of festival-goers one that is rich and meaningful. The consensus amongst those I spoke to seemed to be that Falls had successfully done this and consequently the experience I had at the festival proved to be a very positive one and ultimately was a great sign of things to come.
PART II – By Elise Ross-Adjie
After hurriedly eyeballing the set up of Fremantle’s back streets, and collectively agreeing that we “liked what they’d done with the place,” we hurried in to get a spot for brooding gloom pop rockers City Calm Down. In a time slot way earlier and to a crowd much smaller than a band of their caliber deserves, CCD played their newest album, In a Restless House, with a level of vigor that left you wondering how hot they must be in their obligatory all-black get up under midday sun. There was also a cover of The Smith’s This Charming Man, which was gobbled up by every genre of festival-goer alike.
Brit duo Aluna George brought the heat at the height of the afternoon sun, delivering some sass-heavy R&B dance beats. Aluna Francis had swag in spades and had the crowd deliriously grooving to party beats before unleashing the aptly named ‘I’m in control’.
As the sun went down veteran party starter Grandmaster Flash injected some life back in to a day weary crowd with a back catalogue of hip hop hits, while local boy Ta-Ku filled the evening air with instrumental atmospherics. Once the night had well and truly come upon us, Hot Dub Time Machine offered more contemporary dancehall favourites for those who were more inclined to dance than rubbing sweaty shoulders with strangers for a night of rock headliners at the main stage.
After the scrapping of Childish Gambino from the Perth lineup, King Gizzard and the Wizard Lizard dropped in to play a decidedly different set. The psych-rock wizards played an hour of hard-hitting insanity with completely deranged hallucinatory visuals to match. The crowd went gaga for lead singer Stu’s blistering echo-drenched screams and subsequent tongue out flailing that he injected generously throughout the set. Gizzard did what Gizzard does best, they punch you in the face with a hard hitting good time and you love every second.
Violent Soho rounded out the first night with a set of wall to wall (head) bangers. Punters clutched beers in the mosh at their peril as the crowd threw their hair back and forth at breakneck speed. The crowd-obliged lyrics to their repertoire of anthemic rock songs and voices were hoarse after the like of ‘Viceroy’, ‘In the Aisle’ and ‘Covered in Chrome’. Soho delivered a performance to make clear their standing as a master class in Contemporary Australian rock. After a night of back-to-back rock, crowds left sweaty but stoked.
Playing a criminally early set those in the crowd anticipated great things from Client Liaison, and oh boy did they deliver. Clad in their best 80’s gear, the boys romped around in sync across an office themed set complete with oversized water tanks, while old school parliamentary footage whirred in the background. The old favourites had the crowd heaving before they took nostalgia to its logical conclusion with a Savage Garden cover; It was loud and it was luscious. Easily one of the best gigs of the weekend, and not just because they were the only band to open a carton of foster’s on stage, the only true blue frothy love.
Ever-excellent locals, POND, played beats old and new that had the falls’ crowd grinning from ear to ear. The proficiency of the psych outfit didn’t cease to amaze, the boys once again proved just why they are considered local legends. The highlight by far though was the face-melting guitar hook in ‘Giant Tortoise’, which got an 11/10 on the head banger scale from me. Easily one of the most fun gigs of the weekend, just a really great time.
It’s something strange to attend a two day festival with no camping. It means that you have to exit the headspace only to be confronted with your mundane life before gearing up the energy to once again party; The word ‘struggle’ comes to mind. Fortunately the exciting line-up of artists kept everyone on their feet, the energy of the crowd never seemed to let up and a good time was had by all.