While most of the crowd were just about ready to sell their souls to Milhouse in exchange for a hot shower or an air-conditioned bedroom, the third and final day of Falls Festival boasted yet another impressive line-up.
The award for unexpected afternoon delight went to Solange. She may not be married to Jay-Z or have Grammys like her sister Beyoncé, but when it comes to singing, dancing, and overall stage presence, Solange is in no way inferior.
Backed by a funkalicious band, Solange dominated the amphitheatre, proving that she’s not just riding off her older sister’s fame. Whilst her ultra-chic outfit, unpretentious dance moves, and vivacious but humble demeanour were endearing, the main attraction was her vocal ability. Tracks like ‘Stillness Is The Move’ (Dirty Projectors cover) and ‘Lovers In The Parking Lot’ exploded with a soul and sincerity that’s difficult to fabricate. Leaving the stage with her arm around her nine-year-old son Daniel Julez, Solange’s set raised the bar for pop singers everywhere.
Pond’s brand of psychedelic rock sent the crowd on a time warp back to the 60s and 70s, giving Hot Dub Time Machine a run for his money. Fronted by the frighteningly delicate but animated Nick Allbrook, hits such as ‘Fantastic Explosion Of Time’ and ‘Giant Tortoise’ packed a punch and invigorated the laddish crowd. Like Tame Impala, Pond are one of the few psychedelic bands that don’t require a certain purple haze to be properly enjoyed in a live setting.
Reformed cult act Violent Femmes played to a swelling crowd and made the dreams of many die-hard fans come true by playing their seminal debut album in full. Opening with cult hit ‘Blister In The Sun’, a song that anybody with functioning ears could instantly recognise, Violent Femmes’ acoustified set was visceral, unique (it’s not every day that you see a drum box), and crowd pleasing. Lead singer Gordon Gano sang hits like ‘Add It Up’ and ‘Gone Daddy Gone’ with the same boyish angst of the original recordings. Violent Femmes’ set was an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that many will proudly tell their grandkids about.
One of the most surprising moments of the festival was London Grammar. Nothing could have prepared anyone for the crowd. Thousands gathered before the stage, on top of the surrounding hills, and on shoulders to see the British act. Whilst the trio put on an absolutely incredible set deserving of the colossal crowd, their posh sound had to compete with their fans, who continued to talk throughout. The only time most chose to give the trio their undivided attention was during the closing numbers ‘Strong’ and ‘Metal & Dust’, both of which were phenomenal live. Even if the memory of Falls Byron is ultimately forgotten, this extraordinary, unprecedented moment will be remembered in years to come.
In the meantime, Neil Finn of Crowded House fame treated fans to equally memorable set, playing hits like ‘Weather With You’, ‘Don’t Dream It’s Over’, and the Split Enz classic ‘I Got You’ much to the audience’s excitement. Along with Finn’s amusing banter, the insertion of John Farnham’s ‘You’re The Voice’ into tear jerking set closer ‘Better Be Home Soon’ resulted in a strangely patriotic moment that saw the whole crowd join together to sing the classic “woah ohs” with great passion.
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Opening with their 2008 hit ‘Moving To New York’, Liverpool trio The Wombats diverted the crowd’s attention from the rain and encouraged them to dance. Additionally, bite-size hits such as ‘Kill The Director’ and ‘Tokyo’ were boisterous and led to many enthusiastic singalongs with the audience.
Whilst their audio-visual show erred on the cheesy side (especially the floating pills on screen during ‘Anti-D’), their Beatles-esque accents, cheeky banter, and mocking solos made up for these cringe-worthy elements. They may not be the best indie pop band in the world, but their lightheartedness and knack for cute singalongs made for an enticing live show that anyone could have enjoyed.
Last but definitely not least was so-called ‘indie rock superstars’ MGMT. Dressed in some bizarre outfits, these Brooklyn avant-gardes opened with the chilled out ‘Congratulations’, quickly asserting that their set wasn’t going to be the synth-pop explosion that many perhaps hoped for. Whilst they did delight the crowd with ‘Kids’ (which included a trance-y and somewhat pointless interlude), permanent members Andrew VanWyngarden and Ben Goldwasser didn’t engage in any singalong opportunities or other crowd-pleasing rituals, leaving most of the fun to the audience’s imagination.
On the contrary, ‘Of Moons, Birds & Monsters’ and set closer ‘Alien Days’ were spectacular visually and aurally, sending audience members on an unanticipated faux-LSD trip. Additionally, VanWyngarden’s odd stage antics, such as running around with a GoPro camera and a Hello Kitty toy, were amusing but almost too weird to be appreciated by the majority of the crowd.
Whether or not MGMT’s set was an enjoyable experience is completely dependent on one’s perspective. Those who were expecting an energetic and danceable set were sure to be disappointed by the strong psychedelic themes of their show, but those who were prepared for an incoherent but unique spectacle would have been pleased with the duo’s closing performance.
With fantastic musicians and a unique ambiance to match, the Byron Bay edition of Falls Festival 2013/14, like all other major camping festivals, was an incredible experience that one would have been a fool to miss. Shout out to the Red Frogs team for providing an endless supply of water and red frogs to everyone. Falls would not have been the same without you – or the music.