Whether you choose to brave the crowds that descend on the inner city, looking for the quintessential Sydney New Year’s, or run away to more private spots along the coast for a quieter time with friends, Falls Festival is floating around the mind of many a punter. This year, my friends and I undertook the nine-hour drive from Sydney to Falls Festival in the parklands of North Byron, where we were surrounded by groms and their shagging wagons, indie girls whose untamed hair falls past their waist and your typical Byron folk, relaxed with their speakers blasting Ocean Alley amid the 30 degree heat.
Kicking off day one was Kota Banks, who had a revitalisingly fresh performance. This was the first festival performance for the Sydney pop queen, and she had the cutest spring in her step.
Next up was Hockey Dad and Ocean Alley, perfectly timed to draw out the surfer girls and guys from their campsites for a boogie to two of their most loved artists. Festivals can change the way that you listen to an artist, and while previously being a bigger fan of Ocean Alley, I have to admit, the energy from Hockey Dad (and Zach Stephenson’s amazing voice) won me over to their performance.
After nightfall, the energy was nothing but alive and youthful. Each and every individual present flooded to the main stage to enter the new year with sets from 88 Rising, Dizzee Rascal and Anderson .Paak.
Despite this amazing line-up, there was deep disappointment among the crowd.
A few of 88 Rising’s members had pulled out (all but Rich Brian, the fan favourite), and subbed in was August 08 and Don Krez. The two did an amazing job at pumping up the crowd and remained undeterred by the disappointment, but knowing Rich Brian was backstage and about to perform at any minute made us all impatient. Despite the long wait, his performance of Dat $tick and Gospel made the crowd forgive him for his short-lived performance.
Next up: Dizzee Rascal. Or so we thought. Dizzee was deemed unfit to perform 20 minutes before his set and was replaced by DJ Levins, whose extended DJ set was extremely underwhelming. There was a sense among the crowd that they could at least hope for some of Dizzee’s hits like Bonkers or Dance Wiv Me, so they can at least get the sing-along moment they had waited for, but it never came.
The disappointment didn't end there. Anderson .Paak & The Free Nationals gave nothing short of a sensational performance, but a timing error led to the hugely anticipated countdown into 2019 being ten minutes late. Even though the crowd seemed slightly dissatisfied, Anderson .Paak's high energy levels and stage presence left no-one questioning his ability as an entertainer and performer.
Day two was much more relaxed. Everyone seemed a bit zombie-like from the night before and the weather was hot. My friends and I took the 30-degree heat as an opportunity to check out Palm Springs, a series of pools and white sand accompanied by everyone's favourite flamingo pool floaties. An unrecognised hero of the entire festival Palm Springs is the perfect place to cool down, have a nap and chill out – other festivals take note.
My first act of the day was Soccer Mommy. With her angelic voice and sweet nature, singer Sophie Allison provided a nice, easy start to the day, which was followed by the deep house magic of Golden Features. Personally, I believe Golden Features could have closed out the festival as a whole, the impeccable performance and impressive light show that comes with the Golden Features set would have made for a memorable send-off.
The first day of 2019 ended with a personal favourite, Catfish and The Bottlemen. Despite being a northern hemisphere festival staple, I was unsure whether their sound had percolated down to this side of the world, particularly against local act Hermitude. Catfish and The Bottlemen however completely filled out the main stage with good reason. Lead singer Van McCann's voice combined with his carefree attitude confirmed their local popularity.
By day three, everyone had given up on using the cold showers. We all set out to the festival covered in dirt and glitter, with bags under our eyes but our spirits still high. My stand out act for day three (and to be honest, the whole festival) was Mahalia. Confirming that part of the joy of festivals is discovering a new favourite, I went into her set only knowing two or three songs but came out such a bigger fan. She killed it for her first time in Australia, and being the true queen she is, she danced her heart out, feeling herself to her own tunes despite confessing that people don’t often dance at her performances so it can be a little awkward. The way she took the time to tell the crowd the meaning of each song made her connection with the audience intensely strong — not to mention her voice live is honestly better than her voice in her recorded songs.
Despite a few hiccups, Falls Festival was an amazing start to the year, and I am beyond excited at the thought of attending next year’s as the festival continues to stake its claim to be the national answer to “what are you doing on New Year’s?”.