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Falls Festival review: Emergency measures create something special in face of adversity

It was indeed the bands who took to those stages that made Falls a music festival.

Mount Duneed
December 28-31

"You know it's the bands that make Falls."

He's a swing dancer fresh from the shower after a day spent in the harsh heat of the Falls Festival village, dancing on carpet over gravel that should have been lush grass.

The heat melted the glue in his partner's dance shoes and they fell apart off her feet, he says.

He's talking about the festival's last-minute move to an untested venue with barely more than 24 hours' notice, and the punishing sun that became a defining feature of Falls 2015-2016.


The traditional green Lorne home of the festival was deemed too high-risk as bushfires ripped through the surf coast, and it landed at the Mount Duneed Estate near Geelong.

"It's the bands that get up there and it's dusty and it's hot as all hell, they make it," he says.

If the sheer number of frenzied bodies moving is the measure of festival success, then Sydney outfit Rufus and headliners Bloc Party and Disclosure won Falls on the penultimate night of the New Year festival.

The highlight of New Year's Eve came early with wild Swedish rapper and singer Elliphant,​ who blitzed the main stage with wicked reggae hip-hop, drawing the crowds out of the shade to party with her.

Fighting fire with fire

"I thought you would be too tired but you're on fire," she screamed as the final hours of 2015 began to tick away. "Fighting fire with fire."

New York songstress Halsey's performance was rated by some as best on ground and sets by Gang of Youth, Hill Top Hoods and Gary Clark Jr were a standout.

Aussie rock darling Courtney Barnett had one of the hottest (literally) sets of the festival: performing in the final of many hours of extreme sun on Wednesday, Barnett still managed to wow a fatigued crowd. Birds of Tokyo put on an amazing show under similar conditions on New Year's Eve.

Artists in the valley weren't competing with those on the theatre stage for the most part, they were competing with the shade.

Clarke Jr saw in an ever-so-slight cool change by burning up the stage with a series of jawdropping guitar solos.

Melbourne girl Banoffee​'s breezy electronic sound and fresh take on hip-hop provided the perfect soundtrack to the morning after. It's not hard to see her making her way onto the main stage in the near future.

UK alternative rock group the Foals saw in the new year with an inflated crowd of about 18,000 swaying bodies, winding up four days of blistering sun and spectacular performances on a gentler note.

The Falls team with the help of volunteers had built a festival in under 48 hours, laying stages, lighting and sound at an unthinkable pace as many of them feared for their homes and families back in Lorne.

They had created something special in the face of adversity.

But just like any other year, it was indeed the bands who took to those stages that made Falls a music festival.