Review: Falls Festival Downtown 2020

John Farnham-17

Photos by Stuart Bucknell Photography

For years, the Timber and Steel team have headed to the Falls Festival – hallowed ground for the annual New Years Eve Revelry. We’ve been to Lorne, Marion Bay and Byron. Ever since the festival branched out and added a fourth show to the tour, the team have been keen to head to Fremantle, WA to check out the latest iteration.

Falls Downtown is a whole other world from the East Coast festivals – the theme and look is the same but the vibe is different, unique to it’s location and style. Paired down to a two-day festival, set at an oval in the midst of a tourist town, it felt like a relaxed Big Day Out or summer stadium festival, with the enthusiasm and energy of a dance party.

Since it was not a camping event, patrons were more able to fully express themselves and their festival style. People would pop back to their accommodation between sets, or take some downtime when the schedule allowed, or nip back to make that all important costume change from day festival, to night fabulous. We can only imagine the crazy sunburn lines people were sporting after some revealing and eye catching outfits sparkled through the oval.

Jack Davies and the Bush Chooks-1

We kicked off the weekend with the stylings of local Jack Davies and the Bush Chooks (and a local tip, turns out ‘Bush Chook’ is the nickname for the local brew, Emu Export). It’s always tough to be one of the first acts to open at a festival, but Jack and crew had their fans in tow and a growing crowd lifting their already excellent set. Kicking off with a ballad steeped in folky know how, a great meld of acoustic guitar and violin with a lash of electric to straddle the genre threshold. Their set rambled through a perfect collection of larrikin lyrical, slyly local, Australiana laced, satirically soaked tunes working through a range of styles and tempos. Who knew that the very first act of the festival would stand out as one of our favourites of the whole festival? We won’t be surprised if we see Jack Davies on larger folkier festival lines ups in the very near future.

We caught Vera Blue opening her set with haunting lyrically driven tones, melding acoustic prowess into poppy beats, carrying the crowd on an emphatic journey. As far as festival line ups go, Blue clearly attracted crowd to arrive in time for her set, and programmatically her performance was a perfect bridge from Baker Boy‘s hip-hop energy to John Farnham’s nostalgia, while recognising a powerhouse talent in her own right.

John Farnham-7John Farnham, what can we say? He does still have it, and we were delightfully surprised at just how many people of all ages not only knew, but sang along emphatically to his epic back catalogue that both transported us back in time, but was also poignant and timely for the current political climate. Favourites abound, Age of Reason, Chain Reaction, Touch of Paradise, Two Strong Hearts, Sadie the Cleaning Lady, That’s Freedom all rolled across the stadium to collective delight. A fantastic line up of backing singers made for glorious harmonies, and Farnham’s fine voice and high spirits showcased his huge personality. And of course, You’re The Voice was THE anthem of the stadium, sung wholeheartedly, in unison. A defining moment of Falls Downtown.

Milky Chance delivered a moody and emotive set with a deep rhythm that had the power to move your body from within. Earthy xylophone melded with a solid beat, and sheer joy. They delivered the perfect set for a summer evening, punctuated with their own panache. Any act that can use a harmonica as a rhythmic sound deserves to have the crowds dancing and singing along word for word.

Of Monsters and Men had the crowd singing and dancing along instantly, with favourite hooks and big faves ringing out across a rambunctious crowd. Followed closely by Lime Cordiale whose brassy and bold musical statements had us all hooked, lapping up their infectious vibes that had an air of The Cat Empire, and delivered a whole lot of fun.

Of Monsters and Men-6

Parcels was fun to catch with harmonised, mysterious opening to their set, that gave way to an 80s pop vibes, laden with funk and escalating their synched harmonies. Vocally moving into a higher register, a comforting melody emerged that was easy to lose yourself within.

Sunday’s line up was as exciting as the Saturday, and the festival’s adaptability was on show as the venue layout had been tweaked overnight, providing a better experience for punters, relieving a key bottleneck and allowing better flow for excited crowds to move between stages.

The Japanese House-3

The final day of the Falls Tour cruised in to hearts and minds thank to The Japanese House. Their smooth harmonies and soaring synth delivered a cruisey pop melody to get everyone in the right mood.

We know him from his duo outfit with his sister, but Angus Stone’s Dope Lemon was a highlight for the team where musically we’ve reached new terrain – not folk, not country, not blues, and not pop, but a soothing balm of them all in just the right blend lingering on a sunny afternoon over an eager crowd. A modern day Woodstock vibe ensued.

Hitting our stride with a definite theme for the day – relaxed and chilled – #1 Dads didn’t fail to deliver with strummy chilled goodness, reminiscent of an evening on the beach with a hint of Beach Boys. The indie vibes were strong and the crowd was committed to enjoy every ‘holiday-like’ moment of the set. A mix of old favourites, and new tunes to test, it was a set not to be missed.

Lewis Capaldi-43

Golden boy Lewis Capaldi did not disappoint the crowds who gathered with a glint in their eye and the intent for fun. He opened with raucous energy that wowed the crowds, yet managed to tame the wildness and calm the beasts within by moving in to sentimental ballads. A masterful performer, he had the growing audience in the palm of his hand, tantalising and thrilling them with with popular hit after hit, maintaining his stoic charm throughout.

Matt Corby-1

Joining the Falls line up only for the Downtown leg was Matt Corby. We’ve seen him in action many times but Falls seems to be a place of calm joy as his relaxed and confident manner held the crowds transfixed. Pulling glimpses of gospel and flashes of falsetto, his meld of music and stories wound through the audience, drawing them closer and holding them up together until his hits had them enraptured with delight.

We rounded out our Falls with solid festival favourite, Thelma Plum. Her high energy set was packed full of hits laced with her genuine charm and shining with Aussie pride. She delighted throughout her performance, caught off guard when a song ended in spite of being so whisked away with it that she didn’t want to stop. A delectable cover of The Captain felt like Chambers herself could have stepped on to stage to join them, lapping up Plum’s edgy emphatic delivery. Plum’s hits rang out across the oval as the temperatures dropped, the stars came out and the Falls Festival concluded for another year.

Check out our whole gallery of photos by Stuart Bucknell Photography on our Facebook page.

Thelma Plum-1

1 Comment

  1. January 24, 2020 at 14:19

    […] “Falls Downtown is a whole other world from the East Coast festivals – the theme and look is the same but the vibe is different, unique to its location and style. Paired down to a two-day festival, set at an oval in the midst of a tourist town, it felt like a relaxed Big Day Out or summer stadium festival, with the enthusiasm and energy of a dance party” – KT Bell reviews Falls Festival Fremantle. Read the Review here […]


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