Review: Falls Festival Byron Bay, Part 2 – The Main Event

Photos by Stuart Bucknell Photography

The Falls Festival is increasingly trying to be everything to everyone, stretching across the East Coast and now hopping to the West, it’s a broad canvas to wash but we are still always delighted to spot some more folkier acts gracing the main line up. After checking out The Grove and finding some great local folk acts, it’s always nice to see what acts are gaining the attention of festival organisers and audiences alike. Falls Festival Byron Bay had a nice little selection to tide over the inner folky.

We’re going to start with the big guns. Not necessarily Folk, but the storytelling style and lyricism of Darryl Braithwaite’s glorious return certainly deserves a mention, as well as the sheer nostalgia of it all. We have to admit, when we first saw Braithwaite on the line up, we had to take a second look, then embraced the choice in all it’s glory. The veteran looked really happy on stage, and the crowd were going absolutely nuts, though we’re not sure how many of them were actually born in time for Braithwaite’s hey day. A true performer, he introduced his band with great humour and cracked open the set with an old favourite, “Rise”, with its rich with harmonica and the bulging crowd at front of stage clapped along enthusiastically. Braithwaite delivers a very different speed and sound to the rest of the festival but a joyful, rousing set, perfect for a celebration like New Years Eve.

Not pausing to breath, he and the band rolled straight in to “Not Too Late” then joked about doing ‘that song’ right then and being along with questioning the age of ever person in the audience.

It was a rollicking time as “Howzat”, “As The Days Go By” and “One Summer” made the most of their big synth moments, entire amphitheatre singalongs, rousing the crowd into a euphoric haze. And then those tell tale chords rang out across the crowd and sheer joy erupted for the entire amphitheatre to sing out every lyric of “The Horses”. A sentimental win, right there.

Continuing with the not-really-folk-but-we-want-to-include-them bandwagon are the wicked lyricists and activists Camp Cope. We couldn’t even get in to the tent it was so overflowing with eager punters before their set even began. But from their first syllables on stage, acknowledging the stolen land that the festival was on, imploring their audience to clean up and pick up after themselves, and calling out the atrocious behaviour and assaults at another Falls site, we knew Camp Cope were a whole other kind of band.

“Jet Fuel Can’t Melt Steel Beams” lashed out in the hot afternoon and the crowd went crazy, begging for more from the rapidly rising outfit. Their spirited performance, strong vocals and confident engaging performance drew comparisons the likes of Courtney Barnett meets The Smith Street Band. Definitely an act worth catching live. They have also taken heat after their call for events like Fall Festival to have a more diverse line up. We noted similar inequalities at Bluesfest last year and look forward to watching the industry and scene continue to evolve to better represent all musicians.

We had to dash from Camp Cope’s set to catch Julia Jacklin. A significant change to catch her tranquil vocals, soft as caramel, oozing out from the stage, sweetening the audience up immediately with dreamy tones of “Lead Light”. The anthemic ballad “Cold Caller” filled the space with catchy riffs and made the audience move together.

From emotive choruses, to beautiful moments of quiet among the electricity of the band, Jacklin had it all going on. Her rendition of folk song “Wonderland” showcased the solace of her voice accompanied by only her electric guitar, and the vibrato timbre to her voice had an enchanting effect on the audience. We’re looking forward to hearing more from Jacklin soon.

The much anticipated set from Fleet Foxes delivered a mix of old and new tracks to an albeit smaller than anticipated crowd. The weather, the relentless humidity and the hangovers from the previous night probably all had a lot to do with it. But the crowd that did arrive, were happily ensconced in the all too familiar Indi folk twists and turns of Fleet Foxes.

The glorious harmonies of “Grown Ocean” washed forth from the stage as the digital back drop changed continuously, carrying their songs visually through sunrises, abstract colours, and emotive pulses. Flowing from one song in to the next, “White Winter Hymnal” transfixed the amphitheatre, followed swiftly with rich red, bright backdrop and emphatic calling opening of “Ragged Wood”. A mix of old and new was on the set list, and once the final notes of “Your Protector” rung across the field, the newer transidentel tracks moved over the crowd in an ocean of sounds, trills, and unbridled experimental cohesion.

In stark contrast to the inclement weather and oppressive grey skies, the monumental crowd for homegrown favourites Angus & Julia Stone were bright and cheerful in the Valley Stage’s amphitheatre, in spite of the gloom. Their set was a graceful mix of both new and old, with the familiar trumpet solo of “Private Lawns” to the cool, calming choruses of “Chateau” echoing across the grounds.

“My House Your House” had a mass, emphatic singalong in the amphitheatre only to be outshone by “Big Jet Plane”, the song everyone had been waiting for. The hit track, delivered in a relaxed and melodic fashion, had everyone is enraptured in spite of the steady rain. The enormous, spirit lifting cheers at it’s finish heralded the true love for our homegrown Angus & Julia Stone. To finish off a set, virtual flurries and soft white snowflakes overwhelmed the backdrop and the soothing, feminine refrains of current hit “Snow” were a perfect counterpoint to the humid, rainy northern NSW climate. A hallmark performance cementing the place of the folk, indie and alt genres at one Australia’s most loved music events, The Falls Festival.

You can check out all of our Falls Festival photos on our Facebook Page, and read Part 1 of our Falls Festival Review featuring great acts from The Grove stages.

Review: Falls Festival Byron Bay, Part 1 – The Grove

Photos by Stuart Bucknell Photography

The Falls Festival is an annual institution for many, with people waiting with baited breath to see if they land a coveted ticket. Most of what we see is all about the Main Stage acts and tight scheduling to see all your favourites, or to toss up who the best act to see at Midnight in the 31st will be (for the record, we had Flume and he was most excellent).

But one of the things we’ve always noticed and made mention of is the other performance areas, often known as The Village in Lorne and Marion Bay, and The Grove in Byron Bay. So what happens when you deviate away from the main stages and check out the other options? You discover a trove of delightful, folky acts!

Here’s a selection of some of the great local acts we caught at the other Falls stages in The Grove, at the Cafe de Rude, and Lola’s Bar.

Let’s start with the Singer/Songwriters.

First on our radar was singer/songwriter Reilly Fitzalan. An unassuming and modest chap who shares intimate thoughts with the small crowd. The venue, a small cafe in the Grove surrounded by a Peep Show, a Japanese Cocktail Bar, and Lola’s Bar (another stage), has to battle with the neighbouring music which is disappointing but to be expected.

Unperturbed, Fitzalan introduced himself and moved straight in to a ballad. Lovely affected vocals layered over the acoustic guitar, not dissimilar to a young Xavier Rudd. He introduces a new song, about his Dad (“a little bit”) which had a solid construction and lyrics over a subtle and subdued guitar. Fitzalan gave us short tracks without any pretentious attitude. His versatility was on show as he switched to a lower register vocal alongside sentimental plucky opening that sounds simultaneously familiar and new. A truly intimate and private moment, shared with a hushed crowd.

Next, we fortuitously heard about Damien Cooper. He was walking from his campsite to The Grove singing and our friends followed him like the Pied Piper of Hamlin to the Cafe stage, we joined them and weren’t disappointed! Cooper had a laid back air, perfect for the suffocating heat of Byron Falls. His songs were straight from life, like his track inspired by his brother, who he loves but also pisses him off, appropriately named “Love You Anyway”. Strummy and sentimental, with a stomp box for emphasis, we couldn’t help but smile at a quintessential lyric, “Sometimes I get what I deserve, sometimes you just get on my nerves”.

“Pale Blue Dot” was a curious song about how insignificant we are in the grand scheme of things, complete with a beach indie pop vibe and Cooper beatboxing in the instrumental! At 24yrs old, Cooper is more thoughtful than his years. His track “Patience”, about knowing the right time to act, had tones of a travel or journey song with strong, driven vocals, supported by stripped back acoustic to focus on the tale. A troubadour in the making.

We trekked to the cafe on the final day to catch Maisy Taylor and arrived in the middle of her beautiful rendition of “Can’t Help Falling in Love” followed swiftly by her enchanting vocals on “Sink or Swim”, her flowing melody not at odds with the drenching rain outside.

Knowing how to please a crowd, Taylor gave a fun, folky cover of “Blame it on the Boogie” in all its Acoustic glory, which become a songalong in the intimate enclosure of the cafe. Taylor took a moment to thank her Dad for introducing her to the music of Tristan Pettyman before launching in to his “In Bloom”. To finish we were treated with a strummy upbeat performance of “Little Birdy” – the epitome of happiness on a grey day, with mischievous tones on lilting notes.

While there were solid singer/ songwriters at The Grove, we can’t ignore the bands and groups who also squeezed on to tiny stages over the three days.

Over at Lola’s Bar, we came across 3-piece cum 4-piece, Banksia. Amongst the splendour of couches set both on stage and off for musician and listener alike to recline on, funky percussion and electric guitar with delicious vocals trickling over the chords, along with beautiful vocals in an indie singer/songwriter style was a welcome change from the maelstrom of Falls Festival humidity and crowds. They introduced their newest band member on what seemed to be almost every kind of instrument from keys and synth, to vocals and sax! Their diverse tastes were on display, first with their track “Vulnerable”, a light, lilting tune with a Kate Miller Heidke like vocal quality, haunting yet sweet and comforting, then moving in to another tune, a lackadaisical ballad with a bop to it

 

The Button Collective must be one of the hardest working bands on any festival line up. At Falls Byron they played multiple times, sometimes twice in one day! They squeezed on to the tiny Cafe de Rude stage, and ran rampant on the Lola’s Bar stage. In a tight formation on the Cafe stage, their plucky bluegrass merriment oozed joy, clustered around one mic, reminiscent of scenes in O Brother, Where Art Thou?. Whether on a stage large, or small, every player had their part, from the flautist trilling gayly, to the cheeky violinists, or the plucky banjo player and the boisterous lead guitarist. They brought everything, from sea shanties with an Aussie twang, to trad pieces and original larrikin works. As a tight group, they rolled with the punches, whether a broken guitar string and shake up to the set list to facilitate a restring, or pouring rain, suffocating humidity, or just plain fitting in to the rough and tumble of the Falls line up. Whether more subdued than usual and cramped on a tiny stage, or rollicking with more space on Lola’s stage, they’re a thoroughly entertaining act not to be missed!

And our pick of the Falls Festival Byron Bay programming at The Grove was Ben Wilson – performing as a 3 piece act that had us hooked from from the first strum of a string. Between them, the outfit sported double bass, violin, acoustic guitar and harmonica, plus their fabulous harmonised vocals, crowded round a very vintage microphone, managing to capture their tunes before the breeze could. Their sweet lilting sound competed with the boisterous Lola’s Bar next door, but the trio were unperturbed. Wilson’s folk felt like it had a dash of country and a splash of old time style to keep things moving. Pitched on the tiny Cafe de Rude stage, it was like watching a delicate dance for them to all manoeuvre around the one mic that delivered such a sweet and true voice. Their harmonies were terrific, and they hit their stride in spite of challenging neighbours. Buddy Holly’s “Peggy Sue Got Married” was a true testament to Wilson’s love of 50s & 60s pop writing and a burning desire for some hearty folk, rolling along with an almost honky tonk sensibility. Choosing in difficult conditions to switch to trad covers for a bit of fun, we were treated to an upbeat gritty rendition of “Hesitation Blues”, a plucky and cheeky “Old Black Dog” and a delightful rendition of “Strawberry Fields”. To finish an entrancing set, Wilson and co finished with an original, “Big River” complete with beautiful a Capella refrains to end. Bonus props to Ben Wilson et al for also featuring in The Button Collective, we’re not sure if they actually stopped playing at all over the 3 days!

Check out our Photo Gallery on Facebook for more photos, and stay tuned for Part 2 of our Falls Festival Byron Bay Review, coming soon!

Falls Festival Review: Falls Festival Finds

Goodnight from Falls general_20160101-19Festival: Falls Music and Arts Festival
Location: Byron Bay – North Byron Parklands
Date(s): Thursday 31st Dec 2015 – Saturday 2nd Jan 2016
Featured Artists: The Imprints, Merry Jeann, The Scrimshaw Four, Vardos, Soak and Oh Wonder.
Photos by Stuart Bucknell

At festivals like Falls, there’s always big name acts, there’s always Timber and Steel style acts we’re anticipating, and then there’s always a raft of acts we’ve not come across or had an opportunity to see before. It’s one of our utter pleasures to go out of our way to check out the quirky and unknown acts on festival line ups and see what’s new to discover. As I mentioned in my Overview, Lola’s Bar in the Festival Village was a gold mine for the kinds of acts we love here at Timber and Steel.

imprints_20160101-1The Imprints, a two-piece hailing from Melbourne, played Lola’s Bar on New Year’s Day with their quirky strings and drums combo to a quiet crowd recovering from their midnight revelry. Their clever use of looping pedals made for intricate fiddle tracks that melded together in beautiful harmonies. Their set featured opportunities for them to build up multi tracks of fiddle plucking, playing, strumming and harmonizing, along with a retinue of drum beats, and then strip the sound right back to a simple beat and chord. Watching them, it was clear they had a strong link, feeding off each other throughout their live performances, no doubt developed from their time playing pure improvisation. Part way through the set, Violinist Willow asked for people to come forward, even just to lay down on the dance floor and chill, because it was always weird to play to people sitting so far away. Without dropping a beat, there was a mass movement of people, and their chairs, forward. The Imprints had made a good impression.

merrynjean_20160101-2Merryn Jeann played a 10am set in Lola’s Bar on the last day of the festival, the perfect start to a day clouded in sleepiness and people just coming terms with the day. Merryn was the epitome of a folk musician, clad in an embroidered blouse, long skirt, bare feet and jaunty flat cap. Freshly arrived home from performing at the Woodford Folk Festival, Merryn started the last day of Falls with a cover of Bombay Bicycle Club’s Dust on the Ground. Her lulling, husky voice wrapped the gathering crowd in the comfort of lyrics and time, at times haunting, at times humming around you like a bumble bee. Her set included tracks like Death at Lincoln Park, usually sung with her folk band, but with a different blues style lament when performed as a solo. Having recently returned from a 6-month stint living in Berlin, Merryn took advantage of the opportunity to perform in her home town by bringing along a friend or two to join her on stage. Maeve and her violin joined the set with haunting violin chords that supplied liquid undertones to Merryn’s finger plucking.

Merryn has an unassuming, raw and honest style, playing direct from the heart. She had people transfixed, woke them to the day, and lulled them through the morning, and drew people in to sit and chill, taking in her tunes.

scrimshawfour_20160101-2The Scrimshaw Four had the lunchtime shift at Lola’s Bar on the last day of the festival. We turned up to count 5 performers on stage and figured it was a happy bonus. Or maybe they can’t count. With a line up of guitar, fiddle, bass drum, double bass, banjo and Hawaiian Lei, we knew it was going to be a vibrant show from the Melbourne lads. They kicked off the set with the country-esque fiddle and boppy vocal harmonies of Stealin’. Once the audience was properly warmed up, it was time to get down to the real business of party tunes! When a song is introduced as being about a ‘romantic day’ on the beach and starts off with the line “I don’t want to give you a diamond ring”, you know it’s going to be a fun story-telling style set. I Just Wanna Give You My Heart turned out to be just that, with a bluegrass jam, upbeat tempo and a Mic Conway like frivolity. To follow that up with an hilarious cover of The Little Mermaid’s Under the Sea but at a fast, almost manic pace, was exactly the right formula for a happy crowd.

The Scrim deftly swung through country, folk, gypsy jazz, and everthing else on the old and gutsy jazz spectrum, to ragtime beats and high energy dance tracks. They reminded me of The WooHoo Revue but with their own brand of quirk. They have stellar stories that create their songs and make for great anticipation-laced intros, like the one about the girl who misheard his invitation to show him her moves, instead as show him her boobs! The Scrimshaw Four are a solid festival band sure to get you dancing, whether it’s to a polka, some Roma gypsy jazz, some hillbilly and bluegrass, or just some country and folk, you won’t be able to stop your toes from tapping.

vardos_20160101-6We came across the witty, character filled trio Vardos at Lola’s bar early in the afternoon of New Years Day. All kinds of gypsy music, from Transylvanian Romanian to “Modern” flowed from the lively crew with fiddle, accordion and double bass ablaze. From the outset it was clear they genuinely have fun on stage, moving and dancing round each other with some fun choreographed moments of teasing and taunting. All three took turns singing songs and the fake accents that tended to slip in and out were all a fun part of the ruse. They sing about love, beauty, life, ups and downs, all the while maintaining a vibrant and direct connection with audience, picking out people to play to in each song. The three are playful on stage and fun to watch, like witnessing a battle of wills between the violin and bass and an accordion playing the referee.

But, finding something new wasn’t just restricted to the small stages of the festival, both the Forest and Valley Stages also offered a little something to discover.

soak_20160101-5Irish songstress Bridie Monds-Watson, aka Soak, had the unenviable task of opening the main stage for the final day of Falls. But once the Valley was open to punters for the day, a steady stream of eager listeners made their way to a grassy spot to soak up her sounds. “Soak” comes from a phonetic mash-up of ‘Soul’ and ‘Folk’ but her style is still more genre defying than such a straight forward combination. Her set traversed her musical explorations, through floaty chill-out moments, ethereal soundscapes, indie infused sounds and haunting vocal melodies. Sea Creatures and Blud, her most signature tunes to date, washed over the crowds and set the tone of the day.

As Soak, Bridie has a strong sense of her vocal diversity, engaging a delightful head voice when it fits, and smashing out those power driven notes when the point needs to be hammered home. She reminded me of both Lisa Mitchell and Emma Louise (in her Jungle days) in ways, her vocal stylings in particular. I think ultimately the physical enormity of the Valley Stage meant she could not engage authentically with the audience, she could have benefitted from a more intimate setting, like the Forest Stage, to really allow the audience in to her realm. She does have potential to grow and emerge as a staple festival act, so keep your eyes on Soak!

ohwonder_20160101-1I think my favourite find for the whole of Festival has to be Oh Wonder, a London-based duo who were performing in Australia for the first time thanks to the Falls Festival. You’ve got to love a band who brings their own stage backdrop, a 2-metre-tall set of light up initials for their band name… which read ‘OW’, It’s probably an appropriate sentiment for the level of hangovers, hair of the dog’s and sunburns that were evident post NYE celebrations.

Oh Wonder created instant atmosphere with a smoke machine and tension filled hanging notes as they entered the stage to launch their set. The assembled crowd  gave huge cheers for each of the duo as they took to the stage. Described as electric folk, their style encapsulated the nuances achievable with looping tones and beats, while layering piano and electric guitar over the top. Their vocal unison was compelling, more so when they slipped seamlessly in to close harmonies and back out to unison again. Their voices compliment each other tonally, Josephine is the lead vocalist but Anthony’s smooth, silky voice wraps her delicate breathy beauty and grounds it in the electro beats they employ. Both are multi skilled, multi instrumentalists that lend their talents to each others musical moments, creating thick, rich tones to lose yourself in. Highlights of their set were the heavy bass and rolling piano melodies of Livewire, and the at times reggae-like bass and sparkling impact of Dazzle. The one descriptor that keeps coming to mind for Oh Wonder, is “gorgeous”. Check them out and cross your fingers for another visit down under from them soon.

So, that wraps up our 2015 Falls Festival Byron Bay experience. A wealth of acts to see and one of the best festival experiences we’ve ever had. Byron Bay is a definite contender for anyone looking for a great way to spend New Years Eve, no matter the line up.

Read our other Falls Music & Arts Festival reviews:

Overview of Falls Festival Byron Bay 2015

Timber and Steel Highlights

Unmissable Acts

Falls Festival Review: Timber and Steel Highlights

The Valley Stage at Falls Festival Byron BayFestival: Falls Music and Arts Festival
Location: Byron Bay – North Byron Parklands
Date(s): Thursday 31st Dec 2015 – Saturday 2nd Jan 2016
Feature Artists: Courtney Barnett, Little May, The Button Collective, Gary Clark Jr.
Photos by Stuart Bucknell

The line up was a great collection of many talented musicians from a vast array of genres. In terms of Timber and Steel acts, there were four main highlight acts to catch at Falls.

Courtney BarnettIt’s been a big year for Courtney Barnett, 2015 has seen her juggernaut debut grow in to dominance of the charts and the hearts of Australians of almost all musical persuasions. Clad in desert boots, jeans and a hat that only lasted a song and a half, Barnett didn’t hesitate to launch with full energy in to her huge set on the Valley Stage for the first day of the new year. The audience sprawled across the lawns, from the raptured fans at the front, to the chilled punters on the grassy slopes at the back, all completely fixated on the multi award winning yet demure figure. Highlights from her set include that rare quiet moment as the entire Valley hushed for the opening notes of Depreston only to then have every voice heard singing along in unison, and her huge hit Pedestrian at best close her set in full rock-goddess energy while the crowd reached the peak of their high spirited, dancing frenzy.

Little May on the Forest Stage at Falls Festival Byron Little May is an act I’ve seen popping up time and time again on my social media feeds and have been keen to catch. The trio took to the Forest Stage on the last day of the festival, with their backing band at the ready and strong audience numbers eagerly anticipating their set. And the ladies did not disappoint. With honey golden vocals trickling through the all encompassing tones of the full band’s live act festival sound, Little May treated the crowd to a full course of sweet temptations. With highlights including a beautiful rendition of the ballad, Seven Hours, to the new track Cease, the trio gave a consistent, high quality musical spectrum for the crowd to relax too, from the folk tinged to the indie pop and alternative sounds. Their repertoire allowed them range from their silky, harmonised ballads to bold, anthemic tones of Dust, through the tale telling of Hide and finishing off the performance with a stellar performance of their Great Southern Land Like a Version cover. I can only hope that Paul Kelly himself caught even a glimpse of this up tempo take on his classic track with  their clever use of vocal layering as it’s the last time they will be playing it for a while.

Button collectiveOver in Lola’s Bar, on New Years Eve, we stumbled upon a likely scene of rag-tag musicians and a tent full of eager punters. It was 2pm but the Button Collective soon had the dance floor packed with joyful revelry. Appearing as a 6-piece line up each day of the Byron stint, the sheer energy and cheer emanating from the stage was infectious. With everything from the traditional folk, to country-tinged tracks that invoke foot stomping, the Collective had a winning combination on their set list. With Barn-dance like hoedowns springing up on the dance floor, and multiple Irish tunes mashed-up to treat the crowd, Lola’s Bar was the scene of frivolity for their entire set. The Button Collective brought sea shanties, bluegrass, folk and an array of short, punchy, fast paced tracks and still bowed to the whim of the crowd, playing more dance tracks whenever the crowd demanded. So spirited was the audience, that a conga-line formed and snaked its way around the dance floor until every punter was a part of the line, and then spontaneously erupted in to a mass hoedown. To say The Button Collective put on a good show would be an understatement… I’m sure the word ‘rollicking’ should be used.

garyclarkjr_20160101-3Finally, on the last night of the festival, I had the pleasure of witnessing the sheer ‘cool’ of Gary Clark Jr. His live sound reminds me of Ash Grunwald sans distortion, they both clearly dig a similar edgy blues style. Clark Jr. weaves effortlessly between styles, from a Lenny Kravitz swagger, to an occasional Hendrix vibe and all while navigating through blues soaked solos. The crowd grew steadily as his wavering wails swept the Valley. Dipping now and then in to old school rock, and then rolling through the blues to keep the audience on edge, it was like watching a master at work. Clark Jr. saturated the audience with electric riffs and transcended into another world onstage, so steeped in the moment and the music. He seamlessly melds his music on stage, from cool blues to upbeat jump around funk blues. Gary Clark Jr. is worth every moment you can fit on your festival planner.

While these four were some of the main focuses of us Timber and Steelers, there was a wealth of talent throughout the Falls line up to whet the appetite.

Read our Overview of the entire Falls Festival Byron Bay event.

Unmissable Falls Acts

Falls Festival Finds

Falls Festival Review: Overview

Welcome to the FallsFestival: Falls Music and Arts Festival
Location: Byron Bay – North Byron Parklands
Date(s): Thursday 31st Dec 2015 – Saturday 2nd Jan 2016
Genre(s): Rock, Dance, Alternative
Photos by Stuart Bucknell

Having been to both Lorne and Marion Bay Falls Festivals in the past, it felt like it was time to complete the trilogy and visit Byron Bay for the New Years Bonanza. We enjoyed Splendour back in 2014 and so wondered how The Falls Festival would use the site for their festival antics. Lorne had sold out but to our surprise, Byron Bay had not reached ticket capacity, the previous year’s mud was apparently a deterrent.

Upon arrival, the utter beauty of the organisation struck us plain and simple – from excellent signage on the roads leading to the venue, through to the process of getting in to the festival, it was all sweet and no fuss. We had wondered how a 3 day festival, that is usually a build up to the penultimate celebration on New Years Eve, would fare when the night in question was in fact the first night of the 3 day affair. It seems that for Byron Bay, the crowd for New Years was good, but instead the numbers grew significantly for the 1st and 2nd January days.

FlashCampWe splashed out and stayed in FlashCamp – an investment well worth it given its proximity to a festival entry, the high quality facilities that were cleaned throughout the day, and the luxurious tents, services and on site bar.

We were pretty fortunate with the weather – Byron Bay New Years’ are famous for either blistering sunshine or mud inducing rain. With cool temperatures and overcast days, we cruised through the mid 20s all festival and everyone was very happy about it. That’s not to say that the Festival’s latest addition, Palm Springs, didn’t go to waste, far from it. The pop up water park, complete with inflatable flamingos and water slide, was a quiet on New Years Eve, undoubtedly due to people getting prepped for the big night, but come January 1, that place was packed to the gills, regularly reaching peak capacity and turning away punters. With a line up that predominantly began at or after lunch time, Palm Springs was a genius way to combat the heat and give bored punters something to do before the main stage lit up.

Punter in Palm SpringsBut let’s be fair, the Byron Bay site was not a place that one could be bored in for long. With multiple ‘streets’ of vendors offering food and goods, there was plenty to explore in any down time, from ping pong and human foosball (table soccer), to the famous misting tent, a Pirate Ship Bar with DJ was always a good option for a drink and to look out from the upper decks over the entire festival, multiple themed bars to sate your thirst, a mini movie cinema on site and the untold wonders encapsulated within The Village meant that almost any fancy could be fed all on the one festival site. And if your heart really desired, there were regular shuttles to nearby Byron township so you could soak up the sun, the surf, the beach and take in the tourist sights of Byron Bay.

The crowd in attendance across the three days was in high spirits, with only a few of the usual suspects wiping themselves out before the stroke of midnight. But overall, the crowd attending the festival were fantastic, courteous and very chilled out. The whole festival had a very relaxed vibe full of happy people, a very different experience from the sometimes frenetic Splendour crowd. I think Halsey summed it up best, when at the beginning of her set on the last day, she claimed that “Australian music festival crowds are my favourite audiences to perform too” which had the crowd cheering.

The line up was eclectic and offered options for many types of music lovers. With the Valley Stage being the main focus, and the Forest Stage the shady place to escape too, the one stage we paid extra attention to was Lola’s Bar in The Village – with no pre-advertised schedule, our morning ritual was to drop by and see what exciting finds were in store each day. Not only was Lola’s Bar a great source of folky goodness, but it was an excellent drawcard for The Village – a place of wonder with circus, cabaret and quirky shows in their miniature theatres, including an impromptu wedding in the Le Petite Grande. From yoga in the morning to crafty costume making and building giant puppets for the parade, to circus, drumming and dance workshops under the big top, or even the ten minute disco, The Village was a hive of activity throughout the festival.

Punters in the ValleyIn short, of all the festivals we have been to over the years, Falls Festival Byron Bay came out on top. My only down point was the seemingly excessive noise restrictions on the Valley stage – which also finished at midnight every night, except one song past the New Years Eve stroke of midnight. In past years, neighbours of the venue have complained about the levels of noise from other festivals and a volume limit has been placed on the venue for all events. Sitting at the far side of the Valley, this meant that the sound did not travel well and was muddy and quiet by the time it got to us. I guess it’s just to encourage us to get closer for our favourite acts! Hopefully the issues can be resolved and future festivals won’t be quite so hampered by such strict noise limitations in the future.

All in all, the layout of the site, the organisation of the festival, the behaviour of the punters and the choice of line up made for the best festival yet. When you’ve got celebrities like the Hemsworth’s, Miley Cyrus, supermodels and even rumours of Vance Joy in the crowd, you know you’re on a winning ticket. And we haven’t even told you about the music!

Click through to read our reviews:

Timber and Steel Falls Highlights

Unmissable Falls Acts

Falls Festival Finds

 

 

 

The New Year Conundrum

Every year as the calendar days roll by, friends and family start asking the inevitable questions about what you are doing for Christmas and New Year. In the past, there has been a good range of folk friendly festivals stretching up and down the East Coast of Australia for eager punters to choose from, but with the demise of both Pyramid Rock Festival and Peats Ridge Festival, it shrinks the obvious choices down to Woodford Folk Festival and The Falls Festival (which has conveniently added a new venue/ location for the 2013/14 event).

But, what if you’re not after a big and busy festival for your New Year’s celebrations? Well, let’s take a look at what’s on offer, both the big guns and the ones you might not have come across yet.

Woodford Folk Festival – Woodford, QLD

Woodford Cart

Undeniably one of the largest festivals in Australia, it has been repeatedly nominated for all kinds of awards in the events and tourism industries and remains one of my favourite festivals of all time, even if only for a 35 hour experience, I’d love to go back (but sadly, not this year). Based on their own site (Woodfordia, about one hour north of Brisbane), The Queensland Folk Federation have delivered outstanding line ups year after year and offer a range of musical acts and arts activities for all ages making this festival easy for the whole family to attend. While this year’s line up hasn’t yet been announced, we would put money on it being another outstanding list of great musicians from around the world, a quick glance through the 2012/13 programme book will attest to that.

Tickets and camping are still available at pre-festival web prices up until Christmas Eve, or if you’re feeling the pinch, they are always looking for willing volunteers who gain free entry in return for their help before, during or after the festival. Highlights of Woodford, apart from the amazing line up (in which we would name almost ever artist we’ve covered on  Timber and Steel if we were to list past festival performers), includes the huge range of workshops, crafts and activities for all ages to participate in, the exciting range of food and stalls available on site, the breathtaking lantern parade and the penultimate fire event bringing in the New Year. Completely safe for the whole family with plenty for the young and young at heart, if you haven’t been to Woodford, it is probably the festival I would tell everyone to go to no matter what their musical leaning. Don’t believe me? Check out their latest promo video:

The Falls Festival – Lorne Vic, Marion Bay Tas and Byron Bay NSW

Falls Festival, Lorne, 2008, Music Festival

Now, before I get you all excited, tickets for two of the three sites have sold out, tickets are now only available for Marion Bay in Tasmania. So, for those of you already with tickets to Lorne or Byron Bay, I’m only going to be reaffirming your excellent choice in festival for the New Year period. I went along for the 2011/12 festival in Lorne Vic and discovered an experience I had not anticipated, it was so big it required multiple small reviews, no single post could encapsulate it all. 2013 is the first year they’ve expanded to Byron Bay (which has successfully hosted Splendor in the Grass and nearby is the home of Bluesfest) so there is no hesitation that a New Year’s festival will have any trouble in such esteemed company.

Just like Woodford, The Falls Festival is not just a music festival, it has a vast array of arts workshops and experiences to keep every punter engaged no matter their hangover or musical interests, from themed days and fiesta’s through to art attacks. For those thinking still and wondering about Marion Bay, we can confirm it is a kid friendly event meaning, like Woodford, the whole family can come along and enjoy the line up.

Speaking of line ups, since The Falls Festival is not exclusively a folk festival, it means the artists cover a range of styles but still features some of our favourites including Emma Louise, Gossling, Grizzly Bear, Neil Finn, The Cat Empire, The Paper Kites, The Preachers and a whole lot more that we’d love to check out live. For the full line up, visit the listing on their website.

If you’re heading to the Byron Bay site and haven’t decided whether to camp, glamp or swag it, all the accomodation options are available on the Falls Festival travel page including the incredibly groovy Tepee Life village (Tepee Life also available in Marion Bay).

And if the idea of heading to Tasmania isn’t immediately appealing, just pause for a moment to consider the great adventure you could embark on. Not only do you get to head to one of the most pristine and beautiful forest areas within Australia and see some of the best acts around (including voting by Oct 31 in the Foster A Band competition to choose a local band to grace the stage), you can also take advantage of the 29 December start date to have an adventure around Hobart and broader Tasmania before bringing in the New Year!

If you’re struggling to decide, or wish you’d got a ticket to Lorne or Byron Bay, don’t despair, there are a few more options including applying for an Art Camp at any of the three sites to create the artistic heart and soul of the festival, and includes a coveted ticket to the festival. If you’re not so artistically inclined, but don’t mind a bit of work, volunteer applications are still open for Marion Bay.

Now, I move out of my comfort zone to two festival’s I’ve never been to!

Gulgong Folk Festival – Gulgong NSW

Dancing Gulgong Folk Festival by Flickr member farmgrovePhoto courtesy of Flickr member farmgrove

Technically not actually a New Year’s festival, the Gulgong Festival (which Gareth enjoyed earlier this year) takes place over the weekend immediately prior, 28 and 29 December 2013, making it a good option for those who have to work those pesky week days between the public holidays – if you’re in NSW and can manage a drive out to Gulgong that is. However, it’s also a great option for people that want a folky fix AND their big city New Year’s party as you could manage both pretty easily. If a nice jaunt out to Mudgee isn’t tempting enough, what if I told you tickets were free? I kid you not.

There’s no obvious camping options unless you seek out a camping ground but their website does list a number of motels and accommodation options, and really who doesn’t like a trip out in to the countryside and a good B&B to see you through?

Again, their line up is not announced yet, but with past acts like Jack Carty, The Falls, Mustered Courage, April Maze, we’re pretty confident it will be an impressive selection. A little birdy has shared some inside information that Daniel Champagne, Melanie Horsnell, Alan Caswell, Big Erle and Matt Southon may well make appearances *nudge, nudge, wink, wink*

Nariel-Creek Folk Festival – Nariel Creek Vic

Vendulka performing at the Nariel-Creek Folk FestivalVendulka on stage. Photo courtesy of Nariel-Creek Folk Festival

A beaut little festival in regional Victoria (North East for those playing at home) which looks to be the kind of scale of The Gum Ball or Corinbank and equally delightful feel for all the family. They went simple in their online presence – a facebook page only, having pulled down their website earlier in the year. Tickets are cheap at $20 a head and available at the door, camping is an incredibly low $5/ night and you can turn up early and stay late if you really want. No idea who is on their bill, but in honesty, it just looks like an amazing and relaxed way to spend a New Year’s, especially if you want to avoid the crowds! Plus there is ample opportunity to dress up for the fun of it with plenty of great shots of their past New Year’s Even cocktail parties on their facebook page.

Gum Ball Crowd

An honourable mention goes to The Gum Ball, who last month put the call out online to see who might be inclined to turn up at their Dashville property for a New Year’s Gum Ball-esque event. Unfortunately they didn’t get enough interest to make anything happen this year, but if you’re keen to see a New Year festival in the Hunter Valley for future years, we think heading to the 2014 Gum Ball and making noises at the organisers might help them decide to go ahead in 2014.

So, where are you spending New Year’s? We’re still considering the conundrum ourselves!

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