The inaugural Western Australian Falls Festival kicked off last weekend in Fremantle. Punters flocked to the hip and happening streets of the WA port city to catch their favourite acts, despite a number of cancellations and accidents over east casting a shadow over the festival.
Initially, I couldn’t place my finger on who City Calm Down sounded reminiscent of. The National? Kind of. Okkervil River? Close, that’ll work. It wasn’t until an exceptional cover of The Smiths’ This Charming Man that it all clicked, and I could immerse myself without that puzzle hanging over me. Blending the best of all three of those bands, consistently invigorating guitar and bass meshed with creative instrumental flourishes from the keyboard. The inclusion of a trumpet and sax during Son added a snappy lilt, while the bass and keyboard combined in highlight In a Restless House, making thick melodies that welcomed the blasting drums, while bassist and guitarist dueled in the cold great dawn (it was 2PM but whatever). All of this atop lead singer Jack Bourke’s deeply moving vocals, a voice that was instantly captivating. City Calm Down succeeded thanks to its cool mannerisms (Bourke looked so swanky swinging the microphone about) and potent mix of dour and funky instrumental breaks. This concoction allowed them to carefully ensnare the audience in a pleasant wave of retro-fueled electronica.
Parquet Courts is one of those bands from whom you always know what you’re getting. Here, cheeky surfer keyboard stirred alongside agitated drum beats, juxtaposing one another nicely. The bassist was entrancing, constantly shaking his head from side-to-side. The band’s extended instrumental sections were similar to that of Wilco’s, featuring smashing keyboard against a sonic cliff of distorted guitar. Although there was barely room to breathe between songs, the keyboardist still fancied a bit of banter, remarking “not bad for a bunch of seppos, hey? Yeah, we know what that means”. Taking no half measures, the song that followed this remark featured a light intro, jungle rhythms pumping up the crowd before guitars were shredded in a blaring, climbing torrent of distortion. The frenzied guitar work was paired with equally frantic vocals that flowed naturally, the singer turning red towards set’s end in a noble display of stamina. Seeing Parquet Courts is like being on a speeding train; things may derail at any moment, but somehow it all holds together. Ultimately, you reach your destination (sick vibes, in this case) feeling better than before you got on.
Illy is the illest. Am I rap speak-ing right? The best thing I can say about the Melbournite is that he was a fantastic crowd motivator. When he swayed his arms back and forth, the crowd did so in tandem. His self-deprecating humour was endearing, a solid accompaniment to his whirlwind of lyrics supported by pumping drums. Upon finishing Swear Jar, a song that certainly lives up to its name, he said “that is the stupidest song I’ve ever written… thanks for being immature adults with me”. It was this personable nature that carried the set, his genuine manner flowing into his stylish rhymes. Smooth synth tones and irrepressible drumbeats made the atmosphere swell to a fever pitch, most apparent in Youngbloods, a highlight that set the audience into a well-earned, immaculately delivered frenzy upon requesting they deliver Ahren Stringer’s (The Amity Affliction) woah-ohs.
Anyone who’s read my past reviews knows I am generally not much a fan of electronic music. So, when faced with German house duo Booka Shade, I have to say my expectations were tempered accordingly. This somewhat low expectation was far exceeded, as I found a lot to enjoy both in the pairs’ boundless energy and eclectic soundscape. Walter Merziger and Arno Kammermeier were all smiles and sunshine, the chimes adding a mystical effect to their sick bass drops. The crowd went bloody ballistic as both beats and tension rose to astronomical levels, creating a pressure cooker of an experience. It was most enjoyable because it was obvious Merziger and Kammermeier were having the time of their lives, grinning at the crowd, swaying softly as they enacted their craft. I believe the ability to be one with the music as they were is no small feat, when you spend the majority of the set behind desks and drums. I just want to give a brief shoutout to Matt who forced me to dance (sigh). That’s the worst I can say of the experience, really. Sorry Matt, while I fail to “feel the music”, I can respect the amount of work and passion that goes into it. I have learned the value of keeping an open mind. Probably.
Contrary his name, rapper Allday did not, in fact, rap all day, or all night for that matter. In fact, his set finished nearly twenty minutes early. Blatant namesake contradictions aside, I wasn’t really floored by his performance. It was serviceable, but ultimately forgettable. He rose to the stage a silhouette bathed in smoke, his long hair swaying in the breeze. He seems like an honest lad, and the crowd, for their part, were into it, singing along in the biting cold. The deckmeister, as he is referred in my notes, was throwing out slick-edged electronica to accompany Allday. The man himself was respectably critical of his work, lamenting the underutilisation of high hats in one of his tracks. The abysmal lack of front lighting greatly diminished my enjoyment; not being able to see the singer’s face is fine for a mysterious opening, but not for an entire set. It took me out of the moment and spoiled what could have otherwise been a moderately enjoyable interlude. The lack of lighting, at least, made the smoke more noticeable, combining with the backlights to create a serene backdrop for his heartfelt songs.
Ta-Ku gave off some momentary inspiration for the crowd when WAFIA arrived for guest vocals – touting her as a reason for encouraging him to sing. With the vocal harmonies combined with his smooth electronic production being the main selling point of his set, Ta-Ku and WAFIA felt like a musical power couple.
If you could mix the idea of an orchestra, the flamboyance of a rock opera and the tenacity of a garage-rock band – then you would probably get King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard. With a pair of drums already striking out the band as something else, it was amazing to see the entire band work in unison. With the visual spectacle of a vulture being displayed on the screen behind the band whilst the track People Vultures was being played – it was a psychedelically eclectic spectacle.
Violent Soho were a stellar way to nut out the night. Lead singer and guitarist Luke Boerdam brought a stunning intensity, with his nasally vocal styling and a slick combination of darkly humorous and down-to-earth lyrics. Jesus Stole My Girlfriend exhibited a prime example of such witticisms, being a fun, no-holds-barred affair in which the band really seemed to let loose. Featuring filthy guitar stirrings alongside Boerdam’s harshly sung yet poignantly-worded “this time next year I’ll be married/this time next year I’ll say sorry/But Jesus stole my girlfriend”, the track got the crowd singing along with ease. The bassist was a great showman when it came to wrapping the audience around his finger, his long hair windmilling in a hypnotising fashion. Roll upon roll of toilet paper was flung into the crowd by both band and crew, adding a hardcore feel to proceedings. It was readily apparent that, much like toilet paper, Violent Soho’s performance cleaned up any trace of shit on the day, leaving both scrunchers and folders satisfied.
Photos: Castaway Photography