Despite our aches and pains (and possibly still in the midst of recovery from Southbound) we dragged ourselves down to Freo early on Sunday to catch the first acts of what would be a spectacular Falls Festival conclusion.
As crushed as I was at having to choose between seeing Elli Schoen or The Hunting Birds (her heart is breaking in front of me), it was a necessary and ultimately worthwhile sacrifice. New single Burn This House Down is sensational, the guitarist Chris Mackenzie’s hair flowing freely, unleashed from its mortal coil. Lead singer Connor Minervini made extensive use of the limited stage space, always moving about, passing down his exuberance to the baying crowd. A single crash by the drummer heralded the opening of From the Ashes, instantly causing you to snap to attention as keyboard swirled impressively amidst the downplayed, supportive guitar work of Minervini. The bandmates had a notably high level of synergy with one another, fully focused not just on the music, but on the sensation they created for the crowd. It was their boundless enthusiasm that turned an already tight-knit performance into an absolute knockout, that was not soon bested.
The electric electronic duo Vallis Alps was at their best during the more tender moments in their set. Vocalist Parrisa Tosif was mesmerising with her fluid dance moves and bright red feather earrings, while partner David Ansari shredded emphatically on the electric drums and synth, creating a detailed soundscape. The xylophonesque drumbeats were immensely pleasurable, while Tosif’s playful vocals added a light bounce. As I said, it was in the softer numbers that Vallis Alps were most appreciated, Tosif’s voice craning to transport the audience to a place unsullied by overproduction or gratuitous self indulgence. Every note, every beat, felt meticulously crafted, each passage lovingly delivered to create a largely satisfying experience. That’s not to say their more upbeat tracks were unenjoyable, there was just a real polish and shine to their more subdued efforts.
Elli Schoen, a rock n’ roll temptress clad stylistically like a 70s glam-rock show horse, was the second act to kick off day two. With shiny leather pants resisting the glare of the oncoming midday sun, Schoen beat her vocals hard, belting out her lyrics backed by a rock n’ roll furore – punching the punters stomach in the gut. Exchanging banter with some of the first festival onlookers, Schoen’s set was lit as it was comedic.
Cheeky retrospective beats were heard from Shura, with one to two tracks feeling oddly reminiscent of a certain Madonna record, the tracks were overlayed with Shura’s (AKA Aleksandra Denton) silky smooth vocals. Easy to move to and enticing on the ears, she drew a considerable crowd and in some ways was a retro slice in the festival leading up to Client Liaison.
Client Liaison felt like a massive homage to the decade of the 80s. Complete with the visuals of old Australian corporate videos, fosters beer and giant water coolers – it felt more performance art rather than an actual dance set. With front man Monty Morgan dancing around manically and with impeccable style, the latter half of their set involved throwing out beers to the crowd and Morgan prancing around in what looked like a pharaoh costume, damn he had moves.
The most disappointing thing I can say about Ry Cuming aka RY X is that his stage name doesn’t feature an ‘e’. How cool would it be to name yourself after bread? Anyway, I digress. Much like cooking toast on the lowest setting, the maestro’s maiden voyage on the West coast was a slow burn that paid off nicely. Not content to just let synth and key waves wash over the eager viewers, Cuming proved himself a virtuoso of calming guitar licks. His stylish headwear contributed to his expat flair, having lived in America for the past decade after being birthed in Adelaide. Astonishingly soothing in both song and casual conversation, Cuming’s is a voice I would happily have narrate my life, as it sent me to a lush paradise. The gradual layering of guitar, keyboard, both physical and electric drums, and synth made for a nuanced, laid back atmosphere.
I love it when artists sledge our east coast compatriots. A rousing cover of Bonnie Tyler’s 80s classic The Best was preceded by a humorous speech by lead singer The Jezabels‘ Hayley Mary, lamenting the fact that those at Falls Festivals past thought it was an original song. Clad in leopard print pants that were as bizarre as they were flashy, Mary captivated the audience with her harsh, stoic vocals set against a backdrop of pulsating drumming, adhesive keyboard and assertive guitar. The most impressive display of showmanship for the festival goes to Mary’s crowdsurfing. Exhausting yet wonderful to behold, Mary confidently gave herself over to her fans, a multitude of arms carrying her as she continued to sing, not once breaking form. It was a heartwarming display that showed she really loves getting amongst it, not restricting herself to the confines of the stage. The only low point was our fair city being lambasted for videoing her spectacle instead of watching it for ourselves, although thankfully they still love us. All’s well that ends well, I suppose!
For anyone who enjoys the likes of the Arctic Monkeys and British indie from the mid-noughties onwards then it was awesome to witness Jamie T live in Perth. With his English drawl coupled with his semi-rapping in his tracks, it was a nostalgic set for a certain pommy reviewer. Seeing the alleyway stage packed right up until the end with punters bopping to his crunchy guitar tones was a sight to behold.
The first half of the DMA’s was a downer, due to the overpopulation of security guards dominating the photo pit – props to them for blocking the punters view. However once the guards lessened it was great to finally catch a glimpse of the band. Feeling like a blend between Oasis and some older Australian bands, clad partly in 90s sports gear, the band amped up the crowd by finishing up on Delete, a track which many punters stuck around for before heading off to Matt Corby. The band really didn’t stand out amongst the other acts. Maybe it was my tiredness finally getting the better of me. I guess it’d be tolerable as a standalone act, but in the context of the festival it just didn’t have the magic that other bands had. Featuring generic, uninspired guitar work that I would suppose sounds great if you’re drunk or high, DMA’s did little to hold my interest, however it does get respect for channeling a Smashing Pumpkins vibe. Its mediocrity is not entirely its own fault, it is just that in a sea of standouts it failed to leave much of an impression at all.
Ball Park Music’s versatility is what got to me the most. When they were blitzing along at full throttle, they ensnared the audience with blazing guitar riffs that meshed well with strident keyboard chords. Sam Cromack’s vocals were equal parts aching and playful, the latter most noticeable in a standout acoustic rendition of It’s Nice to Be Alive. It was impossible not to crack a grin as Cromack sang “Chill out, it’s all right/Kiss me/It’s nice to be alive”. Jennifer Boyce provided artful keyboard melodies alongside sweet, charming vocals, making for a solid half of the vocal powerhouse. A large amount of movement around the stage meant the level of energy never wavered, and indeed, only grew as the crowd got increasingly amongst it as the performance went on. After wave after wave of electronic music, it was gratifying to listen to an array of fine-tuned indie-rock, that left me with a feeling of familiarity and comfort.
Holy smokes. The Avalanches absolutely blew me away. I was admittedly hooked from the moment I heard a sampling of My Favourite Things. Having not played in Perth in years, the crowd was ushered in and awaited the group. Finding it tricky to navigate across the huge sea of people, when The Avalanches emerged it was to great fanfare. Ripping straight into tracks like Frankie Sinatra, there was something rustic and crusty to their music. To say nothing of the band themselves, the surreal, strange and downright bizarre videos that accompanied the band’s bombastic songs made for a divine visual onslaught. These pieces of media perfectly encapsulated the feel of unabashed lunacy that the band professed. Hip hop thrived from the overalls and jacket wearing vocalists, centred around full-measured drumming and nailed home with constant movement around the stage. By the end I was fatigued just from watching Spank Rock (Wikipedia says one of his roles in the band includes toasting… I was dismayed to find it had nothing to do with bread) and Eliza Wolfgramm strut their stuff without reprieve. Confident keyboard slickly manoeuvred against flawless bass in standout track Subways. At one point the backing scenery changed to be a stream of flashing squares, Rock’s upraised hands were illuminated momentarily, the audience responding in kind. Rock possessed an exceptional ability to keep the crowd engaged, invigorating them with a fervent display of stage athleticism. Frontier Psychiatrist was a bizarre, surreal trip into surveying synth with a touch of jazz to drive home what was an unforgettable performance of virtuosic musicianship and a damn fine visual feast.
Man, was I keen for pizza. This ended up being my primary thought partway through Matt Corby and company’s performance. When the multi-instrumentalist’s songs were stylish and slickly delivered, he was a joy to behold. When they ran on for longer than necessary, he crossed the border to become an overindulgent bore. He and keyboardist get mad props for being flute players though, always nice to see my musical foray from my schooling days is still alive and kicking. Stellar instrumental work was counterpointed with Corby’s unfortunately bland stage presence and weak crowd interaction. On a positive note, Corby’s powerful, soulful vocals were a joy to listen to, and carried well throughout the venue. Brother was the standout, featuring a powerful, determined drumbeat nestled beside Corby’s languid guitar playing. When he was timely, Corby was great, but when he didn’t know when to end a song, he became monotonous. I would still consider the mixed bag of a performance time well spent, due to the sheer level of skill on display.
There was nothing wrong with London Grammar’s performance, per se, although unfortunately I feel it was grossly misplaced as the last act. Its music is far more suited to a mid-afternoon timeslot, featuring an array of classical instruments and a pleasant undercurrent of keyboard. Even just switching them with forerunners The Avalanches would have been a fine move, it just felt a bit odd to have a small number of the audience really getting into it. Anyway, that unfortunate issue aside, on its own merits the UK-based trio were a relaxing way to sound off the festival. I was initially worried that the score of classical instruments that accompanied the trio would be underutilised, but thankfully they added a sharp texture to events without drowned out. Strong was the highlight, the crowd gently swaying and singing along in a momentous display of camaraderie. Lead singer Hannah Reid’s powerful, passionate vocals tore through the still night air, the emotion painfully clear in her voice. Despite being a low-key, measured performance, London Grammar managed to end things on a high note, its achingly beautiful instrumentation combining with heartfelt lyrics to keep the cool vibes rolling.