Falls Music & Arts Festival Byron Bay: The weekend of extremes

Falls Music & Arts Festival kicked off as thousands around the country celebrated the upcoming New Year at four locations around Australia – Marion Bay TAS, Lorne VIC, Fremantle WA and Byron Bay NSW. The Festivals much anticipated line-up dropped in August and paved the way for the massive hype that surrounded the three day event. The organisers did not disappoint, bringing to our shores headliners Childish Gambino, the Avalanches and London Grammar.

  Client Liaison performing in the heat   Photograph by Alexander Wee

Client Liaison performing in the heat  Photograph by Alexander Wee

The sweltering heat caught many festival goers off-guard, with campers selling out ice vendors before 10am most mornings. Some had travelled from as far as New Zealand for the chance to see their favourite artists perform and it was obvious that the blistering temperatures were not going to dampen spirits at the festival.


The Byron Bay leg of the festival began on New Years Eve. All acts of the day performing on one stage created a lot of excitement due to the fact that there would be no clashes. Northeast Party House began the celebrations and crowds started to pour in — covered in glitter, sequins – and in some cases … not much more than that. There was limited shade provided by trees and speakers at the uncovered Amphitheatre and guests were shoulder-to-shoulder as the continuing acts proceeded. Eighteen-year-old powerhouse Mallrat performed her latest music and got the audience jumping, despite the 33-degree heat.

  Mallrat   Photograph by Alexander Wee

Mallrat  Photograph by Alexander Wee

Sydney based hip-hop duo Spit Syndicate pumped up the crowds for the New Years Eve party, which Client Liaison continued as the heat of the day began to subside, bringing more crowds than the festival had seen so far. New Zealand brother and sister duo Broods came to stage at 7pm and performed a set that had the crowd impossibly engaged and energetic. Georgia Nott (lead vocalist) did an incredible job at firing up the crowd for the New Year countdown between songs, including chart topper Bridges. “Thank you for making our last show of 2016 our best show ever!” she cried out.

  Grandmaster Flash Photograph by Alexander Wee

Grandmaster FlashPhotograph by Alexander Wee

As night strolled in and the glow sticks came out, the crowd welcomed Grandmaster Flash for his hour-long and crowd pleasing set. He delivered a show that had much of the audience equally shocked and excited, mixing of some of the most well-known songs of the past few years. “Are you ready?” and “I want to see some hands up” were two of the phrases used repeatedly by the ‘Founder of hip-hop' to get the crowd jumping.

 Photograph by Alexander Wee

Photograph by Alexander Wee

Hot Dub Time Machine then came to stage with a slight fear that he expressed to the audience about following a set by Grandmaster Flash. This was a fair sentiment, and although his hour and a half long set was individual and a good show, there were a few repeated songs that Grandmaster Flash had already mixed to the same crowd — the energy could not quite match that of the previous set.

 Photograph by Alexander Wee

Photograph by Alexander Wee

Half an hour after Hot Dub Time Machine, the countdown to midnight began on the big screens. The last ten seconds were counted down by the audience as the New Year officially began. The much-anticipated Childish Gambino then came to stage as the first major headliner to perform. With many comments about his new album being a disappointment, the crowds began to diminish quickly after his set began, but the people who stayed long enough got a chance to hear him perform some older music which made the remaining crowd sing along with their New Year glow.     

New Year's Day hosted lots of sore heads and forced early rises for those camping in hot tents. This was made easier by the free morning yoga classes,  the pools for cooling off at ‘Palm Springs’, and the free beach area, which was fully supplied with lifeguards, sand and beach volleyball. Both main stages were open on the second day of the festival which meant choosing between favourite acts in some circumstances. Hein Cooper began the day at the Amphitheatre performing to a very hot but dedicated crowd who enjoyed his unique and calming indie tunes.

  Hein Cooper  Photograph by Alexander Wee

Hein Cooper Photograph by Alexander Wee

Next at the Amphitheatre was Melbourne band City Calm Down who provided an enticing performance with incredible stage presence and noted that despite the heat, they were excited to be there and put on a great show. The Jezabels followed them onto the stage and after some technical difficulties which brought Hayley (lead vocals) to ask the audience for some jokes to pass time, the band performed a set that had crowds singing and dancing in the blazing heat of the day. The rest of the day saw Modern Baseballs, Middle Kids, Jamie T and Lemaitre before Matt Corby drew a huge crowd into the Amphitheatre performing his successful classics (ARIA-winning Resolution among them) and showing off his massive talent with some newer music. He displayed his passionate song writing, fierce guitar work as well as a short feature of the flute.

  City Calm Down   Photograph by Alexander Wee

City Calm Down  Photograph by Alexander Wee

ILLY then performed at the undercover Forest Stage and delivered a show that had the masses of festival goers dancing and singing. The Australian hip-hop star delivered a message displaying his sincerest thanks to Falls Fest supporters Triple J, reminiscing on how they were the first radio station to play his music and truly support his songs, an act of which he will “never forget”. POND and Ta-Ku followed, and continued to entertain the audiences until it was time for Violent Soho’s set which — as expected — created an intense atmosphere, but also put on an unforgettable performance for those who had never seen them live. Clashing with Violent Soho was L D R U at the Forest Stage, performing the Platinum single Catch 22 and the remixes he had done for artists such as Flume, Lorde and Miami Horror. Headliners The Avalanches and The Rubens then clashed at alternate stages. The Rubens, with more recent tracks, kept the audience singing along and entertained while The Avalanches performed. They delivered an incredible set but could have used a bit more audience participation to maintain the excitement at the Amphitheatre after the Violent Soho set.

  The Jezabels   Photograph by Alexander Wee

The Jezabels  Photograph by Alexander Wee

Day Three truly delivered all the stops. Despite another day of 33 degree heat by 9am, there was an attitude among campers and festival goers of no turning back. Many started the day with yoga, which was followed by over an hour of stand-up comedy until the music of the day begun. British singer-songwriter Shura created an almost hypnotic atmosphere with her understated music, including the single Touch which has received over 20 million plays online. RY X was next to perform at the Forest Stage and was the perfect pick to perform after Shura. Anyone who wanted to relax with some euphoric and calming sounds should have been nowhere else but at that stage. He performed his standout debut Berlin and then closed with Only, which was unplanned but begged for by the chanting audience.

Western Australian band Tired Lion was the first set of the day in the Amphitheatre, and left much of the audience wanting more, but alas the next act had to perform. Who better to follow than Ball Park Music, who had already toured successfully around Australia earlier in 2016. The five piece group performed hits like It’s Nice to be Alive and Coming Down which had fans in the Amphitheatre singing along with excitement. Parquet Courts and AlunaGeorge performed back-to-back at the Forest Stage, drawing a massive crowd. New Zealand jazz group Fat Freddy’s Drop performed an untouchable show, with nothing of a similar sort being displayed elsewhere at the festival. Vallis Alps, who broke out via Triple J Unearthed, then took on the Forest Stage and created the perfect ethereal atmosphere. Following were the DMA’s, who are always a crowd favourite, especially when the recognisable first chords to their breakup ballad Delete begin. Bernard Fanning clashed with the DMA’s but this didn’t stop a huge crowd from turning up. Fanning, who had a successful career with Powderfinger and as a solo artist, performed at the Amphitheatre displaying a range of new and older classics of his including the fan favourite Wish You Well.

  'Palm Springs' provided much-needed relief from the heat   Photograph by Liz Calligeros

'Palm Springs' provided much-needed relief from the heat  Photograph by Liz Calligeros

Mysterious DJ Golden Features was next to take on the Forest stage and was luckily undercover, because this is right when the torrential rain hit our mighty Byron Bay Parklands. Nothing half done, right? It was a relief from the sweltering heat until everyone’s clothes, phones and tents got wet and cold. This wasn’t a deterrent on its own, but the next major performer Catfish and the Bottlemen were then postponed over an hour due to the weather, which then threw all of the performances at the Amphitheatre back an hour. Many held it out in their sludgy shoes but unfortunately, many retreated. Tkay Maidza and Booka Shade’s sets at the Forest Stage were less affected as they are under a large tent, but for some who didn’t fit, or who were waiting at the Amphitheatre, the night drew to a close. Despite the weather and technical difficulties, Catfish and the Bottlemen performed a killer show for those who stayed and this was praised for by the band.

An hour after anticipated, British group London Grammar graced the stage and gave the weather-trodden audience a show they will never forget. Hannah Reid’s heartbreaking vocals will give you goose bumps and possibly bring tears to your eyes at the glory of it. Combined with the chilling composition delivered by the band, you are in for a set that will change the way you perceive music. Sadly there were technical difficulties which stopped them being able to perform their entire show, but no one was left disappointed as Reid commented on Triple J’s support of the band and their previous shows in Australia: “It truly feels like coming home, I really mean that,” she said. Melbourne based hip-hop star REMI ended up clashing with London Grammar but gave audiences a dry environment to listen in. The 24-year-old is a regular at festivals, nationally and internationally, and knows how to put on a good show. This was no different at Falls. Closing Day Three at the Amphitheatre was party starter Alison Wonderland, which was a stark change to the previous London Grammar. Similar to REMI, the Sydney based DJ is not a stranger to festivals, so was a suitable closing choice. Performing the hits U Don’t Know and I Want U, she held the tone of the weekend and left it on an energetic high.


From blistering heat to torrential rain, there was always something exciting around the corner this New Years weekend at Falls Music & Arts Festival. With huge crowds for the headliners, local bands and artists also got a shot at performing to a larger audience than they would get on their own. Triple J once again stayed true to their goal of supporting local and underground talent, and pulled it off successfully.

 Photograph by Liz Calligeros

Photograph by Liz Calligeros

Post by Liz Calligeros