FALLS DOWNTOWN @ Fremantle Oval Precinct gets 8.5/10

Falls Downtown @ Fremantle Oval Precinct
Saturday, January 6 and Sunday, January 7, 2018


In its second year in Perth, Falls Festival has well and truly established itself as a highlight on the festival calendar. Bested perhaps only by Laneway, the weekend festival has taken the place of Southbound.

This year the venue was Fremantle Oval and surrounds. Very different to the picturesque and intimate urban surrounds of Kings Square (currently being redeveloped), it was a whole lot bigger and more spacious. The setup catered well for the crowd, with a vast array of food and drink stalls dotted around the sprawling venue. Falls utilised the venue in a way that’s never been done before, creating an excitement felt throughout every corner of this musical, adventure playground.

The older punters may have been getting early Big Day Out flashbacks as they entered the venue, passed the old grandstand walking down to the oval, where two massive main stages alternated all day, flanked by big screens.

The predominantly young crowd seemed set on expressing themselves prominently fashion-wise. Also prominent this year was a clear message, stated on T-shirts (designed by Camp Cope) worn by many bands and punters over the weekend, and addressed by numerous bands throughout the day – sexual assault of any kind will not be tolerated. Overall it was a great crowd, friendly with minimal dickheads.

The Valley stage in the carpark was a bit of a hike, but provided a great little tree-lined respite for some of the most intimate and surprising performances, such as South London grime rapper DAVE who put on a show backed by nothing but trippy beats and bass and had the audience singing along to the chorus in Tequila. One of the finest moments of the day saw him bring an unenthused, young gent onstage to rap with him, who killed it, despite the apparent nerves.

Before that, local neo-soul quartet Demon Days, kicked things off for the early crowd, showing they were well deserving winners of the Foster a Band comp, laying down some groovy basslines and gritty Rhodes piano tones, as frontwoman Bella Nicholls’ displayed her impressive smoky vocals.

Confidence Man

Getting the party started early on Stage 1 in the baking midday sun, Brisbane electro-pop weirdos Confidence Man proved to be a whole lot of fun. It was a shame more people weren’t there to witness their irresistible, sexed-up dance spectacle, climaxing with their breakout hit Boyfriend (Repeat).

DZ Deathrays

Next up on Stage 2 to the left, Brisbane three-piece DZ Deathrays were the first act of the weekend to give the punters a dose of good old rock and roll. They opened with an extended introduction of blistering guitar licks, inciting the first moshpit with the raucous Dollar Chills.

The Jungle Giants

The Jungle Giants took control the main arena with their melodic, blissful sounds and falsetto on Quiet Ferocity and On Your Way Down. The crowd was really starting to grow, moving fast towards the 16,000 sold out capacity.

Methyl Ethel

There was always going to be something special about seeing Perth’s own Methyl Ethel capping off what’s been a huge 2017 for the band. Their setlist was dense with melody, character and irresistible hooks. Kicking off with album opener Drink Wine and the glorious No. 28.

Methyl Ethel with Stella Donnelly

There was a noticeable sense of rapture in the crowd at the presence of Stella Donnelly joining them on stage. She switched between guitar, synth and bass while backing up on vocals, displaying the depth of her talent. There was a mass singalong to the sax soaked Twilight Driving, before their massive hit Ubu took things to even greater heights.

Daryl Braithwaite

Aussie legend Daryl Braithwaite took the stage, as if we were in some alternate ironic dream reality. The seasoned veteran put on a polished performance, showing the youngsters he’s more than a one trick pony, delving into his catalogue that goes back to the 70s, even playing Sherbet’s hit Howzat. One Summer and As The Days Go By inspired singalongs, but that’s not what everyone was waiting for, and as the opening strains of Horses rung out, people ran screaming towards the stage from all angles, jumping on shoulders, some donning horse heads, others hoisting stuffed horses… it was an odd scene. Braithwaite milked the ending, laughing and clearly enjoying himself, as throngs of sunburnt millennials embraced each other in an unusual moment of solidarity. He was even wished a happy 69th birthday by the crowd to finish.


Adelaide rapper Allday busted out his brand of soulful hip hop beats, but was lacking in impact due to sound issues that seemed to be affecting Stage 2. It lacked the volume and clarity of Stage 1. Melbourne’s The Smith Street Band had no such problems on Stage 1 – fronted by the big man, Wil Wagner, they belted out an energetic set. Following a big year, they’re fast becoming a seasoned festival act. They pulled out an impressive cover of The Killers’ When You Were Young, dedicated a song to Braithwaite and incited a ferocious singalong to Throw Me in the River.

Angus & Julia Stone

Angus & Julia Stone are always a pleasure to witness, and while the aforementioned sound issues detracted a bit, the siblings put on a great performance, picking tracks from their ample catalogue, providing the perfect soundtrack as the sun set, igniting the sky in shades of pink. Recent hit Chateau went down a treat, Angus pulled out the brilliant Uptown Folks and Marinade from his Dope Lemon side-project, and the always gorgeous Julia, dressed in white, sang in her unique voice, danced, played tambourine, and even trumpet on Love Will Take You. They finished with beautiful dueling vocals on the title track from their latest album, Snow.

Glass Animals

As darkness fell, Glass Animals arrived and took things to the next level. The Oxford band put on their biggest and best Perth show yet. The bold, colourful production suited their glossy, dance-rock tunes, and the sound was the best of the day so far, with heavy beats, elastic bass and sparkling synths. Dave Bayley was clearly having a great time, his unique falsetto cutting through the mix as they glided through Gooey which had the huge crowd grooving, along with a cover of Gnarls Barkley’s Crazy.

Following on, Seattle folk sensations Fleet Foxes struggled to keep the crowd, again not assisted by a poor mix that was too quiet. But the fans who got close enough for the soothing sounds to envelope them were rewarded with moments of sheer beauty and majestic harmonies on Mykonos and White Winter Hymnal. The lush, layered, warm sounds occasionally rose up to big peaks as the subtle power of the accomplished six-piece came to the fore, complete with keyboards, double-bass, flute and even French horn.

Meanwhile, Flume’s neon light show setting up on the other stage was quite distracting, and a huge crowd was forming, impatiently waiting for their hero. Young Harley Streten has become a one man, world-beating stadium show. A giant curtain hung from front of the stage. As the lights went up, the sounds of Helix rose up, building the drama. Then with the first huge bass drop, the curtain dropped and sheer pandemonium broke out, as Flume was revealed behind his banks of equipment. The impressive light show exploded into action, as he kicked into Lose It, and it was immediately evident the sound had gone up another level.

There were no vocalists with him, and the extent to what he’s performing live is debatable with his assortment of synths, samplers, drum pads and Ableton, but the sheer creativity and execution was something to behold, as he blazed through an awesome setlist, including Sleepless, On Top and Say It. The more intense instrumental Free was huge, rising to a thunderous peak before an explosion of streamers shot out over the crowd. Never Be Like You was a big moment, and he closed it out with his massive remix of Disclosure’s You & Me, featuring a beautiful visual tribute of couples of all varieties kissing. A perfect end the first day, this was Flume’s best WA show yet.

For those arriving early on Sunday, nothing was going to help shake off the weariness caused by a big Saturday better than the energetic set delivered by Melbourne punkette Ecca Vandal. Right on midday she drew a modest but enthusiastic crowd with hits like End of Time and Cassettes, Lies and Videotapes.

On the Valley Stage local sensation Elli Schoen’s exceptional vocal range was on full display, and her band were just as impressive. She oozes attitude, and played a selection of her great songs before finishing on a sentimental number called Mumma.

One of the hidden treasures of Falls Festival were the Clancy’s and Mojo’s micro-stages, set within shipping containers, that featured numerous local bands throughout the weekend, playing to packed yet intimate crowds, with sets from Felicity Groom, Galloping Foxleys and Carla Geneve being special highlights. Another similar shipping container housed the Ha Ha Hut, a mini-comedy den, that hosted some hilarious local talent including Ben Sutton, Sian Choyce and Rory Lowe. The Danceteria, a micro-club venue within several more containers hosted an excellent selection of local DJs programmed by The Community.

British act Everything Everything didn’t hold back showing off all their wares with searing falsetto hooks and blistering guitar licks keeping everyone entertained on the main stage. All the hits were here like Cough Cough and Regret, but the crowning moment was the slow-building No Reptiles that put curious onlookers into a swaying trance.

Dune Rats

Moments after Dune Rats kicked off, the crowd was in a frenzy as massive inflatable beer cans and confetti filled balls were bounced over the mosh-pit as they threw themselves around to Scott Green, 6 Pack and Bullshit. They even brought Drapht onstage to play their collaboration Mexico. The sound issues plaguing the stage on Day 1 seemed to have been resolved with the band sounding great.

Camp Cope

Melbourne’s Camp Cope had been in headlines with vocal criticism of the lack of female acts on the Falls line-up. Vocalist Georgia Maq didn’t pull any punches acknowledging the controversy before stating, “If you’re going to book for your festival an outspoken feminist band, you’re going to get an outspoken feminist band.” The three-piece certainly had a massive impact across the festival with their t-shirt initiative. Their songs lived up to the hype as well with Lost: Season One and Jet Fuel Can’t Melt Steel Beams captivating the crowd with lyrics that have that ineffable quality of just hitting a message home.


London neo-soul outfit Jungle impressed many on the main stage with a tight, professional performance. The seven-piece band feature irresistible grooves and harmonies from the brilliant vocalists. They really got everyone moving with Busy Earnin’

Vince Staples was possibly the only act over the weekend that braved the stage with nothing but a microphone but the performance actually felt enhanced as a result. Relying on nothing but his own unique flow and delivery, the US rapper did exceptionally well to keep the crowd engaged and bouncing along to tracks like Ascension and his Flume collab Smoke & Retribution.

Liam Gallagher

While a mostly younger crowd was jumping to Vince, a mostly older crowd had formed in anticipation of the arrival of the one and only Liam Gallagher, chanting “Liam! Liam!”. As the sound of Oasis’ Fuckin’ In The Bushes came on as an intro, Gallagher swaggered onstage with his new band, in his trademark parka and shades, and a pair of shorts, a look probably only he could pull off, and declared into the microphone “Rock ‘n’ Roll Star!”, launching into the classic Oasis track. The UK contingent created something of a soccer crowd vibe, though a friendly one. Orange smoke flares were set off, flags waved. Gallagher was in top form and the new material sounded better live; Greedy Soul, Bold and Wall Of Glass rocked and For What It’s Worth was soaring. Some Might Say into Slide Away was incredible. The underrated Be Here Now was a surprise and he finished with huge crowd singalongs to Cigarettes and Alcohol and Wonderwall. Liam is well and truly back. Biblical.

It was a tough act to follow, but Foster The People put on a real show, in their own unique style. They focused on last year’s Sacred Hearts Club album, but played plenty of old favourites and pulled out an unexpected cover of The Ramones’ Blitzkrieg Bop. They also had one of the biggest songs of the festival with Pumped Up Kicks.

On the Valley stage, Winston Surfshirt were busting out some laidback soulful grooves, complete with trombone. A very cool, talented outfit that produce funk and falsetto, the likes of which Prince would be proud. D.D Dumbo recreated his acclaimed album Utopia Defeated utilising a world’s worth of instruments. It was a visual and sonic feast featuring four talented multi-instrumentalists. Satan hit the heights, with his voice soaring over the complex arrangements that kept everyone dancing. One of the festival’s best.

Peking Duk

Peking Duk know how to play a big gig. Following a video introduction from Richard Wilkins, the duo launched into the perfect peak time party set, backed a by a huge visual and light show, and it went down a treat to the huge, heaving crowd (the biggest of the weekend). They started with a mashup of classic jams before working in some of their own tunes, and Nicole Millar came out to sing High which saw smoke cannons and streamers explode into the night sky.

The Kooks

Another drastic contrast saw The Kooks up next. Very different from the euphoric dance energy, it took the lads a bit of time to find their feet, but once they got into it, frontman Luke Pritchard managed to charm the crowd, winning them over with infectious tunes like She Moves In Her Own Way, Naïve and a huge singalong to Junk of the Heart (Happy) balanced with the more gentle, acoustic songs like Seaside.

Run the Jewels

Then it was the anticipated finale from Run The Jewels, one of the best live hip hop acts in the world, due to their unique combination of heavy-hitting beats, tight rapping, political conscience, general silliness and undeniable chemistry. Taking the stage to the sounds of Queen’s We Are The Champions, they kicked in hard with Talk To Me and Legend Has It from RTJ3. With three albums to choose from now, the set was chockers with big tunes. Their delivery is relentless and flawless, as they spar on each track, the big boys bouncing around the stage, backed by DJ Trackstar. The stomping beat of Blockbuster Night, Pt.1 was monstrous, as was their awesome collaboration with DJ Shadow, Nobody Speak.

There was some banter between tracks, El-P recited a ‘vulnerable poem’ and Killer Mike gave a killer speech, finishing plainly with “Do not put your fucking hands on any woman that doesn’t invite you to”. He also gave a sincere, motivational introduction to Down, for anyone going through hard times or depression. Then just when you thought it was all over, they returned to deliver one of their finest moments, A Christmas Fucking Miracle. An epic way to end an awesome weekend filled with a huge variety of musical entertainment.


Photos by Mia Campbell-Foulkes

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