Every festivalgoer has a very different story to tell. Some people will totally nail it in all aspects – picking the best acts, the best parties, and the best campsite to faceplant their weary heads into after every perfect day. Others will struggle to organise lifts, find any of their friends, or choose even vaguely weather-appropriate clothing. When it comes to festival stories, it’s not necessarily the success stories that triumph here. More often than not, it’s the struggles, the fuck-ups and the meltdowns that count the most.
My story of Falls Festival - Byron Bay is far from perfect. I was on track to visit the majestic Childish Gambino to end my 2016 but instead had a massive blowout on New Years Eve in Byron Bay. I spent all of New Years Day on the couch, blasting the aircon and huddling under my blanky for safety. I had a ticket to Falls, but could not have ventured from my nest if you’d offered me a private serenade from Matt Corby himself. Yes, I’d been blasted with Falls Insta snaps of all of my friends having the best times of their lives. And no, I did not reply to a single one of their drunken messages when they asked where the hell I was.
Fate can be a covert mistress, and on the 2nd of Jan she dealt us a tempting card in the form of a VIP Falls ticket for my boyfriend. We also had a friend with 2 spare seats in her car, which was leaving Byron Bay in an hour. Just enough time for us to rinse off the debauchery of the last few days and cover ourselves in glitter instead. And so my Falls adventure began..
Walking into Falls Festival is enough to cure any level of hangover. With food stalls galore, double story beer tents, ferris wheels and even a manmade beach, I definitely started to feel a pang of regret that I hadn't been hanging out here for the last few days. Nevertheless, we were here now and we were sure as hell going to make the most of it.
As we dripped with sweat we walked straight into Fat Freddy’s Drop and their dub-reggae goodness. The legends from NZ put on another epic show and we deliriously sung and danced along in the sunshine. We quenched our considerable thirsts, and then headed to the Forest Stage for the DMA’s. Always a crowd pleaser, these Sydney lads definitely lifted our spirits with a whole set of tracks that you didn’t even know you knew but now you definitely know you know.
I am a diehard Powderfinger fan, and so dragged my friends along to see the last of Bernard Fanning. Not only is the man a musical genius, he also must be some sort of wizard, playing ‘Sunsets’ just as the sky started to turn pink, and Prince’s ‘Purple Rain’ literally the second that the downpour began. After 3 days of above 30 degree temperatures, it’s fair to say that everyone was pretty stoked about this turn in the weather. As Catfish at the Bottlemen started to set up, the rain continued to get heavier and heavier. This was all well and good for those conserving body warmth in the moshpit, but for me and my friends sitting sensibly up on the hill things started looking a little bleak. The weather got so wild that it took them more than an hour and half to make sure that the stage was safe enough for the Catfish to play. I’m not 100% sure why, but for this whole time we sat in the exact same spot, huddling together in the rain like a family of Emperor Penguins in an Antarctic blizzard. The Catfish and the Bottlemen were well worth the wait, with their indie rock bangers blasting impressively over the sound of wind, rain and thunder.
With the prospect of having to wait another half hour for London Grammar and one of my friends turning a slightly concerning shade of blue, we decided to seek shelter somewhere, only to realise that there was a very warm, very comfortable and not overly-crowded viewing platform just up the hill from where we were sitting. Moreover, we found pretty much all of our friends here, drinking their Captain Morgan and cokes in complete dryness and chatting happily about the last performance. When we piled in looking like a pack of drowned rats, it became pretty clear that we had nobody to blame but ourselves.
So we sat in this heavenly godsend of a place for the rest of the night. London Grammar seemed even more ethereal and surreal with the storm raging in the background, and even without the rain I’m pretty sure there wouldn’t have been a dry eye in the house after she belted out her last, wavering note. Still freezing from our little penguin adventure and facing the prospect of going back to work the next day, I had to force my friends to leave at this point, so we left just as Alison Wonderland began to get real freaky.
So I missed two days of the festival. I was freezing. I was soaked. I was exhausted. And it was one of the best damn afternoons of my whole life. Thank you FALLS.
Words // Anna Jordan @annajordan89
Photography // Yael Stemper @yayastemp
Photography // Charlie Hardy charliehardy.com.au
Photography // Kirra Pendergast @kirrapendergast
Photography // Paul Smith @paulsmithimages
Photography // Joseph Mayers @josephmayersphotography
Festival // Falls Festival @fallsfestival