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Live Review: Falls Festival Marion Bay

2 January 2019 | 4:14 pm | Emily Dunn

Here's what you missed at Fall Festival Marion Bay.

DAY ONE

It was Hobo Johnson & The LoverMakers’ first time in Australia, let alone Tassie, and it was certainly a show to remember. Gracing the Falls early-birds at 4:30pm on the big stage (Valley Stage), the group’s performance delivered a mix of hip hop, free-verse, live instrumental and silly antics, rousing up eager punters. They opened with Romeo & Juliet, of which Johnson's present cult fans knew word-for-word. He was humbled by the dedication of his fans, telling them to look after each other and not drink too many Fosters.

Next up was Brisbane's Mallrat, who, alongside her offsider DJ Denim, performed with the confidence and passion of an artist in the springtime of her career. Her bass-heavy indie-pop tunes resonated heavily with the burgeoning crowd in the late afternoon. With lashings of reverb and mountains of vibe, her voice resonated throughout Marion Bay as the golden hour moved in. 

It has been a great year for Hockey Dad, with the release of their second studio album, Blend Inn, which received lots of airplay in 2018. Their success this year was evident by the huge crowd cramming against the barriers of the Valley Stage. The dynamic duo from NSW made plenty of noise, with lead vocalist and guitarist, Zach Stephenson, tone-stacking his axe (running his guitar through both a guitar and a bass amp) to deliver an impressive full band sound. 

By the time Northern Sydney rockers Ocean Alley started their set, the Valley Stage’s natural amphitheatre was brimming with festival patrons. It has been an epic year for the band with the release of their well-received album Chiaroscuro, and the crowd were eager to see them. Lead vocalist Baden Donegal was full of energy. By their second song, The Come Down, Ocean Alley had won everyone over. Their set also included the emotionally-charged Chiaroscuro tracks Knees and Confidence and their triple j Like A Version cover Baby Come Back, originally performed by one-hit-wonders, Player. 

There had been rumours stirring of a crazy performance starting on the Field Stage, so we scrambled from Ocean Alley over to Marion Bay’s second stage. The act was local music maker and sound junky, Milquebarth (Sam Dowson). For those unfamiliar, Milquebarth is a high-energy and somewhat maniacal, trap-infused Australiana performer who pushes the limits of sound experiment (in a good way). No stone was left unturned in the search for collaborations, with the show featuring rap vocalists, an unexpected brass section and more; all adding to the smorgasbord of epic sound. Milquebarth is definitely an act to watch in 2019.

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UK mega star Dizzee Rascal was in Tasmania and people were excited. It was well and truly night time when he graced the stage and his lightshow did not disappoint. He gave the crowd just what they wanted, playing everything from his catalogue of hits, including Dance With Me, Bonkers, Bassline Junkie, plus some new material from his latest EP, Don’t Gas Me. 

Still buzzing off Dizzee, Hayden James took over for the witching hour to bring the patrons into the morning as his dance anthems echoed throughout the festival site. It was a solid first day and the Bay was surprisingly quiet come 1:00am as most people retired for some much-needed shuteye to revitalise themselves for the days to come. 

DAY TWO

High-energy group Amyl & The Sniffers were like a refreshing bucket of ice water to the face and the perfect way to get the second day of the festival antics started. Fronted by the enigmatic Amy Taylor, the Australian '70s-inspired rock group made the crowd feel like they were in the back streets of Sydney or Melbourne back in the Sharpie movement. To top off a stellar performance, all the Sniffers had epic mullets, paying homage to their Australian hard rock blue-collar forebears. 

Next up on the Valley Stage was English-born turned Sydney-sider Odette. While her music has elements of pop and contemporary beats, jazz and soul are at the core of her sound, indicative of her musical upbringing. Odette’s songs tell stories of the experiences in her life that have left her wounded and charged with feeling – songs that clearly resonated with her fans, as the crowd raced quickly to the front for On the Way Down. Her kind nature gave her a beautiful stage presence that left onlookers embracing their friends and carelessly swaying in the midday wind. 

Onwards to the Homebrew Stage for local act Slumber. Fronted by sound experimenter, Amber Perez, the Tassie trio gave an impressive abstract performance. Their wavy songs were laden with experimental sound mashing that created a psychedelic, dark and at times distorted, yet beautiful performance. Just when you thought they couldn’t offer any more surprises, they did a superb cover of The Cure’s Love Song.

It was scorching hot in the Bay by the time Bishop Briggs kicked off at 2:00pm. However, that didn’t deter the London-born singer from giving 100% from the moment she stepped onto the Valley Stage. Briggs had patrons going crazy for her – and what a performance she gave! Her voice was flawless, powerful and rich with emotion – true goosebump-making material. She made a touching tribute to her parents before White Flag and spoilt the audience with a spine-tingling cover of INXS’s Never Tear Us Apart, which had everyone singing along.

It was time to check out this year’s offerings in The Village, which had its usual inviting quirks, carny-like odysseys, comfortable chill zones, novel services (fortune telling, mobile hairdresser, yoga, etc.), and the night owls’ best friend – The Village Stage. Newly formed local act Kudu Joy were luring people in with their jazzy beats and stunning vocals, delivered by local jazz artist Sabine Bester.

It was late arvo on the 30th and more local music was on offer at the Homebrew Stage, with Hobart-based indie-rock group Come Knights. Tasty guitar licks, catchy synth beats and Mark Knopfler-like vocals gave the band a fresh Dire Straits meets Pink Floyd vibe. Needless to say there were good sounds coming from the Homebrew corner and the band quickly recruited a decent crowd for their set – definitely a group to look out for in 2019. 

Who doesn’t love belting out Toto’s timeless hit Africa from time-to-time? Well, apparently all the patrons of Marion Bay agree because every single one of them was parked in the paddock outside the Valley Stage in eager anticipation for the veteran super group. The '80s rock stars proved they still had it as they sampled their most popular tracks from their 14 studio albums, plus a beautiful cover of The Beatle’s While My Guitar Gently Weeps. The clouds were setting in over Marion Bay just as percussionist Lenny Castro started the bongo drums intro famously known in Africa. By the time the epic nine-minute performance was over, everyone was on their feet showing their admiration to the rock legends, and deservedly so – lead vocalist Joseph Williams gave a flawless performance. If it had started raining, we would have gone as far to call them wizards. 

Lovers of dance-floor anthems were in for a treat on the Field Stage with two consecutive sets from Australian house music veterans. 

First up was solo powerhouse Touch Sensitive (Michael Di Francesco) whose live bass performance provided an authentic '70s disco vibe that had everyone jumping along. With special guest appearances from Kyle Linahan (Black Tree Music) and Plastic Plates, Francesco certainly knew how to turn it on for an eager crowd. 

Electro-pop legends Cut Copy brought back all the nostalgia of their In Ghost Colours era with Hearts On Fire, as well as a solid mix of tracks from their five albums.

Midnight was approaching and Anderson .Paak & The Free Nationals were in Tasmania for the first time. He was the headline act of the day, if not the whole festival and nothing could prepare people for what they were about to witness. The show started with a white sheet billowing down over the stage in front of all their gear, including Paak’s drum kit, which was front and centre. 

A silhouette of the band entering the stage erupted the crowd into a frenzied applause that turned into an “Anderson, Anderson” chant. He opened with Oxnard’s opening track, The Chase, followed by the album’s hit singles, WHO R U? and Bubblin. Soon the shadow-casting sheet fell down, revealing the whole stage. Between energetic new tracks from Oxnard, Paak gave his fans a healthy mix of his funk hip hop hits from Venice and Malibu, all while transitioning from being a lord on his drum kit to engaging the crowd over the pit. With a blast of paper confetti over the crowd, he finished with his hit Lite Weight - a bittersweet ending to a world-class performance that will be etched in my mind forever. 

DAY THREE

Kicking things off on the last day of 2018 was Tassie’s own Sumner. The tight group offer rock and synth-beats, fronted with Australiana vocals, drawing comparisons to the likes of Chvrches and Jack River. Their catchy, original songs painted of picture of adolescent life growing up in a small town and finding one’s place in the world. They also did a chilling cover of Mac Miller’s Self Care

With angelic vocals that bit with fierce lyrics, Soccer Mommy (Sophie Allison) songs covered heartbreak, love and everything in between. As was on trend this festival, Soccer Mommy pleased her crowd with a stunning cover, offering up Bruce Springsteen's I’m On Fire. 

It was back to the Valley Stage to see Jack River. It has been a monumental year for River, with the release of her first studio album Sugar Mountain - which has been widely popular all over Australia since it dropped in June. It was a delight to see her play for the first time to an adoring crowd. It was beautiful to hear her dedicate a song to the Falls Green Team and make a declaration to support environmental protection in 2019.

Swedish sister outfit First Aid Kit were back in Tassie, bringing with them new life experiences and loveable folk songs. Their impeccably flawless harmonies were a true testament to their sisterly bond and their musical talent. Paired with an impressive slide guitarist, the duo put on a stellar performance. 

It was 5:00pm and the Village was about to play host to their last act for 2018. Doing the honours was newly-formed four-piece Juna – an impressively original ensemble comprising of jazz talents from Hobart, as well as a gifted percussionist providing juicy Cuban-inspired conga beats. Original songs and perfectly timed vibrato harmonies left the crowd cheering mid-song. Definitely a new group to keep an eye on as they continue to grow and nurture their unique sound in 2019.

By 7:00pm, crowds were moving to the main arena to catch Flight Facilities, with families and spectators setting up picnic blankets and unfolding camping chairs to secure their spot for the New Year’s Eve celebrations. Flight Facilities, paired with their long-time collaborator, Owl Eyes, gave a flawless hit-laden performance that had everyone grooving. 

Vance Joy serenaded punters into twilight while over on the Field Stage trap lord Juice Wrld had hip hop fans bouncing along to his beats. With punters in the palm of his hands, Juice Wrld used his power to make crowd formations and frenzied moshing. 

Looking as fabulous as ever, international rockers Interpol gave festival patrons a taste of early indie-rock at its finest, playing a well-rounded selection of hits from their 15+ year catalogue, as well as tracks from their well-received 2018 album, Marauders. 

2019 was looming as Australia’s hip hop kings, Hilltop Hoods, barrelled onto the stage to bring in the New Year. The iconic group were no strangers to the festival circuit; no strangers to that time slot in Marion Bay in fact, as the South Australian rappers joked about their anti-climactic New Year’s countdown back in 2015. Being careful not to miss their mark, Hilltop Hoods hyped everyone through the countdown, bringing in the New Year with their famous track Cosby Sweater.