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How anyone could wake up on the morning of New Year’s Eve and have the motivation and energy to jump straight into Hip-Hop Yoga is beyond me, but by the time I got to the arena on Tuesday morning there were already quite a few people in the downward dog pose while Jay-Z’s ‘Young Forever’ blared over the PA. I decided to forego the yoga and instead joined the incredibly long line for a breakfast burrito. With my breakfast in hand I made my way to see Mustered Courage who, sadly, didn’t have much of a crowd in the Grand Theatre. Meg Mac faced a similar struggle down on the Valley Stage, also suffering the curse of the early morning slot. Or so I thought.

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Despite the amazing weather, none of the acts on the main stage managed to draw even a half-decent crowd and while The Preatures, Born Ruffians and Big Scary all delivered wonderful sets, they all seemed to lack the same vital element – the energy a band gets from a crowd. Big Scary seemed to be suffering the most from this ailment giving an excellent performance that was almost entirely wasted on such a small audience. Jo Syme was clearly buzzing about playing the main stage of a festival she said she’d “been to about 10 times” but with such a small audience, one could only assume there was a disappointed feeling about it and certain songs did seem to suffer. Wolf and Cub also played a great set to almost no one for no justifiable reason.

What was most surprising was that, for a festival usually laden with hipsters, Johnny Marr had probably the smallest crowd of the whole day. Seriously. Johnny Fucking Marr. With his set comprised of a mix of his solo work and, of course, The Smiths songs, I had expected a much larger showing. While he made light of the size of the audience, offering to thank everyone individually and then joking that everyone leaving James Vincent McMorrow (sorry, who?) must be heading down to see him, it was still a travesty to see him rocking out and brilliantly stepping up to the mic for songs like ‘Stop Me’ only to be able to count on one hand (OK not quite) the crowd down the front.

After basically falling asleep to Bonobo, I figured I needed a change so took another trip to The Village briefly before heading back in time to catch The Rubens. They were the first band all day to bring a decent sized crowd as well as the first band to bring a guest rapper to the stage, inviting Seth Sentry out for a collaboration before Falls tradition kicked in and it was time for the Fiesta. The arts extravaganza seemed beyond a lot of the crowd, especially one guy near where I was standing who loudly exclaimed “WHAT THE FUCK IS THIS?” to his mates, none of whom could actually answer his question.

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Straight after the Fiesta, Violent Femmes used their opening song to both increase their crowd for 3 minutes, and then weed out those that weren’t interested by starting with ‘Blister in the Sun’. Dozens of people came running down the hill as soon as Brian Ritchie began the famous bassline, singing along before disappearing as soon as it was done. They then proceeded to play their entire debut album, which they’ve been doing at most festival shows since their Coachella reunion, and the crowd seemed to really enjoy it. New drummer Brian Viglione (formerly of The Dresden Dolls) adds a genuine energy to the stage amongst his older bandmates but they can all certainly still play and Ritchie definitely proved his skill when he moved onto the xylophone for ‘Gone Daddy Gone’.

The Cat Empire were the second last band on the main stage for 2013 and they delivered a great set, as always, featuring plenty of hit songs from all of their albums although ‘Hello Hello’ was notably absent from the setlist, which left a lot of the crowd disappointed. I decided to make my way up the hill for one last visit to the Grand Theatre where Willow Beats’ trip-hop stylings made for a definite (and wonderful) departure from The Cat Empire’s bold and brassy feel good music.

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Before I knew it, Vampire Weekend were taking the stage and were ready to usher in 2014 and the huge crowd that had gathered on the hill were ready to let them do so. Opening with a song off the new album before jumping back to ‘White Sky’ off their last album and even older again with third track ‘Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa’ much to the pleasure of the crowd. They were a great choice to ring in the New Year, and pretty much everyone in the crowd agreed. As Ezra Koenig wished everyone a Happy New Year, and proclaimed 2014 was going to be crazy, some stupid let off a flare gun and almost burnt down the stage, bringing the promised insanity straight away.

With the exception of a cold second night, Falls Festival was blessed with perfect weather and talented artists aplenty but what was apparent was the change in the crowd’s attitudes from previous years, which seemed to be a, frankly perplexing, apathy towards the music. Discussion with my camping mates led us to believe that a lot of the Pyramid crowd had come to Lorne after their regular New Year’s gig was cancelled and, unfortunately, that brought a lot of negative behaviour along with it (case in point: shoe throwing in the pit) but for those that wanted to enjoy the music, there still was plenty of opportunity to do so. I’d love to see them enact a strict ‘No Dickheads’ policy similar to Meredith, but I’ll hedge my bets on that one and probably go next year regardless.

Wes Fahey

Full Gallery of Falls Day 3 Here

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