Before the year finished, there was something I needed to do. Every big Australian media figurehead has been screaming this advice since Pauline Hanson’s return, and especially after the Trump win: we have to step outside of our social bubbles and see the lives outside of our own if we wish to truly understand the world. It was time to get to know those of a different mindset; those who spent the majority of their childhoods above the poverty line. And what better place to find these people than at the Lorne leg of the Falls Festival, the place for all private school kids and Triple J listeners who work legacy positions in offices to ring in the new year.

The next year is not one someone in poverty can get excited about. The actual activation of the Brexit and crowning of Donald Trump independently have the power to cause a massive global depression. Australia is a ticking time bomb due to nowhere near enough entry-level and unskilled jobs existing in the current environment, the further collapse of the mining industry as demand plummets, the East Coast housing bubble, and the 20 year long decimation of the welfare safety net. Managing this are the people whose answer to deficit is to shake the poor by the ankles and hope something valuable falls out, be it coins or organs. Add these specific issues with the learned perpetual worrying that comes when you’re living paycheck for paycheck and it means that a full 5–day New Year’s celebration is an absolutely insane idea. I’ve documented this insanity here for the rest of the people like me to gawk at the hedonistic oddity, and everyone else to realise that the shit they do is bizarre to a decent chunk of Australians that many like to pretend don’t actually exist.

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First Day

All around is a sea of blinding white teeth and dilated pupils. Outside, a wave of aluminium cans have washed up on the Great Ocean Road. Everyone is dressed to the nines in the latest festival styles with 100s of branded shirts, flowing transparent white robes, $400 jackets made through child slave labour, and overalls that wouldn’t last a year in any work setting. Despite Melbourne’s record of having two days of sunshine in a row followed by brutal rain, everyone has somehow achieved the perfect tan. On top of the almost $1,000 needed to enter the festival, it’s like it takes about $1,000 more just to get wardrobe ready enough not to get moved on by police at the entrance.

Seeing as I’m missing a front tooth since I couldn’t afford dental surgery and am eagerly awaiting Centrelink’s new system to cut me off with a debt for $10,000 for using a healthcare card, it’s safe to say I don’t exactly fit. Still, I march past row after row of shiny new cars to the camp site, noting the Australian flags over portable gazebos, the ‘Aussie Pride’ bumper stickers, and in one case a Trump 2016 sticker, which gives me hope that at least I’m not the only cuck in attendance. Across the other side of the festival, a friend of mine waiting in line for the bathrooms walked passed a condom, tied at the end, filled to the brim with pills. Despite the sniffer dog presence, these would remain there until Saturday morning. It was weird being around cops for five days and not seeing a group of seven of them encircling a homeless person demanding an address to send the fine for begging to, but having cops stop doing that is a change I can get used to, so I’ll chalk that up to a positive for the festival.

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I entered the festival grounds just as Client Liaison finished. The stage spewed a variety of shoulder-pad and neon-clad punters into the air. After this point, the neon suits would never be seen again, so you almost miss how good this actually is. In Lorne that day, it hit 38 degrees. The air made it feel like you’d walked into the Great London Smog. But Falls wasn’t taking place in the town of Lorne. No, Falls took place twenty minutes away, up a mountain and in the middle of a rainforest. The only place you will find a higher ratio of straight oxygen to water than the air of the festival grounds is in the ocean itself, and these kids are strolling about in it wrapped in suit jackets coloured by Officeworks highlighters. They collide with a mass of people dressed in Trumpian tacky gold. ‘What’s the deal with the gold?’ I ask my friend, collapsing after lugging a tent up a goddamn mountain.
‘Everyone agreed that on the first day you have to dress in gold.’
‘When’d they decided that?’
‘I dunno, I only found out when I got here.’

On this first day alone there would be about three costume changes. Disposable income is enough of an alien concept when you grow up choosing between school lunches or that month’s excurssion, let alone disposable outfits. Something designed with no use for basic survival is not what you are permitted by the welfare state in Australia. Whether it be due to nice things simply being unaffordable or through the guilt of buying something unnecessary that is beaten into you through government and societal demonization of poverty meaning you should have no luxuries, . To see people who are free of this guilt enough to purchase costumes to use in a festival that was scheduled to be +30 degrees and constantly raining for no particular purpose is a shocking thing to see. Even more shocking is seeing these folks start lining up for Grandmaster Flash.

I’m gonna sound like a pretentious fuckwit saying this, but I’m fairly certain that the folks pooling in early weren’t there for because of their devotion to early hip–hop more than just early in general. Nostalgia absolutely dominates the festival. Storefronts are filled with mock 60s and 70s styles. Icons of days long past, from Milhouse to Rocky to the Footscray football club cover the punters. Between sets songs like ‘Mr Brightside’, ‘Sk8r Boi’, and ‘Teenage Dirtbag’ get bigger cheers than many of the artists themselves. This adoration of nostalgia isn’t anything that new, but it is interesting to note this and the fact that the town of Lorne where Falls takes place will in the near future be buried by the ocean by way of melting ice caps. Soon in this place nostalgia won’t be an escape to a simpler time, but a dire remembrance of how things were before they irreparably went to shit. But anyways, Flash is onstage, so it’s time to go back in time when ‘The Message’ had just come out and death through robotics was simply a sci–fi plot device and not domestic policy failure.

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Grandmaster Flash‘s set said far more than he meant it to. A video plays of the creation of hip–hop, the genre Flash helped pioneer alongside DJ Cool Herc and the now disgraced Afrika Bambaataa. He describes the use of the crayon on creating the break. A particular standout is that these kids, too poor to afford a generator for a block party, would break open the case of a lamppost and hook their machines up with leeched electricity. A pre–recorded Flash states “Tonight, I’m going to bring Brooklyn to you”, which to be fair he does. He just didn’t state which Brooklyn that would be.

The sight of 10,000 rich kids jamming out to what was once one of few outlets of the poor and shunned is pretty much the way that 2016 was going to have to end. With a computer and two turntables set up solely for some showy stunts, Flash had succeeded in delivering gentrified Brooklyn to the Great Ocean Road that night. The computer in turn responded to this over-reliance by breaking down several times over the set. Any of the ingenuity that came from its roots have been removed and replaced with a far more expensive yet temperamental system. It was a performance to make Lena Dunham proud. It was at this point it dawned on me that I was in no way at all supposed to be here.

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