Day 3 started with a bang. A lightning storm rolled in around 5am, with one strike hitting particularly close to the campground. If anyone was planning on sleeping in, yesterday was not their day.
The early morning wake up left most of us pretty unprepared for the insane cardio that came with running between the Grand Theatre tent and the Valley Stage. The scheduling of the day meant that you could see music pretty much constantly, but you had to get your weekly workout in first.
The first act I caught was Melbourne band Ceres. While the crowd in the tent was small, they were committed to every song. Ceres ripped through their set with skill and humour, blending indie rock with a little bit of emo. ‘Choke’ and ‘Baby Breath’ were standouts, despite frontman Tom proclaiming ‘Baby Breath’ to be a hard song to sing “so well done me”.
Jack River absolutely packed out the Valley with her mid-afternoon set. Dressed in a 70s style flared jumpsuit, she seemed genuinely stoked with the large crowd. A cover of ‘She’s So High’ had everyone screaming along, and while tracks like ‘Confess’ were well performed it was ‘Fault Line’ that had punters going wild. ‘Fools Gold’ saw the set end on a high, with cheers echoing around the arena well after River left the stage.
A surprising standout of the day was young singer Ruel. At just 16, he put on a show better than acts twice his age. As he ran and danced across the stage throughout ‘Dazed and Confused’, you’d be forgiven for thinking he’d been doing this for decades. As it turns out, this was his first ever festival performance. He played a mix of covers and original tracks, which worked in his favour as not all of the packed tent was familiar with his own work. A brief cover of ‘Ultralight Beam’ was a highlight, as was a cover of Billie Eilish’s ‘Bellyache’. Closer ‘Younger’ had the crowd swaying along, and was a clear demonstration of why Ruel is going to continue killing it in years to come.
On the shuttle back to the campsite, one group were discussing who they most wanted to see. One man said they’d driven 10 hours just to see Amy Shark, but the roar of laughter that followed was a pretty good indicator of what he thought of her set. He was pretty spot on though - the most interesting thing about it was the people in the crowd. A man with ‘VB’ shaved into the back of his head was on a quest to find his friends. The beanie bro next to me was trying his luck with a girl, but her friends weren’t having a bar of it. The big screens showed highlights of the best signs in the crowd, along with an inflatable shark. Meanwhile, Amy Shark was playing the songs off Love Monster the same way she always does. She’s high energy, but her sets always feel like they’re missing something. It picked up towards the end with a cover of Wheatus’ ‘Teenage Dirtbag’, and closers ‘Adore’ and ‘I Said Hi’ were predictably well received.
It was a wise choice to have Vance Joy play as the sun set. His inoffensive brand of folk tunes drew a massive crowd into the valley, and left us all on a high. A horn-strong cover of Lionel Richie’s ‘All Night Long’ was blended perfectly into Justin Bieber’s ‘Sorry’. If it were anyone else it might not have worked, but part of Joy’s appeal is that he just seems like a really nice dude so everyone loved it. ‘Georgia’ and ‘Saturday Sun’ had everyone having a boogie, and even one of the cops near me was dancing during ‘Lay It On Me’. I couldn’t help but wonder whether Joy still enjoys playing ‘Riptide’, but judging from the crowd’s reaction he probably doesn’t have much say in the matter.
Running Touch brought huge energy to the tent, with the trio running around the stage and switching instruments all set. It was nice to see an electronic act be able to translate to a live set so easily. Tracks like ‘Equaliser’ didn’t sound like they did on the record, but the live take was just as good in its own way. Their recent collaboration with Hayden James, ‘Better Together’, was the biggest hit with the crowd, although last song ‘My Hands’ gave it a run for its money.
American stalwarts Interpol drew a dismally small crowd, although it wasn’t unexpected. A portion of the audience were of an age that they probably remembered the band’s heyday, and the rest seemed to be somehow involved in the music industry. ‘Say Hello To The Angels’ and ‘All The Rage Back Home’ were highlights, but it did seem like they were just going through the motions. It’s hard to get into a band who just stand still on stage, although their music did somewhat make up for their lack of crowd interaction. It would be very interesting to see the difference between this performance and one of their sideshows with a crowd who paid just to see them. Overall, though, it was a pretty good set, if only for the classic tunes.
Up in the tent was the opposite end of the spectrum, where Norwegian DJ Cashmere Cat was spinning some heavy electro tracks. He played off the anticipation of the drop, with long build ups that never fully came to fruition. His hour long set traversed heaps of his original tracks, along with some insane remixes. ‘Trust Nobody’, a track he released with Selena Gomez, was a surprising hit, as was a weird remix of George Michael’s ‘Careless Whisper’. Unfortunately, he was competing against Hilltop Hoods for a crowd, which is a battle that’s very hard to win. By the end, the crowd was tiny, although those who stayed were rewarded with Cyndi Lauper’s ’Girls Just Wanna Have Fun’ and Whitney Houston’s ‘I Wanna Dance With Somebody’.
There’s a reason Hilltop Hoods keep getting booked for every Australian festival. No matter what time slot they play, they draw the biggest and most enthusiastic crowds. They first played Falls in 2004/05, and 14 years later they’ve very much still got it. Despite some wild age differences in the crowd, almost everyone knew the words to every song. ‘Nosebleed Section’ was magical as per usual, and even new track ‘Leave Me Lonely’ had a huge singalong. Vocalist Adrian Eagle was brought on stage to do his part in ‘Clark Griswold’, adding an extra element to their live rendition. Towards the end of the set, they played ‘the game’ they often play during festival sets, asking the audience to each take off one piece of clothing and wave it in the air. Most of us went for a hat or a bag, because it was so cold, although the boys in front of me decided to go right down to their undies. No matter how many times I’ve seen the Hoods play this game, there’s always something amazing about seeing so many things being waved around. The set ended strong with ‘Cosby Sweater’, and the Hoods showed why they’re still one of Australia’s best live acts.
DJ duo Flight Facilities took the stage at 12.30am, which would usually be too late for punters to hang around. But Flight Fac aren’t just any other act, and the crowd was still going strong by the time the boys took the stage. ‘Arty Boy’ and ‘Crave You’ were highlights, and while there wasn’t a huge amount of stage banter it wasn’t needed. Owl Eyes joined the duo for guest vocals, bringing some stellar moves with her. It was a well-polished show, but why change something if it works?
Honourable mention goes to Lex Deluxe, the Sydney-based DJ who closed out the Valley Stage after Flight Facilities. I couldn’t keep my eyes open by 1.30am, so I missed her set, but from what I heard from my neighbours in the morning it was full of killer tunes.
Although there was a bit of a hairy start to Day 3, it ended up being the strongest day yet. Jack River and Ruel were surprise contenders for best of the day, if not the whole festival, and Hilltop Hoods and Vance Joy proved why they’re so incredibly popular across the board. With all that said, though, Day 4 is sure to be a cracker in the lead-up to the NYE countdown.