LORNE'S Falls Festival was in full swing last night as the last of the 16,000 patrons of the event, 10 kilometres outside Lorne, filed in.
Melbourne acts Dan Sultan, Little Red and the Temper Trap played solid sets before performances by overseas acts including New York's Yeah Yeah Yeahs.
It is a year of sweeping changes for the 17-year-old festival, which has satellite events in Tasmania and Brisbane.
The party began on Monday night when 2500 early arrivals enjoyed a night of soul-inspired music.
On Tuesday, about 12,000 punters arrived in time to see rockers Wolfmother take the stage.
Yesterday, the stragglers began arriving after dawn.
A new team of security guards was appointed in response to the actions of two 19-year-old boys who last year tried to enter illegally, sparking a massive search while they survived two nights alone, lost in the forest.
''There was a rehash of everything we do,'' organiser Simon Daly said yesterday. ''What the boys experienced sent a strong message [to would-be crashers]: it's not worth it.''
This year, the ''big top'' stage, affected by last year's wet weather, was reshaped into a virtual amphitheatre.
The main stage, which for the previous 12 years was the farm's main shed, is four metres higher, with new viewing decks and electronic screens. An annex protects performers from bad weather and accommodates eight tonnes of lighting.
''With the calibre of artists we're getting, there's an expectation on production and it needed that lift,'' Daly said.
After recycling 37 tonnes of garbage last year, the festival will this year save 150,000 litres of water by introducing permanent, all-compost toilets.
The compost loos, which are large, clean and (mostly) odourless, are drained to a holding tank. After six months, worms are added, and two years later, the compost is ready.
Daly's proudest achievement, however, is the festival's enticement of more than half of its patrons from interstate in the past five years.
But in the post-Black Saturday environment, Daly has worked closely with the State Government on the festival's long-term future.
Although this year the area had 1360 millimetres of rain (Melbourne has had just 450), he remains aware of many people's fears about potential fire dangers. So last month, he asked fire scientist Dr Kevin Tolhurst to assess the dangers, if any.
- Marva Whitney, the 65-year-old former backing singer for James Brown, had a stroke following her performance at the festival on Monday. She is expected to remain in hospital for the next week.
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