Forward Thinking: Getting into the groove in Gisborne

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So, 2010 was the year of dubstep. Clearly. As that's what 25,000 party people, or "revellers" as we media like to call them, moved to until the wee hours of the morning in Gisborne last week.

'Wowowowow'. Photo / James Van Der Reyden
'Wowowowow'. Photo / James Van Der Reyden

It's an odd genre. It doesn't exactly scream summer-in-the-vineyards. It doesn't even really fill the techno void of something to get aerobic to, as being heavy, sinister and lethargic, yet jerkingly percussive, it's hard to move mindlessly to.

And jungle moves are so 1990s. You need to go for the more, "I'm possessed by a robotic alien that is trying to steal my veins" look (click here if you'd like some pointers).

Anyway, it's not something I would usually load on my iPod, but I found it agreeable, and I'm pretty sure it shifted something in my physiology.

Dubstep rattled my bones as I lay in my tent just a few hundred metres from the source and now, four days later, I am unwittingly remixing every song that enters my head with chunky doses of "wowowowow".

Wow. Can't wait to see what the Kiwi "youf" pull out of the bag next year.

I mean this year.

Dubstep's been pulsing on the radar for 10 years but it really exploded in New Zealand in 2010, coinciding with the enormous YouTube success of party boys Mt Eden Dubstep, whose melodic-yet-filthy beats popularised the genre in mainstream circles.

Mt Eden pulled an impressive, and totally engaged crowd to on the first night of Rhythm and Vines and dropped brand new tracks that the fans lapped up like they would have a trough of water - had someone dropped one in front of them at that point.

British drum and bass-cum-dubstep DJs Chase and Status did the same. They earned their place on the Rhythm and Vines billing through Facebook fan-pressure, and rewarded fans by pulling out brand new dubstep mixes when they played on the main stage the second night.

Not so the poppier acts on the schedule like Canadian electro poppers Chromeo and Pharell Williams' band, Nerd. In those cases, fans just wanted to sing along to the hits. Which they delivered to squealing acclaim.

Williams turned his audience of about 20,0000 into puppets, ordering a mass crowd surf, then for everyone to sit down and jump up at the same time.

Fans had to sing Williams' lyrics ("All the girls standing in the line for the bathroom") for him when his vocal cords gave up on him. Today I sympathise with him, as mine have also given up on me (I pop two more 1000mg vitamin C pills as I type).

Other than pointing out "bad backpack man", "high heels girl" and "projectile vomiter", and comparing the state of one another's freshly formed dreadlocks, the highlight of my three-day New Year's camping trip came at precisely 10pm on Thursday when Flying Lotus (Steve Ellison) took to the Vines stage.

The layers of his trippy, experimental music can sound industrial in the right setting, but between paddocks and vines, it sounded positively, upliftingly, organic. His good friend, the very 60s-looking Gaslamp Killer, picked up where his energetic set left off, showing off not only his knowledge of all things Maori but also some of the freshest sounds to come out of the pair's Los Angeles-based label, Brainfeeder.

Hudson Mohawk should have joined GLK and FlyLo (if you want to be cool and use an abbreviation) but he had broken his foot and was stuck in Australia. So they played some of his songs for him.

Welsh DJ High Contrast followed with one party starter after another asserting his position at the forefront of drum and bass. (Sorry guys, I was sick of walking so missed Justice on the other stage.)

At sunset on day three, The Naked and Famous brought sweat to the parched ground at the main stage, rarking up the audience before Shihad, and later, the fireworks extravaganza. Then everyone welcomed in 2011 to Boys Noize.

The party went on until 8am on Saturday. And if, like me, your creaky knees said you couldn't stay up that long, then you could lie down in your tent feeling the dubstep through the groundsheet.

But the festival didn't stop there. There was the seven-hour journey home - weaving through the gorge and clearing out dairies at Ormond and Opotiki.

There were cool-off dips in the river and, when the batteries in the music devices ran out, there were singing competitions. Which this year, inevitably turned into dubstep mixes. Wowowowow.


- NZ Herald

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