Last summer's music festival season sucked - what about this year?

By Siena Yates

Our options for the upcoming festival season are still looking pretty good. Photo / Chris Loufte
Our options for the upcoming festival season are still looking pretty good. Photo / Chris Loufte

This time last year New Zealand's summer festival season was shaping up to be epic.

The brand new McLaren Falls Festival had been announced, Soulfest had one of its best line-ups ever, the first Auckland City Limits had just been confirmed, and so had a host of other headline concerts.

And then it all went horribly wrong.

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The McLaren Falls Festival failed to nail down resource consents, lost a battle with the locals and was forced to change from a two-day festival in the Bay of Plenty paradise that is McLaren Falls, to the Echo Festival - a two-day event at Auckland's Vector Arena.

The festival had promised fans a multi-stage summer event featuring headlining sets from Disclosure, Flaming Lips, Jamie xx, Kurt Vile and more. But low ticket sales forced organiser Paxton Talbot to pull the plug.

The same thing happened to Soulfest - it was supposed to bring huge names including Mary J Blige, Miguel and Lauryn Hill, but was axed just days before it was due to happen.

Soulfest's Aussie promoter John Denison said they hadn't even sold half of the tickets they would needed to break even.

And on top of all that, international festivals were also breaking down and the trickle-down effect saw New Zealand suffer. When Soundwave was cancelled in Australia, bands like Disturbed and Bring me the Horizon - who were coming to New Zealand off the back of the festival - were forced to cancel.

It was, frankly, a disaster.

So . . .

How's this year's season shaping up?

A spectator enjoys Fat Freddy's Drop at the Auckland City Limits music festival. Photo / Chris Loufte
A spectator enjoys Fat Freddy's Drop at the Auckland City Limits music festival. Photo / Chris Loufte

Pretty good, actually. Down in Wellington, Homegrown was a sell out success earlier this year and festivals which offer up more than a good lineup continue to flourish.

Weekend getaways like Splore and Womad, and New Year's party destinations like Rhythm & Vines, Rhythm & Alps and Northern Bass are still going as strong as ever.

And while other standalone festivals have had their share of issues, they're still doing pretty well.

Soundsplash

Soundsplash is making a strong return this season with Six60 leading the lineup so far. Photo / Sylvie Whinray
Soundsplash is making a strong return this season with Six60 leading the lineup so far. Photo / Sylvie Whinray

Raglan festival Soundsplash just announced its impending 2017 return, with 40 acts playing three stages over the course of three days, and a lineup which so far includes Six60, Three Houses Down, Maala and Diaz Grimm.

Raggamuffin

Raggamuffin may have had some lineup issues but the show still went on. Photo / Doug Sherring.
Raggamuffin may have had some lineup issues but the show still went on. Photo / Doug Sherring.

Raggamuffin had its fair share of lineup issues this year after headline act Cee-Lo Green pulled out, Beenie Man was cut from the bill in response to his homophobic rants, and rapper The Game simply didn't show.

But ticket sales were still good and fans were still happy with the general experience, with a lineup that - despite its issues - still boasted names like UB40, Macy Gray, Xzibit, and the big drawcard; Wu-Tang Clan. Next year's event is yet to be confirmed.

Laneway

Laneway's main issue is its concrete-jungle venue, but otherwise it's going strong. Photo / Doug Sherring
Laneway's main issue is its concrete-jungle venue, but otherwise it's going strong. Photo / Doug Sherring

Like Raggamuffin, St Jerome's Laneway Festival has built enough of a brand, culture and fan base that it's probably going to be safe for some time, though the Silo Park venue's lack of grassy areas, shade and space are becoming more of an issue.

The festival, which has been running for seven years has already moved from Britomart, to Aotea Square, to Silo Park, and organisers had hoped to move to the Auckland Domain this year, but the council beat them to it with the annual Lantern Festival.

Either way, its lineups continue to impress with Chvrches, Fidlar, Flume, Grimes and Vince Staples gracing its stages earlier this year.

A new venue, and first line-up, for 2017 should be confirmed in the coming weeks.

Auckland City Limits

A massive crowd gathers for US rapper Action Bronson at the inaugural Auckland City Limits festival. Photo / Chris Loufte.
A massive crowd gathers for US rapper Action Bronson at the inaugural Auckland City Limits festival. Photo / Chris Loufte.

The new kid on the block Auckland City Limits had a pretty successful first run hampered only by logistics, with fans complaining about long queues for entry, food, drinks and toilets. Organisers have said they're aiming to have those issues fixed in time for round two.

The venue was great with plenty of room and shade, the food options were awesome and the line up was massive, including The National, Action Bronson, Modest Mouse and Kendrick Lamar. Promoter Campbell Smith has already confirmed it's coming back to the same venue and is currently working on the line-up.

The verdict

In the end, we've got a whole heap of great festivals which are just looking for ways to get better, and we're actually only one festival down: Soulfest.

The soul and R&B festival has traditionally made announcements in May for an October event, and there's been no word of a return this year.

You could count McLaren Falls/Echo, but in fairness, it ended before it started, so we can't really miss it too much.

So while Soulfest will leave a pretty big gap in the festival landscape, all in all, this season ain't looking too bad.

- NZ Herald

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