On a gloomy day back in March, Campbell Smith was staring out the window of his Grey Lynn home when the heavens opened up.

The rain was so bad, he took out his camera and filmed it.

"It was the most torrential downpour of rain I've ever seen in my life," says Smith, a live music promoter known for helming the Big Day Out and The Winery Tour.

"I posted a video ... and my partners in America were like, 'Are you in a waterfall?'

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"No, that's just rain."

Auckland City Limits promoter Campbell Smith. Photo/Brett Phibbs
Auckland City Limits promoter Campbell Smith. Photo/Brett Phibbs

Smith sat down and breathed a sigh of relief. Because the day the rain fell was the same day the second leg of his new music festival, Auckland City Limits, was due to be held.

"That whole week [building up to show day] was terrible, which meant we wouldn't have been able to build [the festival]," Smith says.

"We probably would have been screwed."

Smith had made the tough decision to pull the festival's second outing the previous November, after a successful debut in March, 2016.

It was done via a short, vague statement that stated the festival was taking a gap year - despite everyone agreeing the first festival, headlined by Kendrick Lamar, was a resounding success.

Pulling in 25,000 punters to a new music festival at the tail end of summer is no mean feat, and those who attended raved about the site's layout, food and drink offerings, grassy banks, kids area, pop up bars and chilled atmosphere.

Besides a few lengthy queues around dinner time, there were few complaints. It made this year's disappearing act all the more strange - especially when Smith had already confirmed it would return.

Fans take in Kendrick Lamar at the 2016 Auckland City Limits festival.
Fans take in Kendrick Lamar at the 2016 Auckland City Limits festival.

So what happened?

"I wasn't happy with how it was coming together," he says. "It was so important because it was the second one and in many respects that's more important than the first.

"If we'd gone out with what we were looking at, I don't feel like it would have done us any justice and we would have gone a little bit backwards."

Today, standing on the outer field at Western Springs while talking to TimeOut, Smith is a much happier man than when he was staring out his window watching the rain fall.

"Look how lush this grass is," he says. "Can we go for a walk? Let's walk."

Smith strides out close to the trees where a series of boutique food stalls will serve hungry festival punters on March 3, the day next year that Auckland City Limits returns for its delayed second outing.

He's in a good mood, and well he should be. Smith this week announced a stacked line-up for the return of City Limits, including big names Beck and Grace Jones, backed by French favourites Phoenix and Justice, as well as festival-friendly acts The Avalanches and The Libertines.

That's not all. Live Nation, C3 and Australia's Secret Sounds are launching Sydney City Limits, a sister festival being held the weekend before Auckland's.

Having two festivals makes it easier for them to encourage acts to travel, and is part of Smith's expansive dream for ACL, one he hopes will build to be run over two days, and stretch into other parts of the Western Springs site.

"This is my piece of art ... this is the thing I'm most invested in creating," he says.

A fan enjoys Auckland City Limits.
A fan enjoys Auckland City Limits.

But City Limits returns to a saturated summer market, one that has an international act performing every two days on average.

Giant stadium shows by Ed Sheeran, Sia and the Foo Fighters are planned over the summer months, along with competing festivals: Laneway, Splore, Northern Bass and Bay Dreams.

With so much at stake, so much competition and - as that dismal day back in March showed - sometimes so much rain, you have to wonder why Smith keeps doing it.

He is, he says, addicted.

"I'll never forget that feeling I had at the first Big Day Out that I did, which was the Beastie Boys in 2005. I remember standing on the hill at the back of Mt Smart Stadium.

"There were 40,000 people in there and a surge of adrenaline and sense of satisfaction overwhelmed the huge sense of anxiety I had going into it," he says.

The Beastie Boys perform at the 2005 Big Day Out.
The Beastie Boys perform at the 2005 Big Day Out.

"It's intoxicating and addictive. They're hugely risky things to put together ... but you're constantly searching for that fix.

"And that's what gives it to me."

LOWDOWN
Who: Music promoter Campbell Smith
What: Auckland City Limits, March 3, Western Springs
Featuring: Beck, Grace Jones, Phoenix, Justice and
More information: www.aucklandcitylimits.com