The size of the first drop suggested this was real deal rural rain. Sure enough, within seconds it'd arrived, water cascading down the hill to the main stage where Erykah Badu was holding court. Seemingly only minutes later thousands of people were desperately seeking cover in the bar, under trees, flags, awnings or marquees. A few punters discarded clothing and danced in togs, while others began the trek home to sodden sleeping quarters. In the glorious Saturday sunshine, there were tales of collapsed tents, mud-caked sleeping bags and broken legs on the goat track, but that's the rough and smooth of buying into the festival experience, I guess.
There were a handful of logistical issues (the portaloos and queues at peak times), but they're minors and didn't diminish the overall experience. An experience which saw any desire to stick to a timetable cast aside. Not only was this incredibly freeing, it meant I saw the Cuban Brothers, easily one of the funnest acts of the weekend, leading the main stage audience in a sing-a-long tribute to Whitney Houston. It also meant when the brostep and glitch hop got tiresome I could embrace the fruity-fun of the Living Lounge, where acts like Labretta Suede and The Motel 6 or the In Flagrante dancers (which, despite being NSFW, are worth googling) encouraged folks to unleash their inner freaks. Aside from the generally positive and accepting atmosphere, it was this "second and third tier" of performers, artists and extroverts who added the flavour engaging punters beyond the main stage; though the big names didn't disappoint. Mostly.
While Erykah Badu pleased the heads by playing songs from Mama's Gun and Baduizm, her's was a set in which she captivated much, though not all of the crowd. Around 10 minutes before the rains came, Badu had launched into a monologue about oppression and occupation and the people of Mexico, something which seemed to confuse a great number of younger audience members, who liked her set but were eager for more.
Hudson Mohawke had more - of almost everything except soul. His blunt trauma assemblage of sounds created walls of noise which saw a significant number of punters seriously lose their shit. Speaking of which, I heard the grassy bank above the main stage on Friday night described as "Magic Cardboard Hill".
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The quite remarkable Earl Gateshead showed the Serato-toting DJ youngsters how it's done, spinning seven-inch vinyl records while getting on the microphone to chat, encouraging us to join him celebrating the "Heroes! Legends and heroes who smuggled weed across borders, and through customs!" Both his sets were among the finest of the weekend, alongside those by Hudge, Mo' Horizon, Spikey Tee and the Soul II Soul Sound System, with Jazzie B and Caron Wheeler throwing down.
There are many other moments which stand out, like swimming in the ocean with friends and watching Barons of Tang work a sweltering mid-afternoon crowd into a dancing frenzy. From the heavily-pregnant to the SuperGold Card eligible, from tourists who'd built Splore into their New Zealand holiday to girls in bikinis and gumboots - even those privileged few on yachts in the harbour - it was the people who ensured Splore 2012 was a proper party.
What: Splore 2012
When: Friday 17-Sunday 19 February
Where: Tapapakanga Regional Park