In a prelude to a summer of fun, Weekend asked festival insiders to provide their pearls of wisdom. Plus, they each tell a story about that time ...
Auckland City Limits promoter
I always seem to have trouble with openings. It's almost become an annual comedy. At one Big Day Out, a sponsor had given me a mini Chopper motorcycle to use at the site while we built the show. So I tore around Mt Smart stadium at high speed all week. On show day, as we had thousands of kids waiting to get in and I was racing to open the gates, I came screaming around a corner, fancying I was Valentino Rossi, and crashed into a policeman. He wasn't best pleased and decided he would arrest me. So he's trying to handcuff me, kids are baying to get in and I'm yelling, "You can't arrest me, I'm the promoter!" Turns out he could. The following year we went to open the gates and we'd lost the key. We actually lost the key to Gate A at Mt Smart Stadium. Bolt cutters to the rescue, 20 minutes later. Another year we managed to open the gates on time, but failed to notice that one of our site crew was still rolling the park in a huge, motorised, double-drum ground roller. Kids were now in the venue and running excitedly all around him. Something of a health and safety no-no. And at the first ACL at Western Springs, we somehow contrived to have the first band start playing before we opened the gates at all. So playing to no one. I missed that, as I was on the other side of the site chasing swans, ducks and geese in a golf cart. I thought that I could teach them to stay in the lake and off our site. So in 2018 I'm not coming to the site till after lunch.
1. ACL is cashless, so come down to the site in the week preceding the festival and load up your wristband with credit. Saves time on the day.
2. Walk, ride your bike (you can lock it up at the event entrance) or catch a bus (they're free with your ACL ticket) to Western Springs. There ain't anywhere to park your Nissan Tiida near the venue. ACL is a central city festival. Just be thankful we're not doing the show at Mt Smart.
3. Come early, bring a chair and stake out a home base under a tree, by the lake. Or bring some bedsheets and build a fort. If you have little kids, bring them. No need for sitters. Under-10s are admitted free and Auckland Kiddie Limits is full of great activities and musical entertainment just for them. It's not a creche — you have to hang with your kids. So stay, paint faces, and make a flute out of a potato with them.
4. Pick three acts that you don't know much about, maybe someone has recommended, and go see them. Along with your faves. Discovery is the best part of a music festival.
5. Don't bring a selfie stick. I hate selfie sticks. And they're banned. Bring a long-armed friend instead.
ACL: March 3
Rhythm and Vines founder and producer
In 2011 the airport was closed in Gisborne due to bad weather and we had to get New Year's Eve headlining DJs Skream, Benga and Tiga on to Sydney to perform the next night. The only way was to get them to Napier to catch a charter out and on to a connecting flight. It was going to be a long drive in the pitch black in the early hours of 2012 so I turned to my dad, Ross, to see if he knew anyone who could drive. It was New Year's Eve and there weren't many sober drivers around. It ended up being Dad who drove Tiga and his mate down to Napier at 2am. They even popped into my home for a cup of tea before catching the first flight out and on to Sydney.
1. Have the screensaver on your phone as your friend's phone number in case you drop it.
2. Baby wipes if you're camping.
3. Have a meeting spot, merch tent, high flag, R&V sign etc.
4. Put a flag or something on your tent so you can distinguish it from the other thousands of tents
5. Eyewash for dust, paw paw for the lips, hat to protect the top of the ears from the sun and sunscreen, cos sunburn, chapped lips and a bung eye ain't a good look ... no matter how strong your Tinder game is.
Rhythm and Vines, 15th anniversary, December 29-Jan 1
Womad NZ event director
A lesson from last year's festival is there's only so much you can control, something will always go wrong, but as long as you can think on your feet, festival dilemmas can usually be resolved. We build a global retail village and food court with pop-up tents, some 80 odd sites. Days before the festival was scheduled to kick off, our pop-up container turned up damaged and our pop-ups written off — no global village, no food court. I was at the hairdressers when this all unfolded, dye running down my face, hands and phone, ringing every supplier in New Zealand trying to secure some replacement pop-up tents.
Normally this would've been an easy task, but we needed 80-odd, and, oh yeah, we need them now, and we're located in New Plymouth. I was lucky and managed to find a New Zealand supplier, leaving the casualty rate of 81 — 80 pop-ups and one hair dye-stained iPhone.
1. Look after your feet. Choose your footwear wisely, the Womad site is a mixture of hilled and flat terrain, wear your comfiest pair of shoes — Womad is not the place to break in new footwear or show off your favourite heels.
2. Find a base. Pick a location where you and your group can meet up for some downtime, to eat and a place to go if anyone gets separated from the group — extra points if it's close to toilets and a shady spot where you can take a break from the sunshine.
3. Surprise yourself. One of the great drawcards of Womad is the journey of discovery — treat yourself to a foreign experience, go see an artist or group you know nothing about, a genre you're not familiar with — or even try a cuisine you've never tried.
4. Pace yourself. Don't go too big on the first night and spend the next two days traipsing around the festival like a hungover zombie. Friday night is for easing into festival mode, hydrating and planning the next two days of eating and stage-hopping.
Bring a water bottle.
Womad, March 16-18, 2018
I recall my first festival as a teenager, hitch-hiking from Auckland to Takaka Hill to an Entrain party. Meeting awesome people along the way making friends for life. Catching the last interislander and sleeping under the stars just outside Picton with newfound friends. Goa trance was the soundtrack du jour and the massive soundsystems bathed the festival site in a frenzy of psychedelic, squelchy rhythms. At some point the generators failed and the music stopped abruptly, but a rhythmic belching chorus continued from frogs nearby.
For a while some of the happy ravers hardly noticed the transition from electronic to nature's sounds, at least until we all started laughing. Laughter is what punctuates a great festival experience and falling about laughing with friends old and new is what I tend to remember best. Bring on summer."
1. Bring your swimsuit. Splore is on a picture-perfect safe swimming beach so you can literally dance in the sea.
2. Catch the bus, it's a sustainable, very social fun way to travel to your festival. If you come by car, please carpool and drive carefully.
3. Don't pack the kitchen sink. Trust us when we say there's damn fine coffee and amazing food at reasonable prices. You'll never get around to eating that can of baked beans. Save space in your bag for costumes and frou frou.
4. Put your phone away and live IRL (in real life). There's no better time to unclench from that device and experience all the wonder and beauty happening right before your own eyes. Posting pics and selfies to your story is the exception of course. Nothing like a bit of #fomo for your buddies who couldn't be there this time.
Splore, Feb 23-25
Soundsplash promoter, musician
We played a small festival in Japan with Cornerstone Roots. It wasn't as organised as we expected. The backline instruments consisted of a children's drum kit, karaoke mics, no amplifiers. We had about four hours until the show and with the language barrier we were finding it difficult to try to sort things out. So with good old Kiwi ingenuity, we rolled up our sleeves, pulled the mics and my guitar leads apart and hardwired it all straight into the PA system. We played our set and got such a great response from the audience who didn't want us to stop, so we ended up playing the same songs for about three hours. and gained some loyal fans.
1. If you want to walk from Soundsplash to Raglan Township or vice versa, walking along the beach is faster and more enjoyable.
2. Bring your togs/surfboard/boogie board so you can have a dip before the festival starts. There are showers at the beach.
3. You're allowed to bring small shade structures into the main amphitheatre.
4. Once you have an official 2018 wristband you can come and go to the beach or town throughout the three-day festival. And we have free shuttle buses running to and from Raglan township from the morning to when the last band plays.
Soundsplash, Jan 19-21