The Gods always seem to smile upon Splore, and 2012 was no different.

Tapapakanga Regional Park glinted in the dusk like a true Pacific jewel on Friday evening, despite some clouds threatening to burst on the horizon.

Wellington all star band The Yoots, who were up second on the main stage, cultivated a "proud to be a Kiwi" set of funked-up traditional Maori waiata, their 12-strong line up led by Fat Freddy's Drop trombonist Joe Lindsay kick starting the three-day party with some top shelf horn playing.

With Lindsay's young son helping to lead the crowd through the lyrics, when they led Lisa Tomlins out on stage for a soulful version of Pokarekare Ana, everyone from the ocean to the beach to the bank joined in with enthusiasm.


It was a quintessential Splore moment, beaming punters joining together in a celebration of music and culture.

"As you can tell, we're not great singers, but that's not the point," Lindsay nodded. "The point is singing together."

The sold out 6500-strong crowd of friends, families, hippies and ravers were colourfully turned out, matching the surroundings which are decorated and adorned in a fashion unlike any other New Zealand festival.

The attention to detail is amazing, with four beautifully different stage spaces complimented by chill out zones, sculpture trails, light displays and fairy wonderlands.

And this year's line-up was one of the strongest yet, full of surprises and surpassing expectations.

American soul queen Erykah Badu took the prime time spot on Friday evening, and deserved the rapturous response to her powerful, elegant and staunch performance.

Dressed in a top hat, a black backless number and layer upon layer of gold necklaces, she captivated the crowd with a beautifully choreographed set, ably supported by four back up vocalists, a drummer, organist and keys player.

Her set was a masterful display of nu-soul, charging through an hour or so of hits like Soldier, Love Of My Life, I Want You and On and On. Erykah Badu-right was the catchphrase of the evening, as she could do no wrong with her stunning voice, and super cool drum pad solos and interludes.

And then the rain came.

And while it turned the sky black, and the ground brown, the crowd continued to revel, taking shelter in various bar areas, or the Living Lounge, or even under plastic tables.

The rain eased enough for 80s London Soundsystem heroes Soul II Soul to draw a large crowd back to the main stage, front man Jazzie B charming the crowd, and vocalist Caron Wheeler looking as energetic and youthful as she did in 1989 performing their massive hit Back To Life.

Saturday morning dawned clear and sunny, quickly helping to dry out the wet jeans and T-shirts, the farm fences bursting with the colour of damp towels and clothes.

Despite the array of impressive activities on offer including hip hop workshops, yoga, and hoola hooping, the most popular daytime option was swimming.

Local act Funkommunity, led by Isaac Aesili got the dancers back on shore, and brought out the soul clap for the mid-afternoon set, the perfect prelude to a couple more swims and a beer, before an outstanding set from Auckland chill-hop act @Peace.

The extended seven piece led by Tom Scott of HomeBrew and Luis Tuiasao had the crowd on a string, rhapsodising about Auckland, inequalities, and seducing a woman on a budget, all with total aplomb and insight.

The rhyming and beats in super tight sync with the horn lines and percussion, they got several thousand punters chanting along saying "F*** John Key (or Paul Holmes)" during Be Like, and when they led vocalist Esther Stephens out to perform Sky Is Falling it was a festival highlight.

It was a tough act to follow, but young Scottish reggae dancehall king Gappy Ranks soon had the audience winding back and forward with ease.

And hilarious musical comedy act Cuban Brothers (made up of Scottish born kiwis and a Japanese dude) got the biggest shot outs of the evening with a buzzing high-energy performance, that included stripping off one snazzy pink pinstripe suit.

A mind-boggling set of drum n bass, dubstep and jump-around dance music created purely from the vocal chords and tongue of beat boxing world champion Reeps One, and the lightening fast sampling hands of DJ Qbert.

The delights of the various theatrical performances in the Living Lounge, and the wonderful wind down acts of Sunday afternoon, including local roots brothers The Nudge and AHoriBuzz topped off a sublime weekend of musical love.

What: Splore 2012
Where: Tapapakanga Park, South Auckland
When: February 17-19