NZ On Screen's Zara Potts takes a trip down memory lane to some of the biggest summer festivals we've seen in Aotearoa over the years.

Ah, summer! The time for ferocious sunburn, mosquito bites and too much over-indulging.

But there's another reason why summer is so good: music festivals. This year is no exception with lots of open-air concerts on offer to those people wanting to extend the summer break before heading back to the confines of the daily grind.

One of the first music festivals in New Zealand, Redwood 70, was held just six months after the legendary Woodstock in 1970. Not quite living up to the summer-of-love hype it was promoted as, 1500 music fans bussed out to the Swanson holiday park in Auckland for 36 hours of non-stop top pops from local bands.


The big headliner was Bee Gee Robin Gibb whose infamous falsetto was greeted by a thrown tomato. So much for Peace, love and brotherhood.

Watch Redwood 70 here:

Ten years later, a slightly more Woodstockian festival was held, with the Nambassa Festival since become a thing of legend in many people's memory.

The three-day festival, held on a Waihi farm in 1979, was attended by 60,000 people, and it represented a high tide mark in Aotearoa for a vision of a music festival as a counterculture celebration of music, crafts, alternative lifestyles and all things hippy and kumbaya.

The festival had everything you could possibly want: yodelling, mud, interpretive dance and overzealous policing. In this clip, you can see the way yoga used to be – and there's not a goat nor a trendy studio to be seen.

Watch Nambassa Festival here:

Hot on the heels of Nambassa was Sweetwaters. Mention the name to anyone over 45 years old and you'll find that most of them get a misty look in their eye and say something to the effect of, "I remember going to that," even though most of them probably don't.

In its day, Sweetwaters had a fairly impressive roll call of bands including Talking Heads, Simple Minds and the Pretenders. In this clip, from 1980, Headliner Elvis Costello gets a little camera shy.

Watch Radio with Pictures – Sweetwaters here:

Fast forward to 1999 and the Sweetwaters Redux had become a little bit more like Muddiedwaters.

This documentary follows the experiences of two groups at the resurrected music festival: six teens and a group of 30-somethings, many veterans of the 80s era Sweetwaters.


This excerpt catches up with them near the event's conclusion. Although some hangovers are being nursed, mostly spirits remain undimmed.

English singer Elvis Costello drops the on-stage bomb that artists haven't been paid, Chris Knox notes the "money fiasco" his own way, and festival-goers rate how the weekend went.

Watch Sweet As here:

The Sweetwaters fiasco wasn't the only festival that ran into trouble. A a decade earlier, an event called Neon Picnic had fallen apart and one of the star guests, Sir Bob Geldof, called it "an international embarrassment".

Instead of a major music event, ticket holders were instead treated to a consolation concert at Waitemata Stadium featuring The Chills, Graham Brazier and Geldof himself – who helped pull the event together.

Watch Radio with Pictures -Neon Picnic here:

By the end of the 90s, festivals were less about peace, love and mung beans and more about 'punters and munters' as the inimitable Mickey Havoc explains in this clip from the Big Day Out.

The old Havo and sidekick Newsboy (Jeremy Wells) meet musical acts of the era, including Korn, Marilyn Manson, Fatboy Slim, and local heroes Shihad.

Watch out for 'Nelson College old girl' - The Queen of Grunge herself, Courtney Love - and decide whether or not she gives Jeremy the glad eye.

Watch Havoc at the Big Day Out here: