It's Rhythm & Vines as you have never seen it before.
A new documentary takes a warts and all look at Gisborne's party juggernaut to tell the story of how its creators were taken to the brink of financial ruin and the strain it created between them.
In The Road to Rhythm, Rhythm & Vines co-director Hamish Pinkham talks about the deep dark hole the group of young men had found themselves in - at one point owing more than a million dollars.
The Road to Rhythm Part One
Some of the creditors backing the music festival would never see their money.
Pushing the envelope along the way was the original owner of Waiohika Estate.
The late Dean Witters would provide the venue and would see the festival become a "monster" event drawing in 20,000 people each year.
Pinkham recalls the intensity of pitching the idea to Witters saying it was akin to going to into "the Dragon's Den".
Witters' determination and ambition drove him at one point to obtain a 40 tonne bridge overnight for use at the festival - something the council at the time was oblivious to.
At his funeral late last year, Gisborne Mayor Meng Foon said Witters should have been called a Sir.
Witters was interviewed in the tell-all documentary just weeks before he died from bone cancer aged 70.
The Road to Rhythm Part Two
He would emotionally speak of his struggle with bipolar which made the rollercoaster highs and lows of the business particularly difficult for him.
"Typically of me, my vision is always bigger than the depth of my pockets and I created quite a lot of difficulty for us."
Rhythm & Vines was almost forced into bankruptcy after expanding to become a three-day festival.
Pinkham said they had overspent and one of the challenges they faced was the need to bring in international artists.
One "monumental" line-up featured the likes of Franz Ferdinand, The Kooks and Carl Cox.
Fencing contractor Nick Short said he only received about 40 cents back on the dollar.
"Well we were good friends, no apologies whatsoever."
Witters' son Andrew Witters, a festival co-director, said it still saddened him that they had been unable to repay the contractors.
"I lost $200,000, so I was deeply affected as well – I wrote that off.
"My mum wrote off $400,000
"We gave up a significant amount to ensure that creditors got 42 cents on the dollar but no one talks about that do they?"
Andrew Witters was the driver behind the festival's campsite which was shut down after riots in 2015 led to 63 arrests.
The Road to Rhythm Part Three
Pinkham said the culture that had developed down at the campground was unbecoming and had tarnished the brand.
"When you have 10,000 kids there drinking, something like that is going to happen."
A new model for the festival's future was focused on running a smaller more sustainable festival, Pinkham said.
The festival has just signed up with global touring superpower Live Nation.
Live Nation has taken a controlling interest, meaning access to bigger artists and cementing the festival's future.
"I'm against it, I am obviously one of the major shareholders and I don't want to sell," Andrew Witters said.
"As much as it will give us sustainability, it will potentially reduce our creative input and a lot of profits will be going offshore."
It might be really beneficial for particular shareholders in the company, Andrew Witters said, but he might not be a shareholder in the company anymore.
What the community wanted and the customer having enjoyable experiences was more important, he said.
The Road to Rhythm Part Four
The Road to Rhythm, a four-part R18 documentary series begins airing on nzherald.co.nz from today. Co-directed by Belinda Henley and Phill Prendeville, the series follows the festival's rollercoaster ride over its 15-year history, from its inception as a dance party for Otago University students to becoming the country's leading New Year's festival.
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