Erratic weather didn't dampen the spirits for Splore punters this year.
The three-day festival at Tapapakanga Regional Park in Auckland faced rain and strong winds on Friday, which mercifully cleared for the main events on Saturday night.
The festival presented a stellar mishmash of dance and world music, with headliners Rudimental battling through the downpour on Friday night to deliver an elevated, high-energy performance, which featured their hits Feel the Love and Waiting All Night.
Jess B was unsurprisingly excellent throughout her set at the Living Lounge stage; the rapper proved why she's one of New Zealand's best performers at the moment, bringing DJ half-queen and two phenomenal dancers along for a fully-realised live show that had crowds eating out the palm of her hand.
Calmer weather on Saturday made for a more inviting night of dancing under the stars. The line up was diverse and thrilling; African DJ Orikol and her crew had the DJ stage thriving early in the night, their high energy and camaraderie infectious. DJ Peach Milk followed, delivering a flawless hour and a half of ambient, hypnotic dance music.
A surprise performance from Pussy Riot on the main stage after midnight was bizarre, stirring and transfixing all in one go. The group delivered a mash of spoken word and punk, sharing political imperatives in Russian with English subtitles projected behind them.
The set required a lot of attention from a then-quite-inebriated crowd but for many, that only seemed to elevate the experience; I heard some around me saying it was their festival highlight.
It was my first time at Splore, and what struck me was how the festival catered to any taste. Those who wanted to dance late into the night were able to at the spacey Crystal Palace stage or a buzzy indoor DJ spot called The Portal. But the range of activities, such as craft making or yoga, catered to families and others seeking a more peaceful festival.
The crowds were friendly and open, with the vibe at the campsites jovial and relaxed despite the weather.
An unfortunate early dampener came by way of the messy entry process. The wayfinding was unclear right from arriving to trying to find the campsites on foot. Information on where campsites were located and where to park was hard to come by — officials seemed to have differing instructions when asked.
Multiple checkpoints felt unnecessary and dragged on the process of trying to get set up in the rain. But once we were in, things ran a lot more smoothly, and the stressful entry was soon forgotten.
The colourful array of things to see and do at Splore could be overwhelming in another context, but to those open to whatever the festival could throw at you — from stumbling across an incredible artist you've never heard of, to discovering beautiful art installations hidden in random pockets of the park — the experience is deeply enriching.
The care taken to make the festival sustainable and environmentally friendly is also noticeable in comparison to other festivals — the obvious striving for cleanliness in the park made for an all the more enjoyable experience.
Now in its 20th year, Splore has nailed creating an accessible experience for both regulars and newcomers. And aside from the excellent international artists, Splore's local programming ultimately serves as a reminder of the overwhelming amount of talent rising in New Zealand's music scene.