25 February 2012

Lessons from a music marathon

Shihad-07Last weekend I had the pleasure and good fortune of checking out Wellington’s festival of New Zealand music, Homegrown.

It was a pretty full on day, with 40+ bands spread across 6 stages there was plenty of opportunity to see a plethora of local talent in action.

Here’s some thoughts from the day:

1. Six60 don’t have fans, they have fanatics. These Dunedin faux-reggae rockers played at 4 in the afternoon and attracted the biggest crowd of the day.  I’ve never seen the sort of reaction they got before – this was Six60 mania.  Girls were screaming non-stop, drowning out the music (I had earplugs in and it still hurt my ears), getting pulled over the barrier by security guards, way too many people were trying to cram into a space not made for that many.  Photographers were battling each other for a position front of stage while TV news crews were trying to get the photographers kicked out so they could get clean footage – the only time I saw news crews at all during the day.  I can’t understand the fuss myself – there’s far better acts in the local music scene, but clearly the hype machine has outdone itself with these guys.

2. Speaking of hype, Tiki Taane also drew a massive crowd for his acoustic set.  I don’t mind Tiki, but his music is definitely better when he’s got others with him.  Just him and a guitar got a little same-same after a while.  But what was really surprising is that as soon as he finished everyone left and the next act, AhoriBuzz, had only a handful of people to watch them.  Which was a shame because they were probably the most interesting band of the day.

3. No one likes rock anymore.  Unless you’re Six60 or have a laptop on stage, people don’t seem to want to know you.  The rock stage was pathetically empty for most of the day, more or less until the last two acts came on (Blacklist and Shihad).  Hopefully rock becomes “cool” again soon, or we might see some good rock bands fading from view because of lack of support.

4. Jon Toogood makes it cool to be a skinny white boy.  The Adults and Shihad were two of the more entertaining bands of the day, mainly because of Jon’s unrelenting energy and enthusiasm.  Despite playing for over 20 years with Shihad, he still manages to play every show like it’s their first, and always makes the audience feel like they’re witnessing something special.

5. Music is more fun when you’re media.  Going to festivals as a paying punter is fine, until you get trapped in a crowd in front of a stage where you don’t want to be anymore, people are pushing, the band you really want to see is playing right now and you can’t get to them… Being media means no queues, quiet areas to sit and catch your breath, front of stage access, catering.  I don’t know if I’ll be able to go back to being a paying festival goer again.

6. Music is tiring.  Maybe I’m out of shape.  Maybe I’m getting older. Maybe I just need to drink more coffee, but halfway through the day I was ready for a nap.  I felt physically drained and could barely lift my camera anymore. Sure, plenty of Red Bull fixed that for a while, but next year I’m getting in some pre-festival training to make sure I stay the distance. I don’t know how 15,000 screaming girls managed to keep it up all day.

You can check out my photos from the day on Flickr, or at muzic.net.nz.

Did anyone else make it along to Homegrown?  What were your thoughts on it?  Leave a comment below.

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