What to do? Where to go? Who to see?
Saying there's quite a lot to do over summer is like saying there's quite a lot of sand on the beach. Taking into account Sweetwaters, the Big Day Out, WOMAD, the Warped Tour, The Gathering and various other less-hyped festivals and events happening around the country, it's clear that The Big Musical Event is back with a vengeance. Yet the pool of music lovers in NZ ain't that big - so should the promoters be worried about the competition? And what's more, how do we - the punters - choose where to blow our summer budgets? Waren Kristian investigates.
Question number one - can the NZ audience sustain so many large-scale events over a short period of time? I had a yarn to various promoters, and while all of them claim that they're catering to a unique audience, I notice that the smaller the event, the more the organisers pushed the point. And, despite some seriously noncholant attitudes, they're all keenly aware of the competition - as WOMAD's publicity material demonstrates: "...outstanding value when you consider the ticket covers over thirty hours of performance. It must be the year's best ticket buy when you compare it with the cost of a one off rock concert..."
Some, like Manolo Echave from Frontier Touring, organiser of the Warped Tour, tell me they're indifferent.
"We're not worried about what they choose, we're just putting on the event because we feel that it's very much in tune with the New Zealand lifestyle, people can come along to it if they want - it's up to them, we're not trying to force them along by any means."
Others, like Daniel Keighley, managing director of Sweetwaters, are aware but unconcerned. "I guess the music events happening over summer are very different. Not everybody will go to Sweetwaters. We're close to thirty thousand of the forty thousand we're allowed already so I doubt we'll have a problem filling it up. In terms of the other events that are happening, WOMAD is a particular style of festival that probably complements Sweetwaters, as does the Big Day Out. Neither of them have a similar musical direction and neither of them are festivals where you can go and camp and hang out with people for a four day period."
Apart from The Gathering, but that's in Nelson and targets a different group of people again. Talking to Alison Green, one of the directors of said event, is almost like attending a religious meeting (although it's not an unpleasant experience, I hasten to add). She talks of "unity through diversity", "existentialism" and a "fundamental vision".
The Gathering is more than a festival, she says, it's a shared trip through forty eight hours to welcome in the New Year. Yahoo.
"It's 10,000 people up on top of a hill in an incredibly beautiful environment outdoors celebrating the New Year. If you want to see it another way it's a whole bunch of people meeting up with their friends who they might not see from one end of the year to the next and making a whole bunch of new ones. And if you want to look at it another way it's an extremely rocking and damn fine party, the experience of which in a lot of ways affect people quite deeply. I'm getting mail all the time from people overseas e-mailing and saying 'I just wanted to get in touch with you and tell you thank you for an event that changed my life.' And when you get emails like that that's quite a responsibility really, it's quite an amazing piece of feedback.
"I think all of the musical events that are happening this summer appeal to a slightly different group of people. There are overlaps but I think we all have a niche. What The Gathering provides is not just one night of entertainment, it provides a whole dawn to dusk twice over, an experience. It's not just a party, it's creating a community in the middle of nowhere, it's a coming together and seeing the new year in and lots of other bits of that type of thing with a group of people who are all feeling the same way as you are. It's non-alcohol which makes a big difference, it's a very caring environment, it's very joyful."
Which would seem to exemplify the polar opposite to the Big Day Out's philosophy - namely, 'the bigger they are, the more there'll be.' People, that is. With a host of Godzilla sized rock stars, BDO organisers aren't stressed about the competition.
"To an extent it runs like clockwork, but this year part of the reason for having a break for a year is to do some new stuff," says Nikki Tysall, publicist for the BDO. "You could just roll out the Big Day Out again and it would be very very busy, but we wanted to do something different so that when people get to the site they say 'this is cool, this looks great, haven't seen that before.' Obviously the boiler room (a huge dance music tent) is part of that. The event starts off with (co-worker) Bridget and I organising everything, and then as it progresses we start taking on more and more help - site managers and production managers and all that kind of stuff."
And those huge acts?
"Obviously we're really pleased to have Hole and Marilyn Manson. Courtney Love was here in '95 and everyone remembers that legendary show, so it's good to have her back. We've got a dance tent for the first time so I'm really happy personally to have Fatboy Slim and Roni Size there, and it's also great to have Bic Runga. She's coming back to do the Big Day Out as her only show, which I think is really exciting. We've tried not to single out acts, it's never about having a headline act, it's more about them all going together into the pot to make the Big Day Out."
Still, it's not just the Big Day Out who try the 'event' tack - the 'if you weren't there you really missed something' line. Daniel Keighley stresses that his operation is a festival. And when you take into account the duration of the Sweetwaters event, the family camping vibe and the history, he's qualified to make that call. However, the 'happening', unified atmosphere which was first experienced in the sixties is indefinable, it's valuable, it's free - but it can't be predicted. It's precisely what makes an event truly memorable, and it's the feel that promoters are trying to cultivate.
"The festival is just that - a festival, it was established in the late seventies/early eighties largely as a performance festival relating to pop and rock music," Keighley says. "Now it's perhaps a little bit broader in that it's every kind of performance you could imagine. And it's more than just performance too, probably a good half of the festival relates not just to music whether it be international or national, but to arts and crafts, alternative technologies, alternative medical methodologies - almost all the things that relate to a new generation."
The Warped Tour provides that atmosphere as well, according to Manolo Echave. "It's just the young healthy New Zealand market basically, the people that come along range from thirteen to early twenties. It's always been run as an alcohol free event and that doesn't bother them. They're much more into enjoying themselves skating and surfing than getting pissed."
Which is a given, considering Waihi beach is an alcohol unfriendly zone on New Year's Eve. Why Waihi?
"Where else would you want to be on New Year's? A lot of the young people that we're talking about are on holiday and a lot of them are on holiday in the Bay of Penty or the Coromandel, so instead of expecting them to come back to Auckland to enjoy this event we're taking the event to them, where they are."
Well, I wanna see everything - and most of you are probably in the same boat. Unless you have easy access to a teleporter, you might want to consult our handy 'event in a minute' box and make up your own mind.
Massive music, dance, arts and culture festival over four days including a food and wine village, feature stalls ranging from politics to alternative health and crafts. Children's 'recreational fair'. Various stages and 6,000 person dance tent with videos.
Big Day Out:
Massive one day musical event, the focus being on 'name' bands. The 'Boiler Room' has a dance music focus. Various stages.
A "festival of dance music, freedom and participation. The presence of everyone who attends The Gathering makes it, creates it. It's a group of people that appreciate more than just one night of leaping around and waving their arms in the air. They appreciate two nights of jumping up and down and waving their arms in the air.... the beauty of the sunset and the dawn and playing hacky in the grass..." You get the picture.
"A celebration of a lifestyle by the youth of today that are into surfing, skating and BMX-ing."
"A three day cultural and entertainment feast of music and dance from over 20 countries around the globe, a 'global carnival.' A unique mix of traditional and contemporary music."
UB40, Pere Ubu, Elvis Costello with Steve Nieve, Henry Rollins, The Finn Brothers, Paul Kelly, The Mad Professor, The Stranglers, Cowboy Junkies, Donovan, Chris Starling, Mark Seymour, Men at Work, Ed Kuepper, Dogstar, Grant Lee Buffalo, Sparklehorse, Ma-V-Elle, Shihad, Dead Flowers, The Clean, Hello Sailor, Paul Ubana Jones, HLAH, Lost Tribe, Spelling Mistakes, Chris Knox, Moizna, Voom, Aka Brown, Dei Hamo, Renee Geyer, Amazing Ryhthm Aces, Directions in Groove, Jeff Lang, Southern Culture On The Skids, and many more rock, pop, jazz/blues/roots, alternative and local music acts as well as numerous DJs, dance and theatre artists.
Big Day Out:
Marilyn Manson, Manic Street Preachers, Korn, Che Fu, Fat Boy Slim, Shihad, Roni Size, Sean Lennon, Pitch Black, Fun Loving Criminals, The Living End, Regurgitator, The Superjesus, Groove Terminator, Hole, Ash, Bic Runga, Soul Fly, HLAH, Jebediah, The Feelers, Stellar, King Kapisi, Lo Fidelity Allstars, The Crackhead Experience etc etc, giant skate ramp, various rides and attractions.
Over a hundred DJs and twenty to thirty live acts still being confirmed, the focus being more on the event as a whole rather than individual acts. Zones for various genres of dance music. Food and drink.
Unwritten Law, Pennywise, Specials, Cherry Poppin' Daddies, MXPX, Swinging Utters, Hep Cat, 22 Jack, more to be confirmed.
"200 of the world's most accomplished and exciting performers," including Baaba Maal (Senegal), Drummers of Burundi, Muszikas (Hungary), Te Vaka (NZ), Las Perlas del Son (Cuba), Trilok Gurtu (India), Dave Dobbyn (NZ), Shiv Kumar Sharma (India), Jackie Leven (Scotland), Yungchen Lhamo (Tibet), Che Fu (NZ), Karma County (Australia) etc.
Where and When?
Puhiniu Reserve, Manukau
Jan 22-25, 1999
Big Day Out:
Ericsson Stadium, Auckland
Jan 15, 1999
Takaka Hill, Nelson
Dec 31 - Jan 2, 1999
December 31, 1998
'The Edge' Aotea Square Centre and Town Hall, Auckland
Feb 26-28, 1999
$139.00 (four day pass)
Big Day Out:
3 day "Gold Pass' $98.00, day passes available
All major ticket outlets
Big Day Out:
Ticketek and major record stores throughout the North and South Islands
"Well-informed" music shops, and "a few non-record shops in the Nelson region" including Marbeck's, Play It Again, Faultline Music, Flipside, Everyman, Hot Mama's, Galaxy, Echo etc
Record shops and skating and surf shops around the North Island