The Music Festivals Collection

Music festivals aren’t all counterculture, mud and hangovers. As this collection can attest, there’s also flying missiles (including a tomato), fire poi and unpaid performers. And, of course, the music! AudioCulture, our sister site, can give you the complete lowdown on all the festivals (see Links), but watch them here: from Aotearoa’s very own Woodstock — Redwood 70 — to the groove of The Gathering. Follow Shapeshifter’s journey to Gisborne’s hot ticket, Rhythm and Vines, and see Courtney Love give Newsboy the glad eye at 1999's Big Day Out.

Redwood 70

Television, 1970 (Full Length)

It was the summer of 1970, six months after Woodstock; local media hyped this Phil Warren-promoted two-day music festival as New Zealand’s version. Despite promises of revolution, it was more low-key with 1500 music fans bussing out to the Swanson holiday park for — as MC Peter Sinclair introduced it — “36 hours of non stop top pops of New Zealand’s top bands”, from psych-rock to gospel. The big star was sometime Bee Gee Robin Gibb, whose high pitch was infamously welcomed with a thrown tomato. This footage was captured for TV by the NZ Broadcasting Corporation.

Gather Round - Radar Goes to the Gathering

Television, 2002 (Full Length)

In this one-off documentary Te Radar takes his roving reporter skills to Takaka, and immerses himself in the groovy world of The Gathering. The New Year's dance music festival ran from 1996 to 2002. Radar proves the master of the quote, whether chatting to 'Lords of the Ping', electronic act Pitch Black or avoiding immolation from fire poi enthusiasts ("who doesn't love a fire poi", he says grimly). Watch out for Black Seed Bret McKenzie, laidback DJ star John Digweed and the earnest 'Jesus Food' crew, whose free dosh proves a bit too popular for rival food stalls.

Radio with Pictures - Sweetwaters

Television, 1980 (Full Length Episode)

The legendary Dylan Taite hosts this RWP special on the first Sweetwaters music festival. The event took 12 months and half a million dollars to set up. Headliner Elvis Costello proved media-shy; some heavy-handed attempts to keep the cameras away are seen. Meanwhile, Taite muses on the impact of late 70s bands on the future of festivals. Sweetwaters would go on, although financial problems in 1999 led to the jailing of organiser Daniel Keighley. As this documentary shows, the Ngaruawahia edition attracted an audience of 45,000 concertgoers.

Squeeze - Splore

Television, 2004 (Full Length Episode)

The Splore summer music festival has always been as much about alternative lifestyles as live music: in other words, it's a poi twirling, hippie paradise. Presenter Jane Yee teams up with Evan Short — one half of electronica act Concord Dawn — to wander around the idyllic Waharau Regional Park setting, take a wedding snap at the 'Las Vegas Wedding Chapel', and witness the air-cracking skills of The Wild Whip Man. Yee also chats to Fat Freddy's Drop and Nathan Haines, and showcases videos for 'Don't Tell Me' (Concord Dawn), 'Hope' (Fat Freddy's), and 'Doot Dude' (Haines). 

20/20 - Rhythm and Vines

Television, 2011 (Excerpts)

In 2003 a trio of Otago University students hosted a private outdoor music gig at Waiohika Estate, just outside Gisborne. Today the Rhythm and Vines festival is a hot ticket internationally, a three day event full of tents, beers and cheers. 20/20 goes behind the scenes in the dying days of 2010, as Rhythm and Vines attracts a record-breaking crowd of 25,000 people. Festival founders Hamish Pinkham, Andrew Witters and Tom Gibson have to solve last minute hiccups to pull off the party. Shihad front man Jon Toogood describes it as "the Big Day Out in a forest".

Sweet As

Television, 1999 (Full Length)

This documentary follows the experiences of two groups at the 1999 Sweetwaters music festival: six teens (including actor Kate Elliott and future advertising producer Nigel Sutton), and a group of 30-somethings (many of them veterans of the 1980s era Sweetwaters). By the end of the festival 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 the festivalgoers rate how the weekend went. 

New Zealand Stories - The Womad Wrangler

Television, 2011 (Full Length Episode)

As the Operations Manager for Womad (World Of Music, Arts and Dance) in New Plymouth, Chris Herlihy performs the essential but often mundane jobs that make this large-scale outdoor event an annual success story. This half-hour documentary follows Herlihy and his crew as he oversees the pop-up city that is Womad 2011 — from looking after VIPs and fixing ticket problems, to mopping up the loos. New Plymouth has fully embraced Womad. Herlihy's love for the festival and his colleagues shines through as he power walks around the beautiful Brooklands Park site.

Nambassa Festival

Television, 1979 (Full Length)

The three day Nambassa Festival, held on a Waihi farm in 1979, is the subject of this documentary. Attended by 60,000 people, it represented a high tide mark in Aotearoa for the Woodstock vision of a music festival as a counterculture celebration of music, crafts, alternative lifestyles and all things hippy. Performers include a frenzied Split Enz, The Plague (wearing paint), Limbs dancers, a yodelling John Hore-Grenell and prog rockers Schtung. The only downers are overzealous policing, and weather which discourages too much communing with nature after the first day.

Electric Dream

Shapeshifter, Music Video, 2006

Mark Trethewey’s video for Shapeshifter’s anthemic ‘Electric Dreams’ follows the band as they make their way by bus down the East Coast of the North Island to a typically storming performance at Rhythm and Vines in Gisborne. Along the way, there’s time for summertime staples like beach cricket and fishing off the jetty at Tolaga Bay. These quiet, largely empty spaces provide a marked contrast to the mayhem of the sold out festival. It’s a journey that echoes the summer holiday car trips that are a rite of many an Aotearoa childhood.

Radio with Pictures - Neon Picnic

Television, 1988 (Excerpts)

Richard Driver files this 1988 Radio with Pictures report from a Waitemata Stadium concert cobbled together after the failure of music festival Neon Picnic. He interviews The Chills, Graham Brazier and Live Aid legend Bob Geldof. Geldof, along with Tim Shadbolt and Phil Warren, had come to the aid of music fans by organising the consolation gig at the last minute. Geldof rates Neon Picnic’s demise as an international embarrassment. But he praises the local music community for rallying behind the replacement gig, and admits he enjoyed the rush of helping organise it.

Havoc at the Big Day Out

Television, 1999 (Full Length)

This special 1999 edition of the youth show travels to Auckland music festival The Big Day Out. Mikey Havoc and Jeremy 'Newsboy' Wells slip, slop, slap and survey the "punters, munters, sights and sounds" at Mt Smart Stadium. They meet musical acts of the era, including Marilyn Manson, Fatboy Slim and Korn (whose lead singer loves his guns). Newsboy interviews "Nelson College old girl, grunge super bride and Big Day Out recidivist" Courtney Love, who gives him the glad eye (apparently), and a strange man who may be related to Havoc goes onstage to introduce Shihad.

This House Can Fit Us All

Little Pictures, Music Video, 2008

Filmed at 2008 music jamboree Camp A Low Hum, this music video features various camp attendees dancing and singing while listening to the song on headphones. It's an infectious clip for an exuberant track, capturing the BYO DIY vibe that made the indie festival's name. 'This House Can Fit Us All' was taken from Little Pictures' only album, Owl + Owl (2008). Indie blog Bigstereo called it “perfect DIY pop, all the tracks are real gems”, while another, Panda Toes, described it as “the cutest, most fun-loving music of 2008”. The Little Pictures duo broke up the following year.

Pasifika 2005

Television, 2005 (Excerpts)

Presented by Samoan hip hop artist King Kapisi and transgender rock queen Ramon Te Wake, Pasifika 2005 documents the biggest Polynesian festival in the world. Held in Auckland every year since 1992, the Pasifika Festival is a free event that celebrates Pacific Island culture, music, dance, food, arts and crafts and film. Held at Western Springs Park, and supported by Auckland City Council, Pasifika (as it's popularly known) attracts more than 140,000 people. Pasifika 2005 was screened on TV2.

Radio with Pictures - Split Enz interview

Television, 1983 (Excerpts)

In this RWP interview, Karyn Hay gets Split Enz members Neil Finn and Nigel Griggs to explain some of the band's songs before a January 1983 performance at festival Sweetwaters. Both are tired of doing True Colours tracks; the album "has followed us around like a bad smell for a year and a half" says Finn. He also admits 'I Got You' was "probably only about the third lyric I'd ever written", and touches on the BBC banning of 'Six Months in a Leaky Boat'. Griggs admits he has no idea what Finn's 'History Never Repeats' is about; Finn praises Griggs' "incredibly good bass riff" on 'Lost for Words'.

Flipside - Parachute Music Festival

Television, 2004 (Excerpts)

Parachute had become New Zealand’s longest-running music festival when it shut up shop in 2014, after an impressive 24 years. This clip from youth news show Flipside looks at the 2004 edition. Flipside presenter Mike Puru interviews Parachute Music Festival founder Mark de Jong. Focussing on Christian music, Parachute brought Christian musicians to a large young audience. De Jong mentions that Parachute is more than just a festival — the organisation helps train and record young musicians, and includes a label and a publishing company. Band Detour 180 are also interviewed.