If there ever were a festival to showcase the amazing musical talent New Zealand produces, Homegrown is definitely the one.
Easily the best day festival to attend and if you didn’t get a ticket, take a note now and sort your shit out for next year. I’ll definitely convince you by the end of this review anyway.
The last time I went to Homegrown I was 18, six60 had just released ‘Rise up’ and were playing at the 3pm timeslot and Blindspott were the headline act for the Rock stage where I nearly lost my tongue in the mosh pit. Ten years on I had a better sense of ‘pacing’, mosh pit demons to face and a plan to see some great artists.
Now for a festival such as Homegrown, marathon preloading is key. What isn’t ideal is being stuck in Bulls traffic that makes you arrive an hour into the festival. It’s not advised, but sometimes a couple cheeky ‘one knee’s’ are in order just to get the right vibes (don’t worry they were all in allocated car-drinking spots). Arriving, it’s everything I remember. The energy, vibe and atmosphere is electric. The demographic ranges from teeny boppers to veterans of NZ music. The true groupies. With one of my best mates, music teacher and bodyguard; Tecwyn King, I was ready to review.
What’s noticeably different from last time I went to Homegrown is the VIP status being a reviewer. I’m texting members from bands, not having to wait in lines, and getting access into some bad ass places. Oh, how I pity the commoners.
The Jim Beam rock stage is set in the TSB Arena with its own rock village. There is food (that is ridiculously overpriced – no wonder you see a lot of drunks…$20 for a burger and chips?!), drinks galore, merchandise and free tattoos available sponsored by radio station The Rock. And the supporters here are just as hardcore with their punk hair and specifically chosen threads. I think my favourite part of walking into the Arena was being hit in the face with an exploding Jim Beam by a guy who’s only regret was wasting $8. Decades are 15min into their set. I spoke to singer and guitarist from the band Emma Cameron two weeks prior about being in the festival. She said they had some cool stuff planned for their set and they delivered. Midway through, Emma stops to salute all the famous musicians who have passed on and plays particular tribute to Dolores O’Riordan from Irish rock band The Cranberries with a stunning rendition of Zombie. The crowd is pumped and are blown away by the surprise costume change into morph suits in honour of their recent music video to ‘The Truth’. It was particularly flattering for the bass player’s booty, and I think he knew it too.
Some rock fans in their concert-going number ones.
Preparation is key at a festival that has five stages of the best representations of NZ music. From here was Hollie Smith at the Wellington Absolutely Positively City Stage. And wowsers, the woman’s voice was as beautiful and soulful as her bass player. Who by the way, if you’re reading this, is keen, single and smitten – get in touch girl. But yes, Hollie has the voice of a soulful angel and her keyboardist is ripping it with his moves.
Next to the City Stage is the Canteen Lab stage which is particularly swarming with the under 18 wristbands. P money is on doing his “wicky-wicky” thing to songs that these little hoppers would know. As the old, mature lady of 28 that I am, we decided that the Lab stage was a glorified play centre rife with boob tubes, undie jeans and testosterone fuelled squealing. P Money does kill it though, he has me bopping my head.
There are a few things you need to know about Homegrown. It’s a 10 hour festival and placed in the beautiful waterfront. There are five stages that are placed between TSB Arena and Waitangi Park. There is a lot of distance to cover and you will do that walk at least twice with how the schedule is. Some things to consider is sensible footwear. I wore jandals which were fine handling the distances but by the end of the night it was legit like walking on the moon, especially in the Rock stage. The floor is as sticky as the aesthetics fly paper that hang so decoratively and discreetly in the corners of even the finest abode. Seriously, if one was to fall over, you were stuck for the rest of the night. My Havaianas broke on every step at one point that the security guard looked at me with pity and recommended I take them off and walk. It’s a serious sacrifice so please…don’t wear jandals! Another consideration you might need to make is attire. The showery overcast shitty signature weather of Wellington was in fine form. They have weather forecasts for a reason. The true veteran groupies dressed sensibly and accordingly, however there was a lot for single men to look at because
“no weather is too cold for a hoe” (Tecwyn King).
So yeah, if you’re already planning on next year, please take my advice and be smart about what you wear. I’m sure you will still enjoy yourself and potentially find a suitor with pants and shoes.
We finally made it to the other side of the festival. To one of our favourite bands; Katchafire at the Jim Beam Dub & Roots stage. Now, every stage has its own unique audience and energy. The rockers, the teeny hoppers, the classy and we all know what reggae beats bring. Actually at one point during the set, the band thank the audience for “blazing it up”. Something about the sneer being on an offbeat brings a whole lot of content to its listeners. The great thing about Katchafire, apart from their incredible music, is their ability to bring people together. To one side of us are a group of guys enjoying the moment, in front we got the horrific luck of watching a couple eating each other’s faces (they should’ve been at the Wellington Absolutely Positively Electronic stage), and on the other side a guy wearing a homemade orange and Donald duck print tuxedo.
After Katchafire, the groups we wanted to mainly see were at the Rock stage. Villainy, Elemeno P, I Am Giant and Devilskin. A reminder of how ruthless the rock stage groupies are, the rock village is chanting floor suck to a man who dropped his beer on the concrete and replies to the chants with a push-up floor suck that deserved the pakipaki it got. That’s when I finally found the special door that allowed me backstage to the elite. While watching Villiany from backstage, we caught Nails from Devilskin. He was great and there was def some fan-gawking going on.
“It’s been fabulous, a long day catching up with the other bands and yeah – looking forward to it”.
He said there would be some surprises in the set and he was not wrong. The pyrotechnics really put on a show starting as soon as their second song started. The flames were big! And was a great finish to an amazing day!
As I drive home with the head a bit worse for wear, I look back on the last 24 hours as such an amazing adventure. I cannot recommend the experience enough. It’s understandable how Homegrown sells out so fast.
With it being hands down the best festival New Zealand has to offer take up, the opportunity and enjoy what is Home grown.