Homegrown 2014

ARTS, Music
img_homegrown-ladi6A wrap of Wellington’s big music day out, including highlights Ladi6, Cairo Knife Fight, and @Peace.

Fifteen thousand punters pumped along the Wellington waterfront during a day of local music celebration for the seventh annual Homegrown on Saturday, February 15th.

Spread over eight stages, the line up boasted over 60 New Zealand bands and artists, and accompanied with carnival rides placed along the waterfront, the day flowed with a joyous atmosphere. Add to this a rare beautiful summer’s day in Wellington, and the site was set for the 12 hour party.

Arriving just after 2.30pm, and accompanied by photographer Ambrose Hickman, we catch Ladi6, the heroine of Aotearoa soul, R&B and hip-hop, playing to an enthusiastic mid-afternoon crowd on the Jim Beam Dub and Roots stage. The full band accompanying her lent an extra dimension to the music, as those small jazz undercurrents and other percussion instruments fleshed out her tunes. But of course the highlight was always going to be that stunning voice.

Over at the Jim Beam Rock Stage in the TSB Arena, iconic NZ rockers Head Like A Hole play to a variety of fans old and new. Competing against the likes of P-Money and Reggae outfit Katchafire, their crowd wasn’t nearly as big as deserved, but the boys strove forward with a set list covering the golden oldies from ‘Hootenany’ and ‘Crying Shame’, to more recent material ‘Glory Glory’ and ‘Blood Will Out (Monsta Z)’. Nudity and other antics were forfeited for a no-frills stage presence, while the banter from Booga retained the comedic grace: “who here actually knows who we are?”

Swiss, Donell, and Brownhill entertain a younger crowd over on the Pop/R&B stage with their brand of Pasifika-pop, and successfully amp the venue for @Peace—one of the major draw cards of the day. Fronted by Homebrew’s Tom Scott and Nothing To Nobody’s Lui Tuiasau, @Peace’s talent lies in the intricate wordplay that, at times, acts as one small piece of a greater narrative at play throughout their work. The sultry beats underpinning the rhymes, not to mention their onstage persona and attitudes, are lapped up by the crowd as the capital is treated to material from their respective Girl Songs and self titled releases. A performance that, at one point, included the crowd chanting “Fuck John Key.” Sure, it may be election year, but for this hour at least, the allegiance lies elsewhere.

Back at the TSB Arena, soft rockers Opshop play all the hits as frontman Jason Kerrison confesses this might just be the last performance, for a while. I miss the sentiment, but the punters cherish each moment by singing ‘One Day’ and ‘Maybe’ right back at the quartet.

img_homegrown-cairoknifefightNick Gaffaney and Aaron Tokona sure do make a lot of noise for only two people. Wielding loop pedals, synth pedals, drums, guitars, and sharing vocal duties, the duo better known as Cairo Knife Fight brought their world of noise to the Red Bull Sound Lab. Volume and texture are treated equal with this act, as their music comes in waves of churning guitar feedback and layer upon layer of drum loops, pausing only for applause (and perhaps a breath) in between tracks. This was my first encounter with Cairo and it surely won’t be my last.

The inevitable festi-ear-ringing starts as I shuffle out to catch the end of Savage’s set, arriving just in time for the final song ‘Swing’. The tent is full to the brim as the critically acclaimed South Auckland rapper, and the handful of girls dancing onstage, whip the original track (made all the more famous for its appearance in the Seth Rogen comedy Knocked Up) into a dance remix, and for the following ten minutes the tent pumps in unison with the beat and flashing lights, as we pay homage to a New Zealand urban icon. While Savage has been quieter on the recording front, his stage presence has by no means suffered. The man still knows how to put on one heck of a show, and I leave kicking myself for missing ‘Moonshine’.

The weather has been picturesque all day long, and as eternally grateful as can be, it was nice to find respite in the moonlight. The darker skies bring a slower pace to the festival, and while it was always going to be difficult deciding where to end the day, State of Mind take the win over at the Lipton Ice Tea Electronic Stage.

Achieving success home and abroad, the prolific drum and bass duo felt right at home closing this side of the festival with their partner in crime, MC Woody. A high powered set delivered for the collective of glow-stick waving, energetic fans. I look around and the venue is peopled with the broad spectrum of attendees; old school d‘n’b heads, bogans, hip-hop fans, the lone dancers, the muso, high school kids, and parents.

And perhaps that’s what makes Homegrown Festival such a good one. It’s a light hearted examination of New Zealand music, past and present, and draws a gentle crowd of music lovers, pure and simple. The event is run smoothly, the food and alcohol lines were a breeze. More importantly the alcohol wasn’t horrendously overpriced, and the only dilemma was choosing which act to see. Sure, I missed Beastwars and Fat Freddy’s, but that’s a small price to pay. Until next year, Homegrown.

© Ambrose Hickman 2014. All Rights Reserved. More images at ambrosebenedict.com.

Filed under: ARTS, Music


James Manning is a music contributor. He also writes for other national music publications including Rip It Up, Groove Guide, and NZ Musician.