The Rhythm and Vines festival was still going off with a pulsating end set in the hours before day break on New Years Day.
I wanted to spend more time at the festival, particularly to see Scribe and P-Money on New Year’s Eve, but other commitments came up.
So I got up early on January 1 and drove out to the site for a last taste. The new year was four hours old, and it was still dark, but the pop-up city’s shops were open and party people danced like there was no tomorrow because tomorrow had already arrived.
The air was warm and moist and the streets were solid mud but front of the Vines stage, a crowd of stripped down bodies heaved in the nuclear light to Australian duo Sweet Mix’s big beats and digital pyschedelia.
Three women danced on the stage and the party below was an ocean of hot, happy volatility afloat on a crunchy mat of plastic bottles.
People were drunk but intoxication by liquor seemed at odds with the beat-based, dance-driven, electronic music played on decks and computers in the key in of E.
Only one dickhead half-heartedly shouted show us your tits.
On the first day of the festival, I interviewed Leigh Sedley and Paul Fisher of Las Vegas-based Australian act Cut Snake.
The duo play old school, four-on-the-floor beats in tracks such as Jungle Shrimp.
The words are: “Do the jungle shrimp…Do the jungle shrimp… Do the jungle shrimp” etc.
Shortly before the interview, I saw solo act Kamandi perform at the Vines stage. Hi-tech digital psychedelia screened behind him but as far as could tell, he played his music on a laptop behind a big bench. There was probably a desk with samples and electronic beats behind it but I couldn’t see it.
I wanted to get a handle on it but this kind of music was unfamiliar to me, I said to Leigh Sedley.
The electronica and repetitive beats had none of the irony or rebelliousness of traditional rock.
“Your generation was about bands and instruments and shit,” he said.
House music was about the beat. It was about dancing and having a good time. House music, he observed, is like the Witters manse.
He gestured at the big house across the lawn from the interview teepee. This manse at the edge of the fest was where artistes hung out.
“It has many rooms.”
The metaphor took Paul Fisher by surprise.
I asked if Ecstasy, rather than mallet-to-the-head alcohol, was more in tune with this music.
“A bit of both,” they said.
The men are known for their on-stage antics. In a picture taken later of their slot, one of them – or it could be a stage-hand – sculls beer from a track shoe.
A band with instruments and shit opened the festival earlier that day.
Ha the Unclear was a regular three guitars and drum kit band. Their sound was threaded with New Zealandness not unlike that of The Muttonbirds but rockier and with a distinctive Dunedin edginess.
They ended their song 85, a mordant piece from an elderly woman’s point of view.
“I have had my husband now for 40 years/ God I hope he goes first.
“I thought about the house we bought on Hood St/ I had second thoughts back then.”
Behind me, a girl standing in tiny white shredded shorts and tiny shredded crop top and round sunglasses and RTD in hand, did big hip thrusts and shouted “Suction! Suction!”
I thought Suction was the name of a particularly rocking song but I haven’t been able to find it in their online track lists. The Suction call-out might have just been abuse.
You never saw that kind of caper at Nambassa.
Sweet Mix ended their pre-dawn set, logged off and told the crowd to check out the supertop where the last hour of bone grinding beats and laser lights continued in the warm fug of the seething circus tent’s micro-climate.
Next door to the pounding supertop a tight crowd danced in front of a box-like stage a corner under some macrocapras. Food caravans were wide awake. Groups of people flowed from one site to another, drank copious amounts of water and danced.
The sky was beginning to lighten when I left. The string of lights hung above the ridge; the tents and teepees and the spirit of the pop-up city would soon be gone.
But in the car park, a truck with reggae on the stereo was a reminder that in three day’s time, the beat would go on at the East Coast Vibes’ Pacific reggae fest by the beach – but with bands and instruments and shit.