The first Auckland City Limits Festival has been and gone and dealt an undisputed smackdown to the New Zealand festival scene.
Organiser Campbell Smith successfully pulled off an event that was everything Big Day Out could only dream about. The Western Springs location was central and easily accessible, parking was non-existent but those I spoke to who had been using the festival transport reported it being easy, quick and totally do-able. Dave and I have friends living within walking distance of the stadium so we used and abused them for their marvellous parking on the day (taking Nixon to Auckland Kiddie Limits earlier in the day would have been much more difficult without this little perk truth be told).
This was a very Grown-Up, well behaved festival.
There was plenty of;
- Green space
- Amazing acts
- Bras with too many straps
- Open air
- Curious corners to explore and enjoy.
- Top notch eateries
- Ass cheeks hanging out of short shorts
- Lines for dinner
- Lines for drinks
- Lines to make cash upon returning festival Globelets
- Boring people in the VIP area
There was a distinct lack of;
- Wasted teens (YUS!)
- Wasted old people – I tried but the lines were too long
- Rubbish, there were people cleaning up all day, plus I think the punters were generally tidy kiwis
There was such a friendly, mellow feeling that the queues for beer and food were totally forgiven. We were somewhat lucky in that if things got desperate we were able to moonlight in the VIP area where the drinks were full strength and you didn’t have to wait to be served. But this area was so far removed from the action it was positively painful. Set beautifully in the grounds of MOTAT it was picturesque but when we were there we just wanted to finish our drinks quick-smart so we could get back to the action. Being able to see at least one stage or any part of the festival would be a vast improvement for the special people with cash to burn.
Obviously it wasn’t humanly possible to catch all of the acts but as soon as the lineup was announced, Dave and I had a pretty decent idea of what was non-negotiable for us.
Who we saw and what we honestly thought of them;
- Ladyhawke – Obviously a crowd fave and rightfully so. She killed it with a pumping set, no BS and zero pretentiousness. Loved it.
- Broods – Yawn yawn yawn. I love their music (I have 2 songs on my running playlist even) but gawd they are boring live. Totally misplaced on the large Spark 2 stage. Bad scheduling here.
- Action Bronson – Holy shit. Wasn’t expecting to LOVE this set! He finished 10 minutes early (maybe he needed a nap after smoking that huge blunt?) but all is forgiven as he totally brought rap back to me in spades. Seriously brilliant performance.
- The Naked & Famous – Cute and kiwi. That’s all I have to say really. Should have been on the smaller V Energy stage.
- The Phoenix Foundation – Brilliant. Profesh but totally unassuming and endearing. Perfect sound, stayed and enjoyed the whole set. Rocked it, should have been in the big arena instead of boring Broods or NAF.
- Cold War Kids – Holy Shit #2. So much energy, amazing, rocked-out set and catalogue. These guys have been around forever (we were listening to them when I was preggo with E 11 years ago) and it shows. Total professionals but still indie enough to be cool. Big mistake to not stay for the whole set.
- Girl Talk – We caught the end of this set, drawn in by the WTF nature of the mash-ups we were hearing. The most nutty stage set of the day with huge inflatable props, a massive on-stage crew and seriously good jams. We were most intrigued!
- The National – Another band I really love but just felt they were soooo staid and low-key on stage. Couldn’t get into it at all, but should have stayed longer to avoid the cacophony of Shapeshifter.
- Shapeshifter – Can we be done with these guys yet? Too loud, every song sounds the same and lasts for 10 minutes. Couldn’t wait for it to be over.
- Modest Mouse – This was who we came to see tbh. It was our third time seeing them play in concert but we were no less stoked then if it was our first. I may even have blinked back tears of joy at being in the pit, able to take photos of the band that has played such a massive role in our lives over the years. The sound was pretty bad, there were obv some issues but I blame that entirely on everyone being deafened by Shapeshifter who played right before. It was a surprising set with the full band (or the fullest I’ve ever seen) playing and a great mix of their newer material and old stunners. No Kendrick Lamar for us, I’m sure there are 1709 other reviews you can read about his performance.
10/10 day. Loved it. Will be back at Auckland City Limits next year no question. The systems in place such as the cashless wristbands worked perfectly, the recyclable Globelets are a stroke of eco-friendly genius, however the returns tent needed to be placed far away from main thoroughfares to avoid congestion. Such a coup for Aucks, Smith has curated a world class festival with rock solid experience and some thinking out of the box. Everything was geared towards maximum punter comfort and experience.