Mar 22, 2016

Smooth Festival : Auckland City Limits review

Basically ACL is the festival of the future. Run by the promoter of Auckland’s Big Day Out (RIP), a lot of thought has gone into how to make ACL work...

It’s scheduled in late summer, while it’s still hot, and everyone has time for one last hurrah. The lush, sprawling venue meant you could join the throngs at the main stage, or feel like you’d stumbled into a mini-festival, with the fruit salad of acts at Golden Dawn. You could wander around the whole venue with a beer, instead of sculling four in the roped off festival bar of yore. Kids got in free, and had their own area. There were VIP areas at the front of the main stages, if you paid $200 extra to be close to Kendrick. You paid for food and booze with a wristband; the data will probably be turned into a spreadsheet for planning next year. And a true festival programme — one or two heavy hitters and something for everyone, besides.

Kendrick kept the crowd anticipating for an extra 20 minutes, and was the highlight everyone had been waiting for. The first half of the set (ft. ‘Swimming Pools’) particularly danceable, and wound down with ‘King Cunta’ before an encore. Setlist here.  The dancefloor was a friendly one, including a guy in a Kendrick baseball shirt, posing for photos of his Kendrick calf tattoos.

The National was tight but restrained, playing all of their hits. Matt Berninger did his signature sing-walk thru the crowd, in their most mongrel moment, ‘Mr November.’

I’d been looking forward to Girl Talk, but needed to pee before the set started. In a similar bind, I’ve discretely and hygienically gone in my water bottle. This time I chose the comfort of VIP loos — maybe inspired by the many rolls of loo paper that Girl Talk was firing into the crowd? Bish I would have been killing ACL's vibe – so much more respectable than feral. Five top restaurants had popups there, FFS. I missed Girl Talk at a club, five years ago. Despite great visuals, inflatables and 25 dancers on stage, listening and picking the recorded samples made me run to the National.

The lineup was half local. The Naked and Famous were shining in the late arvo sun, their first gig in NZ for two years. Broods’ Georgia had great energy, revealing a few tracks from their new album. The Phoenix Foundation infected fun. Fat Freddy’s, Ladyhawke, and Shapeshifter were also in there.

The crowd loved Action Bronson, throwing his NZ cap into the crowd. Modest Mouse, last band on, left the crowd wanting more. You can’t see everything and friends endorsed Tami Nielson, Che Fu, Grace Potter, Houndmouth, and Kinetic. Kamasi Washington won the crowd over with soul and sincerity.

Festivals are always great people watching. I noticed a few tees with single words on them: ‘copious’, ‘moodie’. Barbara Scott was ‘swimming on a wave of frock appreciation, all day’ in her chevron print dress. And I liked this guy’s dip-dyed jacket.

It’s a lot of work, making everything so effortless. Not the last we’ll hear of Auckland City Limits. 

OK, one feral thing. This guy is comforting his gf. A punter choked on his beer, and unhappily spluttered it on her hair as they walked past. At least it was craft beer.

Thanks to Vice and Josh Gardiner for the ticket :)

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