17 Feb 2014

Splore 2014 review: Funk, soul and love

1:30 pm on 17 February 2014

The good vibes were in full force from the time we arrived, with smiles and “happy Splore!” greetings all round as we set up camp at Tapapakanga Regional Park.

With the tents pitched, our first stop on this weekend of music and art was the very colourful Love Shack, where Wellington DJ Mikki Dee was hitting the right notes for the festival’s “Show Some Love” theme. It was Valentine’s Day after all.

On the main stage, Ebony Bones, with back-up singers in horse costumes, was getting the main stage pumping with her mash of post-punk electro pop. The amazing imperial white costumes and synchronised dance moves were a welcomed distraction, if the music wasn't your jam.

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Dick Johnson and Nick D's dynamic live project, Weird Together, graced the stage with its huge crew, which showcased electronica and percussion from Nigeria’s Mavs Adegbite, with Karima Mudat's incredible vocals. Then there's the dance moves that you just can't help but try to imitate, which really got the crowd into it. It was the perfect introduction to the talents the festival had to offer.

In the evening, with swimwear and sunnies replaced by jackets and funky hats, the headliner and much-anticipated DJ Shadow cranked the main stage with his seamless set. The words that sprung to mind to convey the feeling of the set, to cut to the chase, were "super heavy".

One of the biennial festival's defining elements is the art. Innovative and interactive sculptures were scattered throughout the whenua.

Kutmah, also known as Justin McNulty, who has recently been touring with pioneering producer and beat maker Flying Lotus, took to the DJ stage for a late night rave with a nice touch of hip-hop. A special mention to Missy Elliot's ‘Suck It To Me’, thrown in there to keep the party going.

One of the biennial festival's defining elements is the art. Innovative and interactive sculptures were scattered throughout the whenua. One standout for me was “Glamorous Cousin It”, a pink sparkly ball of shimmery streamers elevated to the left of the main stage. Another was the sculpture of a grid of mirror towers, which one punter described as a simulation of being in the movie Enter The Dragon.

It may not have been Valentine’s Day, but on Saturday love was all around. The grounds were laden in hearts, the words love, and other love-related decorations, I had the privilege of witnessing a Splore wedding! Over the years, a celebrant has performed a number of weddings at Splore, and this year's seemed the most fitting. A ceremony with a handful of friends and whanau on top of the hill above the Love Shack, where Michael Jackson's ‘Don't Stop Til' You Get Enough’ played as the vows were being read, while the sun set and the early full moon's light glistened on the ocean.

Also in the Splore tradition, the costumes did not disappoint, particularly one group dressed as the Love Boat crew, and another set who had transformed themselves into elaborate lamp shades. (From Anchorman's favoured quote “I love lamp”.) Largely, extensive planning or not, everyone in the crowd was amongst it with some sort of decal, be it henna, flower crowns or wigs.

My mind was blown when I found out Awesome Tapes From Africa aka Brian Shimkovitz, was keeping the ‘90s alive.

Although the vibe and surroundings are probably the reason why the festival is so successful, the stages were still being graced with some extraordinary talent amid the convivial creativity.

I had to pinch someone’s programme to see who the act getting the crowd grooving at the DJ stage was. My mind was blown when I found out Awesome Tapes From Africa aka Brian Shimkovitz, was keeping the ‘90s alive, mixing cassettes sourced from West Africa on two tape decks live on stage.

British rapper Ty was also a stand out on the Saturday, probably one of the most interactive overseas artists I saw, getting thousands of people in a choreographed dance move at his request.

Splore regulars (it's their 5th time), the Cuban Brothers, ended the last night with classics like Whitney Houston's ‘I Wanna Dance With Somebody’, and Herbs’ ‘Slice of Heaven’ , ensuring the mood stayed elevated late into the night.

I had dedicated Sunday to making sure that all the food I wanted to taste was tasted. Much aroha to the Hungarian fried bread staff for ensuring that happened, as well as the replenishing salads and tofu.

But nothing beats a dip in the freshwater lagoon to wake you up and put you back in the mood for a bit of grooving. Some of the Aotearoa acts, including Funkommunity and 1814, provided the perfect closing soundtrack while everyone had their parting swim in the ocean.

Nga mihi nui Splore!

For more on Splore check out the Radio New Zealand collection.