Around The Wireless Festival

December 17-18, 2010
Poukawa, Hawkes Bay

Review by Michael McClelland

Photo by Frances Carter

This year’s festival, from what I heard over the three days I spent mostly drenched at a muddy Hawke’s Bay farm, was a marked improvement from the year before. In terms of attendance, at least. I wasn’t there last year, so I can’t compare the organisation of the festival to the one prior, but considering that 2010’s festival was for the most part an uncommercial, unsponsored event, David Beacham and friends did very well for themselves. Although the hundreds in attendance could have done with a few hundred more, the amount of ‘up-and-comer’ bands that played helped to fill out the crowd. That’s the curious thing about Around the Wireless – it was basically a really big gig. There were no ear-catching ‘big name’ headliners, either. Instead, they were all the kinds of bands Beacham could have asked individually to play at any old bar in the country. Every festival is largely about the ‘atmosphere’, I guess, but there’s always some kind of big pull in terms of performing talent. But this way, we had to rely on our own curiosity and escapist tendencies to keep us occupied. It was nice to see a festival that was all about soaking it in, but strangely there wasn’t a lot of rural atmosphere.

The lineup was weird, too – when you consider that Street Chant were scheduled for a 6.30pm slot, some sideways glances are due. In fact, the final band, Nudge, were virtually unknown to many of us. It didn’t stop those darn drunks from having a good time, at least. The performances were thankfully less dubious than the timetable, though – Auckland band Nevernudes played a lot more vibrantly than I’m used to, even though they had to shift their lineup around just for the show. They got off more lightly on the sound front than their buddies Sidewalk Meese, who had to deal with some annoying technical issues which usurped them and their constant quipping.

Thankfully, sound was for the most part forgivable. The headliners took full advantage of both this and the professional stage lights late at night when people who didn’t want to sleep had not much else to do. And it sounds a bit silly that some would rather sleep than catch the final acts, but trust me on this one… 16 acts in one day doesn’t keep you up for long. Besides the strange lineup decisions, I’d say this was Around the Wireless’ biggest fault. There was more than enough room to squeeze in some of these bands on the night before – even though the four that did play on the Friday benefited by being left to their own means. Deer Park and Project H, I’ve discovered, are satisfyingly appropriate to see in a field in the countryside late at night. Glass Vaults and Seth Frightening share this suitability, to their credit times ten. ‘The hype’, whatever that means these days, is doing pretty well for itself. No-one gave a shit about the rain, either.

Posted by Nick Fulton under New Zealand
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