By Jake Ebdale
Date / Venue: December 30 - 31st - Cardrona Valley, Wanaka
A beautiful setting hosted the second annual Rhythm And Alps festival, shifting from last year's Methven to idyllic Wanaka. Two stages completed the layout, complete with food stalls and a VIP tent.
I'd nearly had enough of Rhythm, or Rhythm And Vines at least. So I hoped this would be a welcome breath of fresh air, which in some ways, it was. There were some quality acts over the 30th and 31st, but with any relatively new festival, the creases need to be ironed out.
The main draw for me was its location - only an hour from Queenstown, it ended up doubling as a tourist's holiday as well as the biggest South Island festival experience on offer. It proved to sell out with a few hours to go too, a classic Kiwi move of beating around the bush. There were some big draw cards in Shapeshifter, Rudimental and David Dallas, as well as party starters Tahuna Breaks. Cairo Knife Fight and The Veils were also there to fulfill the rockin'. A swagger of DJs filled out the lineup, including popular UK expat Zane Lowe.
The 30th was way more packed than New Year's Eve, with crowds stretching back to the iconic R&A sign watching over the Cardrona Valley field. Shapeshifter were solid as always, but marred by sound problems throughout their set. Seeing them earlier in the year, there were no changes in the setlist, and it felt slightly phoned in. All up, a standard set buoyed by opener, ‘Monarch'.
Rudimental had a massive 2013, a ubiquitous presence on radio and TV, yet the drawbacks of a DJ set were apparent. It's a couple of grand to press play and shout into the mic. The guy took a piss during one song, and played a Lorde track as a way-too-obvious pander to New Zealand. Still, ‘Feel the Love' and ‘Waiting All Night'riled up the sweat and steam, a dominating mix of drum, bass and soul.
The most captivating performer on the 31st was by far David Dallas, who constantly has something to prove when he steps foot on stage - especially with material from recent album Falling into Place. 'Runnin' was a festival highlight, along with second Falling single 'The Wire'.
Cairo Knife Fight were a metallic muddle of sound, all sheen and brute force. For a festival primarily dealing in dance music and people on pingers, they drew a decent crowd and were impressive. The Veils, as always, were extraordinary.
Tahuna Breaks were the last act on the main stage - the ‘Wild Things' stage was a smaller, more intimate way to bring in the new year - and gave us a shot in the arm, all faux funk and unbridled energy. Then the time came. We anticipated the countdown.
3...2...1. Aaaand nothing. No fireworks. No huge celebration. Maybe R&V has set the bar ridiculously high, but to have your sister festival not even offer a firecracker for 12am was a harsh anti-climax. I suppose if you can't do it big don't do it at all, but it would have been nice.
Rhythm and Alps was obviously going to be smaller, colder and not as flash as the Gisborne festival. But I still came away wanting more - something that will be fleshed out in the coming years, I'm sure. All in all, a nice experience to see in the New Year.