By Christina Croucher
Date / Venue: December 30 - 31st, Worsfold Farm, Mangawhai
Northern Bass Festival on the 30th and 31st December 2013 celebrated the New Year and just as much celebrated Bass Culture over the many acres of Worsfold Farm in Mangawhai.
We rocked up on the afternoon of the 30th with many other car loaded festival-goers into the massive car park overlooking the festival. We carried all of our belongings and tents down the steep cow hoofed hills of the farm into the main entrance of the festival, got our wrist bands and set up tent in the camping area. For someone who has been to Rhythm and Vines before, this was easy. Although there were quite a few tents lined up the space was adequate to not have to squeeze. No one likes Port-a-loos but there was adequate amounts and lights for night time to find your way back to the tent. We were happy to see a big free water station, lots of food stands around the camp site such as a pop up dairy with all your essentials, a coffee shop that served continental and hot breakfast and plenty of food for the evening; hot chips, hotdogs and even the more gourmet kebabs, Italian calzones and mussel pots.
After we were set up we walked through a gate to enter the festival itself (the campsite is blocked off for campers only) and the first area you walk through is a clearing in the bush surrounded by trees wound with lights with picnic tables set up by a dance area, a couple of food stands and a bar. This area was called theVerona Jungle. We were walked along by a super friendly staff member to show us around to the other two zones. After crossing a bridge and paddock we got to the massive main stage and he pointed up this massive hill in the distance to the third zone called Oasis. We'd check that one out later as we wanted to watch Dead Prez followed by Ladi6 at the main stage. Dead Prez are a duo of upbeat political rappers from the US; despite their popularity with the crowd I preferred the blinged out Ladi6 who followed. She really picked up the energy with her insane live band and was far more hip-hop than I expected the soulful singer to be. I thought we were in for a relaxing set but she was really high energy and her rap and hip-hop stood out against a few rappers that performed over the festival; she also has an incredibly powerful voice.
We loaded money onto our Awop card which was attached to our wristband and included in the ticket cost. This electronic money system worked really well, you just had to get your wrist scanned when you wanted food or drink and the lines were never horrendous. Again I think this was mainly because of the incredible amount of space that Northern Bass was located on; there always seemed to be more space to roam than there was crowded up people. We enjoyed a reasonably priced drink in these 3 giant adjoined Tepee's on the hill up top of the main stage. That was where heaps of people could relax and sit down with food or drink and still enjoy the main stage music if they weren't in the mood to stand.
We walked over another bridge and up a massive hill up to the Oasis Zone to watch Soulware. The Oasis zone had a stunning view, another bar and a big lagoon that was blocked off as it was night but in the day it was opened up for swimming provided with big floaties you could lounge on. We were a little disappointed in Soulwares set who are a full soul/electronica band from down south, but they just played their DJ set which took away from the magic of their music and the anticipation of seeing a live band. In saying that the vocals were still amazing and I would watch them again if they were to play with the full band. We then walked back down to where we arrived; the smaller but exciting Verona Jungle to see LatinAotearoa. This 3 piece band is made up of the amazing vocalist Jennifer Zea, DJ Bobby Brazuka and Isaac Aesili who completely owned the bongo drums. It was a really refreshing band to see. It was great that you could walk to another zone and hear really unique Latin music infused with a touch of NZ sound. Jennifer gives a really engaging performance and gets everyone moving to the Salsa beat. Even though this band was made up in NZ they play very Latin music, and the drumming's awesome. We went back to the main stage to catch the end of International DJ S.P.Y and MC Lowqui's set. It was almost midnight and the crowd danced to the heavy Drum and Bass set. That was us for the 30th, but the music went on till 3am. We went back to our tent and with a blanket over our heads slept till the morning.
The next day you had to leave the campground by 10am if you wanted to leave the festival grounds and when you came back you had to stay until you wanted to leave for good, this may have been to prevent people drinking too much before they entered. So, we got up and drove to Mangawhai central where they had a food market with amazing mussel fritters, cafes were open early selling good food and coffee so we had an amazing breakfast then drove ten minutes to the beautiful golden sands of Mangawhai surf beach. The beach and town was filled with festival goers all day soaking up the beautiful weather we had on the 31st.
Sun-kissed and powered with local food we went back in time to catch iconic US rapper Talib Kweli at the main stage who played a polished and fresh hip-hop set that was really engaging to the audience and was a great way to start off our New Year's celebration. His years of experience showed as he pulled in the crowd and gave a flawless performance as if it was second nature. We left half way through as we really wanted to catch the second half of Canadian DJ Stickybuds set up on the Oasis hill. Stickybuds is such a great DJ and really plays with groove and heart. He loves what he does and has pumped up massive audiences worldwide with his funky and cheeky beats. He plays a fusion of electro, funk, glitch-hop, breaks and drum and bass; I believe he belonged on the main stage as unfortunately the Oasis zone never caught a massive crowd due to the killer hill. We rushed back down to main stage to catch what would be my favourite performance of the whole festival; Australian originated Dub FX and his partner in love and music known as stage name Flower Fairy. She was on stage for the first time with him in a year and it was great to see the dynamic duo come together for the over an hour captivating performance. I have seen these international street performers live before and they never fail to impress. Dub FX has his own loop pedal where he records his own beats live with his beat boxing then plays them and keeps recording sounds to layer them. If you haven't checked him out yet you must. They play really uplifting music and are really amazing performers that feed off the energy of the crowd as much as you feed off them. The play hip hop, drum and bass, and even remake ‘Nursery Grymes'. They played a few new songs off Dub FX's new album Theory of Harmony and the songs are just as powerful as ever. Stands out being In My Head off the new album and he finished with the big Love Someonewhich left the crowd on a high.
We went back up the hill to Oasis to catch US born rapper Amir Mohamed known as Oddisee but unfortunately the times were a bit pushed forward and we missed him. We stayed anyway to watch South African Sedge Warbler who rapped with a DJ and they played pretty good hip-hop with really swingy beats with interesting timings that made for an awesome set to move to. It was nearing 11pm and we walked back down to chill in Verona Jungle for some food and drinks before countdown. The music was lacking substance in the Verona area compared to the first night; (when we went there anyway) it was pretty much radio mixes but we were happy to have a seat to eat our food and have a drink.
For the countdown set we chose Calyx and Teebee who were ripping up the main stage with Drum and Bass in front of a backdrop of neon lights. The crowd was at its biggest and at midnight northern bass let off stunning giants fireworks that dripped slowly with bright colours, welcoming in 2014.
The next day everyone had to be out of there by 3pm which gave a generous amount of time to have a sleep in if you wanted and grab a feed from the café. We decided to leave early and catch the beautiful surrounding scenes of Northern Bass before we headed home.
Overall Northern Bass was an amazing experience, a must for people who love bass music, partying in nature and want to have a big party but don't want to be completely bombarded by craziness and overflowing crowds. The people, music and venue created a great balance and executed a fun festival for all Hip Hop and Drum and Bass lovers. The staff were extremely friendly, the amenities provided were fantastic and the 3 stages set up were diverse enough to give you an option to suit your mood. If there was something that could of given it an extra edge would be more instrumental bands invited to play in the line up to add that extra ‘real' dimension but maybe it's just not the place to go if you want to hear live bands. I would highly recommend Northern Bass if you are more into internationally known DJS, iconic hip hop stars and bass music from across the globe.