By Eve Cheesmur
Date / Venue: February 20-22, Tapapakanga Regional Park, Auckland
I've been wanting to go to Splore for a good half century now and had very high expectations of popping mySplore cherry for the festival... those expectations were exceeded by an unprecedented extent.
The drive to Tapapakanga Regional Reserve was a mere hour from Auckland central, and I was transported into a vista of green rolling hills and baby blue ocean, it was a breeze to get there and made me realise how lovely Auckland's backyard is. Upon arrival my eyes were greeted with the familiar 'hippie' buntings and flags blowing around. there were people of all shapes, sizes, creed and ages dressed up in colourful and fanciful clothing and everyone wore beaming smiles... the weekend was off to a good start.
Struggle came in the form of transporting my luggage (rookie mistake of bringing too much with me) down to my tenting site, but I was offered a lift to my spot on the back of a ute by a friendly family who thought nothing of the kindness and generosity they had just extended to me. That mentality of kindness and paying it forward was a running trend for the whole weekend, and I, along with every other Splorer embraced it fully.
After finally erecting my abode, I decided to go exploring. The set up was thoroughly thought through, pedestrian paths were etched into the hills and everything was clearly signposted. The food options were endless, if you wanted a flippen quesadilla or a freshly squeezed fruit juice, you had plenty of places to choose from. I make no exaggerating when I say that all the staff were super lovely... because they were ALL super lovely. People wanted to engage with you and in turn, that safe and fun environment stripped everyone of pretension and we all trusted in letting our guards down to experience Splore to its fullest.
The line up for the first night was pretty ace. Veteran Jazz and R&B legend Roy Ayers put on one heck of a show, he woo'd the crowd and had us all grinning with his sweet beats and charm. I stuck to the main stage for the next few acts, DYNAMOTION which was hilarious to watch, and then the trump card for the nightDeltron 3030... it was magic to see the man himself perform new and hold tracks. We danced, oh gosh we danced.
After seeing a bit of Kid Koala on the Main Stage, we mozied down to the Beach House for a more intimate gathering with some dirty, dirty beats being pumped out by J-Star and finishing up a big hot sweaty mess toDr Cat.
But the night didn't end there, oh no, Splore had even more to offer... it's the festival that keeps on giving. At the top of the precarious goat climb track from the beach to the camping venues, there was art littered through the trees, a wander through the art installations was a pleasure on the senses, and general banter with other Splorers for the walk made something that would normally be rather banal, actually thoroughly enjoyable.
At the top of the hill is the art tenting, where we parked up and talked utter shit with strangers while drinking marshmallow tea until the wee hours of the morning before retiring to our tents, tired but ever so happy.
Day two put on a great show with the weather, it was balmy and everyone hit the beach for a swim, music floated around the air and although I'm sure there was plenty of dusty people around, it seemed that a dip in the ocean washed away any sins from the night before.
Again, just wandering around the venue the level of friendliness was outstanding. Complete strangers become your new friends within minutes, there is a tribal community feeling I've never experienced before and goodness me it is good. Whoever picked the staff should never, ever do any other job because they were amazing and picking the nicest, most helpful and also fun festival staff I've ever come across.
Saturday night was a whole heap busier, as new people arrived the vibe also changed a dash. In Splore tradition, this is the night for dress ups, and the energies were higher than the night previous with the dance areas heaving. To list all the amazing music I listened to would be ludicrous, there were far too many tracks that were seamless and an absolute pleasure to watch, however a highlight should be awarded to Weird Together who were fantastic. SJD, Ahoribuzz and The Phoenix Foundation were but a few of the other acts. If listening to bands wasn't really your bag though, there was also the Clown School, Circus skills and unicycle workshops (a handy skill to have), Scavenger hunts for the kids, and of course hula hoop classes.
It was yet another late finish to the night, as hours passed like minutes, we skimming stones on the beach in the moonlight, told terrible cheese jokes in a yurt, sang karaoke out of tune to a non judgmental crowd, swapped costume pieces, and being generally distracted by all the awesomeness.
The beach felt the heave on Sunday when everyone congregated down to wash off the grime from almost having too much fun the previous night. I had assumed that most people would be packing up and leaving quickly, head in hands wondering when and how the heck they could 86 it as fast as possible. However, everyone was in the same boat and even more care was handed out to the fragile souls who had partied through the weekend. Lighters were gifted, towels and stories were shared, high fives and compliments were frequently distributed out, roly-polies down grassy hills, cuddles and general love got people through the day.
The Splore weekend came to an end with the legendary Mr Scruff playing an epic 4 hour set in the blazing sun, as we all danced in the water on the beach, I thought to myself 'this is the best festival I have ever experienced', and I felt sadness wash over me as I realised I would have to leave at some point. The good news is that I only have a year to wait for the next one, and that this is officially locked in as the best annual event a person could wish for.