By Eve Cheesmur
Date / Venue: Saturday March 19th, 2016 - Western Springs Stadium, Auckland
A little bit of Texas descended on Auckland this weekend with the introduction of Auckland City Limits. Based loosely on the Austin City Limits music festival that originated in 2002 (which has now grown to a two weekend full festie in the States), A.C.L looked to be New Zealand's big-act musical answer since the disappearance of Big Day Out, which was canned due to ticket & merchandise purchases plummeting over previous years.
We were enticed months ago with murmurings of international bands, 4 stages, huge headliners and a full day of music set in a rather recently renovated festival location; Western Springs park in Auckland. Fizzing to hear the first announcement, you could almost hear a disappointed sigh across NZ when the 'holy-shit-these-bands-are-mind-blowing-awesome' panned out to be 'holy-shit-I-have-seen-majority-of-these-bands-before'.
None the less, early bird tickets sold pretty swiftly......and to be fair, you'd have to be silly not to jump on that band wagon. Less than $100 to see lyrical beauties The National and hip hop/rap legend Kendrick Lamar. Sales seem to have flat lined after that, with fans waiting to hear the follow up announcement, hoping to be enticed by bigger, better, faster, stronger musical acts. Modest Mouse most certainly are a draw card, but the second announcement seemed to be salt & peppered with even more NZ musicians who you might get the chance to listen to at Leigh Saw Mill any other given weekend.
With more information, and FOMO becoming more prevalent, music fans bit the bullet and paid out the dosh for what was overall a really good day. The sun was shining, and Auckland was being a sexy bitch, putting on the weather with a ridiculously warm Autumn day. Timing of the festival was great; not wanting to compete with Laneway, but also knowing that us Kiwi's want to hold on to the smell of summer (which comes hand in hand with outdoor music events) and pulling on our heartfelt memories of Big Days Out gone by.
Auckland Kiddie Limits was a fun filled area for the little ones, plenty of entertainment, while mum & dad could relax and catch up with friends. The Golden Dawn area hosted some killer comedians, including Peter Baecker and offered a more laid back vibe to the main stages.
It was a bit strange, negotiating meeting points without referring to some seriously heavy corporate sponsorship - which was liberally branded in every nook, cranny and obvious place possible. However, there were plenty of places to eat good eats (we all know sustenance is key). The ever frustrating drinks line was, well, really frustrating to put it mildly and the set up seemed rather archaic, which was a bit disappointing considering the amount of time that had been spent on the 'interactive' elements. It felt like more effort should have been put in to getting the fundamentals right, before worrying about the flourishes.
But these were minor semantics, and ultimately we were there for the music, and Ladyhawke hit the main stage mid afternoon having us all up on our feet with hits like 'My Delirium' - the sound bounced a bit with wind factor, but Pip was the shit and the crowd backed her Wellingtonia ways. .
Cutting Ladyhawke short due to a clash in the schedule, Kamasi Washington was dribbling with sultry jazz from afar and I had to make it to see the American saxophonist/producer and all round legend. From what I saw of the end of their performance, I felt sad I wasn't able to appreciate the full hour they were playing, but resided to the fact I can just listen to my friends Vinyl to pacify the sadness from missing the full set.
Quickly over to the other main stage, internationally acclaimed siblings Broods took us on a gorgeous angelic journey through their repertoire of hits, including 'Bridges' which we all sang and danced along to.
By this stage, it was time to eat and although there was plenty of food selection around the venue, I appreciated that pass outs were an option. A brief hiatus consuming food and watching one of the biggest foodies of all time Action Bronson, who really got the crowd riled up.
More fantastic musical acts from New Zealand followed, and included The Naked & Famous, and a dash of The Phoenix Foundation. Home grown and always a hit, they bantered with the crowd and made us feel proud of be Kiwis.
Then, finally, it was time for the big kahuna's.....
Having to toss up between Girl Talk and The National broke my heart, so I decided to divvy my time and saw 15 minutes of Girl Talk before heading way over the other side of the park to see Ohio's rock/indie prodigal sons The National. Seeing them perform several times before in NZ, I felt really lucky that we've actually made it on the map for these successful bands to keep on wanting to come back. As per usual, they put on a memorable, ethereal, charismatic and emotional performance... the crowd chimed in for the classics: 'Bloodbuzz Ohio', 'Fake Empire' and 'Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks' along with so many other hits.
Really, the whole of the day was leading up to one man and the name of that man was Kendrick Lamar. Hailing from Compton, L.A. Kendrick's off beat rap style has had him rise to fame steadily over the years. His lyrical swag and genius speaks of confronting political and social issues, satirical in delivery, and stitched together in perfectly quilted albums, it's no surprise Kendrick tucks Grammy to bed at night.
We waited in anticipation for the small man, with big ideas to take to the stage. His presence preceding, oozing with confidence, He took to the stage later than scheduled, and due to some technical issues we didn't get the whole hour and a half promised. Still, it was a highlight when 'Swimming Pools', 'Alright' and'Bitch Don't Kill My Vibe' had us dancing like maniacs, yet our eyes were firmly locked on stage to the man who held all the power.
Exhausted and elated, it was lovely talking to others leaving the venue, and the general consensus was that Auckland City Limits shouldn't have any limits, and we were looking forward to pushing things even further for 2017.