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Live Photos + Review: Newtown Festival 2021, Wellington

Live Photos + Review: Newtown Festival 2021, Wellington

Review: Chris Cudby / Photography: Bruce Mackay / Monday 12th April, 2021 12:13PM

Offering 420 stalls and 15 stages for free, the 25th annual Newtown Festival's adventurous lineup celebrated our live music community in a vast variety of forms and genres on Sunday, featuring artists from Pōneke and throughout Aotearoa. Any attempt at catching every live performance would be a fool's errand without a time machine and / or teleportation device, here's a run down of my personal journey at Newtown Festival 2021 — including side quests, missed opportunities and happy accidents.

After meeting up with friends for lunch we strolled down Riddiford St into Newtown around 2pm, just as beatbox champion and Cuba St busking legend King Homeboy was launching into action. Being out of towners from Tāmaki Makaurau, we quickly realised we had no idea where any of the stages were actually located. We attempted to decipher the fest's mind-bending online map (no PDF map?), then ducked into Black Coffee for a much-needed hit of caffeine and the world's butteriest cheese scone, to help stave off any Sunday dustiness. Making our way through packed streets past the terrifying obstacle of a onesie wearing brass band, we stumbled upon Akl punks Dateless yelling "dumb fucks" outside Creeps Record Parlour (where I finally scored a cassette copy of Mr Amish's excellent Pump Tha Valyoom plus a signed photo of Pizza Wolf from Tape Wolves) — tearing through a rescheduled early afternoon set in surprisingly fine April weather. Just missed pop punks Babyteeth who wrapped up just before we got to the Girls Rock Stage, but not a total nightmare as we got to see the trio rule at their hometown EP release party last week at The Wine Cellar.

Newtown Festival is as much about celebrating local culture as live music, plus of course people watching, so we walked up the road on a friend's recommendation to investigate the range of Aotearoa independent publications available at Food Court Books. We then snuck behind the food stalls (the fast way to get around), dodging a street parade to experience the conclusion of Latinaotearoa's set, in their element on the sun-soaked Colombo St Stage. We had to skip seeing prodigious soul / jazz artist Arjuna Oakes as the stage was running behind schedule (next time), and we were keen to catch the first Lilstiffy performance in Pōneke since the Whanganui electronic artist returned from Tokyo — clashing with Deb5000 who we were also keen to see. Couldn't resist a swift rummage at the St Vincent Des Paul's, then it was Lilstiffy time, rattling Gordon Pl Stage's bass bins in celebration of his ace new album Ecma. Located at the end of a cul-de-sac, fully licensed and walled on three sides, Gordon Pl offered a relatively intimate outdoor club environment, as the crowd couldn't sprawl too far away from stage. Enjoying the dubious spectacle of an Anonymous mask wearing dancer, we decided to stick around and catch Dunedin / Melbourne dance music innovator Vanessa Worm, sadly missing Mongo Skato and Dunedin duo Night Lunch, demonstrating again the time / space impossibility of the Newtown Festival schedule. Playing her first ever Wellington event, Worm whipped the crowd into a frenzy with chaotic NRG, at one point instructing them to "touch your body tonight" — a definite highlight of the day. I was stoked to high five and share a beer with gig photography champ Bruce Mackay who was there taking snaps.

A bit of chaos ensued as Earth Tongue's Wilson St set was immediately halted by a power cut, then Dartz blew a fuse just as they started to play. Getting it back under control, the evidently very popular Dartz busted out a triumphantly furious set to a jam-packed audience that seemed to know every word, being almost swamped at times by the surging crowd on the street level Creeps stage. Security kept it from getting out of hand, but it could possibly be safer to put them on an elevated stage next time. While grabbing beers next door at Moon we caught a snippet of Dean Hapeta from Upper Hutt Posse on stage during a DJ set including classic electro cuts. Earth Tongue started directly after Dartz and crushed all onlookers with their sci-fi heavy riffage, playing a short three song set, at which point I remembered I was just a mere mortal, and choose to cut my losses — wrapping up with a couple of beers in a nearby flat plus some great chinwags with the Dartz lads and Radio One's Henessey Griffiths, before figuring out how to get back to the place I was staying in Karori. It was an awesome day which attracted throngs of attendees from all throughout Aotearoa, how do we get one of these things happening in Tāmaki Makaurau?


Gaze upon a selection of photos from Bruce Mackay's own journey at Newtown Festival 2021 by clicking on the thumbnail images below.


Dartz
Dartz
Dartz
Newtown Festival 2021
Newtown Festival 2021
Newtown Festival 2021

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Links
newtownfestival.org.nz/
facebook.com/DarkerArtsLive/

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