I still don’t know if Nigel actually guessed what his Birthday surprise was – there were huge posters at every visible hoarding in and around Kerikeri and all over Northland advertising the Bay of Islands Music Festival and he gets all the emails advertising music events so I would be surprised if he didn’t have an inkling. Anyway, he humoured me and pretended that he hadn’t guessed!
The stinger was that we had had beautiful weather for over two weeks and the day when I really wanted it to stay warm and dry, a weather front was forecast and the 8th January was due to be wet and windy! Just typical! But I had been watching the weather and by Thursday evening the front which was originally due on Saturday but was arriving early on Friday seemed to have petered out a bit. It was now going to start raining Thursday evening, carry on all night and be fine by 3pm Friday afternoon. The festival was due to start at 3pm on Friday afternoon! Let’s hope the forecast was right now. I realised that even if the rain stopped the ground would be wet and so we probably needed a waterproof something to sit on and so after a birthday breakfast in Kerikeri, I stopped in Bunnings to get a picnic blanket.
I got Nigel to drive so that I could navigate and off we went to Kainui Road Vineyard. The rain had stopped and the sun was coming out. Armed with rain jackets, sunscreen, water bottles, a few snacks and blankets, we found a spot near the front on a not too slopey bit of the amphitheatre and then went to have a look around at the food stalls and to get some beer.
Unfortunately, Tami Nielsen had had to pull out as she had been hospitalised earlier in the week. That was a disappointment as she was one of the acts I had wanted to hear. Interestingly there was no announcement or any indication at all that she wasn’t going to be playing. I only knew because I follow her on Instagram and she had posted the day before. Hopefully, we’ll get to another of her concerts soon.
Her replacement was a young local musician called Ben Ratima. He was very good and a relaxed way to start the afternoon off. He was a really unassuming fellow; he played one of his songs called Calling all Angels and admitted that he had misspelt it when he wrote it and published to Soundcloud so that it actually reads ‘Calling all Anglez‘. Anyway, it’s worth a listen.
Next up was Melodownz. Very much in the same vein as Avondale Bowling Club and they upped the tempo a bit. Clearly more well known and appreciated by the younger folk in the crowd. I love music festivals like this because they are events for young and old alike. Music lovers really tend to have eclectic tastes and appreciate a range of music so although mostly the youngsters were up and dancing there were plenty of oldies in there too.
One of the headline bands that we had gone for was up next; The Beths. We saw them just after lockdown in Raglan at the YOT Club. It was a very small, cosy gig with just 100 or so people so very different to a music festival with maybe 1000 in the outdoors. We weren’t disappointed. Such fabulous music works anywhere and Liz Stokes is a consummate professional who just makes good connections with the audience.
Up next was one of New Zealand’s favourite sons – the eponymous Dave Dobbyn. To be honest, I don’t think I’d ever knowingly heard any of his songs but I certainly recognised some of the tunes when he sang. We took the opportunity to wander off and get something to eat just before he was due to start as we really weren’t that bothered about hearing him. We came back to find most of the crowd, young and old crowded around the stage, dancing and singing along – we only just managed to rescue our blanket and shift it a little bit up the hill. Toddlers were sitting atop their parents’ shoulders singing the songs and waving their arms – they must force-feed them his CDs in the car! I have to say that I can’t quite see why he has such cult status, but then I wasn’t growing up in the 70s in New Zealand and I understand that for the teenagers then he brought something new and fresh to the music scene that compared to the music coming from the US and the UK. I thought I’d better take at least one photo!
The headline act was BENEE. All the kids had been running round in sweatshirts 6 sizes too big for them all afternoon and now they rushed to the front to get prime position. I was intrigued to see how she performed live as I had heard that she had been disappointing in a previous live concert. However, those thoughts were quickly banished when she started singing and then when she engaged with the crowd. She was incredibly personable, she spoke directly to people especially the kids and she is a natural performer without being pretentious at all. The crowd loved her and we really enjoyed her performance too. She finished by bringing a group of wee girls who were being squashed at the front up on stage with her. It was clear that three of them were friends but the fourth one was on her own. So, the lovely thing was, when the three joined hands to dance together, BENEE took the other little girl’s hand and danced with her so she wasn’t left out. So special, those kids will remember that for a long time!