[EVENT RECAP] Rhythm & Alps
The last time I was in Cardrona I was wearing a pink 80's ski suit, pizza slicing my way down the children's level ski slope in mid-winter, so it's no wonder I recognised absolutely nothing as our over-packed car rolled in to the valley mid-afternoon.
It was only after we had set up our tent inside the on-site camp grounds that I then fully realised the picturesque setting for the Rhythm and Alps music festival. The Cardrona valley, home to the historic Cardrona Hotel (which I definitely have a photo in front of as a youth, and am attempting to find as I type this), is located half way between Wanaka and Queenstown in New Zealand's south island. For those of you that are lucky enough to have been to NZ before, you'll probably agree it's pretty hard to find anywhere that's not easy on the eyes. As far as music festival locations go, I would say it's not half bad to be nestled among the mountains, regardless of how disinterested the locals seemed in my recurring comments of appreciation (they are spoiled, you see - or brainwashed by Peter Jackson).
We decided to kick off the festival in the VIP Vodafone Vintage Club, (I normally make snide jokes about the 'VIP areas' at festivals, but this one ruled) listening to Kiwi Hip-Hop artist David Dallas and DJ/producer P Money. You know, anyone who drops ''Ridin Dirty'' before the sun sets is ok by me.
Now, I'm going to pre-empt all the rest of this by saying I'm not personally a huge Drum & Bass fan - in fact a fair amount of dance music goes completely over my head. I remember going to a Skrillex concert in Brixton one year and finding myself wondering why on earth I was there. Having said that, I do pride myself in being able to body-pop, groove, robot and twerk like a moron until sunrise and when presented with dance music, hell, I will dance.
New Zealand has a HUGE Drum & Base culture, so what better place to see Christchurch's Shapeshifter (not to be confused with Shape Shifters from LA and the UK) than in their homeland. These guys have been dubbed (sorry, no pun intended) as music pioneers for bringing their musical backgrounds in Jazz, Hip-Hop, Metal, Funk and Electronica together on stage as a live D&B act.
By this point the main stage was completely packed out in time for Rudimental's DJ set. Half of the quartet Amir Amor and Piers Agget told us this was their first time in New Zealand, before showing their appreciation for local talent by playing Lorde's ''Royals''. They played their 2012 hit ''Feel The Love'' and playfully yelled/sung over it, although I have to say I would have preferred it if they'd brought John Newman along to sing it.
This was followed by a selection of DJs, presented by Hospitality (part of London's Hospital Records) that blasted away until 6am, although we only managed to last until about 4.
The next morning (wait, no, more like afternoon by this point), we managed to scrub ourselves up and shuffle on over to see the very talented young Estére. The lovely kiwi songstress and beat-maker sang us lots of sweet songs about nature and animals; birds lizards and one she called ''Underwater Whale Knowledge''.
Next, Queenstown folk/blues singer Holly Arrowsmith took to the stage with her drummer, banjo player and bassist. It was the perfect time of day for a singalong, and as the wind picked up the modest crowd joined in for Youth Group's (Alphaville) ''Forever Young'' and Edward Sharpe's ''Home''.
The highlight of the festival for me really, was seeing The Veils. This is a band that I've been trying to see live for about 7 years, yet due to various misfortunes and bad timing, I've found myself just missing them across the globe. I'd heard so many amazing things about their presence on stage (well Finn Andrews' particularly) and I can't really even begin to describe to you how much they 100% live up to that reputation. In fact, I think it's going to take a whole separate live review post to even scratch the surface.
From there I was so completely musically satisfied that I could have died right then, on the spot, completely happy. It's probably a good thing I didn't as we still had some intense guitar solo moments from Cairo Knife Fight to get through, as well as some funk & soul from Tahuna Breaks. Ok, who am I kidding I was in my own little bliss bubble and barely watched either of them. (Sorry)
We later got to have a chat to one of our role models Zane Lowe backstage before his DJ set, and as the countdown to 2014 approached, joined the crowd as UK's DJ Zinc (oops - never heard of him) spun the soundtrack to bring us in to the new year.
I'm pretty happy to say that I spent the first moments of this year dancing on stage with all the artists who played at R&A, hugging Raife and Sophia of The Veils, and witnessing one of my favourite musicians (who I won't name) making out with a leggy blonde.
Just another New Years Eve.
Why not go have a look at some photo highlights on our Facebook page here, and keep an eye out for our interviews with Zane Lowe, The Veils, Estere and Holly Arrowsmith.