While the streets of Wellington were bursting with all manner of hideously-dressed, hideously-drunken rugby fans on Waitangi Weekend, I, along with about 400 others from around the country, made the journey to a campsite in Wainuiomata to partake in one of the best weekends I have ever experienced. Camp A Low Hum was born from the genius that is Blink AKA Ian Jorgensen, responsible for the Low Hum tours which have brought quality, unsigned bands to cities all over NZ for the past three years.
This camp was set 40 minutes away from Wellington City, and was three days and three nights of pure bliss.
The old Scout campsite had a wonderfully retro appeal. It encompassed 48 bands who all played twice over the weekend, a massive camping-ground for tenting, old-school camp games, such as tug o’ war, bull-rush and knuckle bones, an arts and crafts area, BYO booze, a swimming pool, cabins for bands which doubled as venues for after parties, canoeing, a confidence course, a fine catering service, a tightest-jeans award and, of course, parties a-plenty.
There were three stages, one outdoors on a big field, complete with a few trees to provide much-needed shade on the bright very un-Wellington hot days, one indoors, in a reasonably-sized hall with adjoining kitchen, and one portable stage, which made for much excitement as to when and where acts would feature on it, whether it be in trees, under trees, around a fire or in a moving vehicle.
Retro/rave was the theme of the camp, a theme well-embraced by the many punters. Zinc, bike shorts, glow sticks, leg warmers, aerobic wear and basically anything highlighter-coloured was required.
The bands started at 11am on Saturday, but due to work commitments, I didn’t arrive ‘til Saturday evening, meaning I missed the first days worth of bands and games, but thanks to the genius idea of having all acts play twice, this blow didn’t hit so hard.
The portable stage proved host to some of the more exciting acts, such as on Saturday night, where keyboard dance act Golden Axe played to many squirming, dancing, stumbling dancers surrounding the campfire.
And on Sunday evening, an intimate performance by French folk group Ladybird, who set themselves up in a tree by the canoeing/ duck pond, to sing their songs of love, complete with audience participation, epitomized the term ‘quaint’.
Stumbling across one of the day-time pool parties was one of the most surreal moments. It looked like the setting for a MTV-style, hip-hop ‘80s music video, – except instead of big booty hoes, it was pasty, drunk white kids clad with bright retro colours, splashing, dancing and shaking to the tunes of MCG.
Later that night, the same setting was host to another pool party, this time, a ‘no-pants party’ – perhaps one of the most-notoriously fun parties of the weekend. The rule was simple. No pants, and party.
Bands, all of the indie persuasion – most incorporating hand-clapping, and many with keyboards – ranged from punk, to folk, to synth pop, to guitar-driven pop, to many forms of electronic and dance to blues rock. A highlight for me were ex-pats Batrider, home from Melbourne to tour their latest EP. Their angst, guitar driven rock was as fitting indoors at night as it was outdoors in the hot hot heat.
Polka dot dot dot proved to be the darlings for many of those in attendance. The trio from the USA played a mesmerising set, complete with banjo, harp, guitar, and ukulele on the outdoors stage, and a few hours later they lead a musical parade to an intimate gig in a stream which was, from many accounts, a highlight of camp – one I missed as I was determined to see the Situations, a pop-punk/rock group from Auckland. While the lack of crowd may have slightly hindered their performance, they still pulled off a wild set.
Other favourites were guitar pop band Collapsing Cities, crazed punk band Not So Experimental, Aussie indie group Actor/Model, Auckland dance group Pig Out, blues rockers The Bonnie Scarlets, solo performer Grayson Gilmour, Aussie group Bang! Bang! Aids!, punk-rockers The Coolies, electro group Frase + Bri, local hip hop MC Tommy Ill, computer nerd-cum-synth popper Disasteradio, The Whipping Cats after-parties and local heroes So So Modern’s closing gig, complete with infl atable whale, dancing on stage and initiating a mass camp hug.
In the grand tradition of music festivals it was impossible to see everything or always be in the right place at the right time. There are some acts I sure wish I saw, but, all in all, the camp exceeded my expectations, leaving its attendees counting down the days till the next one. Normal city life is just not as good when you compare it to three days of bare-footed partying, tenting, boozing, games, sun, and amazingly rad music and people.
The camp gave a well-deserved insight into how great our music scene is.