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HomeNew ZealandHomegrown review: A festival so good even the mayor had a boogie

Homegrown review: A festival so good even the mayor had a boogie

Homegrown 2023

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Gin Wigmore playing at the City Stage.
Photo: RNZ / Jemima Huston

By Jemima Huston

Homegrown – the festival celebrating the best in New Zealand music – returned to Wellington’s waterfront yesterday. Pandemic restrictions have caused uncertainty for Homegrown over the last few years with cancellations in 2020 and 2022. But it was back in force this year with more than 20,000 partygoers and more than 40 bands and DJs including, Shapeshifter, Shihad, Gin Wigmore, Sir Dave Dobbyn, Drax Project and Kora.

Wellington was aglow yesterday afternoon with blue skies, bright sunshine and big smiles as festivalgoers descended on the waterfront. Concerns about rain dampening the day were forgotten and despite a not-so-warm high of 20 degrees people dressed in their best summer festival outfits.

Sparkly makeup, funky sunglasses, mesh, tank tops and glitter dresses could be seen everywhere I looked.

The festival was set up with five massive stages spread out from Waitangi Park next to Te Papa to Frank Kitts Park near TSB Arena. Pedestrian access along the waterfront was kept open with ticket holders able to enter and exit each stage via a security check. A clearly labelled festival map and setlist found on the Jim Beam Homegrown website and phone app made it easy to navigate the site.

The day started for me with roots reggae favourite Katchafire at the Park Stage in Waitangi Park. The queue for security moved quickly and my group was able to get into the centre of the mosh pit.

The space with packed with fans dancing and singing along to “Get Away” and “Working”. I was pleased to find that the crowds throughout the day were respectful, and people gave each other space to move because there is nothing worse than a pushy mosh pit.

Homegrown 2023

Blue skies over the City Stage at Homegrown
Photo: RNZ / Jemima Huston

Picking what act we would go to see next caused a bit of contention amongst my group. With so many iconic acts playing at Homegrown – often at the same time – it was hard to choose where to go. Would it be Mitch James or The Black Seeds? We ended up splitting into two smaller groups and I headed to The Black Seeds.

The Black Seeds were playing at the City Stage, which was in Frank Kitts Park all the way on the other side of the festival space. It was a long walk to get there, and the small bridges scattered across the waterfront caused major bottlenecks for the crowd.

Manoeuvring around the site was difficult and I think if you wanted to jump between stages a lot, you’d have spent most of your time walking and waiting in line rather than enjoying the excellent music on offer.

At the City Stage I found that it was connected to the Lab Stage meaning my group could easily move between the acts playing at each stage without going through security. We saw some fantastic performances there from Ladi6, Sons of Zion, Savage, Gin Wigmore, Sir Dave Dobbyn, Kings, and Sachi.

A special shout out must go to Gin Wigmore who was electric. Her band really put on a show grooving to their songs and encouraging the crowd to sing and clap along.

Despite a small sound issue during Savage’s set which was quickly fixed, from what I heard and saw the stage tech was great. There was no sound bleed between the stages because they were set so far apart, the lighting was fun, and the visual backdrops were colourful keeping your eyes glued to the stage.

Homegrown 2023

People in the crowd asked to join Savage on stage for “Swing”.
Photo: RNZ / Jemima Huston

A couple of must haves at any festival are food and bathroom facilities. I’m pleased to report, there were lots of food and drink options available at Homegrown, as well as an abundance of toilets. The portaloos were manned with crew maintaining and regularly sanitising the facilities. They were the cleanest bathrooms I’ve ever seen at a festival – big ups to Homegrown for that. Also, the crew overall were awesome. Bar tenders, security, cleaners, and caterers were friendly and very attentive to people’s needs.

It was my first Homegrown and I loved it. The festival was well organised and had a little something for everyone music wise. It was wonderful to see so many adults of all ages partying together and being kind and respectful to one another. Even Wellington Mayor Tory Whanau was seen having a boogie with her constituents.

Welcome back Homegrown, You really can’t beat Welly on a good day.

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