Ian ‘Blink’ Jorgensen starting calling the events, zine’s, festivals and tours that he organized ‘A Low Hum’ back in 2001, so the 2012 Camp A Low festival marks his 10 year anniversary as a rather prominent force in New Zealand live music, of particular note in independent circles, as well as being the sixth such festival he has helled.
The festival is a full 3-day / 4-nights: on site camping, multiple environments, BYO alcohol, a particularly diverse array of musical acts and attendees. This year was located in the scenic surrounds of Camp Wainui, a campsite located in natural bush in Wainuomata usually occupied by Boy Scouts. The 2012 event brought together 70 booked acts from the USA, the UK, Canada, Germany, Argentina, Australia and New Zealand – along with an equally large of amount of ‘Renegade’ acts, who popped up during the length of the festival.As one of approximately 800 campers I may not be the only festival attendee who drank a little too quickly on the first night and failed to party into the night that evening, and I also may not be the only camper that experienced the delights of acts from across the world, as well as from their very own household – but with my unique perspective in mind I present my own recollections of Camp a Low Hum 2012:
This was my fifth appearance at Camp, however this prior experience unfortunately couldn’t prevent my own excitement on the first day, so the first part of this review ends around 10pm on the first night, a little after catching a returning So So Modern in driving rain, and feeling the pain (fortunately only in my head) of quick drink and not a lot of food.
After a quiet pre-festival night things kicked off proper on friday morning, though a little slowly. It was drizzly and a bit of a breeze was flowing through the Wainui hillsides, but the weary camp goers eventually awoke to the sounds of Wellington based free-style rapper Megalex, improvising rhymes about suggested topics in front of the camps pleasant (though pretty chilly at this point!) lagoon. A surprisingly shy Street Chant vocalist/guitarist Emily Littler is who I caught next. Performing as Emily Edrosa she played a short set of acoustic songs at an intimate site surrounded by band accommodation dubbed the Lawn.
Camp A Low Hum sets are typically around 25 minutes, giving attendees a nice short introduction to an act, whilst not bombarding them with a long set. Performers often play twice, resolving conflicts when simultaneous shows are on (which is throughout the majority of the festival), and so-called Renegade shows can pop up at any time, often resulting in party like atmospheres with enthusiastic crowds. Venues go from typical camp-site rooms where bodies cram in to every corner, to a seated forest site, to expansive lawn areas that can easily accommodate the entirety of the festival crowd.
Adelaide solo act Rites Wild took things back to the lagoon, the first of quite a few loop-pedal warriors that played throughout the festival. Playing very dark synth drones with a lot of reverb – it was quite a somber performance – or maybe that was just the weather, by this stage starting to get on my nerves. However the second loop pedal aficionado, Melbourne violinist Wintercoats was more my style, playing an emotionally driven set of songs reminiscent of Owen Pallett (aka Final Fantasy). Things really kicked in to gear when Auckland based rap duo $noregazZm hit the lagoon, switching slots with an absent Spring Break (who arrived the next day) and playing a spastic, snotty set of songs, enticing the crowd to join in their fun. Their vocalist Lisandru Grigorut had previously made his Camp debut in equally spazzy Dunedin punk outfit TFF, despite being thoroughly under-aged.
While roaming the ample camp grounds and enjoying the setting, food and the taste of my deadly beverage I managed to breeze through performances by rather-great Sydney rock trio No Art, Auckland-based Flying Nun fans Lost Rockets, kitschy but cute and catchy Melbourne keyboards and loop-pedal soloist Kikuyu and Newcastle, Australia based guitar and keyboards soloist Alps – who has been quite a regular visitor to our shores over the past 8 years or so, and plays a very personal style of experimental pop music.
Seems appropriate that it was Christchurch’s own T54 that ushered in the bigger stages in the late afternoon. The recently signed Flying Nun act thrilling with sharp guitar playing, pulsing rhythms, and even a random guest vocalist. I’m not sure if the next act I saw in the Forest was Melbourne trio Absolute Boys (though they seemed to contain the same members?), as they replaced the absent Glass Vaults, but their set of minimal electronics swirled and pulsated and sounded simply wonderful in this idyllic setting. One of the truly great finds of the festival for me was Newcastle, Australia power-trio Bare Grillz; totally at home in a house-party setting with a terrific drummer and two guitarists with equally terrific haircuts. Playing aggressive, dynamic punk numbers punctuated with anthemic shouting and a good dose of humor, I’d thoroughly recommend you check them out if you get the chance.
I think this is when my enthusiasm started to get the better of me. Melbourne punk rock trio Ouch My Face were on the main stage, making a second appearance at Camp A Low Hum in their own sassy, sarcastic way. Meanwhile I’d been indulging in my surroundings, eating and drinking with my friends, girlfriend and fellow campers as the rain started to get stronger, with gusts blowing in to the valley and bringing dark clouds with them. I skipped a couple acts for a dinner break, but returned for the magnificent So So Modern, fighting a killer headache to thoroughly enjoy their great set of songs new and old.
The Wellington trio (now without fourth member Aidan Leong) have become more laid-back than their debut recordings, with a more progressive sound in recent years, so It was a treat for them to run through some of the punchy older hits – a dynamic mix of bass heavy keyboards, stinging guitar, sing-shout vocals and truly ravenous drumming. Wind lashed the side of the stage which was thankfully covered in weather-protecting canvas – thankfully giving me a little respite and shelter as I took photos of the band going full tilt. That was it for the night though, I threw in the towel, formulating a new approach for day two of the festival as rain pounded my tent with my head pounding along concurrently.
Click here for more photos. Days 2 and 3 to come.
[published in the Christchurch Press 17/02/2012]