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52. Festivals

Updated: Jan 23, 2022

Happy new year, dear readers! I wish the very best for you in 2022 - I did not intentionally rhyme but damn, that was sublime. Anyway, I refrain from letting you cringe any longer. When it came to brainstorming for the new year blog content, I thought I could go into the psychology of new year resolutions. But honestly, they last for two seconds and because of that I think writing an entire blog post about them would only be relevant for about two seconds.

Then I got thinking about what happens this time of year and there was only one right answer - festivals! I know that I am one of many, but f**k festivals are fun. It's that time of year when you dress to look your best and do nothing but have a good time. That is the sole objective - to have a good time - and everyone has that objective, so inevitably that objective becomes amplified and it's a good time overload.

In this blog post, I am going to outline my experiences of the NZ new year festival scene. Then I'm going to structure things a bit differently. Like a recipe, I'll lay out the essential ingredients needed for a kiwi festival. Some of those being a binge drinking culture, vaping, the infamous and illicit drug scene, environmentalism, and more chaos. Get buckled in readers, because we're going on a ride.

Picture this; you're whisked away into a natural utopia in the beautiful place of Aotearoa with your besties. The year has been nothing but stressful but hakuna matata, you're here now and none of that matters as you're about to bring in the new year. You set up camp (that's if you're ready to embark on the real outdoors) and start sipping and preloading on the bevvies. Remember, you've got to get on a decent level for a full send so it would be rude to not start early. My personal fave is getting on the tequila shots early and ensuring that I am in charge of everyone else's tequila consumption. So, that usually means unexpectedly surprising them with a full tequila shot in their face and then saying, "I am the tequila master, therefore you cannot say no." Side note, consent is essential in all situations, apart from when I am tequila master, hehe. Apologies to Chloe and Kyle this year who felt the full wrath of the tequila master.

You start to make your sloppy way over to the festival grounds; ready for all unpredictable mayhem to commence. Suddenly, you're transfixed into this electric environment where anything seems possible. I don't know why festivals stir up this sensation for me, but I can't be the only one. Genuinely, I feel the most alive at a festival when you step onto that turf and you have no idea what is gonna happen. The people you're going to meet, the beats that you're going to be engulfed by, and the energy that you're going to be immersed in - it all makes for nothing but an exciting mystery ahead.

Not including the last New Years' celebrations that just past, but I had been a veteran of the Rhythm & Alps new year festival. I went for three years in a row and I think it is fair to say that that was a very solid effort. I loved it. Venturing down south from Christchurch to Cardrona to the biggest party of the year was bliss. However, there was a change of trajectory this year. The direction of the New Year was up north to Cobb Valley in Takaka for Twisted Frequency. How this inspiration for change came about, I'm unsure, but the change felt right and necessary. So that was that, Chloe, Kyle and I were bound for Twisted. My impressions of the festival beforehand were that it was by no means commercial, it was a hippie festival, and that it was quite underground.

I was not wrong. I was correct on all three points. But being there was completely different. The lack of focus on commercialism made the festival feel that bit realer and alive. Everyone was in it. You weren't there to show everyone else on Instagram that you were there, you were there with the people around you and yourself.

Now let's get cooking! What are the essential elements for a New Zealand festival? Lemme get my Gordon Ramsey on for you. First, it's the people. You need the right crowd and a big crowd to make it a good time. Second, the music. At Rhythm & Alps, it was drum and bass and it fitted the crowd. At Twisted Frequency, you could find nearly any sound but I found myself summoned by the psytrance sounds most of the time, and that was the right vibe. Third, the substances. Like it or not, no matter your stance on illicit substances, they are taken at festivals. Whether that be alcohol, nicotine, marijuana, MDMA, ketamine, acid; the list continues as anything and everything is unofficially accepted in consumption on festival grounds.

What is an incredibly awesome initiative in the Aotearoa festival scene is the Know Your Stuff organisation. This organisation works to drug check at festivals. Before all else, this initiative is such an incredible step in the right direction. Most importantly, the drug checking itself is a sign of communities finally admitting to the inevitability that drugs are taken at festivals. Accepting this fact is the first step to drug harm reduction. This initiative is in collaboration with the New Zealand Drug Foundation.

As much as festivals are great, they are wild. Young, wild, and free is the vibe but the outcome can sometimes be crusty, chaotic, and messy. Classic festivals moves are losing your friends, losing phones and, people "f**king out" (for those that don't know, "f**king out" usually refers to describing someone who has taken too much of whatever they have taken). Not all of it is pretty, that's if you can see any of it through all the immense vape clouds inhibiting one's vision! In beautiful Aotearoa, our festivals are fortunately held in the most incredible natural sites. However, camping and partying in these sites can often be the exact opposite. People litter, people recklessly create conflict, and people can be so out of their minds that they disrespect the land. New Zealand is known for its "clean and green" suit that it wears but damn, sometimes these spectacles suggest the contrary.

Festivals are truly one of a kind. Anything goes and that is the beauty of it. Beyond anything else, the chance that you get to wrap up a chaotic year with your closet mates is an unmatchable feeling. Dancing the night away into the early morning besides your bestest buds as well as complete strangers is magic. Festivals can be messy, yes, unpredictable, f**k yes, yet memories are most definitely made. If you are out there, if you are reading this and you don't go to festivals, please try. Disclaimer, this is a very first world proposition - I am aware. This life is short (me desperately trying to refrain from saying YOLO), I personally have the most incredible ventures at festivals and I want you to discover those ventures for you too. Maybe you haven't found the right one, or maybe you have gone to a festival with the wrong crowd. But as soon as you find the right one, you will know it and feel how unbelievably special the festival experience is.

Artwork by Chloe Bolingford

Thank you so much for reading! If you have any further questions based on this blog post or anything else in regards to this blog, be sure to get in contact with me through this website or through the blog's Instagram linked below.


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This blog will encompass the life of a 21 year-old kiwi chica. Composed of stories, advice, life lessons, worldly observations and whatever else Ella's life brings to surface. For all of this and more, read my new found blog 'Born In 2000': established on the 28th of October, 2019. Where Ella Gibson explores her life that exceeds all limitations. Publications should be expected once a week. Be sure to take this present moment now and rock it!

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