Beats & benevolence ON the beach: What went down at Splore 2018

An alternative reality: Splore 2018. Photo: ONmag.

An alternative reality: Splore 2018. Photo: ONmag.

There’s a certain kind of sadness to cutting off your Splore festival bracelet. The rainbow-hued fabric loop signifies your place in a tribe – a ticket to three days of good times oceanside at one of Australasia’s most-loved arts and music festivals. It’s your entrance to multiple stages and zones – both official and spontaneous. Your Splore wrist band is your wallet and your pass into an alternative reality, into the realm of possibility. Splore 2018, February 22 – 25 centred around a Mystic Ritual theme. Here’s a bunch of highlights from what went down at Orere’s Tapapakanga Regional Park last weekend.


Day One of Splore coincided with a newly declared Day of Peace and fittingly, serenity reigned supreme as eyes and minds were opened to a more peaceful way of existence – a kind of utopia by the sea. Party people arrived in their hundreds to set up sweet camping spots, groove to a broad spectrum of indie music and carouse within the welcoming arms of Tikapamoana Bay. Vendors whipped up wood-fired pizzas, churros, falafel, fish n’ chips and ice cream on biodegradable foodware to feed the masses. Local wine, craft beer and sticky RTDs were served in reusable Globelet cups. Day-ravers young and older got all empirical with kinetic and interactive artworks, swam in the sea and chilled on the beach. And this was just the beginning… Here are a few stand out moments:

The perspective: rolling hills dropping down to a pohutukawa-fringed bay. The ancestral land of tangata whenua, Ngāti Whanaunga and Ngāti Paoa provide more than a picture-perfect backdrop: there’s a certain sense of spiritual presence if you stop and look and listen for it.

Giddy up! PHOTO: Anneke Jane.

Giddy up! PHOTO: Anneke Jane.

The outfits! Space wizards, sailors, unicorns, dinosaurs, forest nymphs, festoons of fairy lights, sea creatures, glittery beards and boobs, and some nakedness. (My mate Rob got told to put some clothes on whilst taking a night-swim).

Having a sunset beer on the beach as dusk descended over the waves with The Nudge‘s Ryan Prebble and Iraia Whakamoe. We chatted about the “uncasual drive” down with Mikee Tucker, po-ha firecrackers and their favourite incense, among other things. (Iraia likes sandalwood and Ryan prefers the smell of a freshly lit match…) Later they lit up the Living Lounge, taking Splorers on a dank dark swampy-blues voyage into the early hours of morning.

When headline act Dizzee Rascal dropped ‘You’ve Got the Dirtee Love’ featuring Florence and the Machine and finished with an encore of Bonkers.

“I think it’s time for some angelic gospel voodoo sound…. My Baby’s travelled far, and she’s here to sing for you,” exclaimed Amsterdam-born Kiwi Daniel (Da Freez) Johnston as My Baby took us on a spiritual journey into live tribal sounds. Contemporary yet ancient at the same time. And I got to play a game of Connect Four with them backstage.

Ribera, Aroha and Tali, then Lady FLiC storming the Crystal Palace, consecutively.


“Is everybody in? Is everybody in? Is everybody in? The ceremony is about to begin,” drawled the MC – quoting Jim Morrison to start off the tunes at 12 noon on Saturday.

Chilling with mates over espresso martinis and reading Good magazine at the Splore Banquet. Though the silver-beet laced, overly hot-sauced Bloody Marys were not great.

Tash, Jordi & Sally. Wanaka crew ONboard the Flying Carpet. PHOTO: ONmag.

Tash, Jordi & Sally. Wanaka crew ONboard the Flying Carpet. PHOTO: ONmag.

Kao=S‘ vocalist Kaori Kawabuchi busting out some slick Samurai sword moves during their epic set.

Boat-hopping. I was lucky enough to catch a row-boat to the Flying Carpet catamaran, then a paddle-board to Mike Allpress’ Irie keel. Friendships were fostered as we sipped GnTs and listened to lush beats from Rev Peyton’s Big Damn Band drifting over the sea.

Splore founder DJ Amanda Wright’s house set at Lucky Star. A prime place for a boogie with drop-in sets by surprise guests. And they sold yummy toasted sandwiches there.

Empress-Stah and her unstoppable, luminous lazer butt-plug performance at the Crystal Palace.


Goodwill and groove was the name of the game as reggae beats gently nursed us into Splore’s final day.

Today – another summer stunner – was the day for taking a dip in the lagoon, hanging at Yealands‘ wine bar, finding shady spots under the trees and opting for the Old Yellow Skool bus trip back up the hill, in lieu of the zig zag bush track. On the bus, epic tunes from the likes of Lionel Richie, Cindy Lauper and Bruno Mars inspired jubilant sing-alongs and spontaneous pole-dancing sessions.

Releasing oxytocin with Oxfam. PHOTO: ONmag.

Releasing oxytocin with Oxfam. PHOTO: ONmag.

I spent a while at the friendly Oxfam zone, attempting to hula-hoop and admiring the adjacent art installation: a giant hinaki (fish trap) made of electrical conduit. You could walk through it, take happy snaps in it, and the piece just seemed to frame the blue skies, pristine beach and soft waves beautifully. The Oxfam container was the place to turn some of the positive thought that Splore inspires into action, by signing their Back to the Plan: Back to Zero climate change petition.

Diamond geezer and Splore veteran Barry Ashworth closed out the celebration, prancing round the stage and mixing hip hop classics with dub and electro-clash party pleasers.

What else happened? It was Shazeem Riley’s birthday, an arborist fell out of a tree (broke their eye socket, but they’re ok), and a couple got married… Regretfully, I cut off my dusty festival band back in the city as I severed myself from Splore for another year. It’s a party that really gets under your skin, so I know I’ll be back for more in 2019.


More Splore stories from Onmag:

Maximise your ‘Mystic Ritual’ mojo at Splore 2018: A how to guide…

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