ON the beat – Quintessentially Rhythm and Alps (Review – with photos)

Raise 'em up! - PHOTO: Elliot Steven Photography.

Raise ’em up! – PHOTO: Elliot Steven Photography.

“One for peace, two for unity, three for we. And here it is. The place is Wanaka 2017. Raise your hands! Raise ’em all!” – Opiuo

What makes the music festival Rhythm and Alps unique, #sorhythmandalps? What drew this year’s crowd of 7000, 4000 of whom camped on site? What makes R&A what it is today? ONmag’s writers ANNABEL WILSON and EMMA SIMPSON go long and deep in the Cardrona Valley to find out. They concluded that you know you’ve been to Rhythm and Alps when:

  • You’ve got amongst it at the warm up. Every year, the R&A team host a doozy of a party to get everyone amped for New Year. With a sold out RÜFÜS show at the Lake Hawea Hotel, 2016 was no different. On a balmy Wanaka evening, a beautiful lake behind us and a pastel sunset silhouetting the cabbage trees, the chilled out beachy sounds of RÜFÜS were totally apt. We sang along to Tell Me, danced to their soothing electro-pop and were treated to two encore songs.
  • Bass Intrusion plays drum n bass so deliciously filthy, you feel like you need to shower after their set. These guys owned the night of the 29th. ‘Nuf said.
  • You’ve been looked after by a friendly local crew. Rhythm and Alps is run by a stellar collective of professionals and volunteers who put in hours and hours to make this event special. When a smiling familiar face tops up your wristband, it makes all the difference.  “We’ve got a brilliant local team who have worked throughout the year to ensure the event runs smoothly, and this showed throughout the entire festival,” Festival director Alex Turnbull said. Emergency services and St John Ambulance staff were also happy, the service providers were happy and most importantly, our customers are really happy.”
  • You’ve enjoyed some pleasant surprises. We loved Laura Lush‘s Pashjams first on Wanaka Beats then breaking in the Cabin, LA native Tokimonsta was a wildcard, dropping indie dance tunes which defied daylight. And it was especially cool when Event Manager Fiona McMartin joined her longtime friend Martine Harding onstage as support for Arma del Amor.
"Get low. Everybody get low." - Dub FX. PHOTO: Qfoto.com

“Get low. Everybody get low.” – Dub FX. PHOTO: Qfoto.com

  • Dub FX serves up such a delicious dub and dnb entree that you’ve almost had your bass fix before 10pm on the first night. His killer track Searching (Thinking Clear) summed up his whole vibe. This guy exudes positivity, focus and passion. Towards the end of his set he had us all making “some noise for Jamaica and reggae music”, explaining the importance of acknowledging the culture that gives him inspiration: “Everyone get low… get low. In Africa, thousands of years ago, people were banging on drums, badabumbadabum under the stars like we are now.” Then he dropped Run – ft. Eva Lazarus and the crowd lost it. Well-played, Dub FX – you’re a legend.
  • Underwear is passable as festival attire even when the valley hits freezing. Dressing up (or being under-dressed) is all part of the R&A experience, and some of our favourite costumes were a bare-chested Santa and the red-headed West End priest. 
  • Despite Jeremy Glenn from The Upbeats having a 4.30am time slot on the 30th, he still had a crowd of 500 cooking away.  It takes solid commitment to still be thrashing around to drum and bass that close to sunrise but Jeremy’s set had steam-rolling intensity.
  • You’ve cooled off in the river. The mountain-hemmed R&A site is magical, especially now that they’ve made the river open to swimmers and frolickers for some old-fashioned wet and wild fun. A refreshing space to wash away those festival sins.
Akil the MC, just awesome. PHOTO: Qfoto.com

Akil the MC, just awesome. PHOTO: Qfoto.com

  • J5’s Akil the MC performs his entire set among the crowd. Akil performed to such a high level, getting everyone into the groove and even inviting local MCs to jam with him.
Nina Bowley and Connor Moore. PHOTO: Elliot Steven Photography.

Nina Bowley and Connor Moore. PHOTO: Elliot Steven Photography.

  • You’ve fast-tracked a friendship. Festivals like R&A have the power to bring like-minded souls together, and to solidify bonds between existing mates. Hanging out for 48 hours in the Cardrona Valley, flitting between stages, having adventures and generally rocking out is one way to obtain and maintain harmonious relations.
  • When Graeme James busts out a Rudimental cover on the violin and loop pedal. Yeah!

@rhythmandalps @weirdtogethr #worldwide

A post shared by Weird Together (@weirdtogethr) on

  • No matter what your sexual orientation, you left the Weird Together set in love with lead singer Bianca PaulusShe’s one stylish diva, and the whole band’s steeze of genre-bending, dance-happy music induces oxytocin and oozes fun.
  • You got all nostalgic about performers you’ve seen time and again ruling R&A. Like local darlings Arma del Amor and Cory Champion‘s incredible drumming for Pacific Heights.
  • You can choose between Six60 or Opiuo to ring in the new year. Pop fans sang along to Don’t Forget Your Roots while lovers of badass bass boogied away at the alternative Where The Wild Things Are stage.
  • The mainstage countdown is at 12.01. For the 4000+ strong crowd romantically swaying to Six60, that lead to an extra sixty seconds of tonsil hockey. Leading on to….
  • Your New Year pash consisting of either a first year donning stubbies or a silver fox. R&A attracts a wide range of groovers ready for a good time. #allagesareravers.
  • You see fire poi and giant bubble performance art erupting from atop a fire engine. The organisers invested in the fire engine especially for the event, and have been steadily raising the level of the performance art on offer each year. R&A mainstays Poilicious swirled their fire poi and twirled their fine-tuned choreography at midnight as fireworks streamed overhead.
  • There’s an expert aerialist whipping out trapeze moves in time to the dj’s tunes. The addition of Bronwen Pattison, Berlin circus artist to this year’s line up was a real treat. As performance art director Emma Herbert Vickers explained, “She just kept going!” Her show was an entrancing punctuation to Opiuo‘s fierce set.
  • Pitch Black drops a reference to McCarthyism at their 20 year anniversary gig. “Are you or have you ever been a member of the communist party?” Gen Xers on the dancefloor were treated to the electronica that underscored their youths. The sounds ensured these 90s ravers enjoyed a trip into the past, recalling dancing on Barrow’s sticky floor to Pitch Black, or seeing them at The Gathering. And the pair have still got it. “Wow, what a night. It was such a joy to be in the South Island playing amongst the Alps for our 20th anniversary show,” Mike Hodgson, one half of the electronica duo said. “Hearing the crowd respond to the historical noises, samples and riffs we scattered throughout the set was awesome.”
Stubacca jammin' in the Cabin. PHOTO: Qfoto.com.

Stubacca jammin’ in the Cabin. PHOTO: Qfoto.com.

  • You look around the Cabin at 4.30am on New Year’s Day and all you can see are happy faces. “Sound boy, sound girl, feel the beat of the drum n bass”, Stature exclaimed as the hot box heated up. It was a deep dark disco in there. What a way to see in 2017.
  • Goodnight and good luck. PHOTO: Elliot Steven Photography.
  • You’ve finally laid down, somewhere comfy-ish, exhausted but happy. – ONmag.

Rhythm and Alps previews from ONmag:

ON the beat: Rhythm and Alps – A veteran’s guide

ON the beat with Rhythm and Alps returnee Cory ChampiON

Rhythm and Alps 2015 reviews from ONmag:



For ON-the-ball previews, promotion, advertising, interviews, reviews and photography for your cool happenings and concepts, contact annabel@onmag.co.nz.

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