Festival Review:  Bay of Islands Music Festival – Kainui Vineyards, Kerikeri   January 8, 2021

Benee.   Dave Dobbyn.  The Beths.  Melodownz.

Benee headlined a magnificent afternoon of some of the cream of New Zealand’s artists. An undeniable charisma on stage that had rapturous response from a large number of the young audience who attended this festival. Not to exclude us older groups right up to the Boomers. She was an all-encompassing Yes to herald in the New Year. From Ground Zero Year of Covid 2020.

Also on hand was Dave Dobbyn. Now Sir Dave, and the King of Kiwi music could not have made a better show. Classic songs all rolled out with the familiar hooks and riffs from the perfectly meshed band.

The Beths laid out a blast in Indie Power Pop. Melodownz had serious Rap energy and great showmanship in the full heat of the afternoon.

Tami Neilson was an unfortunate late withdrawal due to illness. I was unable to catch the opening replacement act. Kiwi drivers and Christmas holidays. As reliable as rain and floods in camping grounds.

The first time attending this festival and the organisation was superb. The Kainui Vineyards in Kerikeri. The concert site was a conical bowl which drops down steeply to the large stage. Rained incessantly overnight and in the morning. Hot and sunny before the show started and stayed that way. Food and drinks tents. Childrens activities. Very much family oriented. Most importantly the sound system delivered. Take a bow, promoter Jackie Sanders.


Melodownz is Bronson Price from Auckland. After opening with some Public Enemy style instrumental warning tones, we hear Big Deals. Auckland City born and raised/ Big deals get done you get none/ Shotgun pump action.

Peace $igns Gang $igns. Home is actually Avondale and the fast rapping lays out a picture of street life which sounds unsettlingly similar to East Los Angeles. Internet/ Instagram/ Bikini-clad/ Sometimes I hate my life/ Coke….a-cola with pizza and the extra cheesy crust. Clever and with plenty of black humour.

8ight 2wenty 8ight mixes heavy Funk bass with Reggae rhythms and the singer takes the fast rapping to Toasting, dancehall style.

Price warms up as the set goes on and has huge amounts of energy as he prowls the big stage and keeps up the rapid-fire street poetry. Words like automatic gun-fire. At times the fury and scathing profane humour of NWA.

The band keep the momentum rolling with a heavy funk presence. Solid thumb-picked bass lines. Explosive drumming.

The Anthem takes the beat to a more languid louche shuffle and syncs nicely in the heat. Jazz tones and nice urban soul touches.

A surprisingly eclectic range of Rap styles and all kept tight and precise. The audience are engaged, especially when he goes out to the barrier.

They close with Stevie Nicks singing Dreams. Players only love you when they’re playing. The band extends out from that with some heavy bottom and the singer ends with everything is fine!

The Beths

The Beths open with I’m Not Getting Excited. Their energetic Punk Power Pop opening track on their recently released pearler of a second album Jump Rope Gazers.

Then the riffs are fashioned into a great Pop anthem full of hooks which is the classic Future Me Hates Future You.

The band then roll through their set like a lean machine stripped of any fat. A clean meshed sound. The vocals of song-writer Elizabeth Stokes could be a little more prominent in the mix. They get a little buried up near the front of the stage.

Their new anthem Jump Rope Gazers sounds a little flat as compared to previous recent live performances. They pull it back when the guitar solo comes in.

Out of Sight and Mars, God of War and they show their chemistry on stage with those ringing guitar tones.

Dying To Believe gives a chance for the drums to lead and bombard after a quiet opening.

They continue to establish their presence as one of this country’s best recent musical exports.

Dave Dobbyn

Dave Dobbyn is now New Zealand music royalty. Well, he has been for a while but it’s nice to get the recognition. He has an instantly recognisable signature voice and if anything, he is as good as he has ever sounded.

In a way, he is the Kiwi Springsteen. Not a technically gifted singer but full of passion which is often far more engaging. Doesn’t bellow like the Boss. Sustains a lot better on the higher register. Well, he is short in stature. Hang on, when he takes his hat off and turns around to face the drummer. Bald head and ears sticking out. He’s Gollum. That’s where Peter Jackson got the picture.

The same band he played with in a defining concert at the Spark Arena a few weeks ago. They play even better this afternoon. I’m not sure what it is.

Dobbyn gets a very warm reception on arrival. The crowd take up the singing with passion. It’s the songs. They have something distinctively New Zealand about them with all their hooks and riffs. Superior Pop songs. He talks about how good it is to be in this country. Again, you are reminded what no one seems able to do elsewhere.

This is fine social distancing out here. Maybe even some tongue-kissing.

Summers here and the time is right for dancing in the streets. And the fields.

Opener is Outlook for Thursday. Otherwise fine/ Otherwise just over the top. When the trumpet and saxophone kick in, that’s it. Victory. It all rolls out in triumph.

Sir Dobbyn hits the peak vocally with next song Whaling and keeps it coming.

Loyal. Just What I Need. Get So Lonely. Language.

Asian Cigarettes starts with a scream. A great ringing guitar solo.

Bliss and Slice of Heaven are anthems which the crowd bellow along to. Welcome Home to close.


Benee has a lot to follow. A bit like the Rolling Stones following James Brown on the TAMI Show. That was a myth but this evening it’s not.

There is certainly some intangible star quality about Stella Rose Bennett. That was clear when I first saw her as an eighteen-year-old in a youngster’s band called Bene. This is my first time to see her live since then. That quality has been magnified and the progression is remarkable.

On stage, she has a theatrical nature with movement which means she is not really a Rock’n’Roll performer. This is similar to Bowie and someone like Kate Bush. She has come up with her own unique style so she is not aping anyone.

There is genuine adoration from the young people up front. Benee does stop to check that no-one is getting crushed at one point. Later when she comes out to the barrier, a few are brought onstage to dance.

Soaked goes like electricity through the crowd. Tonight, it is stripped back and minimal. Simple and odd in a good way. Spare Pop reminiscent of Young Marble Giants.

Supalonely. Soft melodic Rap with a sun-drenched beat. Modern Dance Pop.

On stage the backing trio of drums, bass and keyboards keep the accent on rhythm and swing.

Night Garden has a dispersed, slightly Kiwi Reggae loping beat. A sunny Pop Rap which is light on its feet.

Monsta also has that quirky edge of New Wave. Like the Cure at the beginning when they sang Fire in Cairo.

Evil Spider has a solid Funk bottom from the bass. Then a tasty guitar riff is overlain at the end.

Benee is not a powerhouse of a singer. She has more of a softer Folkie voice. Her songs have a simplicity and complexity in tandem. Groove and hook-laden.

Kool has a Seventies Soul Vocal with a Funk rhythm guitar. Sarcastic lyrics. I so want to be like you.

Snail is a triumphant closer with Pop Rap and great dance groove.

Elton John has recognised her bristling talent. Benee is on the jet.

Rev Orange Peel                           

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