Wondergarden Festival – Silo Park December 31, 2016

After ringing in 28 or so New Years Eves in or around the Coromandel, I thought it befitting that I spend my first New Years Eve in the urban jungle of Auckland at its very first Wondergarden Festival at Silo Park.

For a first go, it was an admirable effort. As a city, we are severely lacking in family-friendly day-to-night festivals that boast a solid line up of critically acclaimed, ‘cool’ established and emerging artists. Too often, one loses out over the other, but Wondergarden proved to be a well-balanced affair.

I first saw Orchestra of Spheres playing in a house party in Wellington many moons ago, and remember being impressed by their outfit choices and hip nonchalance as much as their quirky brand of Dada Disco. Time has only improved all aspects of these performers, and they remain as kookily danceable as ever. Their latest record, Brothers and Sisters of the Black Lagoon, is criminally underrated, and it was great to hear it get an airing.

Electro pop outfit Yumi Zouma was up next. Their bright dream pop, courtesy of their first full length album Yoncalla released earlier this year was a joy to hear live, and further cemented them as artists to watch in 2017.

Psych-Rock stalwarts The Phoenix Foundation were as enjoyable as ever, and kept the  energy levels of the crowd up for the main act, Mockasin, Arabia, Finn. One of the shows I regretted missing out on the most last year was their set at The Crystal Palace, so the opportunity to see them perform together was redemptive on my part. As individual artists, I adore each of them, so was interested to see what this trio of indie darlings would do once they had banded together.

Wearing matching gold lame Miss Crabb lounge suits, they traipsed onstage and immediately launched into Liam Finn’s Better To Be. As one woman beside me exclaimed “the outfits are sheer but the music is deep.” And she was right, for the most part. They each took turns singing from their own back catalogue, with Conan Mockasin’s woozy sex funk stylings perhaps getting the biggest reaction from the crowd. After a haphazard countdown, they launched into a medley of Prince songs- When Doves Cry, I Would Die For U, and of course, Purple Rain. After that point, the tightness of the music loosened a little, and it turned into an impromptu Karaoke session of Hey Jude which was fun, but stretched on a little long.

This surprisingly small event was well crafted, and shows a promising way to fill a gap in the NYE market. Some more could have been done with the stage to get a sense of festivity and atmosphere, but that’s something to work on for next year. All and all, a fun night out.

Kate Powell

Click on any image to view a very extensive photo gallery by Ivan Karczewski: