BY ETHAN GRIFFITHS

The Kiwi summer festival trek is a coming of age ritual for recently graduated high school students and returning frequents alike. This year was no different, with thousands hopping from R&V or Northern Bass over to Mount Maunganui for Bay Dreams. With 30,000 people, it’s New Zealand’s largest summer festival, and throw in 27 degree heat and a stellar line up headlined by Halsey and Tyler, The Creator, and you have what you might expect is a ripper of a festival.

Instead, what you got was an overcrowded concrete car park with a tired stage in an arena next to a literal rubbish dump, where mass brawls and excessive alcohol consumption was the norm.

What was supposed to be a blistering hot enjoyable get-together at New Zealand’s largest festival very quickly turned into a bit of a joke.

It was a plethora of issues one after another. The gates opened fifty minutes late due to “staffing issues”, resulting in a massive pile up, with some people having to wait for up to an hour just to get in.

By the time they did get in, the excessive heat and copious amount of day drinking led to a mass brawl with large crowds (without a security guard in site), sparking multiple headlines across the countryand a few arrests.

But by far the biggest frustration was the payment system. Bay Dreams opted this year for the Wayver payment system, a chip attached to your festival wristband to pay for whatever you please, which has attracted Commerce Commission complaints in the past. The system was designed to eliminate queues and prevent festival vendors from having to muddle around with cash. What it actually achieved was half hour lines just to top up the payment card, then another half hour line to actually buy the food itself, as well as the hidden costs of a wristband activation fee and refund fees.

But for all the logistical negatives and seemingly organisational incompetence, the festival vibe was nothing short of good fun. Kicked off by Kiwi artists, rising Kiwi acoustic pop performer Mitch James delivered one of the brightest performances in a line up almost exclusively dominated by international acts. The 24 year old first performed on the bottom of the bill in 2017, and in the last 24 months his success as as songwriter has drawn crowds New Zealand wide. Sons of Zion got the crowd feeling those summer paradise vibes, and Mako Road drew everyone to the stage like magnets.

But by the evening, Halsey had flown in and taken the stage – but didn’t immediately take the audiences breath away.

“I thought you guys were nuts, but right now you’re acting like a bunch of f**king Americans”

The backlash sparked a few headlines, before she cleared up the controversy on twitter, calling the crowd “f**king epiccc”. And by the end of her set, it’s exactly what they were. Performing two of her biggest hits with her most popular collaboration with The Chainsmokers “Closer”, as well as her own “Without Me”, she ended her set with confetti dropping on everyone, before flying out twenty minutes later.

An hour and a half later, Tyler took the stage in what has been one of New Zealand’s most anticipated performances in recent years. The last time he was in the country was in 2012, and following visits have been cancelled since he was barred twice for being charged with inciting a riot and filling his lyrics with sexist and homophobic slurs. But there was not a single mention of that, in fact, most of his set pretty much lacked any commentary, except for telling nearby EDM artist NetSky playing at a stage a few hundred metres away to “turn that shit down”. But what Tyler did do was get the crowds absolutely wild. Dressed in his quintessential Igor suit and wig, his performance really demonstrated how far he has come as an artist, particularly in the last few years. Performing almost his entire new album, he even treated the crowds to a brief rendition of “EARFQUAKE” on piano. By the end of his set, he left the audience leaving to “See you again”, hinting at the fact he will most certainly be back soon enough.

Bay Dreams has what it needs to be an absolutely stellar festival. It’s got the name recognition, its got the evident support of some of New Zealand and the world’s biggest names, and being based in Mount Maunganui is one of the best possible spots in the country for a music festival. But what let it down was more issues which other festivals seem to have negotiated just fine. Walking out of the gates, some people had seriously wondered why they had paid hundreds of dollars to wait in line all day, only occasionally getting to see the action. But stellar performances from practically every name on the lineup made up for it, for me anyway.

ETHAN GRIFFITHS is Tearaway’s Political Editor. Young, passionate and a wannabe babysitter for Neve Ardern, Ethan won’t stop talking about politics. Likes a bit of cricket, wearing trendy ties and is in love with Jeff the purple wiggle.

Read More from ETHAN GRIFFITHS:

OPINION: New Zealand’s Most Influential Politicians of the Last Decade

WOMAD: Diversity and Love in the Midst of Grief

Erebus Disaster: Forty Years On

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