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Festival Review: Auckland City Limits 2018

08 Mar 2018 // A review by Paul Goddard
Here we go again. It's a stunning day and the rain has held off. It's also early as I enter Western Springs armed with more wristbands and laminates than should ever be needed for a festival. Immediately I am told to load up one of the wristbands with some $$ as it is a cashless site. OK, makes sense if it works and guess what? It works very well. Easy to use, no queues and an instant cash refund if you have any $$ left on your tag. 

Off to one of the many bars and I must admit that I was disappointed with a choice of either 2.5% proof beer or normal strength Cider. Off I go exploring and find a bar that sells some normal strength beer (the queues for this one got too big by mid-afternoon) I understand that organisers of these events want people to drink responsibly and it is a condition of the licensing laws, but I would have preferred it if the customer had the choice (and took responsibility) rather than just being given limited options. 

OK, so loaded (not) with my purple festival mug. I head to the main stage to catch an early set from Alien Weaponry. I have seen these guys a few times before and to be honest I could never get past the novelty factor. Last time I saw them the metal inflected between song banter just cracked me up. Today though something has broken. Their voices!! Finally, it all makes sense, yes, they are still very young, but the set is polished, and they do a great job of warming up what is a decent crowd for an opening act. They do seem to get a little lacklustre mid-set but get fired back up again after the power goes out to the guitar amp - the final three songs are a great example of some original metal and it's clear Alien Weaponry have a bright and twisted future. 

Next up is Head Like a Hole. Local legends, they were always going to pull a decent crowd and they didn't disappoint. Their fucked up punked up West Coast Bogan Rock n Roll assault kept the juices flowing. It was my first Head Like a Hole experience, and whilst I thought they would go down much better in a sweaty bar, they clearly enjoyed themselves as did the few hundred people watching. 

I wander over to the smaller stages and catch the tail end of the Staves set. To be honest I wish I had got there sooner. Reading their bio, I thought it was going to be a bit dull, but the harmonies were spellbinding, and they have some tunes. Perfect music for a sunny Saturday afternoon.

When it comes to perfect music for a sunny day you can't beat the reggae blast as Katchafire take the stage. The venue is filling, and the vibe is tripped out, blissed out and the crowd is dancing. There appear to be about 15 musicians on stage as Katachafire show why they are as good as any band in their genre anywhere in the world. Multi-talented, multi-instrumental, with a multitude of vocalists. Perfection. 

I was told to check out Car Seat Headrest and I am so glad I did. They look like a bunch of dorky teenagers but come across like The Strokes crashing into Pulp. They were great to watch, moving all over the stage and kept the perfect pop vibe rolling on.  That was about to change as my favourite act of the day stroll onto the stage all looking as battered as their clothing. The Libertines aren't renowned for playing the tightest set of songs and even though it's only 4.30 pm they seem like they have been partying for a few hours already. They crash through a set of songs mainly from their debut album Up the Bracket. Pete is happy and sloppy, Karl is having a great time. The friction between the pair has been replaced with duelling guitars and a, "we don't give a fuck" attitude. Who knows how long The Libertines will last? It doesn't matter, they are all about living in the moment. 

Compared to The Libertines, The D4 are tight. They look lean and mean and are still as vital now as they were 15 years ago. They blast through a flawless set that brought back some great memories and also won over a few new converts. Let's hope the reunion wasn't just for these shows. As the sun sets The D4 come out shining. 

Grace Jones doesn't play my style of music, but I wanted to take a look and so did most of the people in Western Springs! Why the hell was she on one of the smaller side stages? It was clear she was going to be a big draw and people were straining to get a view. By far the biggest crowd of the day, she kept us waiting 30 mins, but it was worth it. Her voice soared above everything, she was slightly unhinged, carrying on vocals in between songs, chastising the band for getting impatient and starting a song without her. This is all part of the Grace Jones magic. I remember watching her as a kid and she scared me. She has not lost any of that fire and creativity and was a highlight. 

I make one final trek to the main stage to catch Beck and was unfortunate enough to be subjected to 15 mins of Justice. Honestly, I just don't get it. The stack of Marshall speakers was an added insult to any musician watching. Justice dampened my mood and to be honest, Beck just didn't manage to live up to the hype. He was battling with the sound coming from one of the other stages, and whilst songs like Loser were a highlight I found myself, drifting away. 

Overall ACL 2018 was a success, we need a festival like this, long may it continue. 

Review written by Paul Goddard

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