At Splore, you might find yourself dancing on a moonlit beach next to someone dressed in a banana suit.
Sunday morning at the French crêpes stall. A young guy – slightly hungover, his stubbled cheeks pink with sunburn – claps eyes on a kindred spirit in the breakfast queue. “Mate!” he exclaims, slapping him on the shoulder. “Remember me? I was the cow! Bring it in…”
Could he have been the frisky friesian we’d spotted by the main stage twerking to electro swing duo The Correspondents the night before? Maybe – but dressing up is all part of the vibe at Splore, and there were a few cow onesies among the crowd last year.
“Splore” is an old Scottish Gaelic word that means having a frolicking and carousing good time, says director John Minty, who describes the three-day music and arts festival as a state of mind, rather than a key demographic. “It’s based on the people who come and the attitude they bring. It’s more than the music; it’s that sense of community – almost creating a private sanctuary that’s your own little nirvana.”
Splore burst into life as a New Year’s party back in the late 90s, before taking up residence at Tapapakanga Regional Park, south-east of Auckland, in 2006, where the stunning beachside setting on the Firth of Thames has made it an eco-friendly favourite on the international festival circuit (reusable designer drinking cups – “Globelets” – have become annual collector’s items). Weddings are held on site and dedicated Splorers – both performers and festivalgoers – keep coming back every year.
The 2017 line-up includes a return visit by Dub Pistols, an “intimate” performance by Hollie Smith, Los Angeles-based hip-hop duo Blackalicious (whose hit single “Alphabet Aerobics” was performed by Daniel Radcliffe on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon), funk-soul from the Cuban Brothers, and Lady Leshurr, whose “Queen’s Speech 4” rap went viral on YouTube.
The New Zealand Dance Company will perform Lumina, then hit the beach on Sunday for a family show, The Adventures of Xin; there’ll be interactive art works, the traditional Saturday night costume party, and a roving circus troupe from The Dust Palace. Free camping is included in the ticket price and parking is discounted if you carpool (February 17-19, www.splore.net).