Festival One 2015 [Review + Photos]

by - Monday, January 26, 2015

currently: listening to Paper Route 'Two Hearts'
[Note: I only attended Friday night and Saturday night, so this review is generalised and focused on the acts rather than the festival as a whole.]

The inaugural launch of Festival One was full of expectations. After the iconic Parachute Music Festival lived long and hard into her twenties before packing up her stage, an eager, bright eyed Christian festival was keen to fill its place.

A festival that was pretty much Parachute reincarnated (or should I say resurrected?), Festival One was set for the exact same days Parachute would run, the exact same location, with the same camping grounds, and bringing the big acts only Parachute could get (aka my favourite California boys, Switchfoot). So if Festival One sounded like Parachute, organised like Parachute, and behaved like Parachute, does it make it Parachute?

Easy answer: no.

I will admit it has been a few years since I last did Parachute, but the vibe is completely different to Festival One. Parachute was a seasoned festival but Festival One, greeting you with colourful bunting and painted pianos, was freshing and relaxed. It was kind of like walking into Tumblr's outdoor decor tag - a creative community that was more about being carefree and friendships rather than the rush of bouncing from one act to the other.

HALFNOISE

The first act that we caught at the One Arena (the old Palladium stage) was HalfNoise, best known as ex-Paramore Zac Farro's new band. I haven't really been familiar with their music but by how much Zac talked about New Zealand and spending the months in the country writing his album, he clearly loves this country. (He has also just announced to be a support act for Broods' national tour.)

His set list swung well between the slow crooners and the drum solos he excels in best (he was the drummer for Paramore). And I never knew how decent Zac is on vocals - his talent wasn't by far not used enough when he was in Paramore. The songs 'Mountain' and 'Your Ghost' were definitely my favourites.


LATE 80s MERCEDES

Late 80s Mercedes is a band you'd love to have at your weddings, or any public gathering really. I hadn't really caught a lot of them at the last Parachute but this time, inside the big One Arena on a Friday night, it was the perfect place for them.

Playing a mix of covers, their own songs, and even a Christmas song, Late 80s Mercedes brought so much energy you didn't want Friday night, or their set, to end (except for the confused time where some of the crowd chanted for 'one more song', not realising their set was still another 15 minutes.) From 'Uptown Funk', to 'Shake it Off', and even the two kids they brought up to perform 'Lose Yourself' by Eminem, each song was played with their funk jazz flair. You couldn't help but dance along.


ARK OF HOPE (not actually a band but a feature at Festival One)

On our return to Saturday night, we (my sister, Boyfriend and I) decided to visit one of the rooms, the Ark of Hope (on the other half of One Arena). Inside, surrounded by booths from various Christian colleges and groups, was this massive area you could basically use to craft. We stopped on one mat where they had laid out all this scrap fabric we could use to make bracelets, wrapping these pieces together to symbolise strength. 
As a craft geek, this is the sort of stuff I do love. I've never seen this sort of thing at a festival before, and it was quite cool that we could just chill there for half an hour and put together these bracelets. I got all fancy with the burlap twine and brown suede, and even used the remnants of this heart someone else had used to make a tag. It ended up far too short to become an actual bracelet but I think it was pretty awesome. And it was great to just add it among the other artworks and words of inspiration hanging on this fence. 
(below: Boyfriend's, mine and my sister's contributions)
The only thing I wish I could have done though is entered the photography competition they had running - unfortunately the printers didn't work so I didn't get to submit an entry for. But how awesome it is to even take part in the photography or short film competition. This is really a creative's festival.


PAPER ROUTE

Neither my sister or Boyfriend knew who Paper Route was but I basically dragged them with me to watch it (and also it was a good time to secure spots for Switchfoot right after). My sister really enjoyed watching them, comparing their music to Coldplay. To me they're a bit more like OneRepublic but either way, I loved their last album and was so stoked to finally see them.

The funny thing was in the second row of the crowd where we were, we actually made friends with these two little kids who were chanting out Switchfoot, and this other guy called Eljah who was clearly the biggest Paper Route fan in the arena. And because of that it was actually more fun to be into Paper Route. 'Two Hearts' and 'Better Life' went off really well, and JT is amazing at vocals. But I was a little disappointed to not hear 'You and I' which is my favourite Paper Route song. But they were actually performing a couple of times across the entire festival, so maybe I just got unlucky. 


SWITCHFOOT

No lie, the fanatic Switchfoot fam in me has never died. The reason why we were at Festival One was soley for Switchfoot. For Christmas, I offered to buy my boyfriend and sister half-festival tickets so we could watch these guys perform (it was Boyfriend's first time.) And by the feel of the crowd, it was clear that we weren't the only ones who bought tickets for them. Sometimes I feel being in a concert crowd is like being in a wild, chaotic church. Not in the sense that we're worshipping the band, but the hunger a crowd has for music can be so overwhelming, you just want to throw your being into the moment. That's what it's like for me at a Switchfoot concert.

Switchfoot went from hit to hit, lights flashing everywhere, and lead singer Jon throwing his body and energy to everything - literally. It only took three songs before Jon crowd surfed (see my friend Olly's photo here). Out of every concert I've been to, Jon is the only person I know who will actually get into the audience, greeting fans as he sings. At one point, we all lost track of him during 'Love Alone is Worth the Fight', only for the sea of fans to part, and Jon to come up from behind me. I don't even remember what I was thinking but I seem to think it was okay to reach for him and help support him climb over the crowd barrier. Like my scrawny 5ft 2 help actually meant anything. And later on while JT from Paper Route joined Switchfoot on stage, Jon still disappeared into another part of the crowd.

I think the most difficult thing about being a massive fan in a festival is that the bands you love definitely won't play all the songs you want. At one point in the concert, Jon did ask 'do you guys want more rock and roll or more mellow?' Clearly, everyone said rock and roll because there was no slowing the mood. But in the 1 hour, 15 minute set - most of the songs were either from their latest album or their big hits. Ending with 'Where I Belong' did make up for most of those feelings, because far out it is the best ending of a concert to ever have.

JON FOREMAN (Post-show acoustic set)

My sister was in the midst of running after Tim Foreman from Switchfoot when she received the text 'Come to the Market now! Jon Foreman acoustic show!' So we bolted back to find Jon on top of the Marketplace stage, singing to a group of 150 people. Jon acoustic sets are never really planned, they just happen and it felt really special to witness one. From 'Just Rob Me' trying to get Kiwis into the country 'yeeeha!' to 'Company Car' (when he accidentally swallowed a bug. Those New Zealand moths, man), and then even taking requests from fans as we all sang along to 'Learning to Breathe' and 'Your Love is Strong', we really did feel like a community. But we weren't really into putting our arms around each other and swinging shoulder to shoulder like Jon suggested at one point - sorry Jon but we were just a bit too hot and sweaty in summer for that sort of personal contact.

Our Festival One experience ended on Saturday as the organiser, Graham Burt, thanked Jon for his solo acoustic performance, for sticking around for a late night even though Jon was flying back for his daughter's birthday the next day, and that if the people could pray for him. As I watched everyone reach their hands towards Jon, that moment became the most impressionable memory of our short time at Festival One. It was about being a community, enjoying freedom and loving honest creative music. While Parachute Festival is gone, I hope that this awesome start from Festival One, and amazing bands, will continue on every January at Mystery Creek. They've got a good thing going.

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