The Bay is becoming a new home for music festivals in New Zealand.
Spring Things - on at the Mount's Soper Reserve over Labour Weekend - Bay Dreams and One Love, The Food Wine & Music Festival, Katikati's Avocado Food & Wine Festival, there are more and more...
The one I personally enjoy most of all has just announced its latest incarnation. Live Music at the Lettuce Inn #7 will happen on Saturday, November 9, at its regular location - gardens amongst avocado groves on the Liberty Growers’ hydroponic lettuce and herb farm at 33 Sedgemoor Lane in Katikati.
Each time this festival rolls around – it usually happens twice a year – I hesitate to write about it in case it suddenly becomes hugely popular and loses some of its current intimate magic. Each festival they find brilliant artists at a nascent stage of their careers who often go on to much greater things. I've seen Anthonie Tonnon, featuring at the current Arts Festival, indie darlings Soaked Oats and a host of other rising stars.
The thing is, aside from a few dedicated indie music followers, most people haven't heard of the acts at Lettuce Inn. I can only assume that is why the festival has stayed so small and friendly, attracting a couple of hundred people who sit on the grass and soak up the music while enjoying BYO picnics or the wood-fired pizzas on site.
This gathering is much the same, with a slightly greater emphasis on local performers, though there are also acts from Auckland, Wellington and Dunedin.
Okay, the bands ... there's The Afrolites, a fantastic local five-piece playing African-inflected percussion-based funk. Think Fela Kuti meets James Brown. I saw them at a previous Lettuce Inn and they were sensational. Check them out on YouTube or Spotify.
And staying with the percussion theme, there's a singing percussion band called Boomtown. Also local are a couple of soloists: 16-year-old Bree Rose from Katikati has won the Bay of Plenty regional final in Rockquest twice, the Beach hop Idol in Whangamata, and the Mount Busking Festival; even younger is 14-year-old Emily who goes under the unusual name Hurly Caught A Rat and won best vocalist in the 2019 Smokefree Rockquest BOP Finalists.
Then there's Mount Maunganui four-piece Good Morning Good Night, and Suds, a three-piece alt-rock outfit from Otumoetai College who formed out of that school's award-winning band French Doors. There's also the legendary Threat.Meet.Protocol, a band everyone should see once in their lives (at least). They self-describe as “a 2011 band that stars Evan Pope, Luke Turner and Austin Cunningham as three inept musicians who accidentally watch a cursed video while touring Japan that gives those that see it musical ability, tightness and talent beyond their means.”
Meanwhile, making their first trips to the Bay is the rather wonderful Cricket Farm, making “music for hopeless romantic conspiracy theorists”. After releasing a debut album, Bending Spoons, in 2017, the duo headed off to play shows in Europe and elsewhere. They fit in somewhere as part of the humble Flight of The Conchords universe – cute, folky songs, hilarious stage banter – and are well worth a listen. Check Spotify.
And there's Dunedin quartet Space Bats, Attack! with their full-on assault of instrumental guitar grunge. They're not easily forgotten. Again, they're Spotifyable. Spinning tracks between acts will be Auckland's DJ Kitten Witch.
The other feature of Live Music at the Lettuce Inn is a fascinating collection of artworks and installations, this year featuring work from visual artists Deano Sheriffis (Palmerston North), Dune Terrace (Auckland), Jess Covell (Katikati) and Chris Miller (Katikati).
It's a family-friendly event with family passes setting you back a mere $45. Adult pre-sale tickets are $25 via eventbrite.co.nz, and there will be limited $30 door sales, Students $10. Camping is also available by prior arrangement for $5 per person.
Gates open at 3pm which is pretty much when the music starts. Things usually wrap up around 10pm. As they say: “BYO chairs, snacks, beverages, shade and good attitudes!”
The Weekend Sun has one double pass to see the Live Music at the Lettuce Inn festival for one lucky reader.