Shapeshifter, Matakana 2021. - Photo by Mark Russell

Writing about Te Waipounamu raves got me thinking about my dream party: a sustainable utopia with no bar, ample camping areas (where you can self-cater), breathtaking views, and loved-up dancers. The best festivals ran from day to night and back again (sometimes twice), so Part Two will list my night to day line-up. I’ve deliberately left off a few big names who are still touring regularly in favour of some of their side projects, or those acts that don’t play live as often, or are now sadly defunct. Track wise, I went with the ones that would definitely get me up dancing, or for the more ambient acts, lying down to feel the bass vibrating through the ground. This is my ultimate party, so please don’t get your tie-dyeds in a twist if your favourite acts are missing – just join in the fun with your own line-up.


Midday: Paddy Free feat. Richard Nunns, Te Wharetatao & Tiki Taane – Wairua (karekare: te reo o to whenua, 2009)

Having been fortunate enough to hear Pitch Black plenty of times, I’m leaving the dynamic duo off these line-ups in favour of their lesser-known solo incarnations, and what better way to follow up an opening pōwhiri, than with waiata from Paddy Free’s debut album. Incorporating te reo, taonga pūoro, and environmental found sounds, this truly is the language of our land, inspired by Karekare but recognisable across the motu. After we’ve been gently lured into the sonic space by the more haunting, poignant compositions, ‘Wairua’ – with its skippy beat, funky bass, haka shouts, and easy to sing reo chorus – would be the track to get everyone up and massaging Papatūānuku with their feet. It features taonga pūoro expert Richard Nunns, and singers Te Wharetatao and Tiki Taane, so it’s a great way to sneak a few more Aotearoa legends onto the stage.     


1.15pm: Deep Fried Dub – Kryptology (Isaac Chambers feat. Dub Princess Remix) (Rootsology, 2016) 

Deep Fried Dub (Ben Dudding and Ben Hartley) are now based in Melbourne, but originate from my hometown Ōtautahi, and yeah, this track is another cheat to get more favourite artists on the bill, including Isaac Chambers who I first heard decades ago at the MASSIVE parties where he was a regular performer. Deep Fried Dub’s original 2014 track ‘Kryptology’, a deliciously bassy slab of dub, would probably be enough to get me up dancing, but Chambers’ 2016 remix – layering Dub Princess’ languid vocals, a light as air house beat, and delayed Mellotron riffs – is perfect for an afternoon shuffle. This version proved so popular that in 2020, Deep Fried Dub remixed ‘Back To My Roots’ by Dub Princess and Chambers, and the two tunes were released as the Rootsology EP, so I’m sure they’d all relish the chance to recreate the magic in a back to back. 


2.30pm: AHoriBuzz feat. Tali – Providence (Dick “Magik” Johnson Remix) (Into the Sunshine, 2014)

Aaron Tokona / AHoriBuzz. - Dean Mackenzie

When the sun’s high and enervating, you need someone with both charisma and energy to burn, and that act is AHoriBuzz, featuring the much-missed Aaron Tokona, our very own crack-up Hendrix/Prince hybrid. I can envisage him now: his trademark business necktie worn like a sweat band, vocally swaggering through the octaves, pulling faces with the effort of delivering funky guitar licks and improvised solos, and counting in songs with a “tahi, rua, toru, whā-kup”. The Into the Sunshine EP (featuring five tracks and their remixes) highlights what might have been, especially Dick Johnson’s slick reworking of ‘Providence’ that builds up samples of Tokona singing “shoot this party” and Tali chanting “let it burn” before culminating in a stonking rap by the latter, riffing about the future, and reminding us of her enduring talent as an MC. Tokona may have loved the spotlight, but he also liked to share.    


3.45pm: Rhombus feat. Imon Starr, Tiki Taane, MC Antsman – Onward (Knuckles Vocal Dub Mix/Original version) (Bass Player, 2002)

Another Aotearoa super group, including versatile vocalist Lisa Tomlins, Rhombus mash up a bunch of bass-heavy genres. Their hit single ‘Clav Dub’ would be the track to draw all the folk still in the campground into the dance zone, but it’s ‘Onward’ that really does it for me, and in reverse dancehall style, I’d like to hear the Knuckles Vocal Dub Mix followed by the original. Featuring Imon Starr, Tiki Taane, and Pacific Underground member MC Antsman, the remix builds slowly, a looped bassline the link to the original, upon which the effects are layered but not overly, because their job is to showcase the MC’s extended vocal mixes. It’s the perfect warm-up to the more raucous single, a busier, choppier ride, the trio all complementing each other with their unique styles – but it’s Antsman’s smooth rhymes and understated delivery that stand out on both versions. 



5pm: Home Brew – Benefit (Home Brew, 2012)

Home Brew, from left to right: Lui Silk, Tom Scott, Haz Beats.

I’ve long believed that the outdoor events had the potential to be political, and Tāmaki Makaurau agitators Home Brew certainly brought that to the inaugural Rhythm and Alps festival in 2011. I had originally planned to include ‘Listen to Us’ here, but that video requires a trigger warning for anyone still traumatised by John Key, so I’ve chosen their catchy-as swipe at the perennial myth (promoted by politicians and pundits alike) that beneficiaries in Aotearoa are “living it up”. On ‘Benefit’ (a song that “should only be played on dole day”) Home Brew rap, sing, and role-play over a funky backing track, as they mess with all the cliches about how good it is “when you make about two hundred bucks a week”. It’s parody, irony, satire, and funny as, but there is also an underlying pathos that anyone who’s ever spent any time on a benny will recognise. 


6.15pm: Kora – Politician (Volume, 2004)

Kora’s political pot-shot is aimed generically at any politician, with a simple repetitive lyric that asks, “Can you make a right decision / For all of us?” which is the reason I’ve chosen ‘Politician’ over the debut EP’s other single, ‘Burning’ – because there is nothing quite like hearing an entire festival crowd singing it. The a capella intro shows off the Kora brothers’ legendary harmonies (honed in various whānau bands) before a weighty bass line kicks in to underscore the melody. The fervent vocals dominate throughout, but a meandering guitar line and jazzy keyboard riff bring some buoyancy too. Released the same year as the contentious Foreshore and Seabed Act, Kora are on record as being sick of ‘Politician’, but perhaps they wouldn’t mind introducing it to a new generation – facing both the climate crisis and culture wars – who are going to need to be politicised like never before.  


7.30pm: The Nomad feat. Pearl Runga – Movement (Movement, 1998)

The Nomad at Methven Big Air, 2011

There’s a reason the eponymous track from The Nomad’s debut album opens his recent 25th Anniversary retrospective album, Infinite – because it still sounds fresh as. I love ‘Movement’ – it begins with a soundtrack to a storm and builds into an early slice of solid Ōtautahi D&B vibes, with the beats dancing around a melodic theme, all delivered with the lightest of touches. Then so late that you didn’t even realise it was needed, Pearl Runga floats in, singing “movement in time” – repeatedly. In its blending of starkness and that delayed, transcendent vocal, ‘Movement ‘sounds best outdoors, and it would be a fitting start to The Nomad’s journey before he roams through an impressively solid catalogue. Now settled in Westport, Daimon Schwalger continues to move musically, exploring new beats and revitalising old ones. He’s also showcased a global array of vocalists, so hopefully they’d join him on stage. 


8.45pm: Pacific Heights feat. Deanne Krieg – Realms (The Stillness, 2016)

If you’re sensing a strong Ōtautahi theme here, that’s because Christchurch has long been a centre for the Jamaican-derived genres, and when Devin Abrams left Shapeshifter to focus on Pacific Heights he brought the lush liquid vibe. The first releases were largely instrumental, but he now incorporates polished performances from a diverse range of singers, and this opener from The Stillness features Deanne Krieg’s gorgeous vocals right from the off as part of a teasing intro towards the first drop in – a bassline so fine it literally sends shivers down my spine. Abrams is the master of the both the build-up and the come-down, and there’s another drop coming, of the kind that would ensure no one was left sitting, followed by a lovely shimmery outro. Another producer that likes to roam around the percussion and bass map, Pacific Heights would be the perfect sunset act. 


10pm: Shapeshifter – Bring Change (Soulstice, 2006)

Now that it’s dark, it’s time for the bass heavyweights. By their third album, Shapeshifter had added vocalist P.Digsss to the line-up, and he totally brings it with ‘Bring Change’, featuring lyrics that tap into rave culture’s potential to be transformative. Here it’s the chorus that drops: simple words but perfect for those spaces, where we all love a singalong, and repetition is what the music is all about. The band really delivers too, with Redford Grenell introducing a few rock licks before launching into a stonking, mind-boggling beat (he’s playing that live?), and bassist Nick Robinson matching him for a rhythm mash-up that would get the dancefloor heaving. There have been some changes of line-up, but in 2024 Shapeshifter celebrate 25 years of shifting dancefloors around the world – so I’m glad that they didn’t let coming second in the RDU Roundup competition hold them back.


11.15pm: The Upbeats feat. Mara TK – Say Go (De-Evolution, 2017) 

Despite the quality of the above tunes, I have to add that ‘Say Go’ by Wellington duo The Upbeats with vocalist Mara TK may be my favourite D&B track of all time – so much so that it is included in my funeral list. It has everything: a fiendishly busy beat, contemplative quiet bits, and two mighty plunges that are properly worthy of Mara TK’s soulful vocals, as he weaves a tale of plaintive, patient love in and out of those grinding bass and drums. I’ve been an Upbeats fan since their 2004 eponymous debut, the first six tracks of which are so perfectly sequenced I’d actually want to hear it as the beginning of their set, so that when 2017’s ‘Say Go’ played I’d be well primed to ignore my weak ankle and pull out some kick-stepping – because that beat demands nothing less.