‘Back to the future’ isn’t a theme Rhythm and Vines Co-Founder Hamish Pinkham and his team thought they’d be working alongside ahead of this Summer’s instalment of Gisborne’s world-renowned New Years festival. But like so many within the entertainment industry, COVID-19 has forced mammoth adaptations to R&V’s first announcement lineup, dropped on Wednesday evening.
“We’ve almost come full circle," Pinkham explains. "We’ve chased the big overseas names, we’ve had some great success with Calvin Harris and Chance the Rapper but now we’re back to our roots. R&V started as a Kiwi party and we’ve always been really proud of promoting Kiwi music and being a stage for bands to aspire to.”
When Rhythm and Vines made its debut back in 2003 at the now-iconic Waiohika Estate, the festival was predominantly made up of New Zealand acts until it deservedly started to gain international credibility. But unprecedented times and circumstances have seen new and fresh New Zealand acts spanning a wide variety of genres, age and gender make their debut R&V appearances to fill vacant spots.
Prolific bands with extensive careers under their belts such as Fat Freddy’s Drop spearhead the 52-act lineup, returning to Gisborne for the first time in 15 years. Shapeshifter will also grace the main stage with their electric and heart-racing set for the first time since 2011.
R&V was the last major festival in the country to release their lineup, but that certainly wasn’t a cause for concern. Time was firmly on Pinkham’s side after the public’s response to last year’s instalment. As New Zealanders pined for their freedom during the initial lockdown, the event sold out well before any of the artists attending were named. It was the lure of the festival experience - combined with a faith that R&V would deliver the talent and tunes on stage - that has drawn them in.
R&V back when social distancing meant leaving the dance amphitheatre to hang with your mates.
And permitting the recent second wave of COVID-19 is managed and dissolved, the 20,000 festival-goers will burst through the gates come late December. The festival's lineup highlights diversity and gives young bands such as There’s a Tuesday, Daffodils and Park Rd given their chance to stand out as the New Year beckons.
“It’s an important conversation to be part of, and I think Rhythm and Vines needs to help take the lead on some of these debates and conversations and make sure we’re promoting a wide spectrum and diverse section of the community.”
One of those notable Kiwi female acts singing the praises of R&V’s lineup is Ladi6. The 37-year old’s career has taken her across the globe numerous times but is ecstatic to be spending the final days of 2020 performing to the people of Aotearoa.
“I am always grateful to just be playing at any festival, and Rhythm and Vines is such a huge festival as well. I’m always totally appreciative.”
Ladi6 in action.
Ladi6 will be bringing her soulful Hip-Hop and RnB set to Gisborne for just the second time in her career which has spanned close to 20 years. She's extremely enthused at seeing the large contingent of female acts like Benee, Jess B, Paige, Cassie Henderson and many more making the initial list alongside her in the first release.
“I’m really encouraged by this lineup. Gender diversity is there but also genre diversity is there.
“I think it’s been desperately needed in the music industry internationally and across the globe since, always. I think the great thing that will come out of it is that we will get better female leads and female bands coming out of New Zealand because they get the opportunity to experience these stages and play to those kinds of audiences, and it really ups your game.
“I can see that if the trajectory continues this way, New Zealand is going to have more incredible musicians representing our country, and the kind of styles and cultures we have here.”
While the entire line-up thus far is entirely New Zealand based, Pinkham hasn’t entirely ruled out acts from off-shore making an appearance if restrictions were to ease, and continues to field a large magnitude of calls and offers from promoters and managers worldwide.
The Vines Amphitheatre is a scene music lovers have only been able to dream of for most of the year.
“We’re hoping to get a few artists in. People are keen, people want the work.
“It feels like the A-list stars are gonna hold themselves up for a year or two and not chase the dollar, but certainly the more hungry and ambitious stars are knocking on our doors.”
But for now, the focus remains fully on the known and soon-to-be known homegrown talent, set for their chance to shine due to the unique and truly unforeseen circumstances.
“What a fantastic opportunity to help blood some new talent coming through. It feels like this new generation of talent is going to get some amazing opportunities to step up this year. I think it’s going to be a really exciting time for the exposure of the new acts coming through.”
Despite great turbulence and forced adjustments for Pinkham and his R&V crew, the central mission has never diverted off course.
“People are there to have fun, we’re there to entertain and we expect our acts to do the same.”
Everyone will be looking to put 2020 behind them. For those making the trek to Gisborne, at least they can look forward to doing so in style.
Where 20,000 Kiwis will call home for the last days of 2020.