One man, one paddock and 16 bands

23:23, Nov 21 2012
READY TO ROCK: The site of music festival Neilstock

Woodstock is coming to South Waikato - again.

For the past six years, bands have performed and rocked out during a two-day music festival in a farm paddock near Tirau.

Neilstock, as it's known, celebrates its sixth birthday this Saturday. Neil Donald, 33, by trade a fashion cutter for Auckland design label Zambesi, is the man responsible for the festival at his parents' 360-acre farm.

The dawn of Neilstock, he reveals, was when he flatted with musician friend Josh Crowther. They discussed the notion of staging an outdoor gig accompanied by bonfires.

In the early days of Neilstock, the festival consisted of two bands and a makeshift stage of two tractor trailers, a bass amp and a guitar amp. The stage was set up next to a large heap of fallen trees and twigs to make up a bonfire.

"It seemed a good idea to have a few bands, light a bonfire and celebrate Guy Fawkes, and get out of Auckland really," Donald says.

"A few people from Taranaki turned up after seeing the Twitch play in New Plymouth and hearing they were coming here. They travelled up that day. I was pretty impressed."

The festival has grown in numbers over the years, with this year's line-up of 16 bands marking the biggest Neilstock ever.

Donald says he was looking at signing on an additional three bands for a Sunday session of acoustic sets, while people are waking up and having breakfast.

How would he describe the variety of acts? The short answer: "Anything that takes my fancy."

The longer answer: "The opening act is Georgia Lines, she's my wildcard. I always have one a year so I don't know what she sounds like. Acoustic, I think she is.

"There's also Bear Hat which is kind of rock'n'roll; 71 Sunset which is a bit metal;and there's a bit of ska and a bit of psychedelic rock with Inside Out...It's kind of all over the place in terms of genre."

One of the charms of Neilstock is that tickets are bought at the gate of the Totman Road paddock, and there's a bring-your-own tent, barbecue, and alcohol policy.

It's a family friendly festival, open to all ages.

"There are camping grounds up on the hill and the two stages are down on the bottom. It's kind of flat for a dance area and there's going to be porta-loos scattered around the area," said Donald.

Auckland company The Rock Factory have provided the stage, sounds and lighting in the later years.

"We've got two side-curtain trailers. That makes it easier, while one band is playing the other can set up. There is no waiting between the two."

The number of official complaints that Neilstock has attracted over the years is... absolutely zero...

"That is one of the joys of living in the country. All the neighbours get complimentary tickets. They always turn up and have a right roaring time," said Donald.

He declares there is no doubt Neilstock will be on-going.

"There is no chance of it being shut down. I mean it has become such a thing it would be a shame to stop it."

For rustic charm, Neilstock is hard to beat. Donald said, "The first band will play at 12pm and the last at 1am and its open stage after that, will go on into the wee hours. We've had bands just get up and start jamming together. So that's been pretty cool."

As he poetically puts it, "One man, one paddock, what is the worst that could happen?"