Last weekend I went to Auckland to go to the St Jerome's Laneway Festival, an event I enjoyed tremendously. I got to see some musical acts I really like - The Horrors, Feist, Shayne P. Carter, and some I thought I might be interested in - Yuck, Girls, M83, Opossum, Anna Calvi. And - I got to eat food that was not only "good for festival food", but was actually good food regardless of where it came from.
If you were to crassly generalise about the sort of music festival it was, the brief was, I guess, "indie". So - if you are going to have an "indie" music festival, I guess you also oughta have kinda "indie" food, somehow. Right?
Let's get something straight - I am not someone who goes to music festivals. I have never been to the Big Day Out (though I kinda wish I went the year The Strokes and The Flaming Lips played), let alone the bloody Gathering or one of those ones that also involves camping. I did go to one day of the Reading Festival in the UK about 1999. Foo Fighters. Supergrass. Travis. Meh. And as for the food - from memory, uber-meh.
That it was in Auckland central, down on the waterfront, was a plus. It meant if the food there was crappy, I could do a bit of a bunk and go get something decent to eat from downtown - I am not trapped in a field somewhere eating soggy, overpriced chips that taste like engine grease. But - amazingly - it really didn't come to that.
In the Laneway promo spiel, Hugh Sundae had mentioned a Hungarian fried bread that was apparently all the rage with the Auckland hunger hipsters. I kicked off with some of that when I arrived at 12.30. Delicious - if singlehandedly capable of undoing all my good work swimming and eating healthy(ish) since New Year. I had it plain, with a dusting of garlic salt. Really good - it's a bit like Maori fried bread? You could also get it with toppings, though I never did quite find out what they were...
Fortunately, as it was a hot, balmy Auckland day, there was a stall selling "Nice Blocks". I had a chocolate, raspberry and coconut number that really was pretty ace. There was also a place doling out free cream freezes, but I realised this a little bit too late...
Rather confirming what I had always held to be a myth (that deep-fried battery stuff isn't actually all that filling), I soon had a hunger for something a little more substantial. Just round the way was a very well patronised stall doing Mexican food - burritos and tacos - chicken, beef, beans, fish. And PERFECT for howling "chicken tacos! BEEF tacos! FISH TACOS" in the voice of NZ Masterchef judge Simon Gault. I had a chicken number that was tasty and substantial, if a little hard to eat without squirting taco juice all over my be-jandalled feet.
Now satiated, I took the task in hand a little more seriously, and went and watched some bands. The atmosphere really was astonishingly pleasant - loads of people of all ages just having a great day out in the sun, listening to some pretty fresh, new(ish) music, and availing themselves of food and drink from sellers that weren't just pushing the usual crappy festival fodder. Decent sets from Feist and The Horrors, as well as a goodly serving of festival-fuelling beer (though they ran out of beer at 9pm, I didn't really see that many really drunken people - perhaps something to do with the free water refills?), soon found me looking for more sustenance, before checking out Shayne P Carter closing out the smaller stage (Gotye, SBTRKT and M83 on the main stage - not really my bag).
Plus One hit one of Fritz's Wieners - basically, a really good German sausage in a bun with sauce and mustard, while I dug it in and ordered one of my unfashionable faves - a Hawaiian pizza, albeit a crispy, thin-based woodfired one. Really actually quite delicious, decent sized, and an excellent value meal for a tenner. And then we watched Carter wrap things up with a long, tripped-out version of the Dimmer fave Seed, and went on our merry way - mildly boozed, ears ringing and, perhaps most surprisingly, well fed.
This really was a terrifically well conceived and organised event, with everything, from the band lineup, to the venue, to the tone of the security presence (friendly, upbeat, not heavy at all), and, lastly but by no means leastly, the food stalls, being impeccably well chosen to contribute to the overall atmosphere of the day. Sure, there was the odd quibble - the queues for drinks tickets sure backed up, and you probably don't really want to have run out of beer an hour before the festival ends, but somehow, the whole thing has combined to feel not like a big, corporate event, but like a great big "indie" party celebration. And - from my perspective, as someone who worries that there will be nothing good to eat, a weight off of my mind.
Job well done, Laneway organisers - I'll see you next year (which is more than can be said for a certain budget airline, which cancelled my return flight with a midnight text message the night before, and offered me another flight four days later).
Did you go to St Jerome's Laneway Festival? And did you enjoy it? What did you eat - was it good? How did it compare to other festivals you have attended, in particular in terms of the food on offer?
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