Was this the best WOMAD festival to date?
The sun, the sounds, the colours and the crowds – thousands packed out Womad at the weekend to enjoy a world-class music festival that delivered yet again.
More than 30,000 people were treated to 400 artists performing on six stages in the TSB Bowl of Brooklands and Brooklands Park.
Somehow, Womad organised the weather gods and about 2500 campers took advantage of the brilliant sunshine to pack into Pukekura Raceway.
On Saturday, spots in the shade were a priority as the sun beat down on the throng soaking up the charismatic performances.
Taranaki Arts Festival Trust chief executive Suzanne Porter said tickets sales were boosted by the weather and a strong walk up crowd.
So much so, the trust would possibly break even.
For a festival whose artist costs top $1 million of its budget, that was very good news.
Ms Porter said youth attendance was again high, and they had taken to the dance zone in the later hours.
Repositioning the chimney stage this year had also been a positive, with audiences enjoying more room.
The party kicked off early on Saturday afternoon with Watussi, an Australian group led by a Colombian ex-pat and cranking out a real Latin American sound.
This was Womad experienced close up, with the oldies working their salsa moves on the very edge of the lake and Mexican sombreros the head wear of choice.
One of those in the groove was Ruby Jane, 22, from Coromandel, who was experiencing her first Womad.
"I love it. It's beautiful and dynamic – a cultural mash," she said, moving in time to the music.
Woodfired Pizza stall owner Rob Roughan was enjoying the atmosphere just as much as the punters lined up plenty deep for his self-taught, well-proofed, authentic pizzas.
"It's more of a mature audience here and they're all having fun. It's casual and vibrant and good for us."
Next up was the much anticipated Alabama 3 Acoustic and Unplugged, and while lead singer Larry Love has claimed no musician is truly original, he goes pretty close.
"You people are not on your laptops, you're out here. It's nice to see real people out in the field talking to each other," Love said.
It felt as if their country blues techno had been whipped away from a dingy pub in London and dropped into the middle of Taranaki.
Word has it there's usually a dark horse act at Womad who take festival-goers by surprise with their brilliance.
This year was no exception. Wacky Japanese group Pascals was the name on many lips.
Who doesn't love a large man, topless under a plastic poncho, playing the drums on his belly?
On Sunday, Melbourne band Bombay Royale stole the show, with their quirky mix of Indian and funk pulling a lethargic crowd to its feet.
The mood was buffered at night by Sharon Shannon Big Band and crowd favourites Staff Benda Bilili, bringing the festival atmosphere to a crescendo. Although an activist was spotted on Sunday afternoon protesting deep sea drilling, New Plymouth police said there were no problems.
Mongolian musician Nars, who was burned during a cooking demonstration at the festival on Friday night, was back in the saddle performing on Saturday.
And although problems with the i-phone app were reported from some festival-goers, Ms Porter said there was room to improve that aspect next year.
The stage is set, then, for the festival to stay in Taranaki.
"There's no intention to move Womad at all. But it absolutely requires the partnership base to keep it here and we're so well supported."
"We're at the point where we know things are working really well.
"There's been very few issues to deal with, but as a CEO I can now enjoy the festival and see more of the acts."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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