Wacky costumes galore at beer festival

Punters enjoy the Great Kiwi Beer Festival

VICKI ANDERSON
Last updated 05:00 30/03/2014

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Sun, fine beer and sweet sounds - what better way to say goodbye to the summer we never really had?

Although this festival was devoted to an appreciation for craft beersies, live music is vital to create an atmosphere.

Arriving as Auckland band Tahuna Breaks were starting their set, I was immediately impressed.

Well versed festival performers, although it was early afternoon they drew a large crowd of dancers with groove friendly reggae/electro funk songs including crowd pleasers Smooth and Giddy Up. It was their last gig with drummer, and founding member, Tim Gemmell. He will be missed but Tahuna Breaks farewelled him in style.

Returning to their hometown, Mi-Sex were up next.

Since reforming for a one-off Christchurch quake charity concert in Australia in 2011, they have continued on, playing the live circuit again for the first time in decades. Fronted now by lead singer Steve Balbi  of Noiseworks and Electric Hippies, they are even back in the studio working on new material.

A notable frontman is difficult to replace but Balbi, wearing eye make-up and a top hat, was charismatic, leading the band through classic Mi-Sex songs like But You Don't Care, Not Such A Bad Boy and, of course, Computer Games.

With the refrain: "Isn't it good to be alive?" often repeated, their set was eclectic, bouncing between pop and rock, but Mi-Sex's performance was consistently tight, energetic and engaging.

Fronted by Mark Williams, Dragon, or "dragging it on" as one punter commented, headlined the festival. 

Champions of the pub rock Australian scene in its prime, the crowd, warmed by the vibe, the sun and their appreciation of top craft beer and food, enjoyed the nostalgic set.

Williams sings every note correctly but he lacks swagger. Was his guitar actually plugged in? It was difficult to tell.

At one point, when the crowd didn't sing loudly enough Williams said: "You're assholes", and there was a long pause before he added "but I love you". 

Their set included well known Dragon hits such as April Sun in Cuba and Are You Old Enough? but also a lot of covers including John Farnham's Age of Reason. But it was the random inclusion of a cover of Kool and the Gang's Celebration mid-set, which theoretically was suitable for the occasion, but lacked credibility. It felt a little like "Dragon, the Musical". Maybe Dragon are just sick of playing their own songs?

Their set ended with their song Rain just as the last local festival of summer drew to a close.

No worries - the beer was chilled and so was the crowd, with more than 13,000 Cantabrians drawn to the popular festival.

Cheers to the next one.

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