Bay Dreams Festival, Tauranga New Zealand, 2018

Bay Dreams 
2nd January 2018
ASB Baypark Stadium, Tauranga, New Zealand.

Review by Sarah Kidd. Photography by Logan West & Jared Donkin.

Bay Dreams 2018 - Image by Logan West | Bay Dreams

It’s the holiday season in the land of the long white cloud and the throes of summer are well and truly in force; and with the sun comes festival season! While New Zealanders are now days spoilt for choice, one of the biggest players in the market has to be the relative newbie Bay Dreams.

Starting from humble beginnings in 2016, Bay Dreams; presented by Audiology and PATO Entertainment can now proudly hold the title of the largest festival of the summer (so far) with 25,000 in attendance and a plethora of big name acts. For veterans of the Big Day Out era, Bay Dreams 2018 would have felt overwhelmingly familiar, the layout and services available very similar but with a decidedly fresher and more upmarket feel. While a cloning machine would have come in handy so that all of the acts could be witnessed – so much talent, so little time – the following is a taste of what was on offer; Kicking off at midday all four stages saw some of the best acts New Zealand has available, from Sons of Zion through to our own gorgeous pop princess Theia, there was certainly no shortage of homegrown talent.

As the sun bore down, the star quality only heated up with the sweet psych reggae sounds of Sydney based Ocean Alley being followed up by the hip hop extraordinariness of Flatbush ZOMBiES all the way from New York. If that didn’t quite whet your appetite, then the Arena stage (which being inside not only gave a reprieve from the sun but also had the wonderful ability to make you feel as if you were partying at night) had more Kiwi goodness in the form of Sachi and Homebrew.

As evening descended over Baypark Stadium, so did a delicious cool breeze and a break from the scorching sun, the wonderful period of twilight the perfect time for Kehlani (sans her back up dancers sadly due to food poisoning) to set the main stage on fire with not only her killer denim and camo attire but her music as well, ‘Undercover’ from her 2017 album ‘SweetSexySavage’ kicking it off in style. Only here in NZ just a few months ago (yes we were there, check out that review here) the fans were quite obviously ecstatic to see her once again grace our shores so soon.

The curiosity highlight of the day certainly had to go to Michael Dappah. Who you may ask? Well you may know the UK comedian and rapper by his more recognised title of Big Shaq. Yes the man that taught everyone just what exactly “quick math” is, was here to tell anyone who would listen that ‘Man’s Not Hot’, while dropping a few comedic tags along the way – bit of Oasis anyone? Big Shaq not impressed by his DJ’s choice in song much to the amusement of the crowd.

Undoubtedly one of the biggest draw cards of the night had to be MGK; fans chanting his name long before he arrived on stage. Machine Gun Kelly, both an actor and rapper from Ohio first started dabbling in music in his teens and is now one of the most in demand acts in the world. Arriving on stage in a red jacket and silver pants the hoards pressed against the barrier lost their collective minds as both MGK and his band of supremely talented musicians hit them with tracks such as ‘Golden God’, ‘At My Best’ and ‘Kiss The Sky’. With the astounding Johnny ‘Rook’ Cappelletty behind the skins and the rest of the EST 19XX Brotherhood, MGK delivered hit after hit along with a moving tribute to Chester Bennington in the form of a cover of ‘Numb’
While ‘Bad Mother Fucker’ got the crowd jumping, ‘Let You Go’ was a definite favourite with the ladies, MGK showing love for all of his fans as he jumped down into the pit to get a little closer. Finishing off with ‘Bad Things’ (featuring the sultry tones of Camila Cabello) and it is safe to say that MGK will be welcomed back with open arms when he returns in April for a four date tour… (Watch this space for more details!)

Energy levels were already high when DJ Paul Harding (aka El Hornet) from Pendulum hit, but with his skills on the decks he took that level and pushed it through the ceiling, the fans lapping up every second of both the sound and light show as he pumped out not only Pendulum favourites such as ‘The Island’, but remixes of ‘Rock Star’ by Post Malone with snippets of RHCP’s ‘Otherside’ for good measure. “I’ve always wanted to do this to a NZ audience!” El Hornet announced with a grin as he dropped the chorus to the timeless song ‘Slice of Heaven’, the crowd making him smile even more as each and every person raised their voices in song.

Meanwhile outside the Arena stage, things were becoming a little heated as fans desperately tried to make their way inside to catch New Orleans rap duo $uicideboy$. Security (shout out to all on duty for the day) managed the situation well, getting people in as fast as they could while making sure that people were safe, the duo of Ruby da Cherry and $lick $loth a ‘must see’ for many of the concert goers. Appearing at two sold out shows in Auckland just last year (you better believe Ambient Light were there too – check out that review here) the pair had promised they would be back and true to their word they put on one hell of a set; Ruby challenging the audience to prove they were truly fans who had been with them from the beginning by seeing if they would not only recognise but rap along to the classic track ‘Mount Sinai’. ‘FuckThePopulation’ and ‘Kill Yourself Part III’ were big favourites along with ‘Paris’, the boys opening up circle pits and asking for blunts in between tracks. Telling the fans they loved them all and handing out bottles of water while asking everyone to share, they left the stage only to return a few moments later for one last track – let’s face it, they are $uicideboy$, they can do what they like!

While fans flooded back out the door to get back to the main stage, one half of The Upbeats (Terror Snake/Jeremy Glenn) took to the Arena Stage and absolutely blew the crowd away (many of who were just arriving, the constant rivers of interchanging fans a sight to behold in itself) with some of the best Drum and Bass to be heard in quite a while. Tracks such as ‘Under The Sky’ and remixes of Dizzee Rascals ‘Sirens’ knocking it out of the ball park.

But credit where it’s due, taking the day out in style the Paris DJ, DJ Snake gave everyone at Bay Dreams all they could ask for. Outstanding graphics, an out of this world light show, streamers, flames, CO2 Cannons and confetti accompanied beats that worked their way up through the veins and caused explosions of ecstasy and movement throughout the limbs. Tasty portions of Grime were delivered with bravura while more mainstream tracks such as ‘Lean On’, ‘Let Me Love You’ – DJ Snake encouraging all to sing the chorus – and ‘Middle’ had even the event crew dancing to themselves. DJ Snake even came down to the front of the stage for a bit of a rap battle with Big Shaq, fans not at all complaining to once again hear ‘Man’s Not Hot’.

And just like that, with a final burst of confetti and a shout out to all involved with the event Bay Dreams 2018 was over, the ever helpful event staff helping to guide patrons back to their respective campgrounds or towards the buses that had generously been provided for the day. Bigger, better and beautifully organised with only a smattering of almost non-descript tech difficulties, Bay Dreams has certainly cemented itself as the ‘must attend’ music festival of the NZ Summer.

See you all next year!

Were you there at ASB Baypark Stadium for this brilliant summer festival? Or have you been to a prior version of Bay Dreams? Tell us about it in the comments below! 

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