Ambient Music

Juicy Fest, Auckland New Zealand, 2023

Juicy Fest

8th January 2023
Due Drop Events Centre, Auckland, New Zealand.

Review by Kate Taylor. Photography by Doug Peters.

Ambitious new touring music carnival Juicy Fest, arrived in Tāmaki Makaurau last night, on the last sweltering summer holiday chance for revelry before a sizeable portion of us trudge back to our chains of employment this Monday. Under the watch of a whimsical blow-up Biggie erect and proudly presiding over the event from the safety of the grounds of the near by Vector Wero Whitewater park, and nestled close to the hallowed Rainbow’s End, throngs congregated early in the blistering sun to gain access to the Due Drop Events Centre for an evening of 90’s and 2000’s reminiscing.

Like most things in life, your experience is what you make it. The catchphrase “You’re in charge of your own good time tonight” rings true here. Having the basics like a hat, sunscreen, a clear refillable 750ml water bottle, comfy shoes, a raincoat or poncho and a travel mat to sit on will help you have a really awesome time at Juicy Fest. A little dorky, maybe? But you’re giving yourself the best chance of a good time, especially if there’s very little sheltered spots available at the venue for reprieve from the elements, or places to sit to eat the food truck offerings.

The Juicy Fest on stage experience was slick and well produced, encompassing snappy stage management, engrossing video package visuals, glittering pyro and well placed fire spurts, a kaleidoscope of lighting and adept live audio engineering to combat shifting winds and accommodating swapping out of artists and set lists. Sublime. The peppy little drone was like an added mascot zipping around the grounds taking in the action to edit into a Juicy Fest Aftershow video, which themselves are rapidly gaining their own little following (Editors Note – Shout out to CO2 Media, you guys are absolutely killing it – love your work!). MC Athena Angelou was a welcome thread to connect each set, a petite power-packed performer in her own right bumping along with DJ Quest between sets.

The greatest and most formidable strength that Juicy Fest holds is its line-up. Twista was so enjoyable, the perfect way to kick things off and as ‘Overnight Celebrity’ rang through the grounds, we knew, we were on one. Pretty Ricky was too cool, too pretty and delivered a set that was so expertly performed, that a glass of water was required after. Llyod provided a trip through his catalogue that pivoted between high energy bops and sultry jams, with ‘Lay It Down’ becoming a sing-along opportunity. Mýa, our only wāhine toa performing on the bill stepped things up a notch with costume changes, amazing choreography accompanying her tracks with Lady Marmalade from Moulin Rouge surprisingly welcomed to appreciative screams and everyone knowing the words. Chingy, wow Chingy just delivered hit after hit, Dem Jeans, Holidae Inn, Pullin’ Me Back; a genuinely great festival set that left everyone wanting a half hour more. Uncle Xzibit does not mess around, still dangerous, still vital and still looking like he can beat the living crap out of you. Every moment with X was a party, that’s even before the Izzy stage infiltration. Bow Wow delivered a sweet and thoughtful set paying tributes to heroes 2Pac, Biggie, DMX and Nipsey. ‘Shortie Like Mine’ was well received as was the chemistry filled interaction between Bow Wow and his dance partner, picked seemingly from the crowd, who did us proud with her grace and moves up there. Ja Rule opened up his high energy, exciting set; alongside the forecast rainfall that ended up cascading down in torrential proportions. Ne-Yo dazzled with fleet footed choreography and sweet vocals. Nelly erupted on-stage in torrents of flame and to bacchanal abandon in the crowd.

Teething problems will abound for any new festival cutting its incisors through its fledgling gums; and any armchair academic that’s scrolled through Netflix documentaries and stumbled upon the film detailing and warning the fall and fall of Fyre Festival, might’ve had nervously constricted sphincters after deciding to purchase entry to this Hip Hop and RnB extravaganza. With phoenix like earnestness, Ja Rule even included the ill-fated former festival’s logo into his stage entrance video package, now that’s laying your cards bare in a total magnanimous move. Unfortunately, some might not be able to separate the previous venture involvement from this new enterprise, so there is going to be grumbles in the comments sections about anything and everything. You can’t please everyone, it’s true. However, with a Tauranga date cancellation, Top Up Band protocols being questioned, classism and paid privilege between GA, VIP and VVIP and complaints of potential non-delivery on luxury, balancing tricky lines and waiting times, complaints of acts being missed due to processing punters into their correct places. There has been a lot of discourse swirling around, like inclement weather, about Juicy Fest.

Juicy Fest Auckland was certainly an experience. One that can be built on for a potentially improved outing in 2024 and beyond. Part of that becoming a reality, is on us and concert goers to support and give some benefit of the doubt to an industry that is regaining their feet after a pandemic that drastically changed their ability to earn, perform and innovate. Feted fests like Big Day Out, Lollapalooza, Reading, Glasto…when they started out, they did not have social media picking over and publicising their every misstep; but you can bet there would have been some. It is the people that make the event and as an audience, there’s more of us than there is of the promoters, crew and staff. The event is what we make it, with our behaviour and our respect for others too. That’s a big part of what makes a good festival, great – the people attending. Last night, people were not representing their best and most respectful selves and to be honest, Whaea Kate is not angry with you, Audience, just disappointed…and we can do better. With any luck, we’ll see Juicy Fest rise to shake off the speed wobbles for a mighty A-Town return next year.

Were you there at the Due Drop Arena for this massive Hip Hop and RnB extravaganza? Or have you seen any of the acts perform live somewhere else before? Tell us about it in the comments below!

Note: Ambient Light was provided passes to review and photograph this festival. As always, this has not influenced the review in any way and the opinions expressed are those of Ambient Light’s only. This post contains an affiliate link. If you purchase a product using an affiliate link, Ambient Light will automatically receive a small commission at no cost to you.

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