Will Not Fade’s Guide To Surviving A Music Festival

Will Not Fade Guide Festival Survival Guide Wristbands Timetables Tickets

Festival Season

It’s summer in New Zealand. New Years celebrations are mere days away, which will soon be followed by regional anniversary days and Waitangi Day. And those holidays come on top of any time off many of us have around the Christmas/New Year period.

Just as the warm summer evenings usher in a time of barbecues and backyard cricket, they also signal the start of festival season.

It has been a fickle time for promoters in recent years. Many festivals I cut my teeth on sadly no longer exist, such as Parachute at Mystery Creek, and Big Day Out. This year saw the cancellation of Westfest (due to the cancellation of the Australian festival Soundwave which it had piggybacked off) and the McLaren Falls/Echo festival. There will be no Auckland City Limits next year either.

All is not lost however, with staples such as Rhythm and Vines/Alps, Laneway, WOMAD, Homegrown, Raggamuffin, Splore, and some new entries like Bay Dreams and One Love offering a variety of genres and locations to appeal to all tastes.

So to help you to have the best festival experience possible, here are some tips for surviving festivals.

Wear Earplugs

Your poor ears get enough of a hard time as it is. Wearing earplugs is a super easy way to protect them, and believe it or not, actually makes the music sound better. It does this by cutting out the higher frequencies that cause hearing damage. Ok, so some of the foam plugs won’t make things sound optimal, but take my word for it when I say that I never go to a love music gig without my earplugs. I use these and they are well worth the money. Go for the attenuating type for best sound quality that still protects. They’ll be more comfortable than foam plugs after a full day’s use too.

Stay hydrated.

It’s summer. It’s hot. Being packed into a venue with hundreds of other sweaty concertgoers makes it even hotter. Do yourself a favour and have plenty of water throughout the day. And increase that amount if you’re having alcohol as well. Because you’re going to be kicking yourself later if you spent $150 on that ticket just to hang out in the paramedics tent for most of the day.

Be prepared for the weather.

I got sunburnt so badly at Big Day Out 2011 that I was still peeling a few weeks later. But the weather changed halfway throughout the day and got cold and damp. Suddenly everyone in singlets couldn’t cope and the crowd noticeably thinned well before many of the headliners played.

If you’re attending a fest with any outdoor stages I recommend buying a $2 rain poncho. It’s cheap and small enough to fit in your pocket, so no harm done if you don’t need it. But you’ll be glad you have it if the weather starts to turn.

It’s more likely to be a scorcher over the summer months, so slip, slop, slap and wrap to avoid looking like a beetroot for the following week. And as tempting as it is to take your nicest gear, think about taking a hat and some sunnies that you won’t miss so much if they get lost in the mosh pit.

On that note, jandals may be great for summer, but don’t protect your toes from getting trampled on by the people dancing near you!

Figure Out Your Schedule

The worst thing about festivals is that often the best bands clash. Have a look at the timetable beforehand to plan which stages you need to be at and when. Sometimes this means deciding between watching a full set of one band, or catching half sets for two bands.

Bear in mind that often stages have limited capacity, so get there early if there is an act that you are desperate to see.

Take some cash.

Many festivals won’t let you take your own food or drink in, even if it’s just water in a clear, sealed bottle. Once you’re inside they’ll charge you the earth for food and drink because you have no other option. My advice is buy the biggest bottle possible at the start of the day and keep refilling it at a tap.

And take cash. It can be faster and more reliable than eftpos.

Have a contingency plan

I once lost my mate at Big Day Out. We were both at Rise Against’s set to start with. He decided to leave early to secure a good spot to see Muse later on, while I stayed on. The crowd was so wild that I swear I was sideways for most of the set. After the band had finished I reached into my pocket to text my friend, only to find that I had lost my phone. Luckily I had his home phone number written on a card along with other emergencies contacts that I kept in my wallet. After some panicked moments of stressing I managed to find a phone I could use and rang his mum, who in turn messaged him to meet me at an appointed spot.

What I learnt from that situation was that it pays to establish a meet up point at the start of the day, so that you can find your friends if you get separated.  It also pays to carry some spare cash and have a list of emergency phone numbers with you.

Charge your phone. 

So you can contact friends. But also keep it in your pocket when you don’t need it. You came to watch bands play live, not through a screen.

Avoid The Queues

This tip depends upon how desperate you are for overpriced beer. I tend not to drink alcohol at most gigs, so am happy to line up for an under-18 wristband if it’s an option, or chose not to line up for the extra over-18 band if that is required. I don’t find it embarrassing and it usually means that I get to watch an extra hour of music, compared to those who deciding to spend their time queuing for a wristband (not to mention the additional time queuing up for drinks!)

Another way to miss the queues is by showing up late, but that means you will miss the acts playing at the start of the day.

Have fun!

Have fun! Check out a band you haven’t heard of before! Get your boogie on! Soak it all in!

[on an unrelated note, the gif above of the crazy frog bro looks so much like I did when I was a kid. It’s uncanny!]

Here’s a link to a cool web comic by Toby Morris which sums up this last point well.

Is there anything we forgot? Feel free to comment below and offer your own tips!

Will Not Fade’s Best of 2016

Will Not Fade Logo jpeg

2016 in review

A lot of celebrities died in 2016. Lemmy, Prince, David Bowie, Leonard Cohen and George Michael all got a lot of attention for having passed away. It is sad, but all the people taking to social media to complain about 2016 signalling the apocalypse because of an election and some dead celebrities are idiots. 2016 was awesome. If  those people had chosen to listen to good music and attend great concerts instead of bitching about life on Facebook then maybe they would realise this as well.

Like every other year, 2016 gave us some outstanding musical releases. We were also blessed enough to have many talented bands come to town as well.

CJ had a great year. His band Ranges released a new album and a 7″ single on vinyl, and by the sounds of it had a great time recording and touring. His company A Thousand Arms released a free post-rock compilation called Open Language, and signed a partnership deal as the USA distributor for Belgium based dunk!records as well.

My year was incredibly busy, having finished university and working full-time as a teacher. Thankfully I found the time to fit in the odd review here and there, and was even asked to contribute to an Arctic Drones write-up! I’ve made some great contacts this year, which leads me to think that I may have some exciting doors opened for me in the future.

And we welcomed Murray to the team this year. He already has his own site, Relative Silence, but we connected over a mutual love of many prog-rock and post-rock bands so he was more than happy to contribute to Will Not Fade.

Best Live Act

After much deliberation, I’ve decided that Iron Maiden are the best live act I’ve seen. The stage set up, the theatrics, the musicianship and the brilliant songs all proved why Maiden have sustained such longevity.

It was a great way to start a bogan weekend, followed by Black Sabbath the following night in Dunedin, and Shihad after lunch in Wellington on Sunday.

Other incredible acts that stood out this year include Sufjan Stevens, Thundercat, Tortoise, Strung Out, Into. It Over It. and local heroes Jakob and Into Orbit.


Best Night Out

My friends all thank me for making them come and see The Beards play Bodega during their farewell tour. They only have one joke, but the joke remains funny.

Steel Panther was another comedy rock act that put on a fun show, albeit far more crass.


Best Album

There have been some strong releases this year. My favourite band Biffy Clyro gave us album number seven, and Run The Jewels and Nine Inch Nails have even dropped new content in the past week.

But I cannot stop listening to the new Into It. Over It. album, StandardsEvan Weiss went to a remote cabin in the woods with drummer Josh Sparks and the two of them messed around with sounds and effects and somehow it turned into this masterpiece. I even flew to Melbourne to see Weiss play in October [review] and it filled me with such joy to meet him and see him play. It’s an easy choice for me, ranking Standards in top position this year.

Best Personal Discovery

Technically they are not 2016 releases, but Julien Baker’s Sprained Ankle and Winter Dust’s Thresholds were two absolutely stunning releases that I discovered this year. Both have been on high rotate ever since I first heard them.

I also discovered Australian prog-rock act Cog this year. I was raving about The Occupants when they released their début EP last year, so it stands to reason that the band that spawned them would also be incredible.


And as for the year ahead? I’m super excited to see Alexisonfire and Living Colour playing in Auckland next year, and am working on plans to attend the inaugural dunk!USA  post-rock festival in Vermont in October.

David Dallas previewed some new tracks when I saw him play at Victoria University during O-Week, and Solemn Sun dropped a new single “Bloom”, so I look forward to new albums from both acts. And of course the new Tool album is due… possibly… sometime in the next decade… maybe?


It is hard finding the time to write and update this site, so big thanks to CJ and Murray for also contributing reviews and for both being a vital part of the Will Not Fade team.

Thanks to all the bands, labels and promoters who sent us music to review, arranged press passes to attend gigs or helped to set up interviews. It is humbling that people value my opinion enough to read what I have to say about music.

And thanks to you, the readers. Feel free to give me feedback about what you like, dislike, or would like to see more of.

Here’s to an even better 2017!

Joseph James

Arctic Drones’ tribute to Explosions In The Sky – The Earth Is Not a Cold Dead Place

Explosions In The Sky The Earth Is Not A Cold Dead Place

We are honoured to be included in a piece that David Zeidler has put together to celebrate the thirteenth anniversary of Explosions In The Sky’s seminal third album, The Earth Is Not a Cold Dead Place. Joseph’s snippet features alongside a great many other musicians, designers and writers involved in the wider post-rock scene, all reflecting on the EITS album and how it has influenced them.

The Blaze and the Bloom: Explosions in the Sky’s The Earth Is Not A Cold Dead Place and its Integral Duality

David (who organised the Arctic Drones article) had also teamed up with our own writer CJ Blessum to organise the incredible international post-rock compilation Open Language, released earlier this year.

Thanks to David Zeidler and Arctic Drones for involving Will Not Fade in your work!

20 Years On: Tool – Ænima

Tool Aenima album cover holographic

When I lived at home my family used to throw the best barbecues over summer. We had a big two-story villa with a generous backyard to match. Our parents would decide on a date and then we would invite all our friends. There would be kids swinging on the climbing frame and kicking balls at their parents, young children tormenting our dog, the blokes would stand ‘round the BBQ talking crap and the ladies would sit around in deck chairs catching up on the latest gossip and telling embarrassing stories about their children. The wheelbarrows were full of ice and there was any drink you could care to name. And more sausages, chops, steaks, salads, chips and dips than anyone could handle.

And the music. That was usually my highlight. When I was 17, my Dad and I built a stage on our roof to host some live bands. As you can imagine, I thought it was pretty damn cool to say that my band headlined a gig atop the roof of my house. We were told that the music was loud enough that it disrupted Saturday evening mass at the local church a block away. But for the sake of this story, I’m going to move on from the live bands to focus on our stereo that provided the music for most of the other barbecues.

This stereo was the stuff of legends. My mum had owned it since well before I was born and it has always made me wonder about her past. How did my gentle mother, the social worker who runs the women’s church group and does sewing in her spare time, come to acquire such a kickass stereo? And, to make it even more intriguing, we discovered some old Kiss and Led Zepplin cassettes that belonged to her. Anyway, regardless of my mother’s questionable history, that stereo pumped out some serious volume.

Dad had a worker called Tony at the time. He had been a lithographer before he decided to switch to building and he’d also had a background in the military. He was a Wellington bogan from way back who had been there when Shihad and Head Like a Hole were starting out. I always liked Tony. He treated me with respect and had taken it upon himself to educate me in the way of music. I used to help out on the construction sites during school holidays and Tony controlled the worksite radio. For the most part we listened to The Rock, but sometimes Tony would put on Solid Gold to mix it up, much to our horror. Every time a song would play Tony would quiz me about the band name and song title, and would feed me bits of trivia about the band.

So when we had our barbecues Tony always came. He would bring his little chilly bin containing bottles of vodka and mixers, and a supermarket bag full of CDs. He would control the party playlist, handing me a CD and telling me to put in on. Often he would say “Hey Joseph, you may want to skip this track – it’s a bit rude!” I remember him selecting Shihad, Rolling Stones, HLAH (Tony loved HLAH. It was a few years before I made the connection that HLAH and Head Like a Hole were one in the same.) And Tool.

Tool really stuck in my mind. Tony asked my dad if he could show me the CD cover for Ænima and then did so once he’d obtained permission. The artwork was really cool for the album. The images moved when seen from different angles. There was the box with the flames around it that flickered at different angles and the “third eye” with the two pupils that move. Under the disc was an image of the California coast disappearing into the sea. But the image that stuck in my head was a contortionist doing naughty things to himself. If you ever want to capture the imagination of a teenage boy showing him something like that is certainly one way to do it.

Fast forward a few months and I’m browsing through the albums at the local CD store, Everyman Records. Then I see it, that same Tool album, with the lenticular jewel case. Oh man! I bought it straight away and went home to listen to it. At the time I didn’t know how twisted the lyrics were for most of the songs, but I did know that I didn’t want my parents finding out that I owned the album.

They obviously found out soon enough. It’s not like I was subtle showing my newfound love for the band. My best friend Tom and I both bought matching “third eye” tshirts, much to both of our mothers disgust. And looking back, I can see why they weren’t too keen on their children listening to songs with titles like “Hooker With A Penis”…

But appropriate or not (OK, there’s no room for argument here – it’s definitely inappropriate), there was undeniable talent that went into the production of this album. Like 10,000 Days, and Lateralus – two albums that we also discovered soon after – the artwork and packaging was pretty awesome. I struggle to think of many other albums that impress me as much as the lenticular Ænima case, or the stereoscopic 10,000 Days case.

And the music was right up our alley. We were angsty teenagers wanting to rebel against the world with no reason to justify those feelings. What better way to showcase our misplaced emotions than to listen to subversive music like Tool? And we were in total awe of the musicianship that went into that album. The odd time signatures, the amazing tones, the monstrous drumming, the subtle layering. Maynard’s hypnotic singing, along with the whispers and screams and howls.

And the sheer weirdness of it all. Those filler tracks are so odd… The circus organ interlude, the recording of a needle skipping on a CD, the static and the baby cries, the cookie recipe made to sound like a Nazi rally… It added a twisted element of intrigue and humour to it all. It’s intellegent art-rock that outright snobs it’s listeners. System of a Down was the only other band I can think of that we were listening to at the time that made a  deliberate point of being so unusual.

It’s now been 20 years since Ænima was released. I’ve seen Tool play live twice (Big Day Out 2011, and Vector Arena 2013), and am among the devoted fan base who cling onto hope for another Tool album. It’s been a decade since their last, and although the rumours arise every year, we still cross or fingers and think: this year may be the one!

Until then I’ll can live with the six releases that the band has already given us.


Joseph James