Once a year for the past 11 years, thousands of revellers have descended on the East Coast for New Year's celebrations at Rhythm & Vines.
The festivities in 2013 were no different, with over 20,000 making the journey to Gisborne for the three-day festival in the Waiohika Estate Vineyard amongst the grape vines.
The three Otago scarfies that started Rhythm & Vines in 2003 have got a pretty simple equation sussed: when you combine a great venue with good music and quality company, you get awesome vibes and a stellar New Year's festival. Obviously that's a very simplistic way of looking at it all, but the whole event appears to run like clockwork. It is without a doubt, the juggernaut of Kiwi New Year party celebrations.
Now I wouldn't call myself a seasoned veteran, but with this being my fourth R&V it's certainly not my first rodeo either. So the one thing I like to keep in mind while in "festie mode" is pace yourself - she's a big few days.
Day 1 - December 29
Walking down the dusty track beside the vines towards the festival entrance, it never ceases to amaze me when you look up on to the hill and see the silhouette of a horse and its rider prowling the border. Minus the international acts, this festival is as Kiwi as it gets - amongst nature, with staff on quad bikes and security on horses. It's really quite magnificent.
We kicked the night off with High Contrast & Dynamite MC. It was High Contrast's third time playing at R&V and like previous appearances he absolutely delivered. The sea of people jumped, sang and smiled. It was the perfect warm-up before heading to the main stage for Aussie band Empire of the Sun.
They're a fascinating duo whose stage presence commands attention and praise. With space-like costumes, positive vibes and energy to burn, they're quite mysterious and magical. They created one of the happiest atmospheres I've experienced at this year's festival. Their jovial sound had fans screaming every lyric. Their costumes were impressive and their dancers - who never seemed to stop moving - were mesmerising. I must admit though, I wasn't entirely impressed with their audio. You could see lead singer Luke Steele singing but you could barely hear anything that was coming out of his mouth.
Next up was Hermitude which followed suit, though with a few audio issues again the sound wasn't quite loud enough. Despite the technical difficulties, they played a great set and kept the crowd pumping the whole time.
Camo and Krooked & Dynamite MC would see the night out until 2am. The onsite campers went back into the vines, while those camping at Bay Watch (the offsite campground) caught their buses back to the beach. We waited at the taxi stand for the locals that turned their vans into taxi services. Great banter was had on the way home with the chirpy locals, who are all too willing to share stories about their driving adventures from earlier in the evening.
Day 2 - December 30
A friend was DJing at a hotel in town where artists and the likes of were staying, so day two kicked off a little earlier at the hotel pool party. Once we arrived at R&V a few hours later we headed straight for Wiz Khalifa. The American rapper made several references to weed and breasts and some females even obliged his request to take their tops off. I was slightly perplexed by the fact that he started his own "one more song" chant at the end of his set.
Dusky was playing on the Cellar Stage, my favourite of the smaller stages. There's something quite gypsy-like about dancing in between a dozen trees with bright lights illuminating the leaves. After Dusky, Soul Clap brought their internationality-renowned house set to the Cellar Stage and produced a show that wasn't far off being hypnotic. The American DJs did well to incorporate a whole heap of well-known house tracks with lush bass and jazzy overtones. The saxophone and trombone solos that would pop up throughout the set did well to enhance the mellow, alternative vibe that the stage is famous for.
Day 3 - December 31
As the sun set on 2013 for the last time, our big night was just getting started.
Having paced ourselves on the previous nights, we were more than willing to hit the final night at some pace. Unlike the previous two nights, where there was a lot of movement between stages, on New Year's Eve, Main Stage was the place to be.
New Zealand drum and bass royalty Shapeshifter got our night underway. We arrived at Main Stage coming in hot to the sound of their 2009 anthem 'Dutchies' and the crowd was heaving already. Here was one of NZ's biggest bands about to let it rip in front thousands of adoring fans that were ready to party. It was an incredibly proud moment hearing a brilliant Kiwi group blasting out tune after tune, as the last hours of 2013 wound down.
They were in their element, and we were too. It was evident they were having the time of their lives, and the crowd were giving back every inch of energy that the band where putting out. Their stage show was world class. Smoke, lights and lasers all added to the electric atmosphere. But their hour-and-a-half show had to come to an end and they said goodbye with the single 'In Colour' from their 2013 album, everyone was pumped up.
Then there was the annual debate amongst our group as to whether or not we should climb the hill side to watch the fireworks and count the New Year in. But I like to be amongst the crowd soaking in the atmosphere, so you won't see me sitting on the hill until the sun comes up.
Whilst I knew Kim Dotcom would be coming on stage to take us in to the New Year, it was still a surreal and bizarre moment. In saying that, his "good times" set was great and his spectacular fireworks display, Tesla-like electro performers and neon dancers were even better. Branding-wise it was a huge win for Kim, with a crowd of thousands of young Kiwis screaming "KIM DOTCOM" from the top of their lungs for a solid 10 minutes. Fellow Whakatanian and Kora lead singer Laughton Kora assisted the internet mogul in executing a fantastic midnight celebration.
Rudimental (playing a DJ set) was the first set of the New Year. They had a glorious mix of '80s and '90s hits, along with their own top bangers. From Ray Charles' 'Hit the Road Jack' to Bob Marley's 'Could You Be Loved', it was the perfect mix of old and new and the crowd didn't mind it one bit.
I wasn't sure P Money could match the outstanding performances we had just seen, but I was pleasantly surprised. Outstanding is an understatement - he had the crowd worked out to a T. He was on song and not missing a beat, and the whole crowd was getting so low that Usher and Beyonce would have been proud.
Wilkinson & MC AD-APT would be the last act I would see at the festival. Despite it being the early hours of January 1, there were still plenty of people dancing up a storm.
All-in-all it was a pretty incredible way to welcome in the New Year and watch the first sunrise in the world.
I must note that the cell phone reception was remarkably better than previous years, making losing friends less stressful and finding friends a lot easier.
Despite being up until the early hours dealing with wild people, the staff and security seemed to be in fine spirits, though when I asked where the soap was as I washed my hands outside a bathroom I was quite promptly told they did not have any. For the staff monitoring the toilets it seemed to have been a hotly-asked question, one I would hope won't need to be asked next year. I say that because since going to my first Rhythm & Vines festival in 2008, they seem to learn from mistakes and make improvements every year.
That leads me to my only gripe. More toilets please!
Although it was obvious that there were fewer festy-goers than previous years (approximately 5,000 less than last year's 30,000 sold-out crowd) the toilet lines are hideous. It can get quite hostile and aggressive when people need to pee.