• Gwarden

Gig Review: Bush Doof @ Conway Flats 5/12/20

Bush Doof has become a highlight of the annual NZ DnB calendar, and the crowning achievement of the Boom Candy crew. Started by sound system enthusiast Ben Batchelor, and now into its 8th year, it has grown progressively bigger and better with every incarnation. With a COVID-struck year casting a shadow over the entire events industry, the hype began early with the first announcement back in September, and only grew more feverish as the date approached. A savvy marketing approach ensured engagement was high (and expectations higher), a headline-act announcement grabbed attention, and an 11th-hour reveal of a brand new, upgraded 50,000-watt rig had bassheads and ravers frothing at the prospect of 24 hours of music in an idyllic patch of farmland on the Kaikoura Coast.

Heading into the site it was good vibes from the outset with Ben’s mum and dad manning the gate, the first indication of what a family affair this event is. We arrived early afternoon and already stacks of cars and tents lined the camping area, and as we made our way down to the crew area the first tell-tale pounding of bass could be heard drifting over from the Bush Stage (the secondary stage which this year played host to a Sub180 takeover).

The main stage was a sight to behold, the brand new J-Bins imposingly black, with funky BC-logo wooden inserts, all lovingly crafted from high quality baltic birch by Warrick aka The Mad Carpenter. The white, triangular stage roof formed an impressive sight, especially as night set and the lighting display took effect. We had made it in time to catch Greeen, Boom Candy’s head sound engineer and top DJ, christen the rig with a low-BPM workout. It was immediately clear what a special build this was: warm, punchy bass that you could feel from over 100 metres away, crisp mids and highs, all tuned to perfection so that it was satisfyingly loud, but still able to hold a conversation on the dancefloor.

We turned our attention to checking out the rest of the site: short wooden fencing ringing the main dance area, including the huge, iconic Bush Doof logo; a food truck serving up delicious meals and coffees (big shout out to the staff who appeared to put in a 24 hour shift!); a large fire pit at the rear of the dancefloor that would fill up with skilled performers as the night wore on; across a small bridge leading to the Bush Stage and chill-out tent. St John’s and security staff milled about, and a few craft shops had been setup as well. Everything had been thought out and the attention to detail was hugely impressive, the 100’s of man-hours that had gone into preparing everything was obvious.

Settling into a groove on the main stage, JML and Surveillance began drawing early crowds with a selection of tasteful liquid cuts. The duo Grid City unfurled a set brimming with originals, a production pair who cross different genres with ease, from bouncy V Recordings-esque liquid to neurofunk workouts, and they handled this multi-genre crossover beautifully, giving the growing crowd a diverse selection to whet appetites.

For the 6pm-8pm slots we shuttled between the Main Stage and Bush Stage to catch bits of differents sets. Monika and Sym:Bol both showcased their production skills, with the former exploring deep, rolling liquid and the latter sprinkling his set with half-time and more techier offerings. Opiate and Lamb are highly proficient DJs both in tune selection and technicality - 2020 Rumble In The Jungle semi-finalist Opiate began raising the energy levels on Main Stage with big rolling basslines breakbeats and familiar tunes, while Lamb (with his distinctive curly flowing hair) whipped up a frenzy on Bush Stage with a 4-deck onslaught that had the younger-leaning crowd eating from the palm of his hand. Savvy took over at 8pm with some lovely vocal tunes, while on Main Stage, Bush Doof veteran Izzy continued ramping up toward the evening hours with an impeccable set of jungly rollers.

By this point as dusk began to fall the crowd had been tempted out of their tents and campervans and the dancefloor on both stages was packing out. We wolfed down some dinner and camped out on the Main Stage to enjoy the peak hour DJs, starting with 2015 Rumble in the Jungle winner Chachi. He delivered a crowd-pleasing set full of past and present classics, from ‘What Now?’ to ‘LK’ to oldskool Dillinja. Closing out with one of the hottest dubs at the moment, Break’s ‘Piece Of My Heart’, he handed the decks over to the current Rumble champion Azifm, who kept energy levels high with a rinseout heavy on jungle beats (and who also closed on that Break dub, which did just as much damage as an hour earlier!) An annoying drizzle swept through the valley threatening to dampen spirits but it was patchy enough to not be too much of an issue.

Man of the moment Burnzy was up next, a young producer who has gone from strength to strength in 2020. One of the most fun sets of the night, he served up a smorgasbord of cheeky jumpup, heavy on squelchy horns and fucked up basslines, as well as cheeky tunes like his infamous Thomas The Tank Engine bootleg and a scorching ‘Toxic’ by Britney Spears. We observed his set from the crew embankment which gave a good view of the crowd going nuts, and marvelled at just how clear the new-and-improved Boom Candy rig sounded even from a fair distance.

Tristan from Truth stepped up at midnight to raucous applause and the biggest audience of the night, and was quickly in to his work, dropping filthy dubstep and flying across the decks like a mad alchemist. We dropped in on Bush Stage during this set to find the Catch-22 lads blazing things up with their rapidfire brand of neuro-heavy bangers - the Sub180 takeover was in full effect, and while that was the last time we visited second stage, every indication is things got crazy over there and never really let up!

At 1am Mish & Greeen unleashed a massive set packed full of original tunes and dubplates, including a tune finished only a couple weeks prior: ‘Doof Doof’ brought the house down and is destined to become an anthem for Bush Doof (and doofs everywhere). With elements of dancefloor, techstep and rollers, and a high-energy stage presence, these two absolutely smashed it and clearly have a big future ahead.

There was an expectant buzz for the final headline act, Optimus Gryme aka Charlie Brown, who is currently on the comeback trail following a few years hiatus. Coming in with a massive intro leading to a truly monstrous drop, he didn’t let up with a relentless neuro-tinged assault that had the dancefloor heaving and ears ringing. Dropping a few of his original compositions into the mayhem, he was fun to watch and clearly experienced on the decks with a flawless set - make sure to catch him when you can.

Head honcho Red Wolf took his system for a spin next with a wickedly fun set mixing jumpup standards with upbeat rollers - the crowd was fully up for this infectious blend, and even though he told me later his USB loaded without cue points (damn you rekordbox!), it was one of the best sets I’ve heard him play. Another of the core Boom Candy crew members smashed out the 4am set - J Howler guided the late night crew through a tasteful selection of bangers, featuring crisp breaks and thudding basslines, and ending on a truly messed up tune that alternated between half-time and techno stylings.

It was this reviewers privilege and honour to usher in the dawn with a 5am set, and I’d figured out with Subvert (who was playing after me) that going from dark to light vibes would flow nicely. So for the dedicated ravers still shuffling on the dancefloor, I played out some favourite dark, minimal bits from Need For Mirrors, Alix Perez and Halogenix, then moved into some deep and soulful liquid cuts as the sun breached the ocean horizon (Kings of the Rollers melancholic ‘Guitar Track’ went down a treat here). Subvert then slid into the driver’s seat (literally a seat - the bloody legend played sitting down with a broken leg!) to deliver a masterclass in gentle, ambient liquid perfect for the sun easing itself down into the valley.

Clouds of vapour from sweaty ravers and an evaporating muddy dancefloor hovered over the valley as most ravers eased themselves into sleeping bags or backseats; I recovered for a couple hours while Lure and Omnist delivered a perfect two-hour block of warm bass and chill beats to nurse hangovers and sore feet. We reflected on the night, all the fun we’d had with our friends both old and new, the wicked DJs, the overall friendly vibe, and realised there was nothing more we wanted than to come back next year and do it all again. For those of you on the fence about attending, hopefully my words have helped transport you, but nothing will better change your mind than coming along and soaking it in - just the party you need to put the year behind you. Bless!

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