The lagoon at Camp A Low Hum, New Zealand,
Photo credit: Bonnie Milne
Camp A Low Hum (CALH) is a relaxed, diy three-day musical festival held each February in Wellington, New Zealand. Situated at the picturesque Camp Wainui, Mainuiomata, which is generally used as a location for school camps, CALH is a picturesque 30-minute drive east of Wellington, with stunning views over Wellington Harbour and the Hutt Valley. In a word: paradise.
Festival creator, Ian ‘Blink” Jorgensen, keeps the festival fairly low-key, with no corporate sponsors, VIP areas, no beefcake security guards, and no line-up announcement until arrival. Only a thousand tickets are sold, so there’s plenty of room to set up camp. The camping areas include: quiet, noisy and party so you can match your mood, while enjoying the stunning mountains overlooking the valley, the pristine forests and the lagoon.
Over 150 local independent, Australian and International bands and artists perform over the three days across seven stages, hand picked by Jorgensen, with a focus on indie rock and experimental music. 70 booked bands are on the bill, but the “renegade” stage, where performers can book a 20-minute impromptu set, provides a chance for up-and-comers to be heard. The quality of music is impressive and there’s no pressure if you miss a show as most bands put on repeat performances.
Not knowing most of the bands on the line-up reduces the anxiety felt at rushing about to see your favourite band like at larger music festivals and having to push through packed crowds. The beauty of CALH is in the detail of surprise as you stumble upon a band randomly and become a new fan.
On the CALH website, Jorgensen, says CALH is “my quest to create the world’s most unique, considerate and musically astonishing festival. At its very core is a want to create an event that I would actually want to go to myself. This means BYO, being able to come and go as I please, a diverse range of music, intimate shows, multiple environments, shady areas, grassy areas and not being bombarded with advertising and a constant sound battering.”
“CALH is how you always imagined a festival to be, but never is,” states Jorgensen.
Carb on Carb perform at Camp A Low Hum 2013.
Photo credit: Kristy Sullivan
This ethos is what makes CALH so special and amazing. Now in it’s seventh year, the festival is a truly unforgettable experience, with a brilliant vibe that is spontaneous and fun. The music seems to spring from the forest itself as it reverberates between the mountainside, producing operatic acoustics in natural amphitheatres. Punters float in the lagoon on inflatable animal toys or take a swim while listening to a band play on the lagoon stage.
Perhaps it’s the Kiwi sensibility and respect for their beautiful land, but people are aware of just how special the festival and setting is, and festival-goers keep the surrounds neat and clean and drama free. A shuttle bus conveniently takes anyone back in to town who wants to stock up on more beer, there are yummy food vans on site and everyone looks out for each other. Camp A Low Hum is a unique, magical experience, a respite from the pandemonium of larger festivals with ego-filled bands. Jorgensen’s goal of creating the most astonishing festival is well and truly realised. If only school camp had been this much fun.
The 2013 CALH took place between 8-10 February, but there’s always next year…