A New Zealand Summer with Israel Starr and the NiceUp Crew

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Israel Starr and Che FuWith all the good music that took place over the summer months, I thought it best to write a review, sharing all the awesome stuff we have been up to in one of the best summers we have had in a long time.

With so many festivals and gigs happening around the country, it was a hard choice deciding which ones to attend. I start at New Year with the ‘Exodus Festival’, located in one of the most beautiful places in New Zealand, Papamoa beach. With Preston beaches, camping grounds, and a great backpackers and nightlife, it is a first choice for many young adults and foreigners looking for a true New Zealand new years. With classic bands like Katchafire and Herbs and new ones like L40 and Majic on the bill, we were in for a treat.

With a capacity crowd flowing in and feeling irie you couldn’t help get in the vibe. With so many bands on the bill this year, they were performing back to back on a double stage. This left us with no time to breath in between acts, which was great for the most part, but if you needed a drink or a sit down and a great band was coming up next, you would have to miss out and end up standing in line for 15 minutes missing half their set. There was some compensation though as the brand new P.A could be heard from miles away.

Overall Exodus was choice, my stand out being Magic with Majesty backing her, which consisted of a lot of the House Of Shem band members. With Katchafire counting the New Year down, I couldn’t have asked for a better finish and start to the New Year.

Returning back to Wellington after a few smaller gigs around the country, I was looking forward to a gig that was a major stand out. I was given the privilege to host Channel One Sound System right here in Wellington. Run by legendary selector Mikey Dread and mic chanter Ras Kayleb, Channel One are one of the world’s greatest and best known Sound Systems. Running for over 30 years at London’s Notting Hill Carnival, Channel One have built their massive following and gained respect as the leaders in roots and culture.

I started off the night toasting on the mic over vintage roots riddims selected by Hawk I and Naram, I felt very much on point, and I had to be with these legends in the house. The venue was packed and the crowd was hype ready for the legends. They did not disappoint either. Playing a three hour set dominated by steppers reggae and classic dub plates, I loved it! Their effects machine was high-quality too, testing every frequency the eardrum could handle! An all round awesome night and awesome Rasta’s too.

Next up we had the Raggamuffin festival in beautiful Rotorua showcasing top New Zealand and overseas acts. Being excited to interview Alborosie, I knew it was going to be one of my highlights of the summer. Unfortunately for some unknown reason Alborosie had to pull out at the last minute. This put a major damper on my vibe. However he was replaced by the soulful voice of the beautiful Etana. Along with English reggae star Gappy Ranks, their presence put a smile back on my face.

J-boog, Fiji and Toots where all stand out preformances. Along with the solid performances and the stunning weather I was also happy about setting up our merchandise tent up and selling some of our Selah gear which arrived just in time. Big up my PaePae and Selah family for a very enjoyable two days.

After Raggamuffin we headed on a long drive back to Wellington for a few days, then back to Rotorua for more gigs, then back to wellington again. Our next stop was the phenomenal Homegrown festival. But before I go on I must give a shout out to the L40 and Foundation family who I preformed alongside numerous times throughout these couple weeks between festivals.

Homegrown for me was definitely the best festival of the year. It was good to have so many of Aotearoas best in once place hanging out and feeling the vibe, and it was great to catch up with a lot of people from all different music scenes. Big up to all those I bumped into.

Admittedly there weren’t many reggae bands playing, but what I did enjoy was the performance by Ahradna who was backed by Wellingtons own Brownhill reggae band. They played all different styles which showed they had the goods to pull off different genres of music. Che Fu was also a huge stand out as usual, performing alongside PNC and K- One, they kept the Red Bull tent on fire.

The last festival of the year was the Newtown Festival. I had the privilege of hosting the Newtown Sound stage which showcased some of the best talent from around the country, with the last act, Brokaflowersourus Rex and the Blue Berry Biscuits topping off the night with a huge performance that required two encores. All and all a massive festival.

What an amazxing holiday season! Bless up to everyone that made this possible and all my family and friends! Cannot wait to do it again! Bless.

Israel Starr

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