Photography by Samantha Davies
Review by Grace Hood-Edwards
FOMO festival hit Henderson last week, the second annual FOMO in New Zealand since the Australian festival spread to our shores. Marketed as Australasia’s “one day, one stage, all inclusive festival” the promise FOMO aims to keep is a “tasteful, multi-genre collection of local and international artists” on a single stage and a “more relaxed and enjoyable (festival) experience for attendees.” Auckland’s “collection” of artists was comprised of Vayne, MeloDownz, Rico Nasty, A Boogie wit da Hoodie, Lizzo, Brockhampton and Kaytranada.
FOMO’s tagline is “ONE STAGE. NO CLASHES. PARTY TOGETHER.” A nice dream, but not one that exactly translates to reality. Although the core mosh stayed strong for each act, at the end – as if by revolving door – audience members flooded in and out. If we were partying together, it was less of an idealistic communal rave and more a house party. There’s a dance floor cleared and a pretty drunk and dedicated group are going hard, but everyone else is off hanging in corners with their friends until their song comes on and they rush to the dimly lit lounge shouting ‘THIS IS MY JAM!’
And it works. Maybe not how it is described, but true to the acronym – you don’t miss out. Held at The Trusts Arena, a multipurpose stadium complete with genuine athletics track (and essentially a giant, grassy bowl), you can experience the full festival from wherever you choose to be – whether you’re in the mosh or lounging on the VIP hill or staking out a perch by the food trucks.
The influx of audience members really hit post-work day, pre-Lizzo – as I was asked by two different people in the line to the bathroom whether I was “here to see Lizzo?” before I’d even topped up my wristband. NYC rapper A Boogie wit da Hoodie was on stage, thunderous bass peppered by many a CO2 cannon burst. Striding about the stage under a giant inflatable ringed hand A Boogie wit da Hoodie’s set was high energy and with many a siren sound effect. A Boogie was clearly enjoying himself, constantly smiling, and leading the crowd in a humorous call and repeat of “when I say mood, you say swings” to great success. A nice touch was an explosion of confetti punctuating the line “I’m gonna make her panties wet when she see the way I flex” in the climactic moment of A Boogie‘s platinum track ‘Drowning’. However, my favourite moment of the set was when A Boogie called out to “Australia!” before following up a solid series of seconds later “New Zealand!” to much bristling from the Kiwi crowd. It should be noted that A Boogie made a pointed effort to then call out to New Zealand multiple times in the next minute.
As A Boogie wit da Hoodie’s set ended, an extremely pleasant surprise were the boldly-coloured safety warnings and policies that Fuzen – FOMO’s promoter – had running on the stage’s screen, reminding that the festival staff were there “to help, not judge” and for festival goers to stay hydrated, party safe, look after one another and not be “a dickhead”. The best slide – and the reason why these messages were such a pleasant surprise – was the one declaring FOMO “a safe space” – followed by “no racism, no sexism, no homophobia + transphobia, no ageism, no body shaming”. The inclusion of transphobia, ageism and body shaming on this list were incredibly heart-warming to see – and something I’ve never seen before in a concert or festival space – let alone a public environment. It really went a long way to enforce the “all inclusive” ethos that FOMO espouses.
And it couldn’t have been better timed – as the surging of the crowd indicated the arrival of the body positive icon and champion of diversity herself, Lizzo. Career wise, 2019 was Lizzo’s year. Quite literally, as she was named Time Magazine’s ‘Entertainer of the Year 2019’. With Lizzo’s star rocketing ever-upwards, it’s no wonder FOMO’s marketing hitched their wagon to it, with Lizzo’s face and name leading FOMO’s marketing campaign over the last couple months. What is a wonder is why or how Lizzo was slated third on the billing for a 7.20pm timeslot. Although I’m sure it was arranged many months in advance, I suppose the bizarre scheduling ends up as a perverse accolade – with a middle-act marketed as a greater draw than the headliner. Nevertheless, the timing meant we had the daylight to see all of Lizzo’s glory. And what a glory it was.
Entering suddenly, in a blue and zebra-patterned leotard and to deafening applause, Lizzo kicked off with her wildly successful anthem ‘Good as Hell’. She continued by promising the audience that “we’re about to have a good…time”. Which is – essentially – Lizzo’s secret. Every musician in the world has at least one person who enjoys their music. But with Lizzo, you don’t simply enjoy her music. She makes you feel good. It’s a combination of her catchy music, her politics, her confidence, her outspoken ethos and her simply living, thriving, and loving in a visibly fat body. She fights to make you feel good about yourself. Lizzo is a beacon to all other fat positive activists and advocates, and to almost every other social group and demographic that is aware with her. Lizzo’s onstage personality – as much of a draw as her performance – was charming in its raucousness, as the crowd hung on her every word, from Lizzo praising our cheese-rolls repeatedly to saying she’s going to try a Kiwi tonight and she “ain’t talking about no fruit”. The energy of her set was spectacular, whether we’re talking Lizzo’s vocals, the choreography, her ‘Big Girl’ back up dancers, or the positive atmosphere. In a too-short set, Lizzo cycled through a variety of her standard bangers from ‘Truth Hurts’ to ‘Scuse Me’ to ‘Tempo’ to ‘Juice’ to the power ballad ‘Cuz I Love You’. It was another pleasant surprise to be treated to ‘Soulmate’ – a true battle cry for self-love – and the visceral delight of the crowd was tangible. An amazing performer, Lizzo – true to form – gave a live performance that truly should not be missed out on.
An exodus occurred post-Lizzo, as her fans streamed out of the sweltering mosh to be replaced by eager Brockhampton fans. Brockhampton, heralded by Rihanna’s ‘Stay’, arrived to bursts of the CO2 cannon as the rap-collective née self-described ‘boyband’ swaggered onto the stage in a mixture of white shirts/orange jumpsuits. Whilst Brockhampton currently numbers 15 total members, they have six current on-stage performers, who managed the stage in a masterfully deconstructed exhibit of choreography. The crowd went crazy for them, with many leaping over the barrier into the VIP section in order to get closer to the stage. Brockhampton’s set, with frenetic lighting and generous bursts of smoke was certainly high energy. The crowd shifts from a writhing mass to in-unison jumping along with the members of Brockhampton. Strings signal a change in mood, as the group sit on stairs whilst a crooning Latin beat takes over as the group shift into ‘Boy Bye’; the calm breaks as Brockhampton leap up to an explosion of smoke shouting “Acting like Regina, you a lil bit dramatic.” It is a smooth set, apart from one rather lengthy lull, that began with them inviting members of the crowd up onto the stage. Not merely one or two, as you’d expect, but at least 30. They crowded the stage like the final song at a benefit concert. One shirtless gentleman did a backflip in excitement. They kept the lucky crowd members herded onstage with nothing happening for a solid 5 minutes, long enough for one crowd member to risk it all and take a running leap off the stage and into the crowd. The break in action was due to audio issues, which the group apologised for repeatedly. The audience didn’t seem to care, but it seemed to undercut their flow a little. One of the members leads the audience in a call and repeat of “Hell yeah!” and large lights flare up as the audience shouts back, “Hell yeah” soon mutates into “I’m gay!” which the audience happily shouted back. The stage is a mess of limbs and faces during their next song ‘Queer’, as the audience members have a party onstage that verges on the ridiculous. Brockhampton finish with the appropriately named, personal favourite ‘Boogie’ in an explosive final number – and as they command the crowd to jump jump jump, the crowd follows.
Headliner Haitian-Canadian DJ, Kaytranada wrapped up the night perfectly. Opening with a mix of Chance the Rapper’s ‘All Night’ was an apt opener, the lyrics “everybody outside, everybody outside… shut up! Start dancing, ho/All night I been drinking all night” likely ringing true to many attendees’ personal experience in that moment. Whilst the main crowd – the VIP area now dissolved – danced and swayed and sung along to Kaytranada’s perfect for dancing-and-swaying-and-singing beats, a not insignificant amount of people indolently lounged on the grass behind. With the night winding down, people were starting to get good-naturedly silly, performing one-person dance routines and doing cartwheels whilst soundtracked by Kaytranada. A couple in front of us, illuminated by Kaytranada’s lights, began slow-dancing. Kaytranada himself was silhouetted against his filmic visuals, a perfect accompaniment to his music – just enough to keep you interested in the stage and the narrative of his performance. There’s a dreamy aspect to Kaytranada’s music – particularly as the final music of the night; with great beats which evolved in interesting ways, naturally flowing from one song to the next. It was a surprisingly (again) charming ending to the night.
In spite of FOMO’s odd mid-week placement, which could be seen as strange to most, inconvenient for some and potentially damaging to audience attendance rates, their choice of timing the festival for late afternoon into night is inspired and certainly contributed to the “relaxed and enjoyable” atmosphere FOMO intended to create. As opposed to the last couple of Laneways, where the one commonality to attendees’ experiences has been the unpleasantness of the killer heat, FOMO’s timing meant audiences could dance their evening away without any true discomfort. Although I have criticised the hierarchy of the billing, ultimately that order made sense in the context of the concert, whether intentional or not. Getting to see Lizzo in full daylight was a treat, having the peaches and violets of sunset incidentally match Brockhampton’s colour scheme was fun, and getting to experience a final set of ultimate Vibes from Kaytranada with stellar visuals in the dark of night – it all worked. It’s a shame – for a festival that had such clearly enjoyable performances and a welcoming, and unexpectedly calming, atmosphere – that attendance seemed rather small. The staff manning the event were lovely and FOMO truly did achieve their goal of creating a festival more relaxing and enjoyable than other festival experiences – although not simply and not necessarily through their use of a single stage. I’m already looking forward to how FOMO will surprise me next year.
A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie