Experiencing Jim Beam Homegrown on Wellington’s Waterfront

Despite Homegrown having started in 2008, this was my first time being able to attend, and it was in one word: epic.

Homegrown is a 10-hour music festival on Wellington’s waterfront, featuring five stages and 45 acts.

Located at the northern end of Frank Kitts Park is the City Stage – it’s a bit of soul and funk heading towards pop rock by the end of the night, with Gin Wigmore as the penultimate act, wrapping up with the iconic Sir Dave Dobbyn.

Next is the Lab Stage – mostly hip-hop and RnB. P-Money, Sons of Zion, Savage, Kings and Sachi all performed massive sets.

The Jim Beam Rock Stage is central – the name tells you everything you need to know, but I’ll take you through the main acts below.

To the east of Te Papa, and taking up the west spot of Waitangi Park, is the Tiger Electric Stage – this is where you go if you want to hear tunes from the decks and let loose on the dance floor.

Finally at the far side of Waitangi Park is the Jim Beam Park Stage – roots, reggae, RnB, and pop, there’s a little bit of something for everyone. Tomorrow People, Katchafire, Drax Project, and Shapeshifter to name a few.

I’ve lived within the Wellington or Manawatu region for almost the entire time Homegrown has been running, but it always either clashed with work or sold out before I had a chance at tickets. Every year I’ve wanted to go, and finally… Finally I can confirm what I long suspected, that Homegrown is my happy place.

On Saturday 18 March, I caught the bus into town (Homegrown tickets include free transport, which I realised after tapping my Snapper card), and even though the event got underway at 1pm, food was the priority before meeting a friend at 3pm.

The main entrance is at the north end of Taranaki Street, behind Circa Theatre. There was a short line to get IDs checked, tickets scanned, and wristbands provided. Wristbands are both accreditation and an indicator of whether you’re over 18 or not, depending on its colour.

We headed into the Rock entry, missing the first two acts, Capital Theatre, and Written By Wolves, although the latter I caught the end of while getting a drink from Mac’s Brewbar. So the first official act we saw was Auckland-based group, Racing. “Southern Lovers” has spent a fair bit of time stuck on loop in my head, so it was great to hear it live. They’re probably best-known for their hit “Run Wild” and performed it as their final song, which the crowd absolutely loved.

Next up, The Feelers. I’ve seen them perform plenty of times over the last 20+ years and they’re a pretty consistent group. You always know you’ll hear some catchy tunes, and their lyrics creep back from the depths of your memory, albeit sometimes covered in cobwebs.

Villainy were absolutely a highlight. A range of vibrant rock tunes, bursting with power thanks to lead singer, Neill Fraser. Every single song was a banger, and their crowd interaction was well executed at every step: crowd surfing on an inflatable boat, giant balls bouncing into the audience, and getting everyone on their knees for an “instagram jump”.

We missed most of Devilskin’s set as my friend was very keen to see Gin Wigmore before heading off to One Republic, who happened to be playing at TSB Arena, just next door to the City Stage. But I was back in time to see their last few songs with Jennie Skulander doing high kicks and death growls.

Then finally. The act of the night: Shihad.

The first and last time I remember seeing Shihad live was 20 years ago in Christchurch. And like whiskey straight from the barrel, they’ve aged to perfection.

Most of us have grown up with Shihad in one form or another. Their biggest albums were released from when I was 17 to 37. Almost everyone I know had a copy of The General Electric and Pacifier.

Shihad played for a full hour before seemingly wrapping up the night. Not a single fan was fooled – there was one song in particular we were all waiting for; Shihad gave us two.

They say you can’t beat Wellington on a good day, and there’s not much better than Wellington’s own Shihad returning Home Again.

I highly recommend adding Homegrown to your list of must-see festivals, and you know if Shihad’s headlining a stage, the whole day will rock.


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