By TOM HUNT/Posted at;stuff.co.nz –
The homebirth and puppet workshops on a Hauraki paddock may have been partly to blame. The music no doubt helped. For some, its certain, the bare breasts were a lure.
But nobody – not police, not organisers, and certainly not the puppeteers – could see the tye-dyed tsunami coming amid a mist of cannabis and sandalwood smoke.
It was the late summer of 1979 – 38 years ago – and the third Nambassa festival would see 60,000-odd people flock to New Zealand’s hippy high-water mark.
The 60,000 figure is a tad arbitrary. According to organiser Peter Terry, 47,000 people paid, but estimates hover between 50,000 and 150,000.
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Certainly, many parked paddocks away and walked across the brown, windswept grass for free. Sixty-thousand appears to be a semi-agreed figure.
Over three days, 30 bands or more played. The 100 or so workshops ranged from natural birth to “increasing your cannabis yield”. Twenty religious organisations – ranging from Salvation Army to Ananda Marga – offered their beliefs.
For Terry, 1979 was the third in a series. His Waikino Music Festival of 1977 had drawn a crowd of 5000, then 25,000 came to the Nambassa Music, Crafts and Alternative Festival, near Waihi, in 1978.
Mary Jane O’Reilly, from innovative dance troupe Limbs, was there. The 38 years since have slightly muddled what happened in which year but one memory is clear.
A bike gang planned to line the front of the stage during the performance and – for reasons that were unclear – roar their engines throughout.
A plan was unleashed and the tops came off.
“Although those bikers were there they were very quiet … they were stunned obviously.”
She recalled everything running late and, when they got on stage, “everyone at the front yelling ‘get your gear off’.”
Cannabis was the drug of choice and a widely-criticised heavy-handed police presence – 68 drugs arrests, raided tents, and a demonstration on police – did little to quell the stoned enthusiasm.
The Evening Post, wowed at how the festival was pulled off despite the mammoth, unexpected crowds, noted in the wake of demonstrations: “More than 20 bags of cannabis were tossed into the crowd which smoked it defiantly in front of constables. No arrests were made.
“Chants of ‘no busts’ and ‘nambusta’ reached fever pitch.”
It is worth noting, however, that the largely alcohol-free event was not entirely that. Documentary footage shows at least one man – stubbies, shirtless – swaying and clutching a slab of Double Brown cans of beer. A report, coincidentally out the same week of Nambassa, showed that New Zealand’s beer consumption had trebled in the past 70 years.
Nambassa would go down in New Zealand history as a counter-culture peak. It was, after all, what was going to be the start of a commune – based on conservation, alternative energy, self-sufficiency, and increased spiritual awarenesss – on the outskirts of Waihi.
But the establishment was there in spirit.
Continue via… Source: Flashback: Nambassa Festival, 1979, attracts 60,000 hippies | Stuff.co.nz