Review: Jim Beam Homegrown rises from the COVID ashes a roaring success

I wouldn't want to spend my Saturday any other way writes Seni Iasona.
I wouldn't want to spend my Saturday any other way writes Seni Iasona. Photo credit: Jim Beam Homegrown

REVIEW: Wellington's Jim Beam Homegrown festival rose like a phoenix from the ashes on Saturday after COVID-19 forced its cancellation last year, and I wouldn't have wanted to spend my weekend any other way. 

Here's why. 

The city festival, hosted in the capital, is spread across Poneke's waterfront offering five stages to festivalgoers. And what a location. The waterfront is accessible, beautiful and even more stunning when the weather gods put on a show for the city.

And that they did. 

The hot sun, which Wellington hasn't had a lot of recently, beamed down on the 20,000 plus 'homegoers' (festivalgoers) as they settled in for a spectacular afternoon and evening.

Getting through ticketing at the festival was a breeze. The lines were fast-moving, and the staff had their jobs mastered to a T - homegoers were flying through the gates within minutes. 

The afternoon kicked off with a bang at Park Stage, situated at Waitangi Park. With what appeared to be hype men who rarked up the already buzzing crowd in anticipation of "reggae royalty" Katchafire.

"I say Katcha, you say fire," one of them screamed,


"Fire!" the crowd screamed back even louder. 

And it wasn't long before Katchafire set Park Stage alight, playing some of their most popular tunes 'Working', 'Get Away' and 'Love Letter'.

Review: Jim Beam Homegrown rises from the COVID ashes a roaring success
Photo credit: Jim Beam Homegrown

The swaying crowd, which knew each song, lyric for lyric, soaked up the heat and the warm feeling of nostalgia. 

"It doesn't get any better than this," said one band member. 

Katchafire concluded and The Black Seeds were about to take stage on the other side of the waterfront at the City Stage.

Walking from Waitangi Park to Frank Kitts Park, about a 10 minute walk, the energy among homegoers was palpable, and it was apparent that everyone missed Homegrown last year.

Review: Jim Beam Homegrown rises from the COVID ashes a roaring success
Photo credit: Jim Beam Homegrown

The sun was still providing warmth, there was not a breath of wind in the air and the rhythm of the festival was in full swing - everyone was undoubtedly having a great time. 

The Black Seeds took to the stage enjoying the lushness of Wellington's beautiful weather.

"You can't beat Wellington on a f***ing good day, and this is that day," said lead singer Barnaby Weir.

The Black Seeds provided a snapshot back in time, memories of a Kiwi summer with family and friends flooded through as they belted their tunes for their electric audience. 

Some fans were left dewy-eyed as their classic songs 'So True', 'Cool Me Down' and 'One by One' blasted through Frank Kitts Park.

But it was 'One By One' that stole the show. 'One By One' is almost like Aotearoa's other national anthem - the scenes were incredible as the crowd bounced with joy and sang along.

And as the last bit of sun kissed the waterfront The Black Seeds' performance came to an end and Ladi6 was next.

Ladi6's performance began with three beautiful, high energy and majestic dancers gracing the stage before she came out, each holding a hand-woven fan. 

While Ladi6's performance was unreal and intentionally full of love, telling her fans to share the love with their best friends - it was the extra layer of choreographed dancing that I thoroughly enjoyed. 

City Stage began to empty out once Ladi6's set ended but it wasn't long before it was packed in again for an act that I was most excited about. Gin Wigmore. 

A sea of all ages crowded Frank Kitts park as Wigmore's set edged closer to starting. And once it did the crowd erupted with excitement.

"Good evening Homegrown, this is f***ing awesome. You guys are great," she said.

The energy between Wigmore and her bandmates was beautiful to watch, they took every opportunity to dance together and visibly love performing as one. 

Wigmore's bangers 'Kill Of The Night', 'Black Sheep' and 'Written In The Water' were songs every audience member knew, every lyric was screamed to the top of everyone's lungs. 

And Wigmore's love for her audience was obvious - she seemed to thoroughly enjoy interacting with her fans, just as much as they love her.

But it was the stupid move of one that saw the crowd boo, after someone threw a bottle of water onto the stage.

"There's a lot of electronics up here and you might hurt someone. So really cool whoever you are, and if they're next to you f***ing get rid of them, f***ing ass holes," said Wigmore's guitarist.

Wigmore's beautiful husky voice was mesmerising and I must admit - her voice is even more incredible live. 

But like all good things, they must come to an end, Wigmore was done. But Jim Beam Homegrown wasn't.

Sir Dave Dobbyn was up next and what a beautiful way to end a superb day. 

After almost 10 hours of basking in the sun and swaying to Kiwi music, homegoers still had plenty left in the tank for Sir Dave. 

The clock was ticking and backstage crews worked hard to remove Wigmore's set quickly to be replaced with Sir Dave's - with the added pressure of a crowd chanting "we want Dave".

And boy did they get him. Sir Dave flexed his music legend muscles proving at the age of 66 he's still got it in him.

From Sir Dave's first song to his last - 'Welcome Home', a lump in my throat remained. He had this overwhelming power of bringing the crowd together as one. 

Jim Beam Homegrown 2023 was a roaring success in my eyes. It's a well-oiled machine.

From bar staff, security and backstage staff to the people who cleaned port-a-loos, food trucks and the acts - everyone working at Homegrown ensured it was a Saturday well spent.

I wouldn't have wanted to spend my Saturday any other way. It was everything you would want at a city festival.