A Chat With Friendly Potential

February 23, 2020

On March 14th the Beacon Music Festival will be taking over Auckland’s Queen’s Wharf. Beacon promises to be an exciting celebration of electronic music and will feature sets from both local and international DJs. Organised by collective Friendly Potential (Sam Harman, Tom McGuinness, Simon Wallace, Gus Sharp, and Scarlett Lauren) who have previously run events such as Anno Domini at the Auckland Art Gallery and Catacombs at the Civic’s Wintergarden. We sat down with Scarlett Lauren to find out what punters can expect from the festival and why Beacon is set to become New Zealand’s most exciting new music festival. 

What was the inspiration behind the Beacon Music Festival? 

“As a crew, we are all very much tapped into what is happening internationally from travel and also the internet. Also, Tom, one of the crew lives in London, so we’ve all experienced really wild, amazing programming at other festivals around the world. There is one in Amsterdam called Dekmantel, and also Sonar in Barcelona, they’re so well known for showcasing left-field music and art in beautiful urban environments. So, we just thought there is such a lack of that in New Zealand at the moment and we believe anyway that Auckland is ready for it and we kind of need it.”

So how long have you been trying to get The Beacon Festival off the ground for? 

“Friendly Potential as a concept has been running for about five years. But, individually we’ve all had a lot of experience on either side of that. So I guess scaling up to something like Beacon as a big festival has been a part of our natural evolution. In terms of the concrete idea and the concrete planning it’s been the last two and a half years and then the last year or so of actual planning the logistics of things.” 

If it goes well are you planning on making it a regular event? 

“It’s definitely going to go well and it absolutely will be a regular thing.” 

So was Queen’s Wharf your first choice in location for the event? 

“So Tom is one of the founders of Friendly Potential. Tom and one of his associates were looking for an outdoor venue with Anno Domini a few years ago and the ports of Auckland. Down on the Auckland waterfront is what they had originally had in mind. But it was actually through our relationship with Auckland Live that Queen’s Wharf as a venue became available to us. It’s a glorious space, you’ve got the sun and the water and the ocean air so it’s beautiful and actually quite relaxing as well. As well as that you have this amazing space called Shed 10 which is this kind of warehouse so it’s perfect for a techno rave, so it’s the best of both worlds.”

So how did Friendly Potential come about? 

“We all found each other through music. Tom, Sam, Gus and Simon were all doing their own parties and radio shows individually and they were all friends and collaborating informally anyway. In Auckland at the time, there wasn’t anybody really promoting the music that they wanted to hear. So, if someone was going to do it, it was going to be them. They wanted to create these great parties, play records and promote amazing DJs. There was a lack of something and they needed to take that space and step up and do it themselves. I was a latecomer and have only become involved in the last two years.” 

How long have you been DJing for? 

“Well, I have been into music forever. But in terms of playing in a public space where people might actually hear me, the past two and a half years. “

For the Beacon Line up you have a healthy mix of international and local acts. Was that because you wanted to draw in crowds with the international acts and then give local DJs more exposure?

“When you have a large festival or a large party, or even a smaller party you need to have a drawcard, maybe some names people might recognise or names people are familiar with. But, we only book people that we find really interesting.

“So we have the draw cards and then we also have the lesser-known artists that we want to highlight because we believe in them. An artist who would be an example of that is Vanessa Worm she is from New Zealand originally, and moved to Melbourne, she now has her own label and is releasing on Cin Cin and a whole heap of other labels and we really believe in her, she’s amazing and hardly anyone knows who she is in New Zealand.” 

You’ve partnered with a bunch of Auckland restaurants who will be catering the event what will their presence look like at the festival?

“Pop-ups is probably the best way to describe it. When you host a great party whether it’s at your house or it’s in a nightclub or a large festival environment it’s not just about doing one thing right, it’s a multifaceted operation. So, you want the right music, you want good sound, you want it to be this place where everyone can feel comfortable. The food and beverage are super important and you want to make sure that everyone who’s there are the right people to be there, for us it’s a whole package. 

You want the right music and of course the right food suppliers, so we reached out to Bar Celeste and they will be doing aseafood-inspired spread. They’re a great little restaurant up on K Road. We’ve also paired with originally Wellington-based Five Boroughs, Forest Restaurant and Coffee Supreme NZ.”

For people who aren’t necessarily fans of electronic music would you say that experiencing it in a festival setting would make it worthwhile for them? 

“Absolutely the thing I want to stress is that we are promoting a festival, but we’re honestly just a bunch of music obsessives and we love to play records and we love to dance. When we do things we definitely curate the line-up and we have carefully programmed it so that we believe there is something for everybody. In saying that you’ve got dreamy ambient and classic disco house outside in the sunshine, and you’ve got more techno in the warehouse so it’s a well thought out smorgasbord of music.

Because there are three stages we’re utilizing the entire outside dock space as well as Shed 10. If you don’t like something you can cruise off to the next one and we’ll have a chill-out space as well. If you don’t want to be upfront and centre you can still enjoy a nice glass of wine or beer in the sunshine and you’ve got an amazing view. The vibe will be unmatched. We’re known for throwing good parties that’s why we do what we do. I’d ask people to trust us, the party will be good, we don’t book people who we just think will sell tickets, we book people who we want to dance to ourselves. I think it’s a great opportunity to have a taste of the best electronic music that is out there in New Zealand.”

You’ve also done Anno Domini on the Auckland Art Gallery Rooftop 

“We’ve just finished our last season of that, it’s been running for five years and we just finished that this summer. To focus on Beacon. The thing with Anno Domini is that it was an outdoor party in the afternoon on a Sunday and it was in the terrace of the Auckland Art Gallery so the atmosphere of the space is really beautiful and then when you add hot summer days, really nice beverages and amazing music with really good sound it’s just a really pleasant way to spend an afternoon dancing to great music.” 

So what can people expect from the Beacon Music Festival? 

“In a nutshell, it’s going to be New Zealand’s premier music festival. It will be forward-thinking, it’s going to be fun. We’ve got the world’s best DJs over three stages and we’re pairing that with amazing sound. That’s incredibly important to us, especially with dance music because otherwise the experience is just compromised. As well as that the hospitality side of that; the great pop-ups, the great beverages – it’s going to be a very cool, very comfortable space with incredible music.” 

So for you personally, what are the sets that you’re most excited to see at the festival? 

“I kind of want to see all of the artists, I’m into all of them, but I guess Skatebård, he’s a Norwegian disco boss. His sets are super colorful, real razor-sharp and fun. He’s never been to New Zealand before as an artist so it’s his New Zealand debut, he’s released a whole lot of my favourite tracks on a bunch of labels I’m super into. 

“The next person would be Lauren Hansom, she’s an Australian and recently just moved to Amsterdam but she’s been throwing down in Europe for a while and she’s really taking off. She’s a big record collector and does real mind-bending sets with lots of different styles. 

“And Nice Girl as well, she is a kiwi based in Melbourne now, really talented producer and a really good DJ. She did a radio show for us. So as well as parties and festivals Friendly Potential also do a radio show so we discover a lot of artists through the radio show as well.”

Do you have any plans on taking the festival to other cities in the future? 

“I’d never say no. I guess as a format we will keep it in Auckland for the first couple of years but I’d never say never.”

The Beacon Music Festival will be held on Queen’s Wharf Auckland on Saturday March 14th.

You can buy tickets at;

You can listen to Friendly Potential’s radio show here; 

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