1973 – The Great Ngaruawahia Music Festival

The Great Ngaruawahia Music Festival was held over 3 days. between the 6th and 8th of January 1973.  It was the first major music festival held in New Zealand and attracted over 18,000 people. The venue, a farm about 3km north of the town centre, was a perfect outdoor rock concert venue, a natural amphitheatre and fortress between the Waikato River and the Hakarimata Range, accessible only via Hakarimata Rd (then Huntly West Road).

Organised by Aussie expat Robert Raymond and Kiwi promoter Barry Coburn, its 54-act bill included many of New Zealand's top acts including expatriate heroes The La De Das (who reportedly stole the show) and Max Merrit & The Meteors. Co-headliners were UK bands Black Sabbath and Fairport Convention.

The line up

  • Corben Simpson (NZ) – opening act
  • Black Sabbath (UK)
  • Fairport Convention (UK)
  • Blerta (NZ)
  • Dragon (NZ)
  • La De Das
  • Mammal (NZ)
  • Max Merritt & The Meteors
  • Split Ends (NZ)
  • Bulldogs Allstar Goodtime Band (NZ)
  • Powerhouse (NZ)
  • Orb
  • Butler (NZ)
  • Ticket (NZ)

The headline act was Black Sabbath.



  • Corben Simpson removed all his clothes on stage and was reported nation-wide in the media, Black Sabbath burned a cross on the hill while getting the entire audience to light a match or lighter.
  • Ticket never appeared. They were scheduled to appear and to tour Australia and Canada with Black Sabbath but singer Trevor Tombleson had a throat infection and guitarist Eddie Hansen's 'beloved yellow rig' was blown up by Sabbath's guitarist who was using it onstage without permission. Hansen refused to go on after that.
  • "Todd (Hunter) … gathered some friends and fellow performers for an appearance at the Great Ngaruawahia Music Festival. They wrote original songs for their set list, and someone pulled the name "Dragon" out of an I Ching book. Their performance at the Ngaruawahia Music Festival led to a better gig, a few weeks performing at the Occidental Hotel in Auckland."


If you were there, if you have any images, videos or memories, we would love to hear from you. Why not post a comment.

One comment on “1973 – The Great Ngaruawahia Music Festival
  1. Ned says:

    Yeah I was there. I was 13, almost 14. I joined the throng of young people, hippies and stoners and walked from my home on Waipa Esplanade to the festival each day. On the Sunday afternoon, I recall joining the crowds swimming in the river. I had never seen a naked female before, let alone hundreds of them. To this day, I have a healthy fascination with the female form. Thank you to the promoters and all those beautiful young women (now in their 60s and 70s?). I vividly remember the burning cross as Black Sabbath burst into song. I was standing in the crowd when suddenly everything lit up, no-one saw it coming, it still sends chivers up my spine.

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