Blues Festival back at Queen's Birthday weekendSave
By Kelly Makiha
After a year off, the Rotorua Blues Festival is back promising two days of jam-packed top blues music.
The two-day festival will see 30 international and local bands and soloists playing at venues around Rotorua.
The artists will play non-stop from midday on Saturday June 3 and will end late on Sunday June 4. The venues include Ambrosia Restaurant and Bar, Brew Craft Beer Pub, Eat Streat, Lakeland Queen, the Novotel Rotorua Lakeside and the Lakeside Cafe, which is the new home of the Bay of Plenty Blues Club.
The festival wasn't held last year for the first time since it started in 2007 because of funding constraints.
But the Bay of Plenty Blues Club, which runs the festival, has delivered on its promise to bring it back this year.
Cheryl Campbell, who is one of the organisers, said the festival had always attracted big crowds, including blues fans from all over the North Island who were disappointed it wasn't held last year.
"We have had emails and texts from people all wanting to make sure it was back this year. We bring really good acts from overseas and we showcase our locals who are extremely talented. We just needed a year to get our thoughts and funding together."
Ms Campbell said the festival would have a "teaser" at the Night Market on June 1 with the BOP Blues All Stars providing a sample of what would come over the long weekend.
There will also be a youth guitar workshop led by acclaimed Australian singer and guitarist Orion Lydon at the Novotel Rotorua Lakeside on June 2 from 2pm to 4pm. Lydon will perform at Brew on June 3 from midday to 12.45pm and at the Lakeside Cafe on June 4 between 5pm-5.45pm.
The festival has also secured American singer and guitarist Chris Cain who is currently touring New Zealand. He will play at the Novotel on June 4 from 7pm to 9pm as part of the gala show, which will feature opening act Feenix.
The show will also see the auction of three blues items, including an original painting by Debbie Stuart, a cigar box guitar made by blues club member Mike McMillan and an old gramophone from club stalwart Noel Lamberton.
Rotorua's Jono Breakwell will headline the Lakeland Queen "Blues Cruise" on June 4 from 3pm to 5pm with support act local favourite Hammer On (Peri Grant and Jimmy Murray).
Australians Dave Nicholls and Mark Porter will do stints at Ambrosia and Brew over the two days.
Other top acts among the line-up are Mike Garner, B Side Band, Macka (Lindsay McKenzie) & Friends, Harley Cruz, Lloyd Acurity, Contraband and Keith and Lyndsey.
Another feature of the festival will be a three-hour party on Eat Streat, from 2pm to 5pm on June 3 featuring Running Mint, Hammer On, Bay City Ramblers and Recliner Rockers.
The festival ends with the sounds of legendary Kiwi artist Larry Morris and band at the Lakeside Cafe from 9pm to 10.30pm, after which there will be a "monster open jam" and VIP meet and greet.
Ms Campbell said the club was excited to bring the festival back and she hoped locals would support it.
Most of the events were free, but there were charges for some, including the Chris Cain and Feenix concert, the Blues Cruise on the Lakeland Queen and the final show with Larry Morris and band.
She said the club was selling a combo for $150 for a limited time, which included tickets to those three events and three pieces of blues club merchandise (BOP Blues Club T-shirt, cap and badge). The value of the combo is $208.