Billy’s Queenstown jazz fest revival


A top Kiwi blues guitarist is aiming to reinvigorate Queenstown’s annual jazz festival.
Touring musician and event promoter Billy TK Junior is planning a smaller, four-day event at the end of next month called the Queenstown International Jazz and Blues Festival.
It replaces the previous Queenstown Jazz Festival and will be a mix of ticketed and free gigs featuring artists from the United States, Australia and New Zealand, he says. 

TK Junior, who runs festivals in the Cook Islands and Fiji, says he’s working with the previous festival trust board to retain the community aspects – while he’s handling the commercial side. 

“We have a working relationship between Billy TK Junior Ltd and the Queenstown Jazz Festival board,” he says.
“I certainly thought if I get together a tight four-day pro-gramme with a handful of venues, a free programme with exciting ticketed events and a travel and tourism focus then we’d start to put in it in the right direction. 

“My focus is to do a well-planned and executed four-day programme so that we can show the world as well as Queenstown’s community that a festival of this nature can be good for the town and Queenstown’s profile.” 

TK Junior, who has toured with Australian singer Jimmy Barnes and US rocker George Thorogood, has lined up Australian soul performer Renee Geyer has the headline act. 

Geyer, who has released more than 20 albums during a 40-year career, is to perform at the Memorial Centre on October 25. Tickets are from $65. 

Other acts include American blues group the Mofo Party Band from California, and Australian guitar hero Kevin Borich. 

Local blues and jazz acts Paul Ubana Jones, festival regulars King Leo Blues band, and The Federation are also lining up. 

“We want to create a really good late-night programme so the opportunity is there for people to get into a late-night smoky jazz and blues vibe – without the smoky part.” 

The festival, which is aiming to have a base at Steamer Wharf venues, also plans to host ‘blues cruises’ on the Saturday and Sunday afternoons aboard Southern Discoveries’ new boat on Lake Wakatipu – plus a finale night up at the Skyline complex. 

Overall, TK Junior has a big vision for the festival saying eventually he’d like to see someone like star performer Norah Jones come out to headline it. 

“From a musical and artistic point of view I have a pretty decent history. It gives me the ability to create an event like this and I’ve got the contacts. I’m here to do a great thing and deliver an event worthy of Queenstown’s brand.” 

The Queenstown Jazz Festival had been doing it tough, with the trust posting a $15,000 loss in 2009 and a $22,000 loss in 2010