Home-grown talent: Tome Goes To The Mayor's one of 32 acts performing over the three-day Arrow Sounds festival, in Arrowtown, next month, organised by The Fork and Tap owner Jeannie Crawford and local muso Kevin Murdoch, second from left


Three days, 17 venues, 32 bands — all but one free.

Arrow Sounds is back with a vengeance next month after an almost-too-successful debut last June.

It’s the brainchild of The Fork and Tap owner Jeannie Crawford and Arrowtown muso Kevin Murdoch, who decided to throw a party last year to celebrate entering Alert Level 1, and were hoping to inject some life back in to the village.

One of the overarching aims was to drive traffic to the town’s bars and restaurants — and help local musicians earn a bit of coin.

Murdoch, a member of Tom Goes To The Mayor, says last year’s 12-hour pub crawl-type gig was ‘‘huge’’.

‘‘Last year was such a success it was an over-success … you couldn’t get into a lot of the venues, a lot of people went home because every place was packed out.

‘‘Last year, halfway through the afternoon we were putting up gear and someone said, ‘there’s a bus coming up from the Southland Hotel in Invercargill’.

‘‘The people started arriving at 2pm — the show didn’t start till 6pm, but we started at 5pm just to get the show underway.’’

Murdoch says the appetite for Arrow Sounds was such he and Crawford decided to establish a committee to help organise the 2021 event, which has literally trebled in size.

Now spread between Friday, March 26 and Sunday, March 28, live music’s going to fill the town, still following the progressive party theme of 2020.

And this year a couple of new venues have been added, including Arrowtown’s Athenaeum Hall, being sponsored by Great Southern Television.

Murdoch says thanks to the company’s generosity, there’s no charge for Arrow Sounds to use the hall, or for punters to go to gigs at it, with the exception of a preschool kids’ concert, Rozzie & The Orchestra, which will cost $5 per family.

‘‘They [Great Southern Television] came to us and because we’re part of the arts, they wanted to put something back into the arts in Arrowtown.

‘‘So that [the hall] is able to take the overflow.’’

This year Arrow Sounds is also branching out from the town’s main street.

On the Sunday Akarua, on the Arrowtown-Lake Hayes Road, will host Pearly and Ned (bookings apply) from noon till 3pm, while Bourbon Sour will play at Millbrook Resort’s Smithy’s Smoke House from 2pm till 5pm that afternoon, and the Killergrams head to Wet Jacket Winery from 3pm till 5pm.

Murdoch says they haven’t ruled out expanding the event even further in future years, potentially to include the Gibbston valley.

‘‘We looked at it [this year] and said, ‘let’s pull our horns in here’, ‘cos it was getting pretty big.’’

Once again, the focus is on fostering and celebrating local talent.

For example, up to 15 bands from Wakatipu High School, supported by RockFormation, will take to Buckingham Green on Saturday afternoon for three hours from 3pm.

‘‘That will be well worth a look,’’ Murdoch says.

He’s also predicting Arrowtown School teacher Paul Winders and artist Shane Woolridge’s gig at Provisions, on March 28, will be a hit.

‘‘Originally when we started it was after lockdown [it was] so the bars can make money and the bands can make money and we kept everything local.

‘‘We’ve got bloody good bands here, especially in Arrowtown, we’ve got a lot of entertainers and a lot of them we never ever see because they’re on the national scene.’’

Murdoch estimates about $10,000 in wages will go directly to the talent performing over the three-day weekend, and he expects most of the late-night venues will ditch dinner tables from the off.

‘‘I think it’ll be standing room [everywhere] — most of the gigs will be operating at capacity.

‘‘I know the New Orleans last year had to chuck out their tables halfway through because they had such a big crowd and they were at capacity.’’

Murdoch says Arrow Sounds, which will be an annual event, is a non-profit venture and they’re hoping to just break even.

But he believes the timing of the expanded programme has come at a perfect time for many this year, in light of the economic downturn caused by Covid.

Once again, free midnight shuttles will run on the Friday and Saturday nights, to Lake Hayes, Shotover Country, Queenstown and Arthurs Point, while Arrowtown Taxis will also be on hand.

Arrow Sounds, March 26 to 28, Arrowtown and surrounds. For the full programme visit Arrow Sounds’ Facebook page