Homegrown festival shines while EarthTonz crashes

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A homegrown Queens­town music festival will grow to a 5000-capacity this year – whilst one started by an international event organiser has been axed. 

The biennial Shotover Sunshine Festival event – run by former Queenstown Subculture night­club owners Simon ‘DJ Downtown Brown’ Hendl and Antonia Crowley – proved a huge draw for revellers in its inaugural year in 2011. 

However, organisers of the New Year’s Eve bash EarthTonz – which last year failed to attract a quarter of its 10,000 capacity with international dance acts such as The Freestylers and Crystal Method – have confirmed it has no future. 

The differing fortunes of the two summer festivals show the fine line between success and failure and the power of knowing your audience and local terrain. 

Hendl says: “We run Shotover alternate years to Rippon [Wanaka festival] and basically target it at a weekend near Waitangi Day. 

“It means there’s always something happening in the Southern Lakes region around that weekend every year.” 

Shotover, on a Littles Road site on Feburary 9, also books New Zealand acts – this summer’s stellar line-up includes Kora, The Black Seeds, Tiki Taane, Ladi6, Sola Rosa and Ahoribuzz. 

Hendl says: “To some extent it’s been about pulling in a lot of favours from friends and a lot of people I know. 

“We set the bar pretty high with the 2011 event and we again wanted to ensure we had a top NZ line-up that we could be proud of and would actually get some bums on seats.” 

Organising committee Hendl, Crowley and Brett and Dean Lydiard have been working on Shotover solidly since the middle of the year and have strong early ticket sales. 

US-based EarthTonz boss Dan Allen says they also learned a lot from their inaugural year in Gibbston Valley – but don’t plan to put it into practice: “If we were going to do it again it probably wouldn’t be on New Year’s Eve – there’s too many things going on in town that draw people to it,” he says. 

“And we’d pick different artists. Yes, we’d have some more Kiwis on the bill but we’d also get bigger international artists. 

“But either way we look at it, we’re just not going to do it. We’ve got resources spread elsewhere.”