Festival specialists dDub travelled to its first Queenstown Winter Festival in a converted ambulance and was paid $500.
The uplifting roots and rock act has come a long way since those humble beginnings in 2004 and this year return to headline the main Mardi Gras stage on Sunday night.
And for a band that performs mainly outdoors, the seven members retain a warm place in their hearts for cold winter gigs in the deep south.
Frontman Derek Browne says: “Queenstown is a naturally beautiful place, very majestic, and once everything is covered in snow and you’re freezing your tits off, it’s magic.”
Browne credits the decision to tour around the 2004 Winter Fest gig as a reason for their success – particularly as a live festival act.
“It seemed really silly at the time but so much happens in the summer that everyone gets swamped so a wee band has too much competition.
“We did a winter tour and from then on did winter tours and created our own thing.”
dDub has gone on to play countless festivals including Rhythm n Vines, Splore, Womad and the Nelson Winter Festival.
They have also released two critically –acclaimed albums and toured extensively in New Zealand and Australia – bringing their groove laden, horn heavy, roots rock to crowds of thousands. This will be their sixth Winter Festival performance.
The band has recruited a trombone player, Alex Borwick, and now boasts a three-piece brass section.
The group has also modified its sound to accommodate more rock influences.
“To some degree I think a lot of the bands that came out of that mid-2000s era, including us, have developed their sound,” Browne says.
“It’s definitely not reggae or dub anymore – everyone has gone off on their own tangent.
“A lot of what you call roots now has rock elements to it or different elements. Our music is definitely developing that way, less rootsy and more kind of cranking, rock, groove.
“Unless you’re a true reggae band, like Katchafire who are amazing, you get a bit over playing that sort of stuff continually.”
The band is currently working on a new album, while polishing its live act and eyeing a European tour.
“I think we’re the best we’ve ever been live at the moment. We’ve kind of been working on our live show and just taking it to the next level,” Browne says.
“You get musicians who stand up there and are pretty bland, just playing the songs. You might as well have the stereo on with the album.
“Our music does lend itself to being played live. It’s uplifting and I would say engaging, interesting music and we just love playing it.
“That’s what it comes down to, we just love playing it.”
And Winter Fest is still the highlight of their year.
“We usually stay for the week and get up the mountain.
“We’ve had so many cool experiences – being in Winnies when it snows and they open the roof, getting caught in blizzards, stuck on the roads unable to get to gigs.
“It’s all part of the fun and makes you feel a bit more alive.”
WHERE: Winter Festival’s Mardi Gras main stage, Earnslaw Park
WHERE: Mint Bar, Wanaka
WHEN: Saturday night ($25)