SIMPLY THE FEST – Russell Blackstocks Top 5 Winter Festival Picks
‘Mountain Scene’ Jazz Night
Saturday, July 4, 6.30pm: Skyline
The dazzling setting of Skyline’s mountain top complex is an unbeatable venue for Winter Festival’s showpiece music event.
The cream of New Zealand talent will entertain fans as the night lights of Queenstown twinkle below.
This year Kiwi sax master Nathan Haines – whose six solo albums have brought him international acclaim – will blow up a storm with his band while headlining upstairs.
The upper stage also features NZ jazz icon Frank Gibson, fresh off a nationwide tour with Christchurch singing sensation Anika Moa.
Drumming legend Gibson has played on some 160 albums during a massive career, so he’ll hardly be short of material.
Downstairs, red-hot action is served up by three of the country’s funkiest acts.
Dunedin’s Six60 wowed crowds at Queenstown’s inaugural Peak Festival last January and aim to do the same at Jazz Night.
And hypnotic fusion band Little Bushman will do their best to put punters into a blissed-out trance, along with reggae/roots outfit Cornerstone Roots.
Festival Mardi Gras
Tuesday, June 30, from 5.30pm: Downtown
A touch of Rio comes to the resort when the colourful annual celebration takes over the town from dusk.
A carnival-like atmosphere should be enjoyed by all in this spectacular display of music, rhythm, movement, light, fire, colour and of course …magical masks.
Infectious and fun, you’ll soon find yourself dancing to a distinctly Latin beat as Queenstown celebrates the qualities of its South American community and BrazilBeat Sound System turn up the heat on the music front.
The spirit picks up tempo and continues into the night with more sizzling live bands and exotic food stalls.
For those over 20, free festivities continue at the Mardi Gras After Party at SkyCity Queenstown Casino, with Invercargill-based group Jason Schmidt and The Rockers.
Those wanting to be part of the parade should meet at the Memorial Gates on Marine Parade at 5.15pm.
Come in costume, wear a mask and get ready to party.
American Express Great Comedy Debate
Monday, June 29, 8pm: Millennium Hotel
Always a hit and always hysterical, this event has pulled off a real coup this year – by landing Flight of the Conchords star Rhys Darby.
Tickets sold out almost instantly when news broke that the man who plays incompetent band manager Murray Hewitt in the cult TV show is in the lineup.
Darby has starred alongside Jim Carrey in the box office smash Yes Man and features in the recent Emma Thompson movie The Boat That Rocked.
He’s also a well-known figure on the international comedy circuit but has managed to squeeze the Queenstown date into his busy schedule.
The Comedy Debate has earned its festival stripes through its canny combination of laughs and mental gymnastics.
Under the watchful eye of MC Jeremy Corbett, the sensitive issue being chewed over this year is: Should There Be More Women On Top?
Bringing together the talk circuit’s sharpest brains, the debate also features Dai Henwood, Te Radar, Oliver Driver, Paul Ego and Queenstown funnygirl Emma Lange.
Wellington Phoenix v Melbourne Victory
Saturday, June 27, 2.30pm: Events Centre
A huge crowd is expected for Queenstown’s first taste of big-time soccer.
Kiwi team Wellington Phoenix take on Australian A-league champions Melbourne Victory in a showpiece exhibition game sure to attract fans from all over the South Island.
Phoenix supporters – dubbed the Yellow Fever – will travel in numbers and are tipped to take over the grandstand.
Locals will be keen too. Soccer has boomed in Queenstown in recent years – more than 700 local kids play the game.
Victory beat Adelaide United 1-0 last season to win their second Grand Final and Phoenix – who attract home crowds of 6000-7000 – finished sixth.
“There’s huge interest in the Phoenix and football in the South Island and this will be a really novel event,” Phoenix boss Tony Pignata says.
And the chilly weather?
“The only issue we may have is a bit of snow on the field but we’ll overcome that,” Pignata insists.
“Melbourne are excited about coming to Queenstown and we’ll be recommending they pack their winter woollies.”
Te Radar presents Eating the Dog
Wednesday, July 1, 8pm: Millennium Hotel
Queenstown gets a blast of Te Radar’s award-winning new live comedy show – which takes a satirical look at some of the more notable characters and events from New Zealand’s history.
The funnyman pays tribute to the bumblers and ne’er-do-wells who personify the archetypal “she’ll be right” spirit that epitomises the country.
“The history books are full of people who put this place on the map but what if the chapters they do have don’t tell the whole truth?” Radar says.
“And what about the people who don’t have their chapter in the history books? The ones who we weren’t taught about at school? The ones who will never get their face on a bank note? The people that gave it a red-hot go but perhaps lost a limb, or their life, in the process.
“It’s time we celebrated the good intentions of some of our more unfortunate heroes.”
The not-to-be-missed romp comes complete with a visual presentation rich with photos, maps and other images.