Original focus: Queenstown singer-songwriter Violet Hirst


Queenstown’s first music festival in the Covid-19 era is set to prop up the resort’s “underground” songwriting community high above the forest floor.

Treehouse Sessions will see 20 local artists perform in treehouses as punters zipline between them this weekend as part of the Ziptrek Ecotours attraction on Bob’s Peak.

Musician and songwriter Violet Hirst is set to perform on Sunday and says the best part of the festival is its focus on original songwriters.

“Which is super-cool considering the usual climate and audience around Queenstown is usually tourists who want to hear songs they already know.”

Despite a generally low demand for artists to perform originals in the resort, there’s certainly plenty of it going on in the background, Hirst says.

“So it’s really cool to see the support happening … I’m super-excited to get to play my songs for the first time in a long time and also have an intimate space where I can tell stories as well, which is all part of it.”

Born and bred in the basin, Hirst now lives in Wellington where she performs with both her own band, The Kind Hearted, and indie pop group Ski Resort.

Treehouse Sessions curator Scott Kennedy says despite Queenstown’s reputation as an adventure tourism capital, he had an overwhelming response when looking for artists to perform in the treehouses.

“Within a day I had over 20 people being really excited to play, which has been great.

“So we’ve got a really full line-up of amazing performers.”

The event is a fun and unique opportunity to showcase two things Queenstown does really well, Kennedy says.

“Which is adventure tourism as well as the arts and culture and music which is kind of a little bit underground I think.

“Maybe some people don’t realise how much music is going on here but there are literally hundreds of professional musicians that call Queenstown home.

“And combining the two things together I think is a really exciting and innovative way of looking at what the future could hold.”

The Wakatipu Basin is a bit of a “dark horse when it comes to the arts,” he says.

“We’ve got a Facebook group of professional musicians and DJs in Queenstown and there’s about a thousand people in it.

“There’s a huge community and I think a lot of it is driven by our tourism … when you have that many artists around there’s a huge amount of creativity.”

Guitarist and songwriter Je Marco is the frontman of local band Turtle Funk and will perform in a treehouse with his unique blend of funk, Latin jazz and bossa nova (Brazilian-styled jazz).

Originally from Brazil, Marco says Treehouse Sessions will likely be one of the first music festivals in the world since Covid-19 ground everything to a halt.

Musicians in the resort are “thirsty” to get going again, he says.

Turtle Funk in trees: Guitarist and songwriter Je Marco

“All around the world we are going through hard situations … it looks like Queenstown is the first place in the world to go back to having people playing music.

“So of course it’s going to be special.”

Arriving in New Zealand about six years ago, he has found the music community in the resort to be particularly friendly.

“They always want to look after each other.

“If someone has a broken string or something like that, they always help.”

Kennedy says the team at Ziptrek have done an amazing job of planning to ensure the event is safe for both the public and performers.