I'm still at a loss to understand what has happened to Tauranga's National Jazz Festival this year. My only explanation is that the organisers have totally lost track of what the festival is about and what makes it successful.
I am talking about the remarkable absence of Tauranga acts on the programme. Bands from the Bay seem to have got the finger.
Of course I can't help but be disappointed that Kokomo are not playing. I would have thought that after selling out a concert at last year's festival we would have been high on the list for this year, a chance for us to play downtown for a wider audience than that at Baycourt. The organisers even asked me about us playing - I told them we'd love to play downtown on the Saturday or Sunday. No money was mentioned. That was the last I heard.
However, we're not alone in being sidelined. Brilleaux, Bonjour Swing, Marion Arts, Bay Dixie, The BBC, Trevor Braunias Trio, B-Side Band, The Mike Garner Band... none of them are playing.
One of the very few local acts who is on the bill – I'm now vaguely embarrassed to say – is a side-project from Kokomo, old-timey quartet The Bay City Ramblers which Nigel and I play in. Maybe the organisers figured that it could be instead of Kokomo: we don't play the same songs and sound nothing like each other but there are two of the same guys so what the hell!
As someone who was director of the festival for the better part of a decade I'm gutted at this complete lack of respect for local musicians. We always used to make sure that local bands got priority on the programme. It makes sense financially as there are no travel and accommodation expenses and it reinforces that this is a TAURANGA festival, showing off and celebrating Tauranga music as well as that from around the country.
But so much is off about the festival this year. How is it that after 2016, when there were two sold out concerts on the Thursday night at Baycourt, the organisers have now decided that it is too risky to have any concert on the Thursday night? I'm simply baffled. (Unless it's some sort of admission that they couldn't promote a piss-up in a brewery.) Why would you make the festival smaller while simultaneously dropping a proven income generator? The concerts are your chance to make money and last year proved that the Thursday night could do just that.
When I was involved in running the festival we put a lot of the success down to uniting the local community behind the event. This year the organisers have managed to alienate and offend a whole raft of local musicians. These musicians have friends and supporters; I suspect the rest of the community and audiences won't be far behind.
ON A RELATED TANGENT (if you've got right to the end): more than a few people have expressed interest in coming to Tauranga to see us play at the Jazz Festival this year. That's obviously not happening. Would anyone be interested if we set up a gig somewhere else in town over Easter? Then you could enjoy the out-of-town stuff at the festival and get a homegrown Tauranga concert as well. Let us know... email me at firstname.lastname@example.org