27 Oct 2020

'Great for fans': Musicians face managed isolation for chance to perform

11:54 am on 27 October 2020

International music artists are creeping back onto summer festival line-ups, after getting government exceptions to enter the country.

London drum & bass producer

Alix Perez from the UK is about to perform in Wanaka - his first live performance in eight months. Photo: YouTube

They have decided two weeks in isolation is worth it for the first chance to play to a crowd.

When London drum & bass producer Alix Perez launches his tour in Wanaka this weekend, after arriving a few weeks ago, it will mark his first live performance in eight months.

He said he lost 100 shows in one go when the UK's Covid restrictions came into effect, and he misses the special "connection with people in clubs and hearing music out loud".

"There's been none of that. In Europe and the UK where most of my friends and colleagues are, and people that I work with regularly, there's no end in sight. At the moment it's very unclear as to when thing can resume," he said.

"I'm feeling very fortunate being over here and being able to operate again."

Perez has moved here long-term with his New Zealand-born fiancé, who had originally planned to join him in London.

Other music artists have secured government exceptions to apply for Critical Purpose Visitor Visas, and spend a few weeks in the country after a fortnight in managed isolation.

It means proving they have "unique experience and technical or specialist skills" that isn't obtainable in New Zealand, or that they're undertaking a "time-critical role with significant benefits to the national or regional economy".

An Immigration New Zealand spokesperson confirmed Bay Dreams festival, happening in Tauranga and Nelson in January, had helped 15 people through that process.

Another two mystery international headliners have just been secured for Northern Bass New Year's festival in Mangawhai, which is directed by Gareth Popham.

Despite the festival being completely sold out, with about 3000 people on the waitlist, he said it was a chance to "tick the boxes".

"We're a festival known for international drum and bass and other big international artists," he said.

"This year we've got what we think is one of the best Kiwi line-ups that we could put on, and now really, really happy that we get to sprinkle international talent on top. It just feels great."

Popham said the festival was still showcasing more New Zealand artists, including many in higher profile set times, than in past years.

But he said international acts were booked to play earlier this year, and the festival wasn't going to turn its back on them given the restrictions overseas.

Artists may spend Christmas in managed isolation

Northern Bass would be covering the cost of their managed isolation, which he said they would "quite possibly" be staying in for Christmas.

"I think some of the artists have been very brave flying all the way from the UK, doing two weeks in isolation, missing Christmas with their families, then doing some shows and flying back. But it's great for us, great for festivals, great for the New Zealand fans."

Mitchell Ryder is the director of Cream Events, which is co-organising Canopy Festival in Christchurch's Hagley Park on December, featuring Alix Perez and two other international drum & bass performers.

He said the heartbreak and upsets of this year, and now the shared goal of bringing international music artists to the country, had seen the country's promoters working collaboratively.

"It is really good to see everyone working together. Promoters that didn't see eye to eye in the past have needed to join forces because they're wanting to have the same acts on their festivals."

For promoters, there's no ignoring the looming threat that all their hard work may go to waste, if gathering restrictions are re-introduced.

But Ryder said they were focused on making "hay while the sun shines" and waiting with crossed fingers and toes, for a chance to bid goodbye and good riddance to 2020.

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