KIWI guitar maestro Billy TK Jnr has joined the exodus from Auckland to live in Northland and one of his first contributions to the local music scene is a blues festival in Whangarei over Waitangi Weekend.
Billy has toured the world for 22 years and played and toured with artists such as George Thorogood, The Neville Brothers, Junior Wells, Jimmy Barnes and many others. His recent album Blues Benediction enabled him to tour Europe and the USA playing major festivals and state theatres in California.
But last year he made the move north to be closer to his wife's family and wants to help reinvigorate the region's music scene.
"We had the opportunity to buy a property up here and had I known what a great lifestyle there is up here I would have done it years ago. I suppose I'm part of that influx of Aucklanders leaving the rat race and heading north. But I want to do something for the music scene here too," he said.
So he has teamed up with Brauhaus Frings in Whangarei for the first annual Frings Festival of Blues on February 6 and 7 and will headline the show with his band The Groove Shakers.
Also lined up for the festival are British rock guitar player Tony Painting and The Power, acoustic maestro JT from Auckland and local musicians to fill the show out, including Moondog Blues who is back in the city after performing in Australia.
"Frings has been a strong supporter of live music in Whangarei over the years and I've played at many of the jam nights here while touring through Northland over the years. But this will be my first official gig here," Billy said.
"It's a good line up of top blues acts and really we're lucky to get some of them here. JT plays in Auckland every weekend, but he's coming up here for this while Tony Painting is an awesome musician who will just blow people away."
Frings co-owner Gazza Woodham said the aim is to make the festival an annual event, with plans to extend it on to a neighbouring carpark next year, if there is enough support.
"We haven't had a two-day festival like this in Whangarei for years, after the old Whangarei Jazz and Blues Festival stopped. Paihia does it well now and we want to re-establish one in Whangarei," Mr Woodham said.
Fellow co-owner Warren Currin said Frings is going to develop several events that feature world class entertainment that will help bring Whangarei to life, especially the Town Basin precinct.
Tickets are limited and are $25 per person for the weekend and can be got at the venue and through eventfinder.co.nz.