A new music festival was on shakey ground but the director of Echo Festival says it can be just as good in Auckland. Paxon Talbot talks to Chris Schulz.

Echo Festival boss Paxton Talbot sounds like a much happier man than he probably was a few weeks ago.

"I'm surprised we've turned this thing around so quickly," he says down the phone from Vector Arena, the new Auckland home for the music festival formerly known as McLaren Valley, based in the Bay of Plenty.

"It's going to be great."

Things weren't so positive for the "Glastonbury of the Pacific" when complaints from McLaren Falls residents forced organisers to move the genre-spanning event to Auckland's Vector Arena, downsizing it from three days to two.

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The festival today releases its site map, which includes three stages and makes full use of Vector's facilities, including a second stage on the concourse outside the venue and a third at the Tuning Fork next door.

A map of Echo Festival at Vector Arena.
A map of Echo Festival at Vector Arena.

Stage times for its headlining acts have also been confirmed, with The Flaming Lips, Jamie xx and Courtney Barnett performing on Monday, January 11, and Disclosure, Alison Wonderland and Kurt Vile on Tuesday, January 12.

Talbot admits Echo isn't the festival he originally had in mind, but hopes he can still create something special after weeks of turmoil.

"The first festival had a plan to become something unique to New Zealand. There was a big plan behind it: it was positioned at the right time in the calendar and it gave amazing access to artists in a beautiful greenfield site," he says.

"This [Echo] can't be the Glastonbury of the Pacific but it's a different opportunity. It can be just as much fun, as relevant and poignant and culturally important."

Echo faces stiff competition with other summer festivals, including New Year's festivals like Rhythm & Vines and Northern Bass, as well as Laneway, Splore, Raggamuffin and Auckland City Limits.

Despite hosting many major international acts on its indoor stage, this will be the first time Vector Arena has been used to its full capacity. As well as an outdoor stage running until 9pm, the neighbouring Mahuhu ki te Rangi Reserve will host art installations, markets and street theatre.

Talbot, who has worked on several major festivals including Europe's Exit Festival and Rhythm & Vines, says he doesn't have the same concerns about consents as he did at MacLaren Falls. Neighbouring apartment dwellers are fully informed about Echo's activities, he says.

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"Vector have already got the consent of all the neighbours down here ... they're allowed to do six big shows outside a year.

Echo Festival director Paxton Talbot. Photo / John Borren
Echo Festival director Paxton Talbot. Photo / John Borren

"They were really keen to try to do something special. They were quite persuasive and we bought into what they were wanting to do."

He's surprised by how few people asked for refunds after the festival's changes were announced.

"There was a massive amount of disappointment around the original show falling over, and I was concerned that we'd lose a lot of our audience. People understand it's been a difficult time but they're hanging on to their tickets. I think that's pretty cool."

But he's keeping mum about the festival's future and whether it could become an annual Auckland event.

"This might go off and it might be absolutely extraordinary and we might walk away thinking this is what we were supposed to do in the first place. I'd still like to get out there into a green field. Who knows?"