"I think my eyeballs are burned", jokes Stan Walker, in Rotorua this weekend as special guest at ZM's Float music festival at Lake Tikiapu.

As temperatures soared to 29 degrees, Walker played to the setting hot sun and a crowd of 4300 who danced on the shore or waved their arms floating in the water on a sea of colourful flamingos, unicorns and pineapples.

After the day's festivities Walker dined under the stars at Rotorua's Skyline Stratofare restaurant on top of Mount Ngongotaha.

The singer gave a shout out to Float, New Zealand's only floating music festival, and to Rotorua, saying he was enjoying the all you can eat buffet, being close to the stars in the sky –"it's a thing", riding the gondolas, and wanted everyone to know that "I won at the luge."

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In Rotorua with his team of musicians, management and beloved partner, talented photographer girlfriend Alex King, who he recently declared his love publically at One Love, the singer has "something special" brewing.

"Something big, something you won't expect," is coming up in 2019 says Walker , "it is going to be my biggest year of music yet"

For now he is keeping a lid on what he has got planned, but also in Rotorua is his long time Australian manager David Champion, Champion confirmed that a couple of big announcements were pending,

"It will be new direction for him, and it is going to be surprising. You are actually going to be surprised. In a good way" Champion told NZME.

Before taking the stage at Lake Tikiapu, Walker took a moment to sit quietly, and softly did some singing to himself, gathering his thoughts beside the crystal clear waters where he used to swim as a boy a rare moment's breather in what has already been a "massive" summer for the singer.

Lake of floaties at Float Music Festival at Lake Tikitapu. Photo/ Andrew Warner
Lake of floaties at Float Music Festival at Lake Tikitapu. Photo/ Andrew Warner

The hitmaker has been back on the road since his recovery from his well-publicised health issues that saw him have his stomach removed to battle a rare cancer-causing gene mutation that runs in his family.

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Since his recovery Walker has been more in demand than ever – he started 2019 with a bang, launching a new single Gimme Your Love and staging his own event, Summer Feels in Tauranga on Boxing Day which featured an array of Kiwi musicians including Walker's own brother and Australia's The Voice 2017 contestant Russ Walker.

After wowing the 20000 strong crowd at One Love Festival in Tauranga at the end of January, it was Rotorua's turn for the Walker magic this weekend.

In white cut-off jeans, white Nike high tops and a silk khaki shirt, Walker brought upbeat energy to pool party atmosphere, luring most of the crowd off the water to dance and sing in front of the stage.

Walker rolled out some of his most loved tunes included Take it Easy, Messages and Black Box, each with a new twist. In Black Box –the hit that shot him to fame originally he did a mix of the reggae hit Cheerleader by Jamaican singer OMI.

The crowd sang along with Walker "Don't Worry About a Thing" in a tribute to Bob Marley's anthem Three Little Birds. And impressed with a searing range in Etta James' I Would Rather Go Blind.

But it was his rousing finale Aotearoa that had everyone over awed, singing, a fitting celebratory end to an uplifting day of music in the magical lake setting.

Walker, always staunchly proud of his Maori culture urged the young crowd with his hand on heart that

"Ahakoa nō hea mai koe, ka whawhai tonu mātou mōu/No matter where you belong,
We'll fight for your freedom."

Walker's set had followed a non-stop day of great Kiwi music across two stages, including Drax Project, Jupiter Project, hip hop singer Jess B, R n B singer Theia, Sachi and Balu Brigada.

Drax Project guitarist Ben O'Leary at ZM's Float festival in Rotorua. Photo/ Andrew Warner
Drax Project guitarist Ben O'Leary at ZM's Float festival in Rotorua. Photo/ Andrew Warner

Another of the day's biggest crowd pleasers was up and coming DJ Duo, The Hot Mess Express whose hit single Send It , produced by Kings, has been the surprise hits of 2019 and is currently topping the iTunes charts.

The duo is comprised of ZM drive show announcers Rotorua born Clint Roberts and Queensland comedian and social media star Bree Tomasel who has a cult following across the world including the likes of Hollywood actor Channing Tatum.

The Hot Mess Express DJ duo -Rotorua born Clint Roberts and Queenslander Bree Tomasel had their festival debut at Float in Rotorua, playing their hit collab with Kings, Send It
The Hot Mess Express DJ duo -Rotorua born Clint Roberts and Queenslander Bree Tomasel had their festival debut at Float in Rotorua, playing their hit collab with Kings, Send It

The duo's set had the crowd pumping not just to their own hit but to their mixes o old school hits like Zac Effron's Breaking Free, a "Rotorua special" of Poi E, and an earworming mashup of Pink Fong's Baby Shark with Darude's Sandstorm.

ZM Content director Ross Flahive said the festival "was even better than he had imagined," with the 4300 crowd from all over New Zealand.

He said the all ages, non-alcohol, non-smoking and vaping made for "good vibes", and safety was a top priority for the floating festival with 15 lifeguards on rotate.

Sunscreen and water flowed and the hard working ZM team kept the crowd hydrated and well-nourished with Tip Top Ice Cream.

ZM afternoon drive show hosts Bree Tomasel and Clint Roberts aka Hot Mess Express DJ Duo enjoying the Tip Top Trumpets at Float in Rotorua
ZM afternoon drive show hosts Bree Tomasel and Clint Roberts aka Hot Mess Express DJ Duo enjoying the Tip Top Trumpets at Float in Rotorua

It was the second year of Float in Rotorua. The festival originally started out in Lake Taupo but Flahive thinks the setting of Tikitapu is perfect and hopes it becomes an annual festival there,

"I think this is the best lake to do it in New Zealand. And Rotor is not only central for people to travel to but with its food and activities event goers it showcases Kiwi music in one of New Zealand's most popular towns and a beautiful environment. "

As the crowd deflated their floaties to leave, the party is not over but continues today at the Lake for the Flava NZ Bomb Comp on Sunday in which bombers can jump from platforms 2m, 5m, 8m or 10m high into the water.

The crowd cooled off at Float with the Bomb Tower. The Bomb Comp continues today, Sunday. Photo/ Andrew Warner
The crowd cooled off at Float with the Bomb Tower. The Bomb Comp continues today, Sunday. Photo/ Andrew Warner

What's On Today at Lake Tikiapu

February 17

-Casual bombing 10am-12pm.

-Bomb Comp starts at 12.30pm

PASSES: Pick up five bombs for $5 at the event (for ages four-plus)