"When we first moved to Rotorua I cried for a year," says self-styled regional concert promoter Karin Vincent. "We'd come from a mecca of culture. We were living an hour away from France. I couldn't believe that a town could be any more dead than Rotorua."
Five years later Vincent has single-handedly turned this steaming tourist trap into a favourite stop on the indie music touring circuit with her Rogue Stage.
Born in South Africa and raised riding horses bareback, Vincent's outgoing and adventurous streak drives her decision-making. She met her husband Barry on Jersey, one of the Channel Islands where she had moved to work in the finance industry. Though the island was handy to Europe's cultural centres it could be a little one-dimensional.
"We felt there was a bigger world out there and we didn't want our children to get stuck on the rock. Jersey is old-fashioned, conservative and Anglican, but when we started looking for a place here Auckland seemed to be a bit like Jersey. I thought I'd like to live in Rotorua because of the town's cultural identity. It feels real here. You'll see all sorts of people - farmers, entertainers and small business owners. It's opened up a lot in the past two years. People are moving in and Rotorua is starting to show leadership in areas that other small towns are afraid of. They've used European research to plan cycle ways through the CBD."
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After moving to the volcanic plateau, Vincent began searching for local music and she found the deeper she dug, the richer the ore. She never planned to become a concert promoter, indeed she calls herself a New Zealand music promoter, but one day in late 2012, she noticed Delaney Davidson had a night off between a couple of his North Island shows planned for January 2013.
Vincent had fallen for his song I Slept Late, so she called Delaney and suggested he play in Rotorua. Sadly, we haven't got space for the long and wonderful story of how the gig eventually came to be staged on a boat cruising about the lake, its interior festooned with vintage typewriters and other atmospheric paraphernalia an antiques dealer provided.
Now musicians bombard Vincent with requests to play one of her bespoke shows on the nomadic Rogue Stage. During five hectic weeks late last year she had 16 concerts on the go, some of them staged in her living room. Her talent is her ability to imagine what's possible with an unusual venue. She can turn a bakery into a jazz club. The local museum became a church-worshipping Americana when The Bads passed through recently and it'll get another makeover when Taite Prize winner SJD plays there next month.
"I love meeting people and I love making them feel comfortable, because they're parting with their money. They sign up for this adventure. Often they won't know the address. They've got to be tuned in. I love the fact that people take risks. Because they've taken a risk they become more susceptible to unusual sounds. Then they become completely high on the music."
If you're anywhere near Rotorua and need a hit of culture, seek out The Rogue Stage.