The inaugural Bay of Islands Music Festival has been hailed a resounding success — but the headline act almost didn't make it.
The festival drew an estimated 2500 music lovers to the grounds of the Copthorne Hotel in Waitangi on Saturday with a line-up including reggae legend Jimmy Cliff, Northland soul sensation Teeks, Katchafire, Tami Neilson, Troy Kingi and others.
Getting Jimmy Cliff to Northland on time was always going to be tight — he performed at the Byron Bay Bluesfest in Australia on Friday and will play there again tonight — but nerves really started fraying when his Saturday morning flight from Gold Coast Airport was delayed by 2 1/2 hours.
Festival organiser Jackie Sanders said she got a panicked call from the band manager at 10am, two hours before the festival gates were due to open.
The nine-piece band eventually landed in Auckland at 4.40pm, 10 minutes after the last flight to Kerikeri departed. Air NZ tried to organise a special flight but couldn't get enough crew at short notice. Ms Sanders also looked at getting helicopters but it was too late.
''I felt sick to my stomach. I'd hired a bus as a back-up plan but it was touch and go. You never know what can happen on the roads, especially on a holiday weekend,'' she said.
Earlier that day SH1 had been closed after police shot a machete-wielding man north of Auckland while the slip on SH11 meant the bus had to take the long way around to Paihia.
Swamp Thing, Katchafire and Bobby Alu extended their sets and all musicians were on standby in case they had to go back on stage for a multi-band jam.
Jimmy Cliff was still on the road when he was supposed to start at 9pm. If he was tired by the time he arrived on stage about 9.30pm his voice didn't give it away.
With a strict finish time of 10.45pm the band scrapped several songs in the middle of the set to make sure they got through hits such as I Can See Clearly Now, Reggae Nights, The Harder They Come, Many Rivers To Cross and Wild World.
Ms Sanders said the reggae legend was keen to play on but that would have put future festivals, and the venue's licence, at risk — especially with noise complaints already coming in from Russell.
Apart from the drama with the flights there were no serious issues. The crowd was peaceful and the festival a "resounding success". She had already fielded requests for tickets to next year's event.
Ticket sales had yet to be confirmed but totalled about 2500. The licence allowed a maximum of 3500.
Ms Sanders said she already had bands in mind for 2019 and wanted at least one more international act.
Other acts on Saturday included Louis Baker, Rob Ruha, Treaty Grounds cultural group Te Pitowhenua, Moondog and Bella Mason. After Jimmy Cliff the biggest cheers were reserved for Hokianga-born, Doubtless Bay-raised Teeks.
Saturday's show was Jimmy Cliff's third in Aotearoa after appearances at Womad in 2012 and 2014. However, with the reggae legend now in his 70s — his birthday was on Sunday — it was possibly also his last.