Pato Alvarez is one of the country’s biggest independent music promoters, but when he first arrived in the Bay of Plenty from Chile in 2006, all he had was a handful of English words and a keen work ethic.

WORDS JENNY RUDD PHOTOS CAROLYN HASLETT / ROBBIE HUNTER / TRACIE HEASMAN / ALEX SPODYNEIKO

I could have stayed at home and devel­oped a weed habit – may­be become a Playsta­tion expert. But instead I used home deten­tion to focus my mind and start build­ing my busi­ness.”

I’m not sure I’ve ever heard those words come out of someone’s mouth before. Words pour out of Pato like water off a cliff. You have to con­cen­trate hard. His South Amer­i­can accent and rapid gun­fire speech make lis­ten­ing an active task. He tells some eye-pop­ping sto­ries, like the one about a scuf­fle after a night out, which led to home deten­tion.

Pato Alvarez is one of the country’s biggest inde­pen­dent music pro­mot­ers. His reg­gae fes­ti­val, One Love, held in Tau­ran­ga on Wai­t­angi week­end, is New Zealand’s biggest music fes­ti­val. With Mitch Lowe, he joint­ly owns the sec­ond biggest too: the Bay Dreams elec­tron­ic music fes­ti­val, which was held on Jan­u­ary 2nd at the ASB Are­na. And he runs about a hun­dred oth­er shows a year, in New Zealand and across the rest of the world, tour­ing bands and DJs.

Frankly, it’s hard to keep up with the infor­ma­tion that tum­bles out of him. The first time Mat and I went out to lunch with him, we asked how he came to be a pro­moter. I bare­ly touched my food or wine (unheard of) over the next hour. Lis­ten­ing to him was one of those ‘the good will out’ fan­fares of life and colour.

His stint at home in 2013, when he could have been twid­dling his thumbs and wait­ing for the ankle bracelet to be removed, real­ly pro­pelled his busi­ness for­ward. “Although I hate that I had put myself in a sit­u­a­tion where I embar­rassed my fam­i­ly and myself, I am proud that I used the time well. I was still man­ag­ing acts who were com­ing in and play­ing all over the coun­try. It gave me the oppor­tu­ni­ty to con­cen­trate on grow­ing my busi­ness and expand­ing my fes­ti­vals.”

Jade Jar­reau, own­er of The Bahama Hut bar in Tau­ran­ga, is a good friend. “Pato has been down and out a few times in his life. Each time, every­one said, ‘That’s it, he’s fin­ished.’ I’ve said it before, too! But he just keeps get­ting back up and work­ing hard­er and longer to get it right. What he has achieved with One Love is what we used to talk about years ago. He always said he’d do it. Peo­ple would laugh. But he did.”

Bird’s eye view of the crowd arriv­ing at One Love at the Domain, Tau­ran­ga.

BRINGING MUSIC HOME

Pato is one of my favourite cov­er stars ever. All of us at Team UNO. have devel­oped crush­es on him. He arrived in New Zealand in 2006 from Chile as an excitable stu­dent who want­ed to surf and have fun. Today, he’s respon­si­ble for adding a huge amount to our local econ­o­my. Between the One Love and Bay Dreams fes­ti­vals, near­ly 40,000 peo­ple came to our city this sum­mer, bring­ing their mon­ey and pour­ing it into our pock­ets; book-a-bach­es, cafés, shops, dairies, motels, restau­rants and bars. And those fes­ti­vals also raise aware­ness of Tau­ran­ga around the world. Some 1,500 One Love tick­ets were sold in over­seas in Hawaii, France, Ger­many, Aus­tralia, Raro­ton­ga and Fiji.

He’s not well known out­side the music and events scene, although many Tau­ran­ga city coun­cil­lors would be aware of him. Stu­art Cros­by talked warm­ly about Pato in his inter­view with us. But every­one should know his name, because he’s doing so much for our city. He’s put us on the map, musi­cal­ly. He has vision and charis­ma, and works like a Tro­jan. Over the new year peri­od, he ran back-toback shows, night after night, at dif­fer­ent venues, for a total of around 30,000 peo­ple.

He’s gen­er­ous, too. Every­one we spoke to talked about how he looks after the peo­ple he works with, and oth­ers. He’s a killer nego­tia­tor but says, “I don’t want to pay too much, or too lit­tle for any­thing. I want to pay peo­ple what their pro­duct is worth.” He has become a great sup­port­er of Homes of Hope, the Tau­ran­ga organ­i­sa­tion which pro­vides a sta­ble home for chil­dren in fos­ter care, keep­ing broth­ers and sis­ters togeth­er. In fact, when­ev­er we meet up to talk about this fea­ture, he wants to talk about Homes of Hope. He wants to buy them a van, and has put up half the mon­ey him­self. He has been look­ing for some­one will­ing to kick in the oth­er half, and is now fundrais­ing with the equal­ly gen­er­ous Lav­ina Good from Brook­field New World. His ‘hus­tle’ is con­stant, and there are many who ben­e­fit from it. For instance, he hap­pi­ly agreed to join the Ladies’ Long Char­i­ty Lunch com­mit­tee (which we also sit on), to raise mon­ey for the Good Neigh­bour and Te Aranui Youth Trusts. This year the lunch will be held on Novem­ber 3rd (quick plug!).

FRESH OFF THE BOAT

At the age of 19, Pato arrived in New Zealand with bare­ly a word of Eng­lish. “I had come here to trav­el, and start­ed in Gis­borne, for the surf. My father had given me some mon­ey to start me off, and I just par­tied it away. I was too proud to go back and ask for more, espe­cial­ly as every­one had been so impressed with me going off to trav­el in a coun­try where I didn’t speak the lan­guage.

I came to Tau­ran­ga as I’d heard there was work in the kiwifruit orchards. In 2007, I lived on the street for a mon­th, eat­ing a cheap loaf of bread each day. I hadn’t expe­ri­enced that before, and don’t ever want to do it again. I walked round orchards at Puke­hi­na and Te Puke, look­ing for work. I became real­ly good at read­ing body lan­guage. I’d work out who the boss was, then I’d say my only Eng­lish word, ‘Job?’ They would say ‘blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.’ I would cut them off by doing the thumbs up or thumbs down sign, and that was my job inter­view.”

KILLER ENTREPRENEUR SPIRIT

Pato’s Eng­lish improved, and he had enough mon­ey to find some­where to live, and con­tin­ue par­ty­ing. “I have always loved music and fes­ti­vals. In 2008, there were a whole load of bars and night­clubs in Tau­ran­ga and some pret­ty big, live­ly nights. One night, the own­er of Coy­ote asked if I want­ed to DJ on Fri­day nights. They’d been qui­et, so we filled the bar with South Amer­i­cans and called it the Lat­in Par­ty. It went off. He paid me $1,000. I’d just made more in one night than a whole week pick­ing kiwifruit. I thought I was the man!”

Pato has an instinct for spot­ting oppor­tu­ni­ties, and is not afraid of fail­ure. He has so much grit. While he and his wife, Monique, were young and had a small baby, he used to buy, then sell his cars to back­pack­ers to help make ends meet. “I knew absolute­ly noth­ing about cars, but I would buy them cheap on Trade Me, give them a real­ly good clean, take them for a dri­ve to make sure every­thing worked, get a mate at a garage to do any small repairs, then remar­ket them at the back­pack­ers’ hos­tels.”

NIGHTCLUBBING

In 2010, Pato was walk­ing down Har­ing­ton Street and saw that Tem­ple Bar was closed. He knew that every­thing was ready to go inside, so he found out who the land­lord was, and phoned him in Napier. “I told him that if he filled the fridges with alco­hol, I’d fill it with peo­ple. We chat­ted for about two hours while I tried to con­vince him to let me do it.” Ball­sy, from some­one still in the ear­ly stages of learn­ing Eng­lish, and with no mon­ey.

The land­lord said, ‘Write it all down in a busi­ness plan. Then talk to one of my ten­ants, Glenn Meik­le, who also owns Brew­ers Bar, as he’s inter­est­ed in Tem­ple, too. Do that and I’ll think about it.’ I went home and stayed up all night with Monique, writ­ing the pro­pos­al. I knew I had to do a good job so he would take me seri­ous­ly. Glenn and I end­ed up run­ning Tem­ple Bar for the next two years, and expand­ed it to have four dance floors. We con­nect­ed with Colos­se­um Night­club, then changed its name to Illu­mi­nati.”

Because things were going so well with the night­club busi­ness (Pato had also bought a bar in Rotorua called Heav­en & Hell), Glenn and Pato decid­ed to organ­ise fes­ti­vals and shows. Pato had been organ­is­ing DJs to play in Tem­ple, and had an idea of the kind of shows he want­ed to do. He want­ed to bring in bands and DJs from across the coun­try, and fur­ther afield, and find big­ger venues. “We decid­ed to do a fes­ti­val in Manu Bay in Raglan with a few DJs. Two weeks out, I already knew it was going to lose mon­ey, but I real­ly want­ed to do it. We had worked hard to get the licence, and I knew in my heart it was a good fes­ti­val. Although it lost mon­ey, I was still hap­py, because I’d learnt so much. It was like a mini uni­ver­si­ty to me.

We were impressed that Pato always makes time to warm­ly greet artists, staff, friends, guests and fam­i­ly.

One of the DJs told me that Tiki Taane want­ed to play at that Raglan fes­ti­val, as his song Always On My Mind was mas­sive. I had no way of pay­ing him, as the fes­ti­val was going to make a loss. When we met, I was hon­est and told him what was going on. I had no idea how much he usu­al­ly charged. He said, ‘Nah man, I’ll play for free. Just sort me out a cou­ple of rooms and some tick­ets, so I can bring some friends.’ He came, we had the best night and became friends. He has taught me a huge amount. The first lesson was that you can’t do char­i­ty all the time, but not every­thing is about mon­ey. The oth­er thing he taught me was to always do every­thing well. Peo­ple notice qual­i­ty at a music event. And they’ll come back for more. So Tiki pret­ty much became the first act that I toured.”

EXPANSION

I realised we couldn’t keep doing shows with just Tiki, so we looked around for oth­er bands. Tiki intro­duced me to P-Mon­ey, and my sta­ble of bands and per­form­ers grew.” Pato was becom­ing a pro­moter.

The atmos­phere around reg­gae must be one of the best in the indus­try. I feel so at home with every­one involved — the musi­cians and the fans — and I love the music. I saw that reg­gae fans were not well served in New Zealand, despite it being such a well-loved gen­re of music. Elec­tron­ic music fans were well served; that side looked pret­ty sat­u­rat­ed. That’s why I start­ed One Love in 2013.”

Dylan and Jade Jar­reau with Pato, back­stage at One Love.

He’s right. Our team were at One Love shoot­ing Pato, and we all com­ment­ed on the musi­cians and the crowd. Good­will and friend­li­ness were every­where. Many of the bands Pato had brought in were made up of dads, uncles and cousins. We spoke to Black Slate, who’d been flown in from Lon­don for the fes­ti­val. They had pre­vi­ous­ly been to New Zealand in the eight­ies, when the cur­rent lead singer, Gaven Creary, was just one-year-old. His father, Chris, had been the lead singer before him, Uncle Des plays drums, and is Gaven’s ‘some­times guardian’ after a few too many!

Even though the event was over two days, many of the acts came on the day they weren’t per­form­ing, just to enjoy the atmos­phere. Every­one smiled, ate, drank, chat­ted and danced togeth­er. It was an incred­i­bly friend­ly back­stage envi­ron­ment. There were no I-am-a-star egos; it was just like a fam­i­ly par­ty, even though the­se were huge, inter­na­tion­al bands. I wasn’t the biggest reg­gae fan, but I’ll be going to One Love every year now. I high­ly rec­om­mend it.

STRAIGHT TO THE TOP

Being a pro­moter looks like one of the riski­est jobs ever. As you grow, the risks get big­ger and big­ger. By his own admis­sion, Pato has lost some hideous amounts of mon­ey. The stress of man­ag­ing so many artists must be enor­mous but he han­dles it all calm­ly, tak­ing one step at a time.

Bay Dreams head­lin­er, Yela­wolf.

One Bay Dreams head­lin­er was Yela­wolf, an Amer­i­ca rap­per who has been to rehab for alco­holism, and who, days before Bay Dreams, was admit­ted to a psy­chi­atric ward. He had just can­celled his up-and-com­ing Amer­i­can tour, but Pato and Mitch ensured he came over by work­ing close­ly with his man­age­ment team.

It would appear that Bay Dreams was prob­a­bly Aus­tralian group Sticky Fingers’s last show for a while. Lead singer Dylan Frost is strug­gling with addic­tion prob­lems. But thanks to a strong rela­tion­ship with the band and their man­age­ment, Pato and Mitch’s team ensured the­se two huge acts arrived, per­formed, and loved it.

I feel for those two men with prob­lems. But from Pato’s per­spec­tive, I can’t imag­ine man­ag­ing the men­tal fragili­ty of his performers…Will they actu­al­ly turn up, what they might do at the event, and how will 18,000 fes­ti­val goers react to some­thing going wrong?

By build­ing a rep­u­ta­tion for pay­ing bands and DJs well, and for run­ning slick shows, Pato has start­ed to get calls direct from Amer­i­can pro­mot­ers. New Zealand has tra­di­tion­al­ly tak­en a back­seat to Aus­tralia. An Amer­i­can band will come to our side of the globe pri­mar­i­ly to tour Aus­tralia, with New Zealand dates tacked on at the end as an after­thought. Pato want­ed to go direct and get great acts, show them a bril­liant time in New Zealand and build good rela­tion­ships. His rep­u­ta­tion pre­cedes him, and he’s been bring­ing over some crack­ers. The Ja Rule, Ashan­ti and Chingy gig, the night before New Year’s Eve out­side Ris­ing Tide, was huge. He’s bring­ing Boney M (yay!!!) to New Zealand. They’ll be play­ing all over the coun­try, includ­ing the ASB Are­na in Tau­ran­ga on June 10th.

EVERYONE PLAYS THEIR ROLE

Atti­tude is every­thing at fes­ti­vals,” Pato says. “Even if I’m feel­ing wor­ried or annoyed, I work hard to make sure I am con­vey­ing love and hap­pi­ness to every­one at my events. And I expect every­one to treat every­body else with respect, no mat­ter who they are. On the first day of One Love, I gath­ered my secu­ri­ty team and said to them, ‘How you treat peo­ple will deter­mine how they behave. If some­one asks where the toi­lets are or how they can find water, smile at them. Speak kind­ly. Even if you have to say it numer­ous times all day.’ It’s so impor­tant to me that peo­ple have a great time.”

Sim­i­lar­ly, Pato has a strong ethos of equal­i­ty. “Every­one is treat­ed with the same respect when they work for me. The per­son clean­ing the toi­lets and the head­line act are all there for the same rea­son: to put on a great show for the 20,000 peo­ple who have bought tick­ets and want to have a good time.”

That’s what real­ly sets Pato’s shows apart. He and his core team of Jade Ben­nett, Moe Cof­fey and Ranui Samuels, work hard to pro­duce some­thing they can be proud of.

It doesn’t mat­ter what obsta­cles are in the way, we always deliv­er,” says Pato. “I love my team like fam­i­ly. We can all rely on each oth­er. We spend every wak­ing moment togeth­er over fes­ti­val sea­son, so need to be con­fi­dent in each other’s abil­i­ties.”

One of the biggest enablers of Pato’s suc­cess is his wife, Moñique. They have been togeth­er for almost the entire­ty of Pato’s New Zealand life. They share a devo­tion to their two sons, 7-year-old Alexan­der and 15-mon­thold Camilo. Moñique is undoubt­ed­ly the most sta­ble influ­ence in Pato’s life. She is unwa­ver­ing in her loy­al­ty to him, and works hard to keep their young fam­i­ly spend­ing time togeth­er, bring­ing the chil­dren to work for walks and din­ners with dad­dy, while Pato works around the clock dur­ing the busy fes­ti­val sea­son.

The main rea­son I work so hard is to make my sons proud of me. I call them my lions, and would love for them to be able to take over one day, run­ning the busi­ness­es them­selves.”

WHAT’S NEXT?

Although the scale of Pato’s oper­a­tion has grown, he still main­tains that entre­pre­neuri­al dri­ve. “I’m devel­op­ing my own range of drinks to sell at my fes­ti­vals. I know what peo­ple like to drink, because I have the data from the sales. So I want to provide my own brand of drinks. I also want to start devel­op­ing some of the artists com­ing through my shows, man­ag­ing them and tour­ing them.” Pato has recent­ly part­nered up with a local guy with vision, Josh Te Kani, to ful­fill anoth­er dream: own­ing a radio sta­tion. “I have so much access to the music, and it will be a great way to pro­mote both the up-and-com­ing artists and the estab­lished ones I’m already tour­ing. And we can adver­tise One Love and oth­er shows.” And his ambi­tion for One Love doesn’t stop here. “I want to take it glob­al.”

His mind doesn’t stop either. His ener­gy is like a bub­bling spring; there’s no end to it. Dur­ing the entire cov­er shoot in Auck­land, he didn’t stop work­ing on his phone, work­ing for us and con­cen­trat­ing on what we need­ed him to do. His love for his job shi­nes through. You can see it in his face and hear it in his voice. You will be hear­ing so much more from this man with a plan.

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