Show Chapters

Ten NZ venues: now and then


The juxtaposed images below are an attempt to emphasise what has changed (and what has stayed the same) in the musical culture of our cities. In each case, a historic photo has been overlaid with a more recent photo taken at the same location. Some performance spaces have been surprisingly resilient in continuing to be a hive of musical activity for decades (in fact, some have survived beyond a century), while others have left little sign of their existence or been wiped off the map entirely.

Find the slider on each image (the vertical line down the centre with arrows pointing in each direction) then move it left and right to compare each image.

Wellington Town Hall

The Wellington Town Hall officially opened on 7 December 1904 and hosted music events right from its earliest days. In 1980, it was scheduled for demolition with the Michael Fowler Centre constructed right next door as its replacement, but the NZ Historic Places Trust argued for it to be saved. Probably the most historic concerts held at the venue were visits in the 1960s from The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and The Who, though it continues to host musical performances.

Left: The Rolling Stones play Wellington Town Hall in 1966. (Photo credit: Morrie Hill. National Library of New Zealand Ref: 35mm-18183-9-F)
Right: Shapeshifter performing a sold out show at the same venue in 2013. (Photo credit: Pat Shepherd)

Captain Cook Hotel/Tavern aka The Cook

The Captain Cook in Great King St, Dunedin, was built in 1860. It became important as a music venue around the time The Enemy played there in May 1978. The band then morphed into Toy Love who played their last Dunedin show at the venue in 1980. It also saw gigs by well-known Flying Nun acts from the city, including The Clean, The Chills, The Verlaines and Look Blue Go Purple.

Left: The Captain Cook Hotel in 1875.
Right:  This shot, taken in 2009, shows the venue in its student pub days. The heavy drinking culture eventually saw it shut by the university in 2014. However, Michael McLeod subsequently took it over and re-established it as a music venue (including gigs by McLeod’s own bands, Shifting Sands and Bad Sav). These days only the upstairs area has gigs, but the music lives on.

The Odeon 

This Christchurch building was originally known as the Tuam Street Public Hall. It became known as the Opera House in July 1894 and was used as a venue for music and vaudeville acts for many decades. In 1930, it was renamed the St James and was predominantly known as a cinema, though live music and other performances also took place regularly. In 1960, it took its current name, the Odeon.

Left: An illustration of the Tuam Street Public hall c1885. (Image credit: Christchurch City Libraries, CCL-KPCD12-IMG0072)
Right: The Odeon as it was until the Christchurch Earthquakes. (Photo credit: George Kuek)

Left: Again we see the Odeon, pre-earthquakes. (Photo credit: George Kuek)
Right: This shows how the Odeon looked in September 2019. Due to earthquake damage, the front has a stack of shipping containers placed on the footpath, to ensure that if it collapses that it won’t topple onto street. The back half of the building where the theatre seating was has already been removed, because the three back walls were almost entirely toppled. There are hopes to save the frontage, but essentially the future of the Odeon is uncertain. (Photo credit: Gareth Shute)

Bowl of Brooklands

In 1956, it was recognised that a sloping hillside area of the Brooklands Park in New Plymouth formed a natural ampitheatre, so the swampland below was transformed to be the setting for a stage. Music has been performed there regularly over the decades, including popular acts The Seekers (in 1968); DD Smash (1985); Lionel Richie and John Farnham (2014); Sting and Paul Simon (2015). Local act Lou and Simon recorded an album there in 1966.

Left: Jon Stevens and Sharon O'Neill show in 1980. The band onstage seems to be the support act, which consisted of Wayne Mason (keyboards), Bob Smith (synthesiser), Ross Burge (drums), Clinton Brown (bass), and Dennis Mason (saxophone). (Photo credit: Puke Ariki, WD.042985)
Right: The main stage of WOMAD NZ in 2019. The event has been held in this location since 2003. (Photo credit: Gareth Shute)

King’s Arms

Maureen Gordon owned central Auckland venue The King’s Arms with her husband Peter, but had to twist his arm to start having live musical performances there. Finally he allowed Al Hunter to play in the family bar over an acoustic PA in the early 90s. Maureen’s daughter Lisa pushed things further in 1995 by booking two rock bands to play: Gaunt Pudding (with Lisa herself on guitar) and Caneslide. It’s impossible to cover the huge range of bands that played here in the following two decades, from internationals like The National and the White Stripes to almost every popular local act on their way up through the scene. However, the bar was finally sold to developers in December 2016 and demolished to make way for apartments.

Left: The King’s Arms Tavern in 1890s. (Photo: Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections 4-RIC53)
Right: The same venue in the 2010s, by which time it had been a music venue for many decades. (Photo credit: Yvon Malice)

Left: Once again we see the King’s Arms in its heyday. (Photo credit: Yvon Malice)
Right: The construction site in 2019, where apartments are in the process of being built in the same location. (Photo credit: Gareth Shute)

Albert Park Band Rotunda

The band rotunda in Albert Park, Auckland, was created for big bands to play relaxed afternoon sets. This was all very well for the early decades of the 20th century, but in 1969 the counter-cultural forces in Auckland pushed for their own events in the park. The Frankie E. Evans Lunchtime Entertainment Band became the musical accompaniment to the “liberation” of Albert Park, led by Tim Shadbolt. In the 1970s, Radio Hauraki had events in the park that included shows by Dragon (1975), Dr Tree (1975), Suburban Reptiles (1978), and Toy Love (1979). Free outdoor live events were less common following the Queen St Riot in 1984, but student radio station 95bFM brought back concerts in the park in 1990s and these continued until the 2010s, often with the bands playing on a stage in front of the band rotunda.

Left: The Albert Park band rotunda in 1904. (Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections, AWNS-19040804-13-3)
Right: The Naked and Famous playing the bFM Summer Series in 2010. (Photo credit: Jacqueline May)
 

Auckland Town Hall

The Auckland Town Hall has shown remarkable resilience as location for musical performances. It hosted orchestral music early in the 20th century, before adapting to each new style to arrive to our shores. For example, drummer Frank Gibson Sr helped break rock’n’roll in Auckland by putting together a hotshot band and selling out a show at the Town Hall on 23 October 1956. Subsequently, The Beatles also played here. Many local acts have also become big enough to do their own headlining shows, including The Chills (in 1990 and 2008) and Marlon Williams (in 2018).

Left: A choir plays at the opening of the Auckland Town Hall in 1911. (Photo credit: Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections AWNS-19111221-3-1)
Right: Marlon Williams plays the Auckland Town Hall in 2018. (Photo credit: Doug Peters)

Crystal Palace

The first era of noteriety of the Crystal Palace was during the long residency of band leader Epi Shalfoon, who played dances in the downstairs area here from 1935 to 1953 (while the cinema ran overhead). Sadly, Shalfoon died suddenly at only 48 years old and the venue languished for a few years. Phil Warren, who was then a record store/label worker, started putting on dances in 1958. The main band was Merv Thomas and the Dixielanders, but other stars including Johnny Devlin and the Howard Morrison Quartet also appeared. This continued until the early seventies with Bob Paris leading a band there in 1971. The downstairs venue eventually fell into disuse, before being bought in 1998 by Bill Lattimer (Bungalow Bill), who moved his studio, The Lab, into the space. It has remained there for two decades, overseen by engineer Oliver Harmer. 

Left: A crowd gathers outside the Crystal Palace in 1958. (Photo credit: Auckland Libraries, Rykenberg Collection, 1269-K152-1)
Right: A gathering of people who were working/practising in The Lab recording studio in 2019: Oliver Harmer (engineer/producer), Jol Mulholland (Mulholland/Gasoline Cowboy), Sam Flynn Scott (Phoenix Foundation), Reb Fountain, Sean Donnelly (SJD) and Brett Adams (The Bads, The Mockers). (Photo credit: Gareth Shute)

Ace of Clubs

It is a sign of Phil Warren’s impact as a promoter and nightclub owner that he was still running venues right through into the mid-eighties when he turned to local politics and became Deputy Mayor of Auckland. Ace of Clubs first began in the 1970s and had floorshow entertainment, which included crossdressing singer/comedian, Diamond Lil. In 1984, plans were made to replace this section of Cook Street to create Aotea Centre and extend the square (re-routing the road as Mayoral Drive). In the final half-year, Peter Urlich (Th’ Dudes) and Mark Phillips started the Six Month Club in the space, helping to usher in modern dance music culture.

Left: The Ace of Clubs nightclub above Cook Street markets. (Photo credit: Alexander Turnbull Library, WA-77153-F)
Right: Roughly the same view from Aotea Square in 2019, with the central police station visible in the distance. (Photo credit: Gareth Shute)

Montmartre on Lorne Street

It seems fitting to finish with the location that helped inspire this page (and the Audioculture venue map project). This nondescript doorway is easy to ignore these days. In the 1960s the stairway inside led up to one of the most happening spots in town, Montmartre cafe, where bands would play until the early hours of the morning. The same location had a second life as a musical venue around the new millennium. It was a restaurant called Pizza Pizza at the time, but budding promoter Amber Easby decided it was the perfect size and location for gigs. When she helped with the White Stripes' tour of Australasia early in their career, she arranged for them to add a surprise gig there.

Left: The Mike Walker Trio on the opening night of Lautrec. They were known as the resident band at Montmartre. The band from left to right are: Frank Conway, Neville Whitehead, and Mike Walker. (Photo credit: Auckland Libraries, Rykenberg Collection, 1269-E161-29)
Right: The same doorway at 57 Lorne Street in 2019. (Photo credit: Gareth Shute)

 
Back to top