Current Status: Demolished post-earthquake, currently a bare site with a memorial
Active as a live music venue: 1916 – 2010
Bar Manager: –
Capacity: 300 (circa 2010)
Fantastic old Theatre in the heart of Lyttelton’s London Street that stood for 83 years prior to the Earthquakes of 2011.
The Harbour Light Theatre was thought to have been designed by J.S. and M. J. Guthrie and purpose-built as a picture house and theatre for the Lyttelton Picture Company. It could seat 550 people in both stalls and circle. The front of the building was two storeys high, with a mezzanine floor, and two decorative brick towers topped with spherical domes on either side. The entry was framed by large Tuscan columns, with quoin stones on the corners of the building. The material of the building was mostly brick with a stucco finish on the facade painted white in the “California style”. The entrance featured an art nouveau style etching of a pattern above the verandah roof.
At first the theatre management had concentrated on screening of films three times during the week. Then in 1920 they decided to extend the back of the theatre building and erect a stage with up-to-date fittings and lighting effects. The first performance on the new stage in December 1920 was delivered by the first “big-town” company to appear in Lyttelton, and apparently lived up to all expectations.
Over the course of it’s long history the building had been used as a theater, a cinema, a social gathering hot-spot, a nightclub and as a particularly special concert and performance venue.
Having the stage meant that the Harbour Light could be used for fund-raising and benefit concerts, public talks and other social occasions, not just to screen films. Attractions presented on the new stage included illusionists and hypnotists, even vaudeville from the “Jolly John Larkin Happy Folks Company”.
From 1992 onward groups would utilize the large stage and ample setting for music performances, prior to the 2010/2011 Earthquakes which ravaged Lyttelton, I saw enchanting performances from Pine and The Renderers in this wonderful old theater – it was a sad day when it was finally pulled down.
1917: 24 London street is opened as a movie cinema and theater
1983: Peter Harris purchases the dilapidated venue, building a squash court in the rear of the venue.
1988: New owner Tom Jones converts the building into a nightclub and performance theater, becoming a licensed entertainment venue by 1992.
2010: Damaged and eventually demolished in the Canterbury Earthquakes
Lower Hutt death-metal / grind-core with a handful of self-produced recordings and some international support slots under their belt since forming in the late 1990’s (after a myriad of lineup changes).
The group released the track ‘Bone Collector’ on the absolutely bonkers ‘Stop the Bypass’ compilation of random Wellington acts – a fundraiser aiming trying to prevent a highway bypass that was constructed through Te Aro Valley in Wellington in 2005.
The group would continue through the 00’s, producing a fairly large catalog of self-released albums and EP’s (including a split release well-known Auckland act Malevolence) – despite having trouble holding on to bass players.
Tragically, 35-yr old vocalist Matthew Hall died in January 2011 as a result of a ferocious attack while in bed at his Johnsonville flat – the victim of multiple stab wounds.
Things took a dramatic turn during the investigation of Hall’s murder – Petone man Timothy Parlane (a former bassist with another Metal Group – Wellington Thrash group Bulletbelt) supposedly confessed to Halls murder, but was subsequently hit and killed by a train mere hours after talking to investigators of the Hall case.
THE STORY SO FAR
February 2011: Matthew Hall is found stabbed to death in his bed in Johnsonville, Wellington.
March 2011: Lower Hutt man Timothy Parlane is interviewed by police in connection with Mr Hall’s death and released soon after. Hours later he is hit by a train. An IPCA investigation is started.
April 2011: The Dominion Post reveals Mr Parlane confessed to a woman he was dating that he had murdered Mr Hall.
August 2012: The IPCA investigation into police conduct before Mr Parlane’s death is completed, but it decides not to publish its findings.
December 2012: The police file is passed on to the Wellington coroner.
Christchurch-based pop-group, The Insurgents were the darlings of the all-ages scene courtesy of their involvement with Will Edmonds’ Out of Kilter. The original line-up of Young, Coffey and Ellis displayed a strong Brit-pop influence on Chris Young’s songs, whilst Mike Ellis added an element of US Indie-Pop to proceedings.
Ellis and Young have tremendous chemistry together, shaping their songs with perfect harmonies and huge hooks, whilst Coffey keeps things nice and tight.
The band spent a year on hiatus courtesy of guitarist/vocalist Chris Young’s other pop-tastic band Neil Robinson winning the Smoke-Free Rock-Quest in 2006, and eventually succumbed to the big OE, with all 4 members leaving Christchurch for an overseas experience.
Along the way the group recorded an EP with Jo Veale, added Will Edmonds on guitar and recorded what was essentially a post-breakup album for Rob Mayes Failsafe Records.
This release eventually saw them frequent New Zealand television with their song ‘Rather Be Dead’ in adverts for Canterbury University.
With the albums release the group hastily shot and released a handful of music video’s with director Peter Bannan, each filmed as largely continuous shots at the groups established suburban Sockburn House-Party flat with a huge number of Friends and fans.
Chris Young (Guitar/Vocals, 2004 – 2009)
David Coffey (Drums, 2004 – 2009)
Mike Ellis (Bass/Keyboards/Vocals, 2004 – 2009)
Will Edmonds (Guitar/Vocals/Keyboards/Bass, 2007 – 2008)
Current Status: Demolished post-earthquake, replaced by commerical buildings
Active as a live music venue: 2005 – 2011
The Penthouse (sometimes just referred to as ‘Level 5’) was a venue name given to the 5th floor of Unlimited Paenga Tawhiti School in Central Christchurch, above the old Hallensteins building in Cashel Plaza.
The school was originally used as a venue for All-Age shows promoted by Unlimited Paenga student Jeremy Barribeau, and was quickly established as a suitable spot for shows for AA community group Red Panda, plus several others associated the school such as Will Edmonds‘ Out of Kilter and a series of Raves organized by teacher and DJ Brent Silby.
We started with a couple gigs called Citizen Jam. The Glasson family owned it and leased it to the school – so getting permission for an alternate usage was not the easiest. Lots of planning with the fire department and security/risk analysis plans – Rose Jenson Banner helped a lot with that stuff.
– Jeremy Barribeau
Funding initially came from the city counsel and school board in the form of seed capital to start a radio station (Metropolis Radio) with the intent of fostering a local all ages community. (Early headliner) The Shocking Pinks charged what we all thought at the time was an exorbitant NZ$1000 to play haha!
– Jeremy Barribeau
I organized several alcohol-free raves up there under the Audiodreams brand. We called the venue “Level 5” for our raves.
Audiodreams was a company started by myself with some students. White Elephant helped with supervision and marketing of the raves.
– Brent Silby
Every show had a strictly no-alcohol policy and security was provided at the ground floor.
The floor was a large, open plan space, and Red Panda shows utilized a decent PA (provided by the White Elephant parent group), plus the schools facilities such as a film projection screen.
Red Panda had connections to A Low Hum and as such a handful of A Low Hum’s touring parties put on AA shows at the venue – the highlights including So So Modern‘s show in September 2006 with Australian act Alps, popular Christchurch electro-pop duo Frase+Bri and youthful indie-pop trio Black Market Art.
Another fun event put on by the group was the Red Panda Prom, held at the Penthouse in both 2008 and 2009. I had the pleasure of playing in a couple bands (including a ‘super-group’ made up just for the event) and dressing up for the occasion.
Last AA show we did was the weekend before the quakes with Parking Lot Experiments in the basement of Unlimited (under the Crossing). I remember it vividly – was 48 hours before the Feb shake. Last normal weekend in old Chch. It was a WE show I think as RP was officially wound up into WE and I was working at WE. A local AA band supported (Die Robotor).
– Netta Egoz (Red Panda / White Elephant)
The venue was in heavy use right up until the 2011 Earthquake – in fact AudioDreams had a rave planned for March 2011 that was cancelled due to the February Quakes:
However the Earthquakes unfortunately brought a particularly active period in Christchurch All-Age shows to a close, with the Hallensteins building eventually demolished and the school moved.
2005: Students from Unlimited Paenga Tawhiti move into the Northern Tower – i.e. the Hallensteins building, after 2 years in the smaller Southern Star Building. In June the first Citizen Jam gig is held.
2010: Building is damaged in September earthquakes, however it remains open until February 2011 Earthquakes.
2011: US group Parking Lot Experiments are the last headline act to play with a show in the basement, an AudioDreams rave planned for March is cancelled after the Canterbury Earthquakes of 2011 close the venue for good.
Born Celia Patel (and at one stage known as Celia Pavlova), Celia Mancini was a smart, creative, talented and volatile musician. A born front-woman and general icon within the music community, who was never afraid to speak her mind, and unfortunately passed away at a far too young age.
Patel was born in Auckland but her musical history started in Christchurch, playing in a number of bands in the mid to late 1980’s, as well as managing seminal Christchurch sonic explorers Into the Void.
She was the original front-woman for legendary scuzzy lo-fi group The Axel Grinders (and writing their most excellent single ‘Apparatus of Love’ – Rita Le Quesne replaced her on the recording), fronted the fantastic all-girl group The Stepford 5, and kept things mellow in the lounge group The After Dinner Mints with Bill Vosburgh (formerly of Perfect Strangers).
By 1992 Celia was in Dunedin where she met Chris Heazlewood – kicking off the next phase with what must be her most well known group; New Zealand’s boundary-pushing surf-kings King Loser. For a period the duo also pulled double duty in Peter Gutteridge’s wonderful Snapper.
The group were relentless prolific in the early years – recording all their practices to 8-track tape and expanding their overseas connections with a handful of 7″ releases plus the original King Loser LP – ‘Super Sonic Hi-Fi’. The album caught the attention of Flying Nun – however Celia noted they never considered themselves a Flying Nun group, and at times conflicted with individuals within the label as it reached its commercial apex in the late 1990’s.
Celia released a solitary 7″ under her own name in 1996, and by late 1997 King Loser were no more. However she did resurface (at least temporarily) in the hard-rocking Auckland group Mother Trucker, plus created a handful of online videos under the moniker ‘Slightly Delic’, including documenting the bFM music awards, where she stormed the stage after failing to be nominated for the ‘Foxiest Chick’ award…
As the 90’s became the 2000’s, Celia disappeared from view. It wasn’t until April 2015 before she was back in the public eye – with a video performance of a reunited King Loser at Audio Foundation in Auckland. Celia sports casts on both arms, but the group rip through the classic ‘Morning Dew’ like they’d never been away.
Further live performance and a short tour followed in 2016, with director Andrew Moore releasing a promo video for a promising upcoming documentary on the band, which seems to shed a lot of insights in to what was going on with Celia (and the other King Loser members) at the time.
Celia passed away in September 2017, the news sent shock-waves through the online community. She was a bright spark and will be greatly missed.
Located upstairs on the corner of Lichfield and Colombo Streets (though the address is Colombo Street, the entrance was actually on Lichfield) and ran by the Yee family for a few years in the mid 90’s.
..Open around mid ’93. Owned by the Yee Family. Had bands and then even had happy hardcore/trance parties! Daega Bar was downstairs to the left of the main entrance. Got demoed and replaced with the Contemporary Lounge part of Ballantynes.
-Tim Baird (Pinacolada Records)
Posters from the era show that it was a very regular venue with shows 4 nights a week and close ties to both then-student radio station RDU and local skate and clothing outlet Cheap Skates.
Particularly notable are posters from Ape Management‘s Rock Hardman, showing a very dynamic comic style which would also feature on Ape Management (and other Homebacon groups) art work over the coming years, along with further posters at the likes of Warners and His Lordships.
1993?: Quadrophenia opens as a venue hosting bands up to 4 nights a week
1996?: Quadrophenia closes, replaced by Daegar Bar?
2011: Building is heavily damaged and eventually demolished after the Canterbury Earthquakes, replaced by what is now part of Ballantynes.
After the devastating Canterbury Earthquakes of 2010 and 2011 closed (or even destroyed) virtually all of Christchurch’s live venues, entrepreneur Jasper Bryant-Greene and local musician T’Nealle Worsley (Bang! Bang! Eche!) saw a vacant hole in the local live music scene.
With virtually no previous building experience, the duo started the conversion of an old clothing manufacturing warehouse on St Asaph street, stripping the site back to the bare wood before installing a full bar, stage, upstairs accommodation, toilets…
Initially an all-ages house-party was held in May 2011, christening the building as ‘The Archive’ with performances from Valdera, The Transistors and Bang! Bang! Eche! – an absolutely stonking welcome back to live music in the garden city.
Once the full renovations were completed the bar itself was christened ‘Darkroom’ – Bryant-Greene developed the in-house ordering / payment himself and Worsley brought substantial inside knowledge and previous experience (despite her young age) to booking excellent live acts and running the bar.
The duo put substantial care in developing strong craft alcohol selections and creating a relaxed environment with comfortable refurbished furniture – even the outside (but enclosed) drive-way was utilized as a smokers area.
Darkroom lives up to its name – the venue is VERY dark, particularly around the stage itself. They have a great PA system with strong foldback wedges and a powerful PA that is more than a match for the size of the room (which itself is quite small).
The mixing desk sits opposite the stage and is sheltered from other noise in the venue, making for nice and clear band/desk communication. A 2nd floor space beside the desk has been used in the past for a 2nd stage, allowing for long band line-ups with quick change-overs.
Darkroom was immediately successful. An early show by Bachelorette had people queuing out the door, and as one of the few available performance spaces in Christchurch they had their pick of live acts. Though as is the case with most venues – even some future super-stars found it tough to draw large crowds at times:
I used to play there with Aldous Harding every 3rd Wednesday to approx 5 – 10 people, for free.
– Simon Gregory
Marlon Williams did a short residency, playing to similar crowds, sometimes only to the staff. And The Unfaithful Ways. And All Seeing Hand, plus many, many more.
– John Bell
Galaxy Records moved in to an available space in the Archive, and for a period RDU ran a remote studio from the site, too. The last space in the building was refurbished and turned in to an art gallery, originally called Room 4 – however after this closed an additional stage was built and this back room space became available for paid gigs (Mick Harvey, Die! Die! Die! and Shayne P Carter etc), while Darkroom retained a free entry policy.
With the venues general success (and a keen interest in upmarket liquors), the duo decided to open a 2nd venue – the New Regent Street whiskey bar The Last Word. Eventually Worsley would take over running The Last Word.
However in 2015 some financial issues were unearthed encompassing both bars – as a result over the course of several months several changes would take place.
Fine whiskey importer Whiskey Galore decided it was in their best interest to keep The Last Word open, and took over the running of the bar as it looked like it was to close.
Marcus Winstanley would take over propriety of Darkroom, starting a new chapter in the venues promising history. Thankfully Winstanley is a fixture of the local music scene (as a guitarist or drummer in a variety of bands – Barnard’s Star, The Undercurrents, Minisnap etc) and was previously a tutor at Christchurch’s MAINZ music recording school – for a period he was the venue manager of the Media Club, and has been involved with several other venues over the years as well.
Winstanley made several changes on taking over the venue:
I decided all shows (Darkroom included) needed cover charges and it was a lot of work to have both venues going and personally, I thought the sound quality in the back room was sub-par, so I decided to flag it.
Rebecca started up the gallery again so it’s been running as NEXT Gallery since 2016. After they moved from New Regent Street (Next door to The Last Word), the Canterbury Society of Sonic Artists operated their venue The Auricle out of NEXT Gallery from July 2016-July 2017
– Marcus Winstanley
As of Winter 2017, Darkroom is the most active live music venue in Christchurch, with firm connections to up-and-coming bands (through Winstanley’s connections to MAINZ, plus a young clientele), as well as plenty of established bands up-and-down the country on tap.
Darkroom also hosts comedy and performance nights, and has strong ties to both the gallery and record store, with the occasional market or special event that encompasses each.
Lastly Darkroom has established a strong connection with Space Academy – the multi-use venue opposite on St Asaph Street; so far this has resulted in a handful of co-hosted multi-venue events (i.e. ‘Dark Space’), plus shows are usually planned to accommodate each others crowds.
2011: The Archive debuts with a warehouse party in May – eventually Darkroom opens as the music venue, with Galaxy records following.
2013: Darkroom proprietors Bryant-Greene and Worsley launch The Last Word whiskey bar on New Regent Street.
2015: Marcus Winstanley takes over the proprietorship of Darkroom.
NOTE: This post probably contains quite a few errors and an inaccurate timeline – there is very little info online about old Christchurch venues, so I welcome all corrections and additions!
Also known as: Old Star Tavern, Star Tavern, Lion Tavern
Location: 343 Lincoln Road, Addington
Current Status: Demolished
Active as a live music venue: 1980’s
People of Note: Tony Peake (Zanzibar, 1984), Chris (Anzak?) (Burning House Promotions at Old Star Tavern, 1986? – 1987?)
The Old Star Tavern (aka The Star Tavern, Lion Tavern) was a large old Pub on Lincoln Road, not far from Hagley Park that sprung to life with live entertainment during the mid 1980’s.
Circa 1984, local Punk and Dance impresario (and general taste-maker) Tony Peake was responsible for booking bands at the large, popular Gladstone venue, alongside Al Parke. Meanwhile up in Auckland Peter Urlich was establishing the original Zanzibar dance-club in Auckland – and was planning a similar spot in Christchurch with the help of local proprietor John McCarthy, who owned the Old Star Tavern.
Peake was brought in to establish a new nightclub within the pub, taking the same name as the Auckland venue and putting on regular nights, DJing a mix of Post-Punk, Dance, Dub, Hip-Hop – whatever he saw fit.
We spent a lot of time making sure it had a great stereo… through his connections through University Bookshop he was importing records to play. He’d bring all sorts of records in. We used to have special nights, we used to go down to this factory and get skins, giant bits of polystyrene and we’d paint big pictures, like pop art and put up big lights. For the 60’s night we did a giant Emma Peel pop art for the girls’ toilets. We did one called the Waterfront Night, which Tony particularly enjoyed. We hired all the scaffolding in town and a dance group danced up there. We made friends with these transvestite performers and they would do acts in between the shows.
Peake would eventually bounce back and forth from Sydney, before starting up The Edge nightclub on Hereford Street.
Later on, one-time Solatudes bassist Chris (Anzak?) began putting on shows as Burning House Promotions at various spots around town, including the University Student Association, as well as gigs like those featured in the poster below promoting The Max Block and The Terminals. The money raised by these shows was in aid of Audio Access, an 8-track studio that had started up on Bedford Row and captured music for the likes of All Fall Down, Tall Dwarfs and The Terminals themselves.
1984: Tony Peake ran the venue as Zanzibar
1986?: Burning House Promotions start booking shows at Old Star Tavern.
Notorious local rock’n’roll vocalist and Downhill Mountain Bike clothing entrepreneur Andrew ‘Ox’ O’Connell ran a small clothing retail shop on Selwyn Street in Spreydon before the Earthquakes claimed it in February 2011.
As the long-standing vocalist of Palace of Wisdom, Ox utilized the shop as both a practice and occasional performance space for the group, along with several other groups that fit in with his specific aesthetic.
Additionally, back in 2001 Ox released a compilation of rock’n’roll groups on his own Rockstar imprint (he also ran ‘Gone Magazine’ an online rock’roll publication), accurately entitled ‘No Thanks To New Zealand On Air‘ as a dig at the local New Zealand Creative grant system.
2001: Rockstar release ‘No Thanks to New Zealand on Air‘
2011: Rockstar Clothing is damaged in Canterbury Earthquakes, Ox is forced to move out
NOTE: This post probably contains quite a few errors and an inaccurate timeline – there is very little info online about old Christchurch venues, so I welcome all corrections and additions!
Also known as: Midday Theatre, Alska Theatre
Location: Westpac Lane, 147 Hereford Street, Central Christchurch
Current Status: Demolished post-earthquake
Active as a live music venue: 1997 – 2000
Bar Manager: Nick Paris
Wonderful quirky cinema theatre resurrected by Christchurch Film Society boffin Nick Paris in 1998, after years of neglect. Originally the Mid-city Theatre and one of many cinemas that were dotted around the Christchurch Square until major movie complexes started to dominate in the early 90’s.
Under Paris’ management, movies were often accompanied by either live musical performances (i.e. the largely dialog-free Baraka and Microcosmos), or were given opening-night parties with live bands performing in the foyer.
On some occasions the entire venue was put aside for live performances – of particular note was Stereolab’s sole Christchurch show in 1998, supported by local group Hawaii Five-O.
The quirky nature of the theatre was exemplified by it’s inclusion in the Christchurch editions of Ant Timpsons’ Incredibly Strange Film Festival, run ably by local nutball’s Steve Austin and Nick White.
After the Lumiere closed down around 2000 it was converted in to an English language school, before being damaged and eventually demolished after the Canterbury Earthquakes. The site is currently part of a new hotel development.
1982: Mid-City Theatre Opens with a seated capacity of 408.
1996: Theatre renamed the Alska, with a reduced seated capacity of 317.
1998: Nick Paris takes over the venue, renaming it the Lumiere and refurbishing the interior in a quirky style. Live music performances become a part of the new venue.
2000: The Lumiere closes down and is replaced by an English language school.
2011: Damaged and eventually demolished after the Canterbury Earthquakes.