Venus Cafe

Location: 76 Lichfield Street, Central Christchurch

Current Status: Demolished post-earthquake, replaced by bus exchange

Active as a live music venue: 1990’s – 2000’s ?

Bar Manager: –

Capacity: Around 60?

All-Ages: Yes

When Cafe Culture exploded in Christchurch in the mid 1990’s, I was a student at Christchurch Polytechnic, surviving on a $14 a week student allowance (and living at home). Due to my modest means I marveled at how people could spend what seemed like a fortune on fancy new coffee’s and cafe food.

However, Venus Cafe was the kind of place where you’d see students hanging out all day nursing an extra-large hot chocolate – getting their full moneys worth. The place was one of a few in the central city (most notably Java Coffee House) that had a hippie vibe, and was often involved in the promotion and support of local raves and dance parties.

The Cafe itself was up a handful of steps in an old building on Lichfield Street, above the Lick er Lounge (later to become Carbon) and next to the notorious upstairs Danz Nightclub. Long and narrow, and quite dark at the back – more than a few live shows were put on within the Cafe itself (noted on the Barnard’s Star poster below as taking place in ‘The Pluto Room’), though the capacity can’t have been more than 60 or so people – usually sitting on the floor.

The shows I remember attending were:

Barnard’s Star bringing out their debut EP supported by Le Mot Cafe (making their debut) – Helen spent the show sprawled out on the floor playing bass, whilst every Le Mot Cafe song went along the lines of “This song is… how do you say? An instrumental! It has no words…” – funny stuff from a bunch of the Puffins (who were my favorite band at the time).

Poster for Venus Cafe show with Le Mot Cafe, from http://flamingrednz.blogspot.co.nz/

Early shows by The Dialtones – this local group had a whole swag of great songs, but it took the best part of a decade before Fleur De Lis saw fit to record and release them.

Lastly, the mighty rock’n’roll experience that was The Black Panthers – who were obviously far too loud to play in a cafe. Singer and guitarist Matt Alien spent a period of the show jumped up on tables, whilst their bass player Vaughn had his usual cadre of groupies throwing Marmite-stained women’s underpants at him…

First there was The Vic, then there was Caffiends, then there was Java, then there was Venus. Was that a Helm Ruifrok mural? I remember lots of James Robinson’s paintings. I remember hearing Ornette Coleman there, In All Languages for the first time and remembering it from the John Zorn versions on Spy vs Spy. I remember seeing the James Last Appreciation squad blow up Here Comes Jack Thompson’s amps there, before it was even dark outside, before we even to a chance to play. I remember seeing Kaylo walk past in the Winter sun with a freshly shaved head. I remember regrouping there with the Spook billstickers crew. I don’t remember the coffee. I do remember the muffins.

  • Jason Tamihana-Bryce

The Cafe can’t have last too long as there are scant all details at all about it on the web, though I have heard about further shows such as Auckland punk group Sommerset some time in winter 1998, kRkRkRk recordings ‘foremost avant-garde collaborative project’ DiS towards the end of 1999, plus Rhian Sheehan, Jolyon Mullholland, as well as Matt Bullimore and Dave Murphy’s group SeaWorld.

 

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