Mollett Street

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: Club de Rox

Location: Mollet Street, Central Christchurch

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Current Status: Demolished

Active as a live music venue: 1977 – 1978

Bar Manager: Al Park

Capacity: –

All-Ages: Yes

Mollett Street was an informal performance space above the Longhorn Leather shop on Mollett Street, just off Colombo Street in Central Christchurch. It was particularly notable as the first punk-friendly venue in Christchurch, however by all reports Mollett Street had a communal party vibe, doubled as a market, and managed to bring together the long-hairs, the freaks and the punks of all varieties – pretty much all-comers.

After school, Scott and I regularly hung out at the record counter of the University Bookshop, which was run by Tony Peake, an Aussie, a few years our senior. One afternoon Tony told us of a new club that had just opened in the city in a lane way off Colombo St. It wasn’t really a club at all, more like a few rooms above a leather shop with a homemade stage and a single toilet, which rarely flushed.

– Mark Brooks of Johnny Velox and the Vauxhalls, from AudioCulture’s ‘Mollett Street Madness

Christchurch music legend Al Park is always tied to the history of Mollett Street – he was responsible for booking bands (and named it ‘Club de Rox‘, though that never seemed to catch on), plus his early group Vapor and the Trails were regulars through-out the two year lifespan (1977 – 1978) of the venue.

Mollett Street Bands – Appendix from Wade Churton’s ‘Glam, Punk and Scorched Earth Policy’

Christchurch’s original British-style punks The Doomed were one group that made their mark at Mollett Street – garage rock historian Andrew Schmidt (of Mysterex Fanzine fame) detailed the venue with some rather stellar photos of the group performing in July 1978 – Johnny Abort’s (aka Dick Driver) wild afro haircut standing out in every shot – TVNZ’s ‘Eyewitness Punk‘ piece from 1978 captured the performance, along with some typically bristly punk attitude from Driver disparaging Auckland Punks as ‘plastic’.

I can remember goin there on a Sunday evening with the Clean and the Enemy to see the Basket Cases….i dont remember there being anymore than about 5 people there. And here was a band playing live some of the music we all loved. A song off the Pretty Things LP Parachute, Velvets etc etc!…The only other memory is when Jane walked off stage Chris jumped on her. Everyone hit it off! I dont remember playing there. I remember playing Foresters Hall (?) and breaking a string, which I had never done before. I thought to myself “what the fuck do I do now”?, when Al Park jumped on stage with a string and re strung it the gat while it was round me neck. …what a guy!….anyway the Mollet ST meeting was quite something, little did we all know what was coming!

– David Kilgour

Wade Churton detailed the groups that played the venue, with Vapor and the Trails, Sugar Cane, Blueprint, Doomed, Soundchaser, Vandals, Janice Gray, Johnny Velox and the Vauxhalls and the Basket Cases making the most appearances – though it’s also notable for touring groups such as The Enemy (twice), Scavengers, an early performance from The Clean, Citizen Band and Bamboo coming from out of town.

The Sunday night bill on a typical night might feature Al’s group Vapour and The Trails, a folk singer, a prog rock group and us playing our own two minute songs and a few sped up Who covers. This attracted a pretty diverse crowd of hippies, students and a few punk rockers eager for some Sunday night entertainment, as nothing else was open. There would always be a queue around the corner and up Colombo Street clutching the obligatory two dollar cover charge.

– Mark Brooks

After the venue closed, legendary Christchurch film-maker (and drummer for the Axemen) Stu Page shared the space with photographer Peter Towers for a period in the early 1980’s.

Though the building was heavily damaged in the February 2011 earthquakes, with Christchurch’s South Frame redevelopment progressing in 2017, it appears new life may finally be brought back to Mollett Street with Otakaro opening the space as an ‘inner city oasis’, framed by the newly developed Justice Precinct.

History

  • 14th August 1977: ‘Club de Rox’ Opening show with 2 movies, a play and performances from Sugar Cane and Vapor and the Trails.
  • Late 1978: Closes as a performance space.

Links

Christchurch Venue Map

Note: This is a work in progress and will have additional content added both in the Map (i.e. venue images) or in the body of this post (i.e. a list of the venues in questioned, grouped by status etc).

Feel free to comment, give suggestions etc – this was put together as part of thebigcity’s on-going Venues archive.

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Al’s Bar

Also known as:

Location: 31 Dundas Street, Central Christchurch

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Current Status: Demolished post-earthquake, replaced by commercial buildings

Active as a live music venue: 2004 – 2011

Bar Manager: Al Park

Bookings:

Website:

Capacity: –

All-Ages: Occasionally

Mid-sized venue on the South side of Central Christchurch operated by long-time fixture of the Christchurch music scene – Al Park. Al had been a notable figure in the pub rock and (eventually) punk music that sprung up around the Mollett Street performance space in the late 1970’s, but it took until 2004 before Al had a venue of his own.

Al’s Bar had (at one point) two stages at opposite ends of the venue and a small outside courtyard.

Al’s Bar exterior, taken from Al’s Bar facebook

This was a popular venue up until the Canterbury Earthquakes of 2010 / 2011, with touring bands, popular local acts, and even double-header shows by A Low Hum using the ample space. Legendary US grunge act the Melvins played Al’s on February 21st 2011, the day prior to the fatal earthquake which eventually claimed the venue itself. Trouble seemed to follow the group, as immediately after Christchurch they traveled to Tokyo, just before the Japanese earthquake of 2011 struck.

Along with Al Park, sound-guy Dave Mitchell was usually on-hand, and the bar was known among local performers for being a bit of a struggle when it came to asking entry fees – thanks to a large volume of ‘regulars’ that insisted their connection to Al got them free entry!

The venue had some nice features, with a good not-too-expensive bar, polite bar staff, a decent, high-powered PA system with great monitors and stage sound, and a projection screen above the larger stage, which made for some pretty great photos:

Mike Ellis of the Insurgents at Al’s Bar

History

  • 2004: Opened as a live music venue’
  • 2010: Damaged in 2010 Earthquakes, but re-opens soon after’
  • 2011: Earthquakes permanently close the venue.

Contact Details

Links

Christchurch Venues, Part 2

Al’s Bar – 31 Dundas

http://www.nme.com/news/melvins/55187 [Feb 27th]

http://www.prefixmag.com/news/melvins-narrowly-escape-new-zealand-earthquake/49840/ [Feb 28th]

http://www.stuff.co.nz/entertainment/music/4727300/More-Christchurch-shows-cancelled [March 2nd]

[March 6th]

Justin Townes Earle was scheduled to perform at Al’s Bar on March 24, Michelle Shocked was due to play at The Bedford on April 15 and Mavis Staples and the Blind Boys of Alabama were scheduled for the Town Hall on April 30.

All of these shows have been cancelled.

A week later, as the enormity of the devastating earthquake in Christchurch has well and truly sunk in, Steve Marshall and his bandmates in Left Or Right are in sombre mood as they reflect on that city’s loss.

“That was absolutely crazy, eh?” Marshall says. “Who would have thought just as you rang that had happened up there?

“I’d forgotten that Logan (Hampton, brother of Left Or Right guitarist Callum Hampton) and (flatmate) Crispy were both up there during it.

“They were just about to load out their lighting rig from Al’s Bar after doing lights for the Melvins show the night before. They never got their gear out but managed to get back to Dunedin that night. They were very spooked and in shock.”

Christchurch Art Gallery – Worcester Boulevard

Was being used as the Earthquake media center. Appears to not be damaged.

COCA Gallery – 66 Gloucester St

http://www.theage.com.au/entertainment/art-and-design/christchurchs-art-treasures-survive-quake-20110313-1bstb.html

Staff from the Centre of Contemporary Art are optimistic about the extent of damage to their collection. Established in 1883 to promote the arts in Christchurch, CoCA has a collection of about 200 works, mostly paintings, dating from the early 20th century to the present. The centre’s 1968 building is intact, but about 25 per cent of works in both the permanent gallery collection and the dealer gallery have fallen off the walls, says business manager Tony Dann.

The Veils [12/01/07]


With Flip Grater, at Al’s Bar [12/01/07] review by Fran, photos by Fraew

The Veils is the brain-child of ex-pat Aucklander Finn Andrews. Andrews left Auckland at around age 16 to pursue a musical career in London, got himself signed to the legendary Rough Trade Label and managed to release a debut album “Runaway Found” with a band which was essentially formed to make his music. After touring the album, Andrews left the others behind and returned to New Zealand hunting out fellow school chums Sophia Burn (bass) and Liam Gerrard (keyboard) asking them to join him as The Veils.

Along with the rest of the band Henning Dietz (drums) and Dan Raishbrook (guitar), the Veils played to a packed out Al’s Bar on Friday night, with local Flip Grater in support.
During the opening set from Christchurch singer songwriter Flip Grater you would have been easily mistaken thinking no one was playing from the back of the bar, the big and rather chatty crowd drowned out her lovely voice. However Flip carried on and ended her short set with a louder than usual song which seemed to get some of the crowds attention and ended with a strong applause.

At Al’s that night the crowd was the biggest possibly ever seen for a show at the bar, waiting patiently through the Tom Waits and Edith Piaf music for the band to take the stage. The Veils jumped straight into things with the title track from their latest album Nux Vomica. The Veils pop rock seems to be infused with a bit of country music, but not the bad kind, the kind that makes you want to swing your hips if there was room in a full to capacity bar.

The desire to really dance was best displayed during the fantastically punchy “Jesus for the Jugular” and “Pan”. With the band’s impending performance at the upcoming big day out, it would be interesting to see how the songs translate on a big stadium stage. The atmosphere in the small bar, with everyone crammed in, including the 5 piece band was part of what made the performance great.

The encore song, “more heat than light” off Runaway Found was probably the band’s most obvious big rock number.

See more photos from this show at flickr