The Penthouse

Also known as: Unlimited Paenga Tawhiti, Level 5

Location: 135 Cashel Street, Central Christchurch

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

Active as a live music venue: 2005 – 2011

Capacity: 250

All-Ages: Yes

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 EdmondsOut 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

The Shocking Pinks at the 1st Citizen Jam show, June 2005

 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:

Poster for Earthquake-cancelled rave

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.

History

  • 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.

Links

Trimasterbate

Ridiculous Wellington Eletro-Sex-Pop from Gemma Syme and Emily Jolliffe (both from Holiday with Friends and Dianna Rozz) with Nicola Higham and Sasha Rainbow plus Matt Buck (Crackhouse 5) handling production. The group have provided gang vocals on two 7″ singles in So So Modern‘s Friends and Fires series, plus a CD-r which was distributed at live shows.

Discography (picks in bold)

  • Trimasterbate CD-r

See-Also

Camp A Low Hum 2012 – Part One

Megalex at Camp A Low Hum 2012
Megalex at Camp A Low Hum 2012

Ian ‘Blink’ Jorgensen starting calling the events, zine’s, festivals and tours that he organized ‘A Low Hum’ back in 2001, so the 2012 Camp A Low festival marks his 10 year anniversary as a rather prominent force in New Zealand live music, of particular note in independent circles, as well as being the sixth such festival he has helled.

The festival is a full 3-day / 4-nights: on site camping, multiple environments, BYO alcohol, a particularly diverse array of musical acts and attendees. This year was located in the scenic surrounds of Camp Wainui, a campsite located in natural bush in Wainuomata usually occupied by Boy Scouts. The 2012 event brought together 70 booked acts from the USA, the UK, Canada, Germany, Argentina, Australia and New Zealand – along with an equally large of amount of ‘Renegade’ acts, who popped up during the length of the festival.As one of approximately 800 campers I may not be the only festival attendee who drank a little too quickly on the first night and failed to party into the night that evening, and I also may not be the only camper that experienced the delights of acts from across the world, as well as from their very own household – but with my unique perspective in mind I present my own recollections of Camp a Low Hum 2012:

Bare Grillz at Camp A Low Hum 2012
Bare Grillz at Camp A Low Hum 2012

This was my fifth appearance at Camp, however this prior experience unfortunately couldn’t prevent my own excitement on the first day, so the first part of this review ends around 10pm on the first night, a little after catching a returning So So Modern in driving rain, and feeling the pain (fortunately only in my head) of quick drink and not a lot of food.

After a quiet pre-festival night things kicked off proper on friday morning, though a little slowly. It was drizzly and a bit of a breeze was flowing through the Wainui hillsides, but the weary camp goers eventually awoke to the sounds of Wellington based free-style rapper Megalex, improvising rhymes about suggested topics in front of the camps pleasant (though pretty chilly at this point!) lagoon. A surprisingly shy Street Chant vocalist/guitarist Emily Littler is who I caught next. Performing as Emily Edrosa she played a short set of acoustic songs at an intimate site surrounded by band accommodation dubbed the Lawn.

Camp A Low Hum sets are typically around 25 minutes, giving attendees a nice short introduction to an act, whilst not bombarding them with a long set. Performers often play twice, resolving conflicts when simultaneous shows are on (which is throughout the majority of the festival), and so-called Renegade shows can pop up at any time, often resulting in party like atmospheres with enthusiastic crowds. Venues go from typical camp-site rooms where bodies cram in to every corner, to a seated forest site, to expansive lawn areas that can easily accommodate the entirety of the festival crowd.

Wintercoats at Camp A Low Hum 2012
Wintercoats at Camp A Low Hum 2012

Adelaide solo act Rites Wild took things back to the lagoon, the first of quite a few loop-pedal warriors  that played throughout the festival. Playing very dark synth drones with a lot of reverb – it was quite a somber performance – or maybe that was just the weather, by this stage starting to get on my nerves. However the second loop pedal aficionado, Melbourne violinist Wintercoats was more my style, playing an emotionally driven set of songs reminiscent of Owen Pallett (aka Final Fantasy). Things really kicked in to gear when Auckland based rap duo $noregazZm hit the lagoon, switching slots with an absent Spring Break (who arrived the next day) and playing a spastic, snotty set of songs, enticing the crowd to join in their fun. Their vocalist Lisandru Grigorut had previously made his Camp debut in equally spazzy Dunedin punk outfit TFF, despite being thoroughly under-aged.

While roaming the ample camp grounds and enjoying the setting, food and the taste of my deadly beverage I managed to breeze through performances by rather-great Sydney rock trio No Art, Auckland-based Flying Nun fans Lost Rockets, kitschy but cute and catchy Melbourne keyboards and loop-pedal soloist Kikuyu and Newcastle, Australia based guitar and keyboards soloist Alps – who has been quite a regular visitor to our shores over the past 8 years or so, and plays a very personal style of experimental pop music.

T54 at Camp A Low Hum 2012
T54 at Camp A Low Hum 2012

Seems appropriate that it was Christchurch’s own T54 that ushered in the bigger stages in the late afternoon. The recently signed Flying Nun act thrilling with sharp guitar playing, pulsing rhythms, and even a random guest vocalist. I’m not sure if the next act I saw in the Forest was Melbourne trio Absolute Boys (though they seemed to contain the same members?), as they replaced the absent Glass Vaults, but their set of minimal electronics swirled and pulsated and sounded simply wonderful in this idyllic setting. One of the truly great finds of the festival for me was Newcastle, Australia power-trio Bare Grillz; totally at home in a house-party setting with a terrific drummer and two guitarists with equally terrific haircuts. Playing aggressive, dynamic punk numbers punctuated with anthemic shouting and a good dose of humor, I’d thoroughly recommend you check them out if you get the chance.

I think this is when my enthusiasm started to get the better of me. Melbourne punk rock trio Ouch My Face were on the main stage, making a second appearance at Camp A Low Hum in their own sassy, sarcastic way. Meanwhile I’d been indulging in my surroundings, eating and drinking with my friends, girlfriend and fellow campers as the rain started to get stronger, with gusts blowing in to the valley and bringing dark clouds with them. I skipped a couple acts for a dinner break, but returned for the magnificent So So Modern, fighting a killer headache to thoroughly enjoy their great set of songs new and old.

So So Modern at Camp A Low Hum 2012
So So Modern at Camp A Low Hum 2012

The Wellington trio (now without fourth member Aidan Leong) have become more laid-back than their debut recordings, with a more progressive sound in recent years, so It was a treat for them to run through some of the punchy older hits – a dynamic mix of bass heavy keyboards, stinging guitar, sing-shout vocals and truly ravenous drumming. Wind lashed the side of the stage which was thankfully covered in weather-protecting canvas – thankfully giving me a little respite and shelter as I took photos of the band going full tilt. That was it for the night though, I threw in the towel, formulating a new approach for day two of the festival as rain pounded my tent with my head pounding along concurrently.

Click here for more photos. Days 2 and 3 to come.

[published in the Christchurch Press 17/02/2012]

So So Modern

Hip Wellington based synth and guitar troop – greatly exciting, fun and wacky group. often costumed and running through sets at breakneck pace, the group have a give it a go and home-production bent, distributing their own self-produced recordings (with art-work from the very talented Neon Sleep), hand-crafted pins, stickers and posters.

Vocalist Grayson Gilmour released his own solo album in 2006, with attention from the A Low Hum peeps – actually his third home-produced release after a duo of unofficial, teenage years releases.

Discography (picks in bold)

  • Ep0001 Cd-R Ep [2005 Self-Released Ep0001]
  • Frendz Cd-R Ep [2006 Self-Released Ep0002]
  • Friendly Fires [2007 Self-Released]

See-Also