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

Loading
Center map
Traffic
Bicycling
Transit

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

Vacuum Blue Ladder

The Vacuum Blue Ladder formed when Bill Direen joined Stephen Cogle (Bass / Vocals) and Peter Stapleton (Drums / Lyrics), who were also making music as the duo Victor Dimisich Band – a group that would later release an EP on Flying Nun, and can be seen as the starting point for the more recognized Terminals, plus Stapleton and Cogle’s many variations. However – the Vacuum were quite different from these future groups, as Direen was an important creative force in the group who added his own color to their sound and songwriting.

The members took advantage of their connections to the album importing business, encompassing inspiration from the most obscure (in New Zealand’s mid 70s environment) corners with the likes of the Velvet Underground and West Coast U.S. psychedalic artists the 13th Floor Elevators (along with the staple Nuggets bands)… the very best in gritty, noisy and creative garage rock.

Like before we were in Vacuum we had a backyard band sort of thing. We used to play in this room down the back of my parents’ house. A woman called Theresa played guitar with us and we wrote songs. The ones we did with the Vacuum, most of the songs were written by Bill, which was a source of conflict eventually, and so we took our songs and did them with the Victor Dimisich Band
Peter Stapleton

Guitarist / Vocalist Theresa Mcquire joined and left in 1976, making way for Direen to front the band, and soon Peter Fryer had joined on violin. The combination of Direen and guitarist Allen Meek created a rift in the band, with Cogle and Stapleton restricted to the side-lines.

…They got pretty close. Peter and I would come along (to practise), and Bill and Allen would’ve spent a long time working things out. In the end, it sort of goes, that I got fired, by Bill. ‘Cause I didn’t mix with him. I remember.. Peter meeting me over the christmas period, we sort of had a christmas break, and he said oh, Bill wants me to tell you that you’re out (laughs). And I said oh, that’s fine, it suited me. And I was replaced by Segovia
Stephen Cogle: taken from Have You Checked The Children?

Jon ‘Segovia’ Markie (soon to make his name with the Axemen and later Shaft) joined Direen, Meek and drummer Malcolm Grant (the Bats) on bass to complete the final line-up of the Vacuum in 1979. The band eventually dissolved in the very early 1980s, but resurfaced with the short-lived Kaza Portico – Segovia in the mostly-covers outfit the Volkswagons, and later in Ritchie Venus‘s Blue Beetles.

Direen eventually took the shortened Vacuum as the name for his theater group, and continues to write, act and perform to this day.

Discography (picks in bold)

See-Also

The Bats [February 2006]

Over the last 20 years The Bats have garnished a label of dependability – and with good reason. Though now taking a little bit of time between releases (one might jump to the conclusion that ‘At The National Grid’ is more like a reunion album than simply their first in 11 years), The Bats continue to write, record and perform scores of catchy, poppy tunes – jangly, homely and folky tunes filled with images of Bob Scotts‘ Central Otago past and propelled by one hell of a dynamic rhythm section.

One of the longest surviving Flying Nun groups still with their original line-up (the other would be the Tall Dwarfs), The Bats have continued to be a live fixture over the past decade, particularly in Christchurch; where the majority of the group now resides.

The story goes that when The Clean initially broke up in late 1982, Bob was flatting and jamming with Paul – who had been quite active with the great Toy Love, and various groups round Christchurch such as seminal pre-punk outfit The Detroit Hemroids and Jay Clarkson’s Playthings. Eventually Malcolm Grant (who had sat behind the kit for a later incarnation of Bill Direen‘s The Vacuum and local popsters The World) was brought into the fold, with Kaye completing the line-up by 1983.

I met Bob at the clash concert in the Christchurch town hall in the early 80s, he had moved from Dunedin and was looking for a flat, and my flatmate was leaving so he introduced me to Bob. Then we both ended up moving in to longfellow street with Paul and Malcolm among others, they had drums and amps set up in the living room and that’s when we started playing as a band. I didn’t have many expectations of The Bats, i’m pretty sure I didn’t think ahead much at all in fact but i’ve always loved playing Bob’s songs and playing live in all kinds of places.
– Kaye Woodward

During the hey-days of Flying Nun The Bats could do no wrong, with catchy singles such as ‘Made Up In Blue’ and ‘Block Of Wood’ and the critically-lauded debut LP ‘Daddy’s Highway’ all being perennial underground favorites. However the group never really garnished any popularity – The Chills were a bit of a one-off in terms of stardom for New Zealand bands, and so groups such as The Bats settled for creating fine tunes – and often. In the decade to 1995 the group amassed a terrific body of work – some 5 albums and a handful of eps and singles. Of course the other side of the dice was their live show, an exhilarating experience full of catchy sing-a-long numbers, and some cracking instrumentation – Paul’s a bit of a hero of mine in terms of bass-playing (he’d perfected the chugga-chugga sound by 1985), and they’ve always exuded a homely friendliness that few bands seem to match.

In recent years the garden city trio of Kaye Woodward, Paul Keen and Malcolm Grant has built The Bats side-project Minisnap up from the ground, performing a whole new collection of catchy, wistful pop tunes – with Kaye leading the way as vocalist. Meanwhile Dunedinite Bob Scott took a few years to reunite with his buddies in the clean whilst formulating new tunes for the stellar new LP – and of course everyone in the group has the odd day job, too.

We had been talking about doing a new Bats album for 2 or 3 years before actually doing it. Everything takes ages now of course because of everyone’s jobs and children. Bob came up from Dunedin for the main session at the national grid (which is John Kelcher’s 8 track studio in Cashel Street) over Easter 2003, the view was across to all the mannequins in Ballantyne’s lingerie department but the people/mall action down below was quite entertaining.
– Kaye Woodward

Although the studio experience with John Kelcher was a friendly and natural one, with an opportunity to jam and flesh out ideas, Bob described a handful of the new tunes as ‘complex’ to write, which combined with an unfortunate incident only compelled the delay in the albums development:

After that session Paul got busy over the winter digitizing, loading and eq’ing the tracks at home; but in August our computer (and a whole lot of other stuff) got stolen. We had to go back and re-digitize the 8 track, but were too busy and couldn’t really get into it until after summer. We did a final over dub/mixing session at home with Bob in Oct 2004. More mixing, the artwork and mastering was done and labels pinned down over the next 6 months, then we did preparation building up to a New Zealand and U.S. Release in October 2005.
– Kaye Woodward

Eventually the album was released in late 2005, with critical acclaim spreading across from the States, along with reports of brilliant college radio support – after a matter of weeks CMJ (a chain of radio stations across the USA) had reported ‘At The National Grid’ as one of the top ‘adds’ across the country – rising up the charts in nearly all of CMJ’s 200 stations. The group plan to bolster this support by playing the famed South By South-West festival in Austin Texas, then a quick tour around the main centers.

The plan is to go for 2 weeks and try and play to as many people as possible and give the album a boost. We are doing some in-stores too and they are great for getting through to people. The album seems to be going really well so doing these shows should help a lot. It will be interesting to see the mix of old and new fans. Emails have proved to be a great way of keeping in touch with and making contact with new fans.
– Bob Scott

With an impending European and UK release through Little Teddy and Egg Records, the group are looking forward to a successful 2006, though they’ve got a relaxed approach to touring these days after their previous overseas experiences:

We could have perpetuated our career overseas by touring a lot more and our labels would have liked that but I hated the tour bus style touring we did in Europe and the US In 93. Up till then we had always driven in vans or flown and stayed in hotels or with friends. We did some dates with Radiohead on that 93 tour, they were a big successful band but even they were traveling round in tour buses so I thought that if success meant spending months every year in a tour bus I didn’t really fancy it.
– Kaye Woodward

The Bats

Biography

The Clean was never a band to stand still. Several times during the 80’s they broke up, then reformed for a European, New Zealand or American tour, and all three members relocated at least once during these crucial years. So when Rob Scott arrived in Christchurch in the mid 80’s, he decided to form a 4 piece through his garden-city colleagues that would act as an exercise point for his by now prolific song-writing ability.

Switching from bass to guitar meant that the brilliant husband and wife combo of Paul Kean (Detroit Hemorrhoids, The Basket Cases and the mighty Toy Love – primarily bass, but also guitar) and the multi-talented Kaye Woodward (guitar, violin, mandolin etc) took over the rhythm section, with experienced drummer Malcolm Grant (who had played with the likes of The Vacuum and The World) at the throne.

Their first album Daddy’s Highway is considered a masterpiece, a jangle-pop classic showing the groups tendencies for stunning, harmonious guitars, sing-a-long vocals and pounding rhythms. The single ‘North by North’ is a brilliant example of what’s flawed with the international music scene – a song so appealing, carefree and yet focused can go essentially ignored in-spite of itself.

The Bats never really accumulated a particularly strong following throughout the 80’s and 90’s, as their albums continued to sprout up (the brilliant The Law of Things and Fear of God being my favorites) – they were confounded to minor-league college radio airplay, even in their hometown.

With Scott’s movement back to Dunedin in the early-mid 90’s, their output became less prolific, but their popularity saw a considerably upswing during the mid to late 90’s, with the release of the Couchmaster album (and the ‘Courage’ single) and their considerable presence on the soundtrack to the brilliant Topless Women Talk About Their Lives television series and motion picture.

Its safe to say that the bats are now seen as one of the great Dunedin Sound bands, mixing jangle-pop with their own tendencies for melodic vocals, small-town themes and homegrown ethics. They’re a band that prefers a low profile, yet deserves the attention of the world.

They still continue to tour, though Scott’s relocation means this happens much less often – but the remaining Christchurch members formed Minisnap in the late 90’s, with Kaye Woodward providing taking the lead.

Members

  • Robert Scott (Vocals/Guitar, 1982 -)
  • Paul Kean (Bass/Guitar, 1982 -)
  • Kaye Woodward (Guitar/Bass/Vocals, 1982 -)
  • Malcolm Grant (Drums)
  • Michael Summerfield (Live Viola, 2017)
  • John Christoffels (Live Cello, 2017)

Discography

  • By Night 12″ EP [1984 Flying Nun FN024]
  • And Here Is Music For The Fireside 12″ EP [1985 Flying Nun FN031 / FNe22]
  • Made Up In Blue/Trouble In This Town/Mad On You 12″ Single [1986 Flying Nun FN060 / FNuk1]
  • Daddys Highway [1987 Flying Nun FN079 / FNe23]
  • Block Of Wood/Calm Before The Storm/Candidate 7″ Single [1987 Flying Nun FN084]
  • 4 Songs 12″ EP [1988 Flying Nun FN104]
  • Compiletely Bats [1988/1990 Compilation Flying Nun FN Bat001 / FN143]Rn
  • Law Of Things [1989 Flying Nun FNd30239 / FNe33]
  • Smoking Her Wings/Mastery/Passed By 7″ Single [1990 Flying Nun FN124]
  • The Black And The Blue/Watch The Walls 7″ Single [1991 Flying Nun FNk11013]
  • Boogie Man/Jetsam/Mama Come Watch Cd Single [1991 Flying Nun FN K11033]
  • Fear Of God [1991 Flying Nun FN217]
  • Silverbeet [1993 Flying Nun FN260]
  • Courage/Mind How You Run/Slow Alright/The Wind Is Sad Cd Single [1993 Flying Nun FN261]
  • Live At Wfmu 7″ EP [1994 Merge Mrg058]
  • Under The Law/Spill The Beans/Sir Queen(Live) 7″ Single [1994 Flying Nun FN291]
  • Spill The Beans Cd EP [1994 Flying Nun FN291]
  • Couchmaster [1995 Flying Nun FN301]
  • Afternoon In Bed EP [1995 Flying Nun FN341]
  • Thousands Of Tiny Luminious Spheres Compilation [2000 Flying Nun FN413]
  • At The National Grid [2005, Pocket Music]
  • The Guilty Office [2008, Arch Hill, AHR036]
  • Free All The Monsters [2011, Flying Nun, FNCD513]
  • The Deep Set [2017, Flying Nun, FNLP568]

Links