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

Johnny Velox and the Vauxhauls

Biography

In September [1977], the nucleus of another band formed at Burnside High School.

Brothers Mark and Scott Brooks were guitarist and bassist and Findlay Calderwood became drummer. From Boys’ High came vocalist Michael Williams.

Initially the band were known as ‘Uncle Meat’, but after they became a quartet they gave themselves a decisively punk identity. The new name managed to lampoon ‘Hoon’ culture and snipe at both middle-class and freak sensibilities.

Johnny Velox and Vauxhalls was again a four-piece band built firmly on the Pistols/Ramones model. Williams became the titular character, Mark and Scott Brooks became Kid Buick and Eugene Dipstick, and Calderwood became Dick Distant.

Though very young (all were in their mid-teens), the band’s instrumentalists had the funky long hair and flares of freakdom but like The Doomed crossed over with the slightly-ripped safety-pinned-opportunity-shop jacket aesthetic of punk.

Williams indulged his character’s glam-rock star roots and wore bright red dyed hair with his wraparound shades, slashed t-shirt and dog-collar choker.

In contrast to The Doomed’s slightly one-dimensional Pistols/English punk outrage, the Vauxhalls had a decidedly more ‘musical’ slant to their version of punk. In the absence of specifically ‘punk’ records for initial set-building material, the Vauxhalls utilized currently available music by acknowledged antecedents.

The early Vauxhalls quickly mashed together and eclectic glam / 1960’s set [covering Bowie, Eno, The Stooges, Roxy Music, Slade, The Who, Velvet Underground etc]… as well as joking covers of television advertisement jingles…

– From Wade Churtons’ Glam, Punk and Scorched Earth Policy

The group were a stalwart of the popular Mollett Street scene, playing alongside contemporaries such as The Doomed, Vapor and the Trails, Vacuum Blue Ladder and The Vandals.

Members

  • Mark Brooks (Guitar, 1977 – 1978)
  • Scott Brooks (Bass, 1977 – 1978)
  • Michael Williams (Vocals, 1977 – 1978)
  • Findlay Calderwood (Drums, 1977 – 1978)

Discography

Links