There are a few key attributes to a good music venue. The room needs to be acoustically sympathetic. The sightlines must be good -- so that everyone (or nearly everyone) who has paid can see the stage. It should be possible to get to the bar and the toilets without undue difficulty.
The first places I started going to regularly were somewhat like that. They weren't designed as music venues, but The Gladstone and the Hillsborough Tavern were (the latter especially) big, rectangular boxes.
Nightclubs, on the other hand, often benefit from a labyrinth design, from being a series of relatively intimate spaces. The Studio on Karangahape Road was built and operated as a nightclub (The Staircase and Don't Tell Mama's) for years before it was reopened at a live music venue. And it shows.
Gary Steel writes of an unpleasant, frustrating experience at The Studio for this week's Killing Joke show -- a dangerous crush then the disppointing experience of resorting to watching the show on one of the TVs in the foyer. He speculates that the show was oversold, but in the sense of being sold past the venue's legal capacity, no it probably wasn't.
The Studio's capacity will be assessed on its fairly generous floorspace. The problem is that in only a relatively small part of that space -- 35%, maybe? -- can the performance on stage be adequately seen and heard. So that's the space that everyone tries to be in. The consequence is that a successful show for the promoter generally means a trying experience for the paying punter.
One of the city's most enduring rock music venues, the King's Arms Tavern, also presents problems with sightlines relative to legal capacity. The bar and the dormant fireplace create a squeeze point in the middle of the room and at big shows you'll find many people standing outside the room looking in. There was talk of a major refit, widening the room and relocating the bar at the back -- rebuilding it as more of a box -- but it never happened.
Then there are part-time venues like Tyler Street Garage, where, quite madly, the main street entrance is virtually on top of the stage, and where at third of the room is obstructed from the stage by a metal staircase. The bar itself is handsomely-sized, but lines up along one side of the dancefloor, so is often jammed with people who don't actually want to buy a drink but have nowhere else to stand. The PA is always a temporary one and the room generally sounds crap.
As things stand, the best medium-to-large venue in town remains The Powerstation, where it's not hard to get a view of the stage, the house PA is excellent and the room never seems oversold. I'm not sure where else this model could be replicated, but it would be nice to have other options.
If you're after a decidely non-loud show tonight, you could do worse than the Wine Cellar tonight, where Jed and Hera -- Iceland expat Hera Hjartardottir and Jed Parsons -- play songs from their new Live at York Street album, which was recorded basically live in a day at the studio. It's sweet, unvarnished and folky.
There's also Voom at the Portland Public House, but please don't every go go there. It's my buddy Andy's birthday and wed like to get in the door ...
Elsewhere, check out Garth Cartwright's Dinah Lee entry on Audioculture.
Consider paying a little money for these two classic Leftside Wobble edits of Esther Phillips' 'All the Way Down' and Ashford & Simpson's 'Don't Cost You Nothing'. You can buy both tracks at Juno Download.
Sample some classically straight-up rock 'n' roll from Dead Beat Boys on TheAudience.
And enjoy the fab new Phoenix Foundation video ...
Righto. Plane to catch ...
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