There is so much that can be said for Wellington. Fine dining, coffee culture and of course the overarching presence of Peter Jackson and his works are the usual go-to’s when discussing New Zealand’s capital city. But the guidebooks tend to gloss over what many consider to be the real charm of this cozy home from home; its music scene. The native tastes for reggae, rock and hip hop are apparent on every street corner, but Wellington’s bars and clubs cater to lovers of all genre’s, impressive enough for a city this size.
Whilst it may lose out on some of the larger international artists that venture this far round the world, who tend to only play Auckland, Wellington makes up for this with an underground, grass-roots scene that is unrivalled in the country. And most importantly, you don’t have to pay top dollar to experience it!
Of course, Courtenay Place (with its famous theatres) is brimming with bars pumping out pop and R’n’B tunes until the early hours, but those with slightly more discerning tastes need not travel far! Indie rockers can get their fix at Mighty Mighty, a popular haunt for students with cheap beer and live music most nights of the week. Those looking for a bit more ‘rhythm’ to get their groove on to will want to check out Sandwiches, NZ’s premier club for DNB, dubstep and hip hop. Local talents such as The Upbeats, Shapeshifter and MC Tali regularly play, showcasing exacly why the NZ bass music scene is becoming so internationally recognised. San Fransisco Bath House, located on Cuba Street, hosts artists of all varieties, and has regular 80’s/90’s nights (24HR Party People is a must for any Britpop fan feeling a bit homesick!) Bodega also deserves a mention, and the chic Southern Cross has free live music every Friday, along with a fantastic range of local craft beers. I urge everyone who fancies a cheeky skank to try and catch awesome local boys Newtown Rocksteady!
And it’s not just in the bars that you can witness the talent Wellington has to offer, for it is the quantity and quality of street performers that give Wellington its unique, bohemian character. Take a stroll down Cuba St and you may find anything from 7-piece funk bands to opera singers, from young rappers to full brass sections. Just yesterday I saw a young lad, who couldn’t have been more than 18, singing the blues with a voice that sounded straight outta the Mississippi Delta! Keep an eye out for King Homeboy, the world renowned beat-boxer who I still insist must surely have an entire percussion section hidden somewhere on his person. The eclectic mix on show every day is truly stunning, and I would argue surpasses anywhere I have previously seen!
‘Free’ is definitely the operative word round here. Particularly in summer, mini festivals are often held at Waitangi Park or along the waterfront, providing a day out for all ages and styles. The local jazz circles that spawned such bands as Trinity Roots and the untouchable Fat Freddy’s Drop are clearly still in full swing, staging regular showcases in bars and cafes all over town. Even the record shops get in on the free live music action, but a word of warning; SlowBoat and RoughPeel are both fantastic record stores, which can be dangerous to any budget backpacker with a penchant for vinyl!
And so with all this talent oozing from every pavement crack, it seems a shame not to get in on the fun! Here at Blend Bar (part of Nomads Capital) we will be hosting local musicians on a weekly basis, providing this vibrant community with a place to meet, drink and listen. Check the Blend Bar website (http://blendbar.co.nz) for regular jam nights, open mics and more! So if you’re a Wellingtonian born and bred, or just passing through, and want to share your skills, come down, say hello and get amongst it!