Archives for posts with tag: Chick’s Hotel

DK H8s 2019David Kilgour returns with his band the Heavy Eights for a beautifully melancholic album “Bobbie’s A Girl” which has just been released on US label Merge Records.

“Looks Like I’m Running Out” ambles along blissfully, a bit like Syd Barrett’s “Gigolo Aunt” shuffle, but it’s a pace that out-sprints the languid drifting sleep-walking state of much of the rest of the album. I mean that in a good way too.

At times it feels like the album is a conversation between worlds, between the living and the dead. As DK explained in an interview: “The whole album is a sort of mood piece, really. Grief was behind it, as you say. I lost my mother and my friend Peter [former school friend and early Clean/ Chills/ Snapper band member Peter Gutteridge] around the same time, and for a while, I made no music at all, then I started to really just indulge myself and let the melancholia wash around me.”

The album is minimalist, in words and sounds and notes and chords, yet also one of the richest, deeply textured, atmospheric collections in the substantial David Kilgour catalogue. Acoustic and electric guitars, piano, keyboards, vibes, voices; all leavened by the air between the notes.

There’s a strange kind of magic at play here. It is partly the circumstances of the album’s origins, but also maybe also aided by the provenance of the location of its recording in the 140 year old Port Chalmers building Chick’s Hotel. Some of the songs seem improvised by the band in a telepathic dream-state. It’s so laid back at times it almost falls apart. But, like those two Syd Barrett solo albums, it somehow holds itself together, willed on by primal musical instinct shared among the players and shepherded by spirits in the aether of the eternal vibrations of the universe.


Day 26 of PopLib’s 31 Days of May marathon for New Zealand Music Month is “The Chateau” by Bathsalts, from their “Drive” EP released last month.

Bathsalts are a three piece band originally from Queenstown, but now based in Dunedin, and consisting of Reuben Scott (guitar / vocals) Yuta Honda (bass / vocals) Theodore Baumfield (drums / vocals).  They say “grunge”, “indie rock” and “psychedelic” and that’s a start, but only the half of it really.

There’s also a hint of post-punk/ New Wave at times with those chorus effect guitar interludes evident on this track and also some post-rock progressiveness in those time changes and snappy interplay between guitar, bass and drums.

Keep an ear on Bathsalts – there’s an encouraging blend of influences percolating on this three song EP recorded at Chicks Hotel in Port Chalmers and the skill to develop it all even further in future.

Grant Hart Chicks 2010

Grant Hart outside Chicks Hotel, February 2010.

Grant Hart died last week, aged 56, after a battle with cancer. Through Hüsker Dü, Nova Mob and his solo albums he left an extraordinary back catalogue of songs. Here’s the gorgeous “Morningstar” off his last album “The Argument”, which came out on Domino Recordings in 2013.

“Morningstar” is as perfect as his earlier songs with Hüsker Dü – a simple chord change, a vocal melody that hooks you in straight away, a passionate vocal performance, lyrics combining the personal with the esoteric, that earworm keyboard refrain…

My first exposure to Hüsker Dü was in the 1980s via “Radio With Pictures”, NZ’s Sunday night ‘alternative’ music video show (well before ‘alternative’ was a thing). Specifically this video for “Don’t Want to Know if you are Lonely” which mixes live footage with grainy touring footage.

I remember being fascinated by the power of the song, the the total involvement of singing drummer Grant Hart, and the fusion of punk/ hard rock energy with classic 60’s era style of pop melodicism well before ‘grunge rock’.

I only got into Hüsker Dü from their major label releases “Candy Apple Grey” (1986) and “Warehouse: Songs and Stories” (1987). What stood out then was that Grant’s songs were the ones that resonated most for me. I made a tape of all my favourite songs from “Warehouse: Songs and Stories” for the car. They were all Grant’s songs.

After Hüsker Dü Grant’s solo music and Nova Mob albums made an impact here among those who followed his music. His single “2541” was just as perfect a song for winters in cold houses in southern NZ as it was for Minneapolis, US.

I met Grant in 2010 when I persuaded his NZ tour promoter to add a Dunedin show, by guaranteeing the event (one of a handful of ‘PopLib Presents…’ shows promoted down here between 2009 and 2014). The show – held at a packed Chicks Hotel – turned out to be the best of his tour and he played a 2 hour set, feeding off the enraptured enthusiasm of the audience.

As he was flying out to Australia from Dunedin late the following day the tour organiser asked if I could take care of Grant and his tour manager for the day and deliver them to the airport that evening. I’m always nervous of meeting my heroes – particularly ones with the reputation Grant had, but agreed.

Next day I met him at Chicks and asked what he wanted to do on his day in Dunedin. He had read that Dunedin had one of the best used bookshops in the world – Octagon Books – and he loved books. The older the better. So that was our day – a scenic tour of Dunedin via several 2nd hand bookshops. He loved Dunedin; it’s compact size, old buildings, sedate pace, and low-key, friendly people.

In Galaxy books near the Botanic Gardens a customer and her young daughter were talking to the owner. The girl was carrying a guitar her mother had just bought for her. She didn’t know how to tune it. Grant heard this and offered his help. He tuned the guitar and showed the girl how to form the shape of a few simple chords: “that’s enough for punk rock anyway” he laughed.  Her mother thanked him and asked if he did guitar lessons. Grant laughed and said it would be a long way to go to find him in Minneapolis.

I hesitantly asked about Hüsker Dü as we drove around. There was some resentment about Bob Mould, who had just announced he was writing his memoirs. Grant talked about writing his own so the real story would be told. But Grant seemed more sad that the relationship seemed irreconcilable rather than bitter about Bob Mould. He appeared to be open to talking again – as long as Bob made the first conciliatory approach. He did however have a bit to say about SST Records’ Greg Ginn, and that wasn’t so forgiving.

However, mostly what Grant talked about as we drove around Dunedin, triggered by driving past several Masonic Lodges, was the detailed history of the Freemason movement. He explained these derived from the trade guilds in the Middle Ages which provided the support of collective organisations, independent of the political power of the churches, hence the hostility and distrust from the churches towards Freemasonry. The rituals and symbols we had mocked while growing up in Invercargill and sneaking around the local Masonic Lodges to try to look inside for the supposedly satanic symbols, were initially developed as way of protecting the group from infiltration by spies and saboteurs from the churches he said.  Fascinating stuff, and about the last thing I expected to be hearing from the drummer of Hüsker Dü while driving around Dunedin.

We called in to the University’s Albany Street studio so sound person from the show the previous night could show Grant the studio he worked in. Grant played us the rough mixes of his concept album based on Milton’s “Paradise Lost” in the control room. He talked about how he would love to come back and finish the album there. He had a good feeling about Dunedin; a kind of retreat from the world where he could work in peace.

Before heading to the airport I took Grant to St Clair – Dunedin’s surf beach – where we had a last coffee and watched the surfers. The sun was shining and Grant was smiling. He loved the sea, the motion of the waves, the noise of the surf. He walked down to the railing over looking the steps and listened to the waves breaking against the rocks below. A surfer walked up the steps next to him, recognised Grant and and stopped to talk to him, thanking him for the great show the previous night and for coming to Dunedin.

On the way to the airport I asked him if there was anything I could send to him from Dunedin to remind him of his visit. He knew that Dunedin had woollen mills and explained he was a collector of Canadian Blankets from the Hudson Bay Blanket Company (cue another fascinating history lesson). I later found an old Roslyn Woollen Mill blanket in perfect condition and sent it to him. It was a large check pattern alternating crossed bands of pink and blue. Perfect.

We exchanged e-mails through to the end of 2011 over the album which was eventually released as “The Argument”on Domino Recordings in 2013. He sent me working mixes of the album, discussing plans for completing the final mixes and the difficulties he was having finding a label in the UK to release the album.  I’m glad Domino released the album, doing such a wonderful job of presenting it, and helping get him the attention and respect for the work he had devoted so many years to creating.

Although Grant returned to Dunedin last year and played again at Chicks Hotel – with a band this time –  I didn’t get a chance to talk to him in the crowded venue afterwards. I hope he had time to go to St Clair and watch and listen to the sea again.

When we exchanged those e-mails between 2010 and 2011 he always asked about the surf around Dunedin. He remembered that afternoon at St Clair watching the sea and the surf. His last e-mail to me finished: “THE RATTLE OF THE STONES IS A WILD THING TO HEAR . I WON’T FORGET IT.”

Chicks JicksFeaturing the well-known New Zealand chart hit “Tally Ho!” by The Clean here is just a way to say a fond farewell to Dunedin’s iconic – and a bit odd – live music venue, Chick’s Hotel which closes its doors as a bar and live music on Sunday after a final (sold out) show featuring The Clean and current lessees/ venue operators The Shifting Sands.

First, the song and some background on that. Then there’s some observations on Chick’s and on the future of small live music venues in Dunedin. Read on…

“The song was the band’s debut single and was the second release on the Flying Nun Records label.

The song was born on a Christchurch afternoon, when the band was returning to Dunedin after touring.

Scott played a three-chord riff on a keyboard and Kilgour and Dunedin musician Martin Phillipps wrote lyrics on a napkin.

Kilgour said he wrote the lyrics after nearly having a mental breakdown from taking a hallucinogenic drug.

The lyrics were about the yearning for a connection.

”It’s a very confused lyric, which is the state I was in when I wrote it,” he said.

Scott said the song cost about $50 to record.”

[Read the whole Otago Daily Times article and watch a short video interview with The Clean on the song here]

The Wireless has just published an article and a great short video documentary on the end of Chick’s Hotel which is recommended viewing.

This odd venue with it’s Twin Peaks vibe has been a huge part of PopLib’s musical universe over recent years and many of the artists featured here have played at the venue too.

Because it only started as a live music venue about 8 years ago it was never associated with the previous era of Dunedin music. Being run initially by an ‘ousider’ (the colourful if disorganised ‘Hector Hazzard’) before being taken over by Mike, Tom and friends in 2012, and building its reputation on supporting a community of new musicians in Dunedin (and around NZ) it was something fresh. It had a sense of being a new start, belonging to the present and future, rather than clinging to any past glories. It also began to fill that ‘community hub’ role Arc Cafe had once been in Dunedin. It brought a lot more of the underground music from the rest of the world to Dunedin than we could ever have hoped as well.

Dunedin has always gone through boom or bust cycles of live music venues. New venues inevitably rise, as long as there is a demand to meet and a way to make them pay their way. As Tom Bell says “some things need to end for new things to start.”

Something of the nature of Chick’s Hotel in the city would be ideal. But it is difficult times for live music venues here, as in other cities worldwide. Small central city venue Taste Merchants is also closing the same weekend.

That will leave Dunedin with a handful of small venues. The Crown Hotel will be the only real option available to most for the bands who regularly played at Chick’s but it is not ideal. It is a small public bar with double figure capacity, mostly taken up by crusty regulars nursing jugs of Speights draught ale. It has no stage and a rudimentary PA but a long-time supportive host in the legendary Jones Chin. It also has a “Dunedin Sound” jukebox and poster display so cranky youth seeking to dismantle the oppressive shadow of the past will have to grit their teeth to play in the actual “last bastion of the Dunedin Sound”.

At the Northern end of the city centre ReFuel (capacity 250) is a University owned and run bar on the campus with the character and vibe of a school hall disco supervised by teachers. The Robbie Burns pub downtown sometimes does live shows, fitting sound-checks and start times around rugby coverage on the TV for the regulars. Neither places are particularly welcoming spaces for “counterculture” music, musicians or their audiences.

Dog With Two Tails Cafe may pick up some of the small acoustic or low volume shows Taste Merchants ran. You could include the Musician’s Club if you were desperate and there are a few halls of course. There are also a few informal (ie: unlicensed/ unauthorised) spaces occasionally hosting live music however these have a troubled history in Dunedin.

In Dunedin access to venues is one of the important contributors to the development of a vibrant music scene, just as it was in the 1980s. While we like to joke that Dunedin is such a creative place because the weather is crap and there’s nothing else to do, the reality is that there are lower entry barriers to creating and playing music here compared to most other cities.

The City Council, 30 years late to the game, have decided the city has a “thriving and internationally respected music sector…counterculture in the footsteps of the Dunedin Sound” in its new arts and culture strategy.  That’s no thanks to the Council itself, which has been either directly or indirectly responsible through noise control or alcohol licensing inflexibility for the demise of several of the “counterculture” music venues in the past decade.

Take the small cultural music hub Queens for example.  Central city bars in the Octagon, fuelled by all-night binge-drinking crowds, have seen vicious assaults on patrons, passers-by and Police and even a murder, yet continue to operate. Queens had its license renewal declined in 2014 because it supposedly presented an unacceptable ‘alcohol harm’ risk to the community. This despite the Police stating they had never been called to an incident at the place. At Queens the “counterculture” music, door charges and a modest selection of pricey craft beer were all guaranteed to repel the casual drunk, who could head 200 metres up the road and find a public bar with cheap jugs of Speights.

Arc Café – which closed around 2009 – was also on the receiving end of lack of understanding and concern on the part of the Council for pre-existing established live music venues when allowing inner city apartment gentrification to proceed nearby without soundproofing.  The costs of soundproofing Arc Café in order to meet noise control limits contributed to its level of debt and eventual demise. Progressive local governments overseas have brought in “Agent of Change” principles to counteract this and retain their important live music scenes, placing the onus for soundproofing on developers or residents that move near an established venue.

Glue Gallery in Stafford Street was an arts collective utilising the adjacent former Chippendale House building (an important live music space in the 1980s) for informal music events by the city’s “counterculture” musicians. It was also closed down because of noise complaints.  One door down None Gallery, another artist-run collective space utilised by Dunedin’s experimental electronic/ noise music scene, also stopped running events in its basement as a result of noise complaints. Both these spaces operated as occasional live music spaces well before inner city gentrification and enforcement of noise control regulations by the Council’s Environmental Health team.

There has always been an unhealthy co-dependency between live music and alcohol in New Zealand. Venues depend on alcohol sales to cover rent and operating costs.  Today, the combination of people with less money ‘pre-loading’ on cheap supermarket alcohol and those with more money drinking less (drink drive limits, healthier lifestyles) along with the seasonal variability of crowds at music events means there is a gap between the income from bar spend at gigs and costs of running a venue. There needs to be another way found to provide music venues without tying their viability to alcohol sales.

So, interesting times ahead for Dunedin and plenty to think about for musicians, music fans, potential venue operators and promoters, and in particular the City Council, who now seem to finally accept the importance of “counterculture” music in this small city.

“Now you said it was yesterday, yesterday’s another day
had a lot of make believe, I don’t know if it’s you or
if it’s me oh, I don’t know, I don’t know
Tally Ho! Tally Ho!”



Bad Sav_all_TEMPORARY release

Bad Sav at Chick’s Hotel

“Dressed like a kinetic housewife” is a line which makes not much sense. But this is Bad Sav so we are talking about one of the incorrigible and obstinately non-conformist bands to come out of Dunedin’s “Pop Underground” in recent years.

“Making Love” was recorded back in 2012 and it’s been out in the world for a while, so posting this song is really just an excuse to alert Dunedin residents to Bad Sav’s next live performance next weekend on Saturday 12 March. Even if it this particular song is unlikely to be on their set list.

Anyway, it will be one of your last chances to experience live music at Chick’s Hotel, plus you will get to hear a rare performance from legendary band The Terminals and hear Wellington’s MarineVille.

“Making Love” is unusual in the Bad Sav cannon in that drummer Mike McLeod takes the lead vocals – rapping (yup). You may be more familiar with him as the honeyed voice fronting psych-gaze rock trio The Shifting Sands.

Bad Sav’s Bandcamp is a collection of excellent and noisy miscellany released over several years. Despite existing for 10 years now Bad Sav has only two official releases to its name. Both are tracks on compilation albums. There was “Ruiners” on the Radio One double CD “A Century of Seasons” (2009) and “Buy Something New” on the TEMPORARY compilation (2014).

The lack of career goals for Bad Sav thus far is completely understandable. All three members have been busy in various alternative guises over the years. Above-mentioned drummer Mike has been running Chick’s Hotel live music venue and leading The Shifting Sands while also completing a Master of Philosophy degree. Guitarist Hope – who provides the thrilling wall-of-guitar melodic churn that defines Bad Sav – also currently plays in Death and the Maiden with bassist Lucinda and is busy with her own solo sonic explorations as Birdation.

But in recent years there seems to have been a hardening of resolve. The accumulation of quality songs and live performances of crushing sonic grandeur has increased exponentially. Whether this will culminate in something as unlikely as an album release is still anyone’s guess, but it’s a happy thought to cherish during dark and troubled times. In the meantime there’s always the breadcrumb trail offered by the songs collected on their Bandcamp.





The Moonlight released their first album a few weeks ago and are touring NZ at the moment to alert the dozy rugby-obsessed inhabitants of the Land of the Long White Cloud of its existence. Here’s the opening track, the rather wonderful “Across The Room”.

“Across The Room” sounds like it could be a lost recording by the Jean Paul Sartre Experience as they transitioned from winsome melodic strum into peerless fuzzy shoegaze giants as JPSE. That good.

Listening through the album it also seems The Moonlight would also have fitted comfortably amongst the chiming pop of some of the 1990s/ 2000s Failsafe Records roster, which included bands like Springloader, Throw and Dolphin, and post-JPSE bands Kimo and Mulchzoid.

There’s something distinctly New Zealand about The Moonlight LP and it’s low key yearning existential strum. Or, as they so eloquently say on their Bandcamp page: “A pent up need to give permanent shape to the flux of experience. That kind of stuff.”

I’ll be getting a copy tonight at Chick’s Hotel, where they play with the PopLib endorsed Elan Vital.

Street Chant

Yay! Street Chant are back. A long 5 years on from their excellent debut album “Means” there’s a new album “Hauora” announced for November release. Here’s “Pedestrian Support League” from it.

“Pedestrian Support League” packs a brilliant and surprising jangle pop lightness in the verses. It makes the chorus drop into their trademark melodic power-pop-punk snarl – soothed as always by those golden backing vocals – all the more thrilling.

The lyrics are a strong feature of anything Street Chant do as well – and Emily in her solo capacity too. This tale of existential ennui is no exception, indicating that perhaps band life is not quite the chummy cartoon rush of the Music Manager game they were featured in a few years ago.

First time I saw Street Chant was at Auckland’s first Laneway Festival where amp stacks were climbed and stage crew upset, not for the last time at that festival. It’s exactly that kind of attitude that Street Chant have always brought to their live shows and it shines through on their recordings too.

First time I saw them play in Dunedin was at Sammy’s supporting the 3Ds when they reformed for a brief tour about 5 years ago. At the time they sounded like they had absorbed the best bits of the 3Ds and Doublehappys into their own unique post-millenium DNA. People I talked to during & after that show seemed genuinely disappointed to learn they were from Auckland and not Dunedin.

Street Chant play at Chick’s Hotel this Saturday.

Sparkle Kitty
Christchurch synthesists (?) Sparkle Kitty are back with a slice of fat/ phat synth-bass gyrating pop called “Tender”.

The intro to “Tender” may bring big memories for the old & frail of Rick Astley’s 80’s synth-pop hit “Never Gonna Give You Up”. But, like everything today infected with the seed of 80’s synth pop, Sparkle Kitty add the kind of effortless cool the likes of Rick Astley could never manage.

This is partly because “Tender” is a deeper, darker, more substantial pop tune with a Euro-Disco edge, and partly because Lucy Macilquham’s vocals run melodic gymnastic circles all around and over those hairspray 80’s boys.

Sparkle Kitty play at Chick’s Hotel on Saturday 8 August with Shunkan.

Chick’s Hotel has a bass-monster PA system, smoke machine, a great light-show and a glitter ball. That’s all you need to know.

Grawlixes is a Dunedin unplugged indie-pop duo. members Penelope Esplin (vocals and accordion) and Robin Cederman (guitar, vocals) may be better known to most as half of Dunedin’s premiere purveyors of maudlin jangle-pop, The Prophet Hens. They even share a few songs in common with The Prophet Hens, including this one “Darling” which used to be part of the bands’ live set at the time this recording was made.

This recording is a live to air – quite literally. It was recorded in the open air on the back porch of a Dunedin house for the Operation Underground video performance series.

The recording is part of an Operation Underground Sunday Porch Sessions compilation on bandcamp. All proceeds from the sale of the compilation are going towards young Syrian war refugees who are transforming the old prison they call home into a place of hope by covering the walls in their art. Read more on that at

Grawlixes play in support of The Prophet Hens at Chick’s Hotel on Saturday 27 June along with semi-synthetic humanoid duo Strange Harvest.

Sam Hunt at Chicks

For the 9th day of May – NZ Music Month – I can’t let the opportunity to recommend “The 9th” by Sam Hunt with David Kilgour And The Heavy Eights go by. Sadly there is no Bandcamp* our Soundcloud music to embed so you will have to track it down old school style (in a record shop) as it is released on David’s own Bandit King Records (though you can find it on iTunes here).

[UPDATE 22 May: *It’s up on David Kilgour & The Heavy Eights bandcamp now! Here’s the opening track “Rainbows (and a Promise of Snow)”]

Anyone who witnessed the show they played at Chick’s Hotel last year, immediately following the recording of the album in that Port Chalmers pub, will not be surprised to hear there is magic captured within this album.

The combination of Sam Hunt’s words and voice and the musical alchemy of David Kilgour and The Heavy Eights is something special indeed. Even more so than their first collaboration – “Falling Debris” – released in 2009 which was Sam’s words (without his voice) set to music.

Sam was the first poet I ever heard perform. I was still at school. It was in a museum art gallery and Sam was a mess of hair, untucked farm clothes and floppy woollen socks. He was – and still is – unique. That braying sing-song voice, impertinent banter, and his ability to communicate through poetry in the primordial, pre-cultural gloom of New Zealand at that time, was inspirational. He was like a musician, but all he played was words and ideas. But he played them like a rock and roll musician plays an instrument. He was the Iggy Pop of poetry to me. He broke poetry out of a class room struggle and gave it relevance in the real world.

Not long after that I came across another local rock and roll poet, Dunedin’s Peter Olds. At that time he was writing wild tales of drugs, cars, gangs, rock music and existential angst. In photos he looked like Gene Clark from The Byrds. I never saw Peter Olds read his poetry, so I read his words silently in my head in Sam’s voice. I still do today. Sam’s voice can turn any words into the music of poetry.

“The 9th” gives David Kilgour (The Clean) and band freedom to explore free of song structure, although some songs do have a chorus of sorts. The atmosphere of the music is a perfect combination for the words and voice. It’s more than just background. In so many places it merges with the words, like reading off a patterned page.

I’m only just beginning to get involved in the album. I have the feeling it will be a favourite for a long time. The music and words here often evokes NZ and memory in a similar way to great Australian songwriter Grant McLennan in The Go-Betweens. It will be great on repeat on long road trips, the words setting of images, thoughts, memories to keep the mind alert.

So here’s to “The 9th”. You should try and find it. In the meantime I recommend you familiarise yourself with Sam and the album through this great interview with Sam on Mysterion Art Factory.

You can also hear some of the album in this Radio NZ review: