Alex Hudson of Last Place
Although Kirikiriroa is Aotearoa’s fourth largest city, it is often avoided by touring bands as if it were a Covid hotspot. This has improved in recent times but it still happens far too often. There must be reasons why this is so and many will have different views.
There is, to a degree, a fairly commonly held view that it is due to a paucity of venues. I’m not so sure on this. Don't get me wrong, we don't have anything like Mount Maunganui's world-class venue Totara Street, and that is a great pity, but Hamilton’s 170,000-ish people are served by the excellent Nivara Lounge as well as Biddy Mulligans, (the only two bespoke music venues in town), along with larger venues such as The Meteor and Clarence Street Theatre. Shows in the thousands are catered for by Claudelands Arena, and at the other end of the scale the rise of the excellent Never Project Space in Frankton and its more intimate shows suggest that, in fact, there is actually a reasonable variety of live music venues in the city right now. That's not to say more aren't welcome of course.
Some will point to poorly-attended shows perhaps enhancing Hamilton's ‘cow town’ reputation and in turn putting off some bands, artists and indeed promoters from organising shows here. There could be something in this but in the last few years recent times Nivara Lounge has hosted many sold-out shows such as, off the top of my head, Tiny Ruins, The Bats, The Wedding Present and Shonen Knife amongst many others. A couple of weeks ago Courtney Barnett’s show at Clarence Street Theatre was very well attended even if the 500 pax venue did not sell out. The audiences are out there, there can be little doubt of that.
Others may claim there isn’t the right mid-range venue to cater to certain shows – close to 200 in capacity, in-house PA, highly experienced sound engineers, great drink and food options, a stage allowing a full view of performers, amazing atmosphere, and importantly, a place to go when bands aren't playing and hear good music.
If that last reason resonates with you, then good news, there’s a new bar and venue in town. It is called Last Place and it is located on Collingwood Street just off the main drag in the CBD.
Last Place is the brainchild of a group of people who are responsible for getting hospitality very right in Hamilton for a little while now – Alex of Wonder Horse bar, Mat and Maurice of Mr.Pickles Bar & Eatery, and John formerly of Mizzoni Pizza. HUP caught up with Alex to get up-to-date on all things ‘Last Place’.
Kia ora Alex, tell us how Last Place came to be!
We’d all been talking about it, the idea of starting a new bar and venue for a while, and I had been looking for the right place for a few months. Then we found this place for lease.
And it’s a joint venture of sorts, right?
It is. Wonder Horse and Mr.Pickles are separate businesses but weare friends and have worked on events together in the past, and it helps to have people you know and trust when starting something new like this.
Is Last Place going to be a weekend venue or will it be open more regularly than that?
It’s going to be open Tuesday to Saturday every week, from 4pm to around 1am, with maybe some Sunday sessions happening in the future.
What’s the vibe of the place?
I’ve been describing it as 1980’s New Zealand RSA mixed with classic American dive bar which is moderately fitting - a little bit gross but pretty fun and cool. No cocktails or anything, but you can get a beer and a shot and a nice burger and some pub style food, that kind of thing, and of course see some amazing bands playing too.
That sounds tremendous. Is it one space or is there a venue space and a bar space?
Yes, it’s one space, a long, moderately narrow room, some seating at the bar, leaners, and some booth seating.
What is the capacity of Last Place?
At the moment it’s around 150.
I have to ask – does it have a nice high stage?
Yes, (checks sizing), it’s actually 650mm high.
Woohoo! It's a pet hate, being at busy gigs and only seeing the tops of the heads of the bands performing. Is the ‘target market’ musicians and music fans?
No, there’s no target market other than ‘no dickheads’. We have a mix of people working in the area - tradies, accountants, students at Wintec up the road – a real mix. So it should be a pretty broad spectrum. They’d just need to be happy to be in a place like this - the RSA/dive bar type place, a fairly relaxed, carpeted, low lit bar.
In terms of the music, will it be limited to any genre?
We will do the curating early on and keep an eye on the quality – but I see it being more high energy kind of punk bands, maybe some mellower stuff now and then, but definitely no covers bands or solo acoustic sets, unless you’re really fucking cool. You know, if Bruce Springsteen wanted to come and do a solo set, I would probably let him. We also need to figure out what works and what doesn’t so there might be some sort of learning early on.
We’re just starting to take expressions of interest from bands at the moment. We have our sound team in place, some really good experienced people involved, and some younger people learning the ropes too. Ultimately, we want to create a space that the New Zealand music scene can get something from and give something to, as well as creating a bar that everyone wants to come to, whether there is a gig on or not.
So probably more towards the alternative guitar-based music, that kind of stuff?
So how will it work for bands, what’s the process? There’s an in-house PA and you’ll have in-house engineers.
Yes, we’ll have good experienced engineers doing the sound, an in-house PA with monitors etc but no cabs or drum kit. That’s how we are going to start out anyway, it could change though in the future. We can call on people we know if we need anything so we will see how it goes. Booking enquiries can be done by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
It sounds great, Alex. Tell us a bit about yourself, did you grow up in this city?
No, I was born in Taranaki and grew up in Tauranga, then I moved here and went to Uni for a year and half and decided I didn’t like it, so got into hospitality.
And what kind of music are you into?
I think I’ve got a reasonably broad palate, we play lots of jazz and 70s and 80s guitar rock at Wonder Horse, I love Hip Hop, I’ve been to several Iron Maiden concerts...
Really? Far out! So pretty much everything?
No not everything, there’s definitely music I don’t like. For this setting, Last Place, there’s probably going to be some stuff that’s right on the fringes of what I’d be into, but that’s exciting.
What are you listening to at the moment, any stand outs right now?
I feel like all I’ve done for the last three months is work and obsess about how I’m going to get this venue going, but umm, I have really enjoyed Pillcutter’s album, hopefully we will get them playing here soon.
All the best with it, I’ll see you there when the doors are open. When might that be?
At the moment we’re aiming for Wednesday 18th August.
So there you go, Kirikiriroa, a cool new bar and music venue for us all to enjoy. Gigs confirmed to date include Wellington garage punks Dartz on Sept 16th and local noiseniks Easy Off on Sept 18th.