Let’s open with the positives. Important this, because there are some, and that hasn’t always been the case.
- Venues – live music venues are in threat around the world. This is a fact. Gentrification and noise issues abound. So in relative terms, we are doing well here in Hamilton, there’s a good selection of places to play. There’s Nivara Lounge of course, with its excellent new PA and people that can operate it…a big plus! Biddy’s and Diggers still welcome new original bands. The Meteor is almost through its revamp. Creative Waikato is an option for live shows, and Zeal does its thing with the underage crowd. The Yot Club in Raglan, if we are allowed to count that has also been cranking this last few months.
- Free FM plays local bands a lot and does what it can to support local music.
- Shows by bigger bands are happening again – The Bats, The Wedding Present, The Chills (in Raglan) - and some are selling out. Huzzah!
- There is finally an independent shop in town that sells records – ‘needle in the hay’ - on Racquet Lane off Barton Street.
- Along with ‘Hamtown Smakdown’, there is now another annual music festival in the city, the multi-genre ‘Future City Festival’.
- The variety of bands we have and rich history is something to be proud of. Check out the RNZ documentary piece about Hamilton Music recorded at Future City Festival in March.
- Devilskin is a local success story, which shows you can succeed if based here.
Are these issues Hamilton specific? Who knows.
- The image of Hamilton music to much (not all) of NZ is that it is nothing more than metal bands.
- Live crowds are patchy, ranging from ‘low’ to ‘sold-out’.
- Many, though definitely not all, out of town bands are reluctant to come back to Hamilton having played to low crowds in the past.
- Uni and Wintec students seem very disconnected from any live scene.
- There are many well-meaning people/groups doing their own things but it’s having little lasting positive effect on the health of a local music scene.
Again while some of these may not be only issues in Hamilton, they are real issues hindering the development of our local music scene.
- There is no manned full-time radio station dedicated to new original music as there is in other cities. Dunedin, Christchurch, Wellington, Auckland and even Palmerston North have this. Grrrrr.
- There’s not one place where bands and lovers of independent music go to hang out on non-gig nights. Somewhere to go with a jukebox full of good new/old music, young and old listening to good music and socializing outside of watching live music. Experience shows that this is how bands form and scenes are built.
- Practice spaces are hugely limited, if available at all.
- Very few new bands are being formed, and hardly any of them are young and exciting.
Dunno really! Are we any worse off than other cities? We might be. Although for a city of 150,000 people I’m not sure. I can say from experience that it’s not a great place to be in a band or a lover of independent original live music, that’s for sure. Yes, we are only 80 minutes from Auckland and the neat shows and bands that they have. But it could be so much better. The big worry is where it is all heading, where will we be in five years’ time if the lack of new bands continues to be a thing. Ah well. What can you do eh?