NZ Wildlife part 4 (down at the old Cow and Fish)

Back in old Blighty, I’m in the habit of visiting a nightclub every month or so, to dance the night away with like minded inidivduals. I knew that this particular type of wildlife might be rare in NZ, but I’ve tried to seek suitable dance emporiums.

The first attempt was in Taupo back in November, at a bar called Holy Cow. We’d been down to the Cow a few times on the 1999 trip, and found it a lively, grungy establishment. Back then NZ had no dance scene to speak off, so I had high hopes of the Cow having developed in a suitable direction. I was sort of right: some seating had been sacrified for dance space, and the volume of music went up after 10pm. Unfortunately the quality went down at the same time. NZ’s favourite ‘dance’ music seems to be hip-hop (aka garage or r’n’b), and that stylee really don’t do it for me. It didn’t help that they had no DJ, just a malfunctioning jukebox which started one track while the other was still playing.

My next attempt to locate some dance action was in Napier, where I asked in the tourist office (they have good tourist info services over here), specifiying ‘no hop-hop’ in my request. The girl suggested clubs/bars in the converted warehouses on the quay, stating that they played ‘a lot of old school, like Micheal Jackson’. Micheal Jackson: old school. Oo-kay. But we went down to check it out during the day, picking the most likely looking venue (i.e. the one with a large dancefloor). When I asked if they played dance music, this girl said ‘yeah, AC/DC and that’. AC/DC: dance music. Oo-kay. But, perhaps seeing my expression, she added that the restuarant next door transformed into a club later (a lot of places here do that: cafe by day, restuarant by evening, bar/club by night). She said they played techno sometimes, and though trance is my rhythm of choice, techno beats hip-hop anytime.

We returned later that night, killing time until the restuarant tables were cleared to create a dance floor by visiting some of the other bars, where music was provided by a video jukebox (and yes, they do seem inordinately fond of MJ). Returning to the small, nameless venue at 11pm we found – gasp! – a real live DJ, playing real dance music. OK, his entire DJ rig, including speakers, could have fitted into the bass-bin of the average UK sound system, and his selection was limited, but there was some good stuff in there, and he knew how to mix. Alas, as we had to get up early the next day to go on a pushbike vineyard crawl (a most worthwhile experience, I may add), we had to leave after only a couple of hours, but at least I’d given my dance muscles a bit of a workout.

I had high hopes of Queenstown as the venue for the New Year’s celebrations. We made a concerted attempt to check out as many venues as possible in advance, leading to some fine hangovers and bonus unexpected mad sports tokens (thanks to which, as I write this Beloved is hurtling down Skipper’s Canyon on a mountain bike, and this afternoon I’m going to throw myself into a white-water river attached to a surf-board). We did consider Winnie’s, not just because it was there we got our mad sports tokens, but because it has a good atrmosphere, passable beer and a roof which opens to the sky every now and then (so it’s advisable to take an umbrella to the bar in bad weather). In the end, though, we went for Surreal. We almost went there in 1999, but as one of our party had a carrier bag of dead trout, we didn’t get in then. The Maori doorman turned us politely away with the deadpan apology, ‘Sorry, we’re a ‘no fish’ venue’. And this despite the name. Presumably their piscine policy has now changed as there is a fish-tank behind the bar. More importantly, the DJ playing first at New Year had a nice line in funky house.

We saw 2006 in outside, as Queenstown puts on two stages of music and an impressive fireworks display. The lakefront had an alcohol ban to avoid excess stupidity, so there was no trouble, even if a few people did feel the need to jump in the lake at midnight. After the public festivites were over we adjourned to Surreal. Things started well – not too crowded, and acceptable dance beats – but when the DJ changed at 1am it all went, as I’m inclined to say, ‘a bit proggy’. Add to that the influx of people more wrecked than we were and, alas, we decided to call it a night before 2am.

Oh, well, looks like there is one thing we Brits do better than the Kiwis.

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