The city’s live music scene spans everything from lazy Sunday afternoons in the sun with a chilled out jazz session to dancing into the small hours over the weekend, intimate spaces and sophisticated dens of cool, right through to grungy faves and under-the-radar hotspots – it’s all here.
Get a live music fix, tap your toes or dance like no-one’s watching at one of the city’s killer live music venues. Leading the charge is Stealth’s pizza and live music Vic Street hotspot Rockstar Pizza & Drinks Parlour (pictured top) where neon, grit and dive bar cred comes roaring back from the 80s to create a venue that’s strictly about a great night out. There’s music on all-week round; the Garage Sessions on Monday and Tuesdays, Humpday Blues on Wednesdays, a chance to get up there yourself with karaoke on Thursdays and a ‘Hero Band’ performance on Friday and Saturday nights.
Offering something for everyone, Dux Central has a menu of venues to suit your mood, with most of its musical emphasis on upstairs space the Upper Dux, which plays host to both live bands and DJ sets on weekends for head-nodding along with a beer or getting up and cutting some shapes on the dance floor.
From Thursday to Sunday Stranges Lane’s Orleans and Strange & Co commence a-rockin’, with plenty of live music going on at both the Creole-flavoured Orleans and the urban sophistication of Strange & Co, with one or two different sets at both each night. It’s an eclectic mix – look out for DJ sets, solo jams with local music legends like Lindon Puffin, funky jazz trios, and rock covers.
Upstairs at Vic Street haunt Boo Radley’s you’ll find regular gigs on Friday and Saturdays turning out a couple of great sets each night, while fun Thursday night sessions are also a regular and their Wednesday night open mics are becoming a city go-to for checking out up-and-coming musical talent.
Multi-tasking Pomeroy’s mission to be a great community pub naturally includes an emphasis on music, and their monthly calendar is always jam-packed with spots for regular favourites that turn out nights and afternoons of jazz, folk, blues, and acoustic sets, all lubricated for listening by their amazing range of craft beer. Devilish Mary & The Holy Rollers are regulars; you might also want to check out the swingin’ beats of King Tubbs and the chilled out guitar sound of Harpy & The Noise.
Unsurprisingly for a dedicated late-night venue, St Asaph Street’s swishy Japanese-inspired fave Empire turns up the tunes loud Thursdays to Sundays. Expect thumping DJ sets, drum n’ bass and more.
Neighbouring hot Havana night spot and Radio Hauraki fave The Cuban turns out bodacious Thursday, Friday and Saturday music nights with regular slots for busy local soloist performers like Nick Lee, Antony Pickard, and Topia, but also cranks it up from time to time with bigger bands and special themed party events.
From here it’s a short trip to Italy where Baretta’s epic live music scene cranks up every Friday and Saturday night, easing you in with solo and duo live sets before delivering the beats and powering on into the small hours to keep the party going. Over at The Tannery in Woolston, Blue Smoke puts the focus firmly on the music with a line-up of top international and local acts served in its epic barn-style space and matched to a killer line-up of craft brews made next door.
Proper pub-stylings are hallmarks of Sullivans, where live music performances from Wednesdays to Saturdays add to its broad appeal. You’ll typically find acts like the multitalented Willie McArthur or Boiling Billy, who are both frequently in-house.
Keep an eye out too for live gigs popping up at Space Academy, Alvarado’s, The Twisted Hop, Protocol, Carlton, Casa Publica, Darkroom, The Bedford, Trevinos, The Laboratory, Winnie Bagoes, Orange Studios, Wunderbar, Civil & Naval, Embankment Tavern, O.G.B Christchurch, Becks Southern Alehouse, Ferrymead Speights Ale House, Halo Bar & Lounge, Micky Finns, Fat Eddie’s (picture below) and the newly-opened Lyttelton Records.
Jazzy, Blues & Sunny Arvos
If it’s a swishy, laid back affair you’re after you can’t beat the endless charms of Vesuvio Jazz & Tapas Bar. Unique in the city and perhaps the entire South Island (and most of the North), Vesuvio’s sophisticated and intimate venue is a dedicated host to regular gigs, with an emphasis on jazz – their stellar cast of soloists, instrumental duos, and ensembles is in action every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday nights. Between sets you can dip into their international wine selection (with over 50 by the glass), primo cocktails and a seriously delectable tapas menu.
In Addington Dim 7th Jazz & Whisky Bar have jazz in their name, and you’ll find jazz outfits like Vintage Blue and Heather Webb performing there on the regular, but there’s a wider range of groups on offer, too.
Discover Gatsby-esque swag and sophistication at The Happening Bar & Kitchen, which is home to a rotating roll call of some of the city’s best blues at the weekends.
For sunny Sunday sessionals you can’t beat a trip through the tunnel to the portside magic of Lyttelton’s Freemans where, out on the primo deck space, local jazz legend Carmel Courtney and a rotating list of super talented friends fire up a most excellent soundtrack for your long, lazy afternoon over a platter or authentic Italian-style pizza.
Jazzy Sunday afternoons abound also at Dux Central where, watching the city regenerate around you from one of the city’s finest vantage spots, you can enjoy a Ginger Tom and some sweet tunes. Look out for Pomeroy’s semi-regular Jazz School Jam sessions, while Strange & Co turns out a chilled out Sunday sesh in the courtyard.
For after work Friday drinks and Sunday afternoons set to a funky soundtrack in slick surrounds, head to Stealth Hospitality’s Universo Brasserie & Bar. It’s the perfect backdrop for kicking back with a drink and a platter, ideally in some afternoon or evening sun on the courtyard outside the Christchurch Art Gallery.
For a fine folk music fix, swing by The Brewery’s courtyard at The Tannery, where you’ll find their iconic Sunday Sit Down Get Down where you can catch local and touring international acts perform a low-key concert for free!
Christchurch rocks some serious talent when it comes to turning out some epic musicians. Home-grown legends include The Feelers, Bic Runga, Shapeshifter, Salmonella Dub and The Eastern, as well as rising stars Marlon Williams, Aldous Harding, Theia and Decades. For guaranteed good times/tunes, keep an ear out for some of Cityscape’s faves including fiery baptism revivalists Devilish Mary & The Holy Rollers (pictured above) led by inimitable chanteuse Anita Clark, Stars In Their Eyes alumni Mandy Pickering, go hard or go home rockers The Easy Hearts, ballsy blues duo Assembly Required, covers killers Smashbox and Ctrl-Alt-Rock and the husky tones of Lyttelton’s Jazz high priestess Carmel Courtney, whose two-saxes-one-mouth routine has to be seen to be believed.
Gigs to Catch
This summer is turning out some primo concerts and gigs. Be sure to catch the Sol3 Mio lads getting their yuletide on with some p-opera in Hagley Park, Aussie brother and sister duo behind mega-smash ‘Big Jet Plane’ Angus & Julia Stone at Isaac Theatre Royal, and SummerTime’s epic line-up of music in the city, including the ever popular Lazy Sundays and all new Friday lunchtime jams City Sounds.
Catch local band made good (internationally good!) Salmonella Dub celebrating their 25th anniversary with the return of former bandmate Tiki Taane at Hagley Park. Welcome back the 90s with heavy hitters Boys II Men & TLC at Horncastle Arena and put Incubus on your radar for March, also at Horncastle Arena. For a full day extravaganza, get yourself along to the following music festivals: Live in the Park to catch Shapeshifter, Shihad and more, Electric Avenue’s (pictured above) killer line-up including Dizzee Rascal and Primal Scream, The Great Kiwi Beer Festival’s seamless marriage of bodacious craft beers, tasty eats and the legend that is Dave Dobbyn, Selwyn Sounds and Nostalgia Festival (see also our festival feature).