original. acoustic. music.

The Savage Club

The Savage Club gig was in support of the Manawatu Overtones, a women's choral/a capella group that lists among its members my very talented mother (music runs in the family - I'm so proud!).

We only played two songs, as we were one of a number of other acts performing that night, but they went down very well and we were able to sell a couple of CDs as well.

The Savage Club Manawatu is located in a wonderful old converted church on a side street in a light industrial/commercial area. On the outside it doesn't look like much, but stepping through the doors is like stepping back in time to New Zealand in the early 20th Century - the walls are all old, dark wood or painted hardboard or plasterboard in faded green - it is what much of New Zealand looked like from around 1940 until as late as the early 80s. This is probably a little exaggerated, but photos of New Zealand small towns between 1940 and 1979 don't tend to show marked changes over the decades - it's as if it was about 1953 for a good ten to fifteen years and then suddenly it was 1970, where time stopped again for another ten or so years. Being a small country at the bottom of the globe does that, I guess.

The venue was a fantastic slice of Kiwiana, a collection of souvenirs in cabinets and photos lining the walls commemorating past presidents (or rangatira as they were known - the Savage Clubs of New Zealand adopted many Maori words and phrases in the beginning but the practice has gone out of vogue these days, sadly).

The Savage Club began in England in 1857 as a kind of gentleman's club for artists and bohemian types. The link takes you to the official Savage Club website which has a great deal more information than I care to put down here.

As Britain expanded and created the Commonwealth, Savage Clubs began popping up in each "new" country, each club taking on aspects of the "natives" to make their branch of the club stand out: in Canada, the Savage Clubs adopted Pacific Northwest Indian icons and customs, the New Zealand clubs used those of the Maori.

To our Politically Correct sensibilities in this modern age we might look upon this as part and parcel of the aggressive expansionist tactics of the European, branding the indigenous people "savages", but this was not so - the Savage Club was so named because its members comprised free-thinkers and artists, often at odds with "civilised" society - adopting the icons and customs of an indigenous people helped celebrate their uniqueness, at a time when many indigenous people were having a hard time convincing people of their very existence as fellow human beings.

The Manawatu chapter of the Savage Club was known for its musical prowess. While the original Savage Club became exclusive and elitist, the antipodean clubs welcomed in all they could, amateur or professional. The Manawatu Savage Club could at one time or another host gatherings and concerts where the standard of musical performance was indistinguishable from a similar concert at a professional venue - they became famous around the Manawatu and nearby districts when they went "raiding" other clubs and wiping the floor with their competition on the stage.

The auditorium where we played was festooned with coloured incandescent bulbs crisscrossing the ceiling and a very odd-looking homebrew disco ball made from a lump of what looked suspiciously like concrete covered in a rather small number of shards of mirrored glass - a mirrorball by Gaudi, perhaps.

As you can see in the photo on the right next to Darrel, the Proscenium (such as it was) was decorated with Maori hei tiki and koru designs painted on hardboard.

A short walk backstage led to a long hall where trestle tables held plates of food for the audience (and would have done for the last seventy years in the same places), and at the back of this hall a store room containing a bunch of possibly antique theatrical costumes as you are wont to find in many old theatres in New Zealand towns. As an ex-thespian it embiggened my heart to see it all.

If we can scrape the money together Darrel and I want to do a music video there, it has a fantastic atmosphere that we think our music would fit right into. It would also be great to acknowledge the musical history made there over the years.