Photos and film by Nat Collins, words by Jacob Boylan
Aussie travellers can be found making nuisances of themselves in all corners of the world.
If you join a band, though, you might even be lucky enough to travel under the guise of art. We (Mini Skirt) took full advantage of this luxury on our most recent jaunt overseas with our good mates Liquid Face, thanks to Thrills. Given the amount of shit that went wrong on this trip, we are so goddamn lucky we didn’t try to get too far from home (I guess we must be smarter than we look) managing to find our own fun right here in our (almost) backyard: New Zealand baby! Yep, you heard it right, New Zealand: the land of the long white cloud, the home of Kiwis, Hobbiton, and Middle Earth. And what a place it is.
Mini Skirt first headed to NZ on a last-minute tour about three years ago with Melbourne mates Dumb Punts and Charging Stallion, and had so much fun we ended up forming our own Australian version of it a year or so later. We added a bigger bus and the sweetest men in Australian music, Pist Idiots, and called it the Coin Toss Tour. This tour nearly broke us in every conceivable way and we somehow made it through with our livers, jobs and relationships still intact, but that’s a story for another time.
We’d been keen to get back to NZ ever since our first tour, so when Thrills came to us and said they wanted to throw a party over there for Amazon Surf Shop (not those big fancy online retail guys), we dove right in.
I’ll get all the things that went wrong out of the way first, so we can get straight to the fun stuff: botched car bookings, shit phone plans and shit phones, lost guitars, food poisoning, roadside spews, fights at shows, fights on the street, unreliable weather reports and fucking U2 playing a show in Auckland the same night as us, meaning that the entire country (like 45 people or some shit) were trying to find a place to stay too. I’ve always believed that Bono personally had it in for me and this was about all the proof I needed.
The first show was at Whammy Bar in Auckland. If you’ve never been Whammy, it’s about as good a venue as you can get; it’s down a pretty swanky little tiled arcade on Karangahape Road, and then down three flights of stairs into near oblivion. It’s completely blacked out and as dingy as you could ever want (it’s a rabbit warren if you enter through the back, so try and avoid that because we all got split up for a good hour trying to load in which kind of fucked our set times for the night). We were lucky enough to have a brother and sister duo called Grown Downz join us from Tauranga. They opened both shows and were so sick, check them out if you get a chance.
Kiwis have a reputation for being possibly the nicest bunch of people on the planet, but not that night folks. The crowd had well and truly lost the plot halfway through Liquid Face’s first set, descending into pure madness with hands, heads and jaws swinging left, right and centre.
I watched on happily as LF frontman Cal burnt up every ounce of his patience as his mike smashed him in the face 10 times in one song. The crowd peeled out immediately after that and I started to think we’d be playing to the bartender, but lo and behold, the room filled back in, all somehow twice as ‘eager’ as they were before.
We had a fight break out mid-set which sucked. We stopped playing and asked the bouncer to get them out; being in NZ, the bouncer was the biggest, sweetest Māori guy ever, and he dragged them both up the stairs with what looked like one hand. We kicked back into our set and—I just typed the word ‘sweat’ accidentally and I think I’m just going to leave it at that, because that’s basically all we did for the last half of our show.
After witnessing another fight on the street, most of us bailed home but a dedicated few mosied on up the street to a prominent LGBTQ bar for a spot of karaoke. The plan for a few wind-down drinks post-show skyrocketed after a much-anticipated rendition of Midnight Oil’s ‘King Of The Mountain’ by Liquid Face bass player, Jack (helped along somewhat by the discovery of a multi-tiered superclub in the back of the bar). After Auckland from sun up to sun up, we were all pretty keen to get out of the city and take in some of that sweet, sweet New Zealand nature.
Rolling out of the city, our first glimpse of the New Zealand countryside was a big, beautiful green mountain range, with a HUGE U2 logo burned into the side of it—you’ve gotta be fucking kidding me!!! With Auckland well and truly ruined by the Irish, we raced on down to Raglan, introducing the LF guys to a driving game we always play that involves guessing songs while drinking beer. We were lacking on the beer, so we stopped off at what we thought was a bottle shop to grab a case of New Zealand’s finest drop, Waikato Draught. It turned out to be a pub: The Whatawhata Backyard Bar and Eatery. What a spot!
The owner insisted we come in for a beer, and 30 minutes and two schooners later, we left five shirts and stubby holders lighter… the old guy in the front bar fleeced us for all our merch, and we couldn’t say no. From there, we headed to a waterfall to do some good old fashioned touristing and a bit of nude swimming in the creek. The countryside on the drive was non-stop beauty, with an amazing view around every bend. Speaking of bends… there’s plenty of those little pricks too! The roads are so windy, we had to pull over a couple of times on the drive down and back from Raglan—trust me, they’ll get ya!
Raglan is a little surf town a few hours south of Auckland famous for a long, left-hand wave that breaks just out of town, but it should be famous for the pub and for the Yot Club. The pub is a big, double-storey beauty right in the heart of town, and the Yot Club is a little not such a beauty right across the street. You stay at the pub and you play at the Yot Club—what a perfect scenario.
When we played a few years back, a local’s 30th was coincidentally on the same night, bringing about 100 people to our show who probably never knew we existed. As fate would have it, we’d turned up the exact same weekend two years later, and the same guy was out celebrating his birthday, bringing with him the same 100 people who had to be reminded of who we were, again. We thought Auckland had gone wild the night before, but there was no way our hungover asses were ready for Raglan. Cal got hit in the face with the mic so many times he front-kicked the guy off the stage, people hung from the rafters, I think about 100 people stage-dived, and we all sweated into the ground again. We wrapped the night up in the same fashion as the one before; most of us went to bed, but a few stayed on to drink with the world’s most passionate tiki bar owner, Andy. I think the sun was on its way up as everyone finally got to bed.
We all woke up surprisingly fresh, and given our cancelled Sunday show, we now had a full day of leisure to enjoy. Team Liquid Face sat on the pub balcony with long necks, and Mini Skirt all went to the beach for a few hours to try and keep up that positive tourist attitude… but eventually, the pub balcony got us too.