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May 16, 2011 | by  | in Music |
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Cuba For Christchurch Fundraiser, Friday 25 March

Though ‘Cuba Street’ is synonymous with ‘hot mess’ on almost any given night of the week, nothing about the Wellington hotspot was typical during Friday’s Cuba For Chch mega-concert. From the wobbly concert-goers mumbling would-be song tunes to the 30 metre lines stretched across the cobblestone sidewalk, Cuba craziness was at an all time high for the 10-hour fundraising event.

The brainchild of Ziggy Ziya of San Francisco Bath House, Cuba For Chch panned out as a “multivenue, multiband moneyraiser” for the victims of Christchurch by channeling the event’s proceeds to the Red Cross Earthquake Appeal. “Our overall goal was to raise extra money for Christchurch and have a fun time,” said Ziya towards the front end of the night. Not only did bars and clubs contribute, but all proceeds from $10 tickets went to Red Cross and provided ticketholders with unlimited access to all participating bands and venues. Mighty Mighty, Matterhorn, Good Luck, San Francisco Bath House, Fringe Bar, Southern Cross and Havana came alive with energy and talent at 5pm and most didn’t stop until early Saturday morning.

Just after the Christchurch earthquake on 22 February, Ziya had the idea to do something for the victims of Christchurch using Wellington venues. “We had a lot of bands reply immediately through Facebook,” said the venue manager over the sounds of Robert, another Wellington band, crashing down the stairs behind him. “This was a great way to help out. This is very Cuba Street.”

Though the entire event dripped with talent – the seven venues showcased over 65 artists from a plethora of genres and entry line lengths – one band seemed to be on everyone’s lips: headliner Fat Freddy’s Drop. The seven-man band – known for an unforgetable combination of swampy blues stomp, haunting electronic echoes, and brass, vocal and instrumental harmonies – played a knee buckling 90-minute set for the human sardines packed into San Fran from wall to wall. Mid show, the band gave a shout out to Christchurch in honor of their event and their own personal ties to Christchurch as New Zealanders. “You think you’ve got it bad, but you don’t,” said a flannel-shirted Joe Dukie to the pulsing crowd. Meanwhile, the three-part brass section (sax, trumpet and trombone with surprise tuba solos) released waves of sound over the waiting audience, basking in multi-colored lights and reverberating keyboard tones.

“We love playing and it was a great chance to help,” said the group’s founder Chris ‘Mu’ Faiumu, recouping with the rest of band with pizza and cigarettes after the stage-grooving reggae-techno-funk ordeal that included drinks and at least one round of shots on stage. “We’re musicians, we make money with our music,” he said. “This felt like a community gig and it was a great chance to give back.”

Bouncing from venue to venue, attendees sampled everything from the sweet bluesy tones of Bella Kalolo (“I know you are unafraid of grooving, Wellington!”) at Matterhorn to the fist-pumping modrock of Bang Bang Eche at San Fran and the hyper-electro pop of 47 Diamantes. “Everyone came together pretty quickly,” said Southern Cross’s Tim Clarke. “It’s just another way we can help Christchurch.”

While each venue retained its distinct style for the Cuba For Chch event, patrons watched the beauty unfold as these very different bars and clubs came together with a single purpose. True to its no cover policy, Southern Cross allowed patrons into the venue for their six artists free of charge and sold the $10 event passports at the register. Matterhorn stayed classy with the soulful garage blues of Nudge, while Good Luck and Mighty Mighty sported dub and electro groups. San Fran stayed trendy and weird (or trendily weird?) through the night while Havana kept cool with live fusion groups and The Fringe Bar hosted nearly 20 funny-boned comedians. “It’s great that all the comedians and performers tonight have taken the time to do this,” said Nik Coppin, referencing the fact that almost everyone involved worked for free to maximize proceeds.

Vibrant and bustling, Cuba Street didn’t miss a beat from performance to performance. As there was always another artist to see and venue to explore. Despite long lines and intermittent rain, concertgoers remained upbeat, recognizing the value of heaps of New Zealand talent and the broader humanitarian cause. “To pay $10 to see all of them live along with helping a good cause is fantastic,” said Eli Inglis, a relocated Christchurch resident. Lofdy and Lucy Blackburn, both with family back in Christchurch, agreed. “It’s good to see one city helping another out.”

The number of attendees speaks loudly to the success of Cuba For Chch as a whole. “If there’s more fundraisers to be had, everyone should get behind it,” said Iraia Whakamoe, drummer for Wellington-based blues fusion band Nudge. “Let’s do it again.”

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