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In Loving Memory of Auckland's Golden Dawn, Tavern of Power

A tribute to the last good bar on the planet.*

by Aleyna Martinez; photos by Joel Thomas
26 March 2018, 4:42am

Images: Joel Thomas

Golden Dawn, Tavern of Power will be remembered for being a place that’s authentic, a place where artists could have their first shot on stage and a place where people from all walks of life could come enjoy themselves. Now, the bar has closed, and musos across Auckland will be grieving.

As part of their last hoorah, Golden Dawn hosted shows every night for 69 evenings, until they closed last Saturday. To commemorate the end of one of Auckland’s truly great music venues, sound engineer Bob Frisbee is making a movie called There's No Sign on the Door: The Tavern of Power Concert Movie. The aim of the project is to capture a complete snapshot of what's been a cultural hub for Auckland, they say.

They want the project to be "both an archive and a celebration; of the venue’s diversity, inclusivity and above all the exceptional music that graced its tiny stage."

We asked him about his best memories of the place. Plus here are some photos of Golden Dawn's maniacal closing night.

On obsession

"Golden Dawn, it’s authentic and it’s eclectic and it’s got to do with the little obsessions of the people that are there."

On female musicians

"One thing I’ve noticed while recording this project, all these 69 shows is, New Zealand female musicians are owning it. Seriously, it’s almost like six to one, and they are the bigger names like Nadia Reid and Tiny Ruins and Emily Edrosa, but also newer ones like The Beths. So many of the great performances of these three months have been female musicians—and I don’t know if it’s cool to single that out or not in this modern era, but it’s definitely a thing. I don’t know that it’s my place postulate as to why, but it’s just a fact that it’s happening."

On the seven-year "pop-up"

"Most venues actually do start up that way, with this idea of 'We’ll try it out and we’ll see how it long it lasts,' and I think it’s a testament to Golden Dawn that it lasted for seven years longer than the initial thing. Because it got so great, and it worked."

On the crowd

"There was a little bit of a push–back in the beginning because it’s in Ponsonby, and that gets kind of a slightly 'yo-pro' crowd, and sometimes it's a slightly uncomfortable match between the more grimy musicians and all of that. But the cleverness of it is is that’s it’s actually quite welcoming to everyone there, and you really do get an amazing cross-section of people there you know—very famous people and very rich people to just much more bohemian young people. It’s quite diverse ethnically, definitely age–wise, from really young to actually elderly frankly, you know. And that’s a little bit unusual."

On New Zealand music

"It’s funny because there was some articles recently in the Herald: NZ music’s dead or something. And I’m going, no actually, I think it’s the best that it’s ever been. So many times I’d be doing sound at a show there and I think, 'This is incredible, this is the best thing, it must be the best thing in the world right now.'"

Pictured: Bob Frisbee, white T-shirt, gets a last GD hug.

*Ponsonby, Auckland.