21 May 2014

Stages: The Cabana, on the old circuit

8:21 am on 21 May 2014

During the 60s and 70s, rock and pop bands toured a huge circuit of pubs controlled by the big breweries, playing not just one, but often a run of nights at venues from Bluff to the Bay Of Islands. Pubs didn’t have the option of live DJs and entertainment options outside of your local were limited.

“If you wanted a night out, you went into town on a Tuesday or Wednesday night and you saw a band,” says Roy Brown, publican of Napier's The Cabana, one of the few pubs from the circuit that is still a venue today.

Sky television and home computers, nevermind digital downloads, were yet to arrive.

 “It was just full-on live music in that period. Those were the golden days of live touring - the ‘60s and ’70s were really about live bands playing on basically a pub circuit and making lots of money for the breweries,” says Peter Urlich, who played a four night stand at The Cabana in 1979 with Th’ Dudes.

But it all came to an end if the arrival of home entertainment, starting with VHS, says Deborah Harwood, who managed bands touring the brewery circuit. “It was like a meteor hit.”

Harwood remembers the woman who ran The Cabana back in the golden days as a “salt of the earth” woman called Charlie.

The first thing Charlie said to her while touring a band was “’Allo love, so which one are you sleeping with?” Harwood says.

“When I told her I was managing the band she answered, ‘Ah, that’s what all the girls say’.”

Her pub was a home of prostitutes, sailors and fisherman who’d come into Napier's port. “It had this incredible infamy about it, and quite sleazy, but also incredibly wonderful.”

Listen to Anthonie Tonnon's radio documentary about The Cabana here:

Cover image of The Veils live at the Cabana in 2009 taken from Flickr.

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