Mighty Mighty Memories

22:26, May 25 2014

End of an era - on Saturday night Wellington's Mighty Mighty drew its final breath, sang its final song, served its final drink, hosted its final party. If you were of the opinion that this was some trumped-up hipster dive, some too-cool-for-school club then you didn't have the full story.

Mighty Mighty was a special bar for Wellington and a great venue - it offered the proverbial something-for-everyone and anyone could feel included; you could treat it as venue primarily or a place for a beer, a bar, a good-time for a social chit-chat - you could do both in the same evening. The place was designed so that you could choose your position, up close to be part of the show or down the back to prop up the bar. That flow worked well.

There's that cliché about how you don't know what you've got 'til it's gone.

I didn't go to Mighty Mighty all the time - as a reviewer I have to go to the events the newspaper wants to cover, but I did get to see a couple of very special international acts at Mighty, earlier this year the chance to see Matmos, and way back in the early days of the bar I saw an excellent show by Kelley Stoltz. It was made all the better for the fact that I got to sneak out of a truly horrendous Salmonella Dub with the NZSO gig to get to Stoltz.

As part of birthday celebrations one year Mighty hosted C.W. Stoneking - I'd been buzzing about this guy to whoever would listen. I never expected we'd see him in New Zealand but the show at Mighty was just perfect. Great venue for it. The sort of show that pleased the fans and made several new converts...

But it was the local shows that were every bit as important - perhaps more so. Your struggling nobody-band had a chance on the stage at Mighty Mighty. I know this because even I got to play there. We had a bash one Thursday night as part of the Americana evening. A great place to play. The best sound. The best feel.

And of the many gigs I saw at Mighty I never heard a bad one - I mean there were bands I didn't care for, sure. There always are. But the sound was great. Always about as close to perfect as you want.

From singer/songwriters to country and folk, to full-out noise and one night, fairly recently, I'm sure I heard a band closing their set with a cover of Funkadelic's Maggot Brain. Well, if it wasn't - it should have been.

And then a handful of very special shows - like the time we got to see the reformed Stereo Bus. I still have the poster on my wall - I'm not usually one for tearing the gig-poster off the wall but this was the first night out for me and Katy since Oscar was born. He was just a couple of months old, his first night staying with his grandparents - I wrote a wee bit about that here.
You could see metal bands and jazz bands, locals and internationals. There were 12-hour DJ sets by guys playing the best music you'd never hear anywhere else in Wellington ever. And they even let me host an evening of Prince songs recently.

I'm no great DJ - as anyone who has been in a bar while I'm playing records will know. But from what I could tell, Mighty had the very best DJ setup, room to move, good gear - skip-free, no needle-jumping madness - and a quality sound-system.

You could go to Mighty for the main gig. Or you could turn up after to make your own encore out of a night where the main show anywhere else had finished far too early.

All good things have to come to an end.

Wellington's really struggling for great venues. So the news of Mighty closing was a blow as soon as it was announced earlier in the year. Now the reality is setting in.

I know it was an emotional send-off to the place. And I know it was far more of a way-of-life for so many others. My late nights are spent hovered over a computer these days, or grabbing a nap when I can. My time of hanging at Mighty until the wee hours seemed to end a few years ago now - but it was once my favourite hang-space. And it was, for a time, a regular early Friday night after-work beer spot.

And it was often my favourite live music venue.

Those great toasted sandwiches, quiz nights, a place to have a shot of whiskey before heading off to see a living legend like Sonny Rollins, back at the bar after a Shihad show, with the members of the band, getting to see Cakekitchen play...

And with Sally Thomson behind the bar we had one of the very best hosts - a huge reason so many people have/had a fondness for Mighty.

It's hard to imagine what could ever take its place.

And we're one more venue down in Wellington now.

Sad news.

But a lot of happy memories. Share your Mighty Mighty memories below. Did you play there? Have you got an instant favourite gig from Mighty? And were you there to help send the place off in style?

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