A concentrated look at alternative Christchurch music scenes from 1980 to the 2000s, compiled by Rob Mayes of Failsafe Records.

For a farm service town, since the late 70s the South Island’s largest city had an extraordinarily vibrant alternative music scene, from the punk explosion through to the first decade of the new millennium. If you weren’t into rugby, racing and beer, your options were slim. For the outliers, music was the one saving grace.

Christchurch had some of the best venues in the country for gigs, with an eager audience supporting them. Bands from around the country aspired to tour here, and just by chance and luck a handful of dedicated and skilled people managed those venues, cultivating an enthusiastic audience and serving them a diet of inspiring and invigorating original music.

The audiences were passionate about the music they were seeing. For a while there, Christchurch had a great infrastructure that nurtured and enabled a wealth of local bedroom musician talent, helping them take it to the performance stage and developing strong artists. Here are some of the spaces the musicians played in and where we all hung out.

– Rob Mayes, 2022


Click here to see a full-sized version of the map. The map is best viewed on a desktop/laptop/tablet. If you wish to zoom in on any particular location then double-click.


Outside the Square
AudioCulture has several Christchurch “scene” pages covering this period: Post-Punk Christchurch 1981 – Getting Jumpy, by Andrew Schmidt; Christchurch Indie: Us Against the City, in two parts by James Dann; Christchurch Record Stores, by Paul Gilbert; Desperate Measures: the early 1980s Christchurch punk scene, by Eugene Butcher and Erik Van Der Hoven; Flying Nun’s Early Years in Christchurch, by Andrew Schmidt (and an accompanying story map by Gareth Shute); and Gordon Bartram’s Christchurch 1980-81. See also Rosa Shiels’ Christchurch Story Map, and watch the 1982 Radio With Pictures special on the Christchurch music scene, at NZ On Screen 


Other story maps on AudioCulture

Napier Story Map

Nelson Story Map

North Shore Story Map

Christchurch Story Map

Flying Nun's Early Years in Christchurch