Home' Greymouth Star : September 26th 2015 Contents Saturday Afternoon
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fallen by the wayside, the Barrytown Hall has
been a constant, still regularly hosting musicians
Builder, polytechnic tutor and wine writer
Roger Ewer is synonymous with the hall
these days. A long-time Coast Road resident,
he is the hall chairman and has seen its
transformation over the years.
The hall was built in 1929 but it was only
occasionally used by farmers for their dances.
As the hippies came to the Coast Road in the
1960s-70s, they started to use it more often for
“We’d go along and dance and play records.
Prior to that, the farmers would have it for a
cabaret, or two or three dances a year. It hardly
got any use,” Roger says.
The ‘new’ locals would get people passing
through on holiday to play for them. They were
then sure to return and do a proper gig. An
American band, The Gypsy Mountain Pickers,
returned to Barrytown - and ended up moving
to New Zealand.
The hippies were always keen for a dance.
“We had been getting what bands we could to
play there so we could dance. This was back in
the early 70s.”
In those days they had a network with other
venues on the West Coast, such as the Golden
Eagle Hotel in Greymouth and the Buller
Workingmen’s Club in Westport, so they could
offer visiting bands a series of gigs.
Little-known bands called in before they
achieved fame, such as 1980s band Netherworld
Dancing Toys, and the Dance Exponents before
they became one of New Zealand’s best known
groups, The Exponents.
“They were unknown and they came because
we’d pay them and we danced,” Roger says.
“When they became famous they would talk
about the early days. So we started to get a
name for the place.
“It was somewhere you could get paid, people
danced and you got fed.
“The other thing that blew them out was
that there’d be 10-15 kids, aged from three to
10 dancing wildly, close to the stage, because
we were having kids and we didn’t leave them
at home. We didn’t have babysitters because
everyone went to the hall, so the kids came, too.
“The kids grew up having a great feast of rock
music. A number of them ended up in bands
However, the fame that bands achieved priced
them out of returning.
“Some would come back, some would get too
famous,” Roger says.
“They would be too expensive, they’d change
from $200 to $2000, so we had to keep getting
young ones who aren’t too fussed about the
McGlashan is a case in point. He played
at the Barrytown Hall when he was
a member in the up and coming 1980s band
Blam Blam Blam, before The Muttonbirds.
“In those days we’d set off from Auckland.
We’d have about half the gigs written in pen
and some in pencil, and some we didn’t know
where we were going to be.
“We’d rely on getting offers from friends.”
Blam Blam Blam received one of those offers,
and it would be a night to remember.
“It was New Year’s Eve, probably 1981, it was
a really long time ago before we had much of an
audience. A friend said ‘come play New Year’s
Eve in Barrytown’.
“We were playing a private party and it got
shut down because of noise. So we went and
played at a bonfire.
“We put all our gear in the van and went
down to the beach, but then the fire brigade
came and put the bonfire out. I think I ended
up sleeping under the van.
“It was one of those great moments of
touring,” he laughs
In October this year, McGlashan will return
to the Barrytown Hall for his only West Coast
show of a nationwide tour — though this time
he has his accommodation pre-arranged.
He’s looking forward to returning to the West
Coast-famous venue after a long absence.
“I want to finish what we started.”
and she says word of mouth is key to
“It’s just a case of letting everyone know we’re
Much like Leon Dalziel, she has also noticed
the audience is there for the music.
“Bands love it because it has got an
atmosphere. Everyone who comes is here to
listen to the music.
“Some do great big hours to get here.”
People also come from far and wide for gigs
— Greymouth, Hokitika and even as far as
Karamea. Sophie says bands speak to each other
and a lot of independent bands have found out
about the Barrytown experience that way.
“If people are motivated, they find us pretty
Leon says he “just somehow became involved”
with the hall up the road from the family home.
“Growing up here I went to stuff as a kid,” he
He now operates the Barrytown Hall
Facebook page and e-mail loop, and also takes
care of the lighting at gigs.
“What I find is the people who come all want
to be there. It’s not a pub crowd, where half are
there to have a drink.”
Each band seems to bring out a different
audience, some from far afield, he says.
“It is interesting the difference, the different
genre of music attracts a different crowd ... If
they are right into that band, real groupies, they
will do the travel.
“On the second Friday of every month we
have social drinks.
“We open the hall up, we have table tennis
tables, indoor bowls, people can bring their
instruments and come and have a jam.
“Others like me just go along for a yak.”
These days the hall features a lot of indie and
folk bands, but Roger says they have welcomed
a wide variety of genres.
“There was a huge crowd of these old punks
who came out of the woodwork with this punk
gear on them, even the pins through the noses,
there were about 200. I’d never seen any of them
Whatever the genre, the dancing still
“People still dance quite a lot, so long as the
music suits it.
“Some music is difficult to dance to ... I’ve
never seen anyone booed off the stage, but there
used to be some pretty rough ones.
“You’d still dance, as long as they had a beat.”
On the Coast Road, the small township of Barrytown may seem like an odd
spot for a band to play. Yet the old-style Barrytown Hall is often on the itinerary
of national tours, and is regularly bands’ sole stopover on the West Coast.
NICHOLAS McBRIDE finds out what makes the Barrytown Hall such a cult
as long as
as long as
they had a
they had a
The Group TLA.
Leon Dalziel, left, and Roger Ewer help keep the Barrytown hall ‘beating’.
The hall attracts many up and coming acts.
PICTURES: Sophie Allan
‘There’d be 10-15 kids, aged from three to 10 dancing wildly, close to the stage’
‘It’s not a pub crowd, where half are there to have a drink’
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