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Thirty and still ‘smashing’ it

The oasis in the industrial subdivision, is how Smash Palace pioneer Phil Parker coined Gisborne's eclectic venue three decades ago.

Named after the 1982 Roger Donaldson movie about a troubled former race car driver who runs a car-wrecking yard, Smash Palace celebrates its 30th birthday this weekend. Saturday afternoon presents live entertainment followed by official presentations and Smash Palace All Stars in the evening.

A remembrance ceremony will be held on Sunday afternoon before Head Like A Hole take to the stage in the evening. The hard rock will be supported by Gisborne punk act Sit Down In Front, and The Groundsmen.

With its old Morris Minors, steam punk-like electricity transformer, yellow DC3 floating over the yard and the late Daryl File's large pen and ink assembly of caricatures of local identities, Smash created its own mash-up identity.

Along with bands, Smash hosted local theatre group Comfy Seat Productions' Earthquake Weather which presented two short, one-act plays from the Theatre of the Absurd. The performances received a mixed response.

Having owned Smash Palace for the past five years, Darryl Monteith built on the tradition and sees the venue as a hub.

“It's a connecting point. It has that novelty about it. Visitors come in as guests, then they become friends.”

As a musician and advocate for local music, Monteith sees Smash as a hub for helping develop the Gisborne/East Coast music scene.

The eclectic and the eccentric are part of the Smash Palace character, says Monteith.

In May last year, Smash Palace was the hub for the inaugural Tairawhiti music strategy hui in which was a way to discuss whether a need existed for a music strategy in the region, and for people to share their own vision for music in Tairawhiti.

Out of that came the Gisborne Musicians Network, an online forum for the local music community to network with each other.

British band Black Slate recently drew a big crowd of reggae fans.

Heavy metal enthusiasts took over the venue the next day for the weekend long headbanger mash-up, Smashfest.

Smash has experimented with stand-up comedy nights, and the ongoing pub choir.

The venue also provided a stage for a directed, script-in-hand performance of American writer Robert O'Hara's excoriatingly funny but dark satire Barbecue that was part of the Tairawhiti Arts Festival.

“We're not stuck on a genre. That's key to us,” says Monteith.

“It's a very schizophrenic place.”

BIRTHDAY BASH: Hard rock act Head Like A Hole return to Smash Palace this weekend to help celebrate the venue's 30th birthday. Picture by Adam Jones Photography