There’s nowhere else in New Zealand quite like the dark little rave cave that is Static, one of Hamilton’s last independent nightclubs. Ahead of its final weekend, a long-time fan pays tribute.
I’ve lived in Auckland for just over a year and as someone who was born and raised in Hamilton, I rep the Tron at all times. Hard.
People are fascinated by Hamilton. I’m constantly asked to explain my home town. “What do people even do in Hamilton?” is the most annoying and most frequent question. To my surprise, I’ve learnt a lot of the people throwing shade have never actually been to Hamilton. That also means they haven’t experienced one of the country’s best destinations, Static.
For those of you who haven’t had a taste of Hamilton’s nightlife, the clubs are all extremely close together, crowded along the bank of the Waikato River in the central city, and they’re all pretty much the same. The infamous Lawrenson Group owns the majority: The Outback, House, Back Bar, Coyote (formerly The Hood, RIP), Keystone and The Bank, where you’ll find students singing along to Wagon Wheel and Mr Brightside.
But hidden around a corner is a special piece of late night heaven. For my friends and me, Static was the only spot. The dark, sweaty, loud cathedral of bass at 5 Hood Street. The outside of Static is black, and the walls inside are a deep red. On entering, you’re greeted by a bright neon “Static” sign, and a small dance floor to your right, with a short perspex panel the only thing separating you from the DJ. In the words of the club itself, it’s been shaking Hood Street since 2011.
I experienced my first proper tastes of DnB and house in the deep, dark depths of the Static dancefloor. It’s been a love affair ever since.
But sadly, this weekend is Static’s last. After the second period of Covid restrictions last year the club never regained its momentum, as Hamilton’s nightlife drifted more and more to the mainstream strip of bars. So after 10 years of sweat-soaked dancing, Static will close its doors forever. And it sucks, because I haven’t found anywhere in New Zealand quite like it.
In first year my lecture attendance rate was pretty high (I was just one year removed from my role as head girl, after all). But my attendance rate at Static was equally impressive. In between studying, part-time work and sport, I went to Static pretty much every weekend (shout-out to my wing woman Astrid). We’d finish our hospo shift around 10pm, sink our staff drinks as quick as possible, and then groove our hearts out until 3am. Sometimes, we craved the boogie so bad we went sober. Getting buzzed off an extra-large flat white before Concord Dawn worked a bloody treat.
As we lamented the closure of the club, I spoke to some of my friends and family about what made Static special. For Jamie (who I met for the first time at Static), it was the only place in Hamilton where you could find really good tunes. And that music – the DnB, the reggaeton, the hip hop and house – brought great people.
“The thing I love the most has to be the community; and it’s not just the punters who showed up at the dingy dance dungeon every week no matter what, but the staff too,” he said. “The bouncers and door staff – who are usually just the owners – are there every week, they remember your name and face, and hold up the people behind you in the line just to have a catch-up.”
We got to know the people we’d share the dance floor with each Friday and Saturday. One Static regular religiously wore a suit and top hat, and always had a glass of red wine in hand. Every. Single. Weekend. To this day I still don’t know his name – but he will live on in my memory as an icon of my youth.
I’ve also spent two of my birthdays in Static. On the night of my 21st, my aunty and uncle – who live in Auckland and have three kids – danced with me until the lights came on. When I asked my uncle about his memories of that night, he admitted he was impressed.
“I usually associate going out in the Tron with cheesy tunes, but walking into Static that night was a breath of fresh air (albeit sweaty Static air),” he said.
“My favourite thing was the vibe. The people were out for a good time, not hanging in a bar trying to find a good time for later in the night. There was even an old guy in a suit, who was there both times I went to Static.”
Like I said, the man is an icon.
Success at Static has always been measured by how sweaty you are, and how south your bass face is. But those two reasons alone are why it doesn’t appeal to everyone. There are a lot of people who hate the music; hate how small the dancefloor is. They think it’s too dark, or too loud, and generally just hate the word “doof”. But you shouldn’t hate what you don’t understand.
I get it, though. Some just weren’t born to handle the Static jandal. But for everyone who has been perplexed or a bit taken aback by my love for the dark little rave cave that is Static, I wanted to take this opportunity to explain what made it such an important part of my life and why it’s such a big loss to Hamilton’s nightlife.
Static was always a safe space to lose yourself on the dance floor. My memories are a juxtaposition of serenity and chaos. The dirtier the drop, the deeper the experience of mindfulness and self expression.
Static is a place that honours a mutual respect between each fellow raver. It’s a place where anyone can park their worries, and appreciate a night of frothing over naughty tunes. It’s a bastion of unique independence in a city whose nightlife is overwhelmed by monotony.
Static was one of the last non-Lawrenson Group bars, and every time we went there it felt like a small way of sticking it to the big guys. Supporting a small business that cared for its customers made it feel even better.
So on behalf of all of the ravers – past, present and future – thanks for all of the memories, sweat, basslines and drops. If you’re lucky enough to attend Static’s celebration and farewell this weekend, please boogie hard, and buy that guy in the suit and top hat a drink for me.
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