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Trendy venue pulls in the musicians

There’s a growing hum in the local artistic community about Featherston arts venue Common Ground, with more artists being drawn to play intimate shows in small-town New Zealand.

As well as a steady stream of art exhibitions and sound immersion sessions, Common Ground is providing the opportunity for small-scale gigs, providing artists passing through Featherston with a venue space.

Having run Common Ground since May last year, owner Zac Winterwood said part of the goal has been to create a space that is “inviting for performers”.

“It’s quite minimalist, we don’t have too much in the way of equipment,” he said.

“But the selling point to artists is the intimacy of the space and the cultural experience of playing at a town like Featherston.”

Calling the trek over from Wellington a “romantic drive over the Remutaka Hill”, Winterwood said he had initially kept engagement expectations low.

“It’s a huge gamble to open somewhere that relies on the interaction of the public,” Winterwood said.

“You’re running on the smell of an oily rag, and it’s a risk.

“But in saying that, what I’ve found surprising is the consistency of the audiences for the shows, so that’s been really refreshing.”

With audience members predominately from Featherston, Winterwood said there is an interesting demographic.

“Some people who come are hardcore music fans who definitely had their own bands at some point,” he said.

“Others just want to get out of the house and support something that’s happening in the area or feel like something a bit different.

“They’ve twigged on that what’s going on here is really special.”

At the same time as a core audience has started to settle into the Common Ground seats, musicians’ interest in playing in Featherston is also beginning to snowball, Winterwood said.

He believes this stems from artists who are booked in to play larger shows or festivals in big cities, but also want to make the most of touring and play sideshows in new places.

“Since December, we’ve been getting a large influx of communications from different artists reaching out,” Winterwood said.

“I think from the concerts held in 2023, there’s word of mouth happening and generating interest through the grapevine.”

Joining up with Booktown this year, Winterwood said the venue will be hosting a few events as part of the literary and arts festival.

Tonight Common Ground is hosting Australia-based indie group Mess Esque, which is currently touring.

Anyone interested in tickets to Mess Esque can email [email protected].

Bella Cleary
Bella Cleary
Bella Cleary is a reporter at the Wairarapa Times-Age, originally hailing from Wellington. She is interested in social issues and writes about the local arts and culture scene.

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