Wailing Bongo

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Main entrance to the "Wailing Bongo", as of 2007

The Wailing Bongo (often referred to as 'Gurus', which comprises part of the building) was the main venue for bands playing at the University of Waikato in the mid- to late-1990s. It was owned and managed by the student union. Notable events held there included Hamapalooza (1993), the 1994, 1995, 1996 and 1997 Battle of the Bands competitions, Contact 89FM's 21st birthday party, the release party for the 'Contact 89FM' CD compilation Green Eggs and Hamilton, the release gigs for the Romantic Andes album To Understand the Animals (1994) and Rocket EP (1996), the Atrocities One release party (1994) as well as numerous Orientation festivals featuring local and international acts.

The "Bongo" was mismanaged into oblivion after the election of a student union who believed the bar did not cater for the average student. The union employed a manager who would aim to make the Bongo similar to the bars already existing in town, complete with a DJ to play mainstream dance music. Alienating the strong regular crowd, who was interested in bands and with more refined musical tastes, it had limited success in attracting its intended clientele. It instead attracted many underage drinkers that contributed greatly to its downfall.

Late in the Bongo's existence it played host to The Dirty Three from Australia; here the juxtaposition was stark, with two disparate crowds migrating between the main hall and the bar when each band gave way to the DJ, and vice-versa. Most painfully, the DJ began playing music half-way through an intense Dirty Three song, breaking the mood with his cry of "Lets give it up for the Dirty Three!!". While the bar now exists as a cafe, the band area is now a weights room of the university gym.


Being a student union-owned bar on campus, the Wailing Bongo was (until 2000) the only venue in Hamilton that could legally serve 18-year-olds. It also didn't need to be run as a business.

Waikato students voted for voluntary student union membership in 1998. Compulsory membership had meant that every student paid levies to the union. After that arrangement ended the organisation's budget was down-sized in a big way. This was one blow to the Wailing Bongo, as the union looked unsuccessfully for ways to create mainstream appeal and bring in more money. Although compulsory membership was voted back in in 2000, another major blow came from the lowering of the legal drinking age from 20 to 18 (legislated in 1999 and effective from 2000). Suddenly 1st- and 2nd-years had many more venues to choose from. Campus bars throughout New Zealand suffered.

Significant Gigs[edit]