A NIGHT ON THE TOWN

Greg Bruce tries to keep up with Auck­land’s party boys

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Irolled up to Roxy about 10.15pm on Satur­day night, not know­ing whether “rolled up” is some­thing the cool kids would say in the club, nor whether “in the club” is some­thing the cool kids would say in the club. I was so far out of my depth that I could not have said for sure even whether “cool” is some­thing the cool kids would say in what­ever they now say in­stead of “in the club”.

I had just re­ceived a text from my wife, who was at home in Glen Eden with our three preschool­ers, who were be­ing wo­ken on a ro­ta­tional ba­sis by the mu­sic from our neigh­bours’ house party. Her text read, “If the Roxy isn’t go­ing off, maybe rec­om­mend the party on Sarona Ave. It sounds pretty pump­ing. While you’re out, try to find out new terms for ‘go­ing off’ and ‘pump­ing’.”

Fort Lane af­ter 10pm on a Satur­day is a place for mostly ex­tremely young and vig­or­ous peo­ple in heavy scent, very oc­ca­sion­ally vap­ing. Not so preva­lent are mid­dle-aged dads in reg­u­la­tion of­fice chi­nos, faux-suede brown boots from Han­nahs and a pale blue short-sleeved shirt from a generic menswear out­let.

I ap­proached Roxy slowly, hands in pock­ets, from the Fort St end of Fort Lane, eyes locked on the two strong-look­ing door­men dressed in full black and tak­ing oc­ca­sional hugs from young, at­trac­tive women and hand­shakes from young, at­trac­tive men. I ap­proached un­con­fi­dently.

The smaller, more threat­en­ing-look­ing door­man, with­out even re­ally look­ing at me, low­ered his arm, a cruel bar­rier. I stopped and he turned to me with his hard eyes.

“Pri­vate func­tion,” he said, a claim I knew not to be true, be­cause Ger­ard Bar­ton, the man who is em­ployed in large part to keep this club hot and cen­tral to the Auck­land party scene, had told me on the phone just a few hours ear­lier that he had booked one of the club’s VIP booths for us from 10pm.

“I’m sup­posed to be meet­ing Ger­ard,” I said. He replied with si­lence.

“Go around the cor­ner to Ev­ery­body’s,” the other door­man said, break­ing the ten­sion. “Maybe you’ll find Ger­ard there.”

I knew I wouldn’t find Ger­ard there, be­cause I knew he was en route from a 40th birth­day party in Bal­moral. But what was I go­ing to do? If you don’t got it, you don’t got it, and that is some­thing the cool kids would never say.

As I walked away, I heard the door­men slap hands and laugh. Keep­ing losers out and mak­ing sure the scene is al­ways go­ing off, or at least pump­ing: these are their KPIs. They had done good work. You couldn’t re­ally be­grudge them that.

There was no­body in Ev­ery­body’s, so I went back out and stood on Fort Lane, di­rectly op­po­site the door­men, for what felt like half an hour but was ac­tu­ally closer to 25 min­utes. At one stage, some­one asked me the way to 1885, which is one of Roxy’s fiercest com­peti­tors for the cool party dol­lar. I gave pre­cise di­rec­tions.

It was hard, stand­ing there hu­mil­i­ated, alone in the dark al­ley, watch­ing ex­citable young peo­ple pass­ing in laugh­ing packs. I wanted noth­ing more than to go home. I was on the verge of it sev­eral times. It would have been so easy just to tap thrice on my iPhone and have an Uber ap­pear from the dark­ness to swal­low my much-di­min­ished ego.

The thought of be­ing back in my sub­ur­ban idyll, lis­ten­ing to the neigh­bours’ party mu­sic — Blue (Da Ba Dee), Poi E, My Heart Will Go On — with­out hav­ing to ac­tu­ally party, was the most de­li­cious thing.

Then I saw Bar­ton walk­ing to­wards me, wear­ing full green med­i­cal scrubs, with a sur­gi­cal mask around his wrist, and I knew then that my night was far from over.

UP­STAIRS AT

the bar, he asked what I wanted to drink. I told him I wasn’t drink­ing. With­out re­ply­ing, he turned to the bar­man and or­dered one bot­tle of Moet and two shots of the bar’s best tequila. When the bar­man pulled out a bot­tle of tequila, Bar­ton waved it away and asked for a bet­ter one.

His day had started around lunchtime at a friend’s white-themed hen’s party at a man­sion in Orakei. He’d left there around 8pm and tran­si­tioned to his friend’s 40th, which had the fancy dress theme, “What did you want to be when you grew up?” which was why he was dressed as a doc­tor. It had been a long day. It wasn’t like he was sober.

He was clearly in his el­e­ment. In the minute or two it took to get to the bar, he had talked to be­tween six and 10 peo­ple, kiss­ing, hug­ging, laugh­ing. He had in­tro­duced me to so many peo­ple in such a short space of time that it had proven im­pos­si­ble to know who any of them were.

Bar­ton, 34, has been pro­mot­ing for clubs, or­gan­is­ing club nights, mak­ing clubs hot, bring­ing cool peo­ple to­gether and other vague-sound­ing jobs like that for all his work­ing life.

“I’d rather not be here,” he said, quite soon af­ter we ar­rived at Roxy. “Where would you rather be?” I asked. He pil­lowed his hands to the side of his head and closed his eyes, but within two hours he would be drink­ing Moet out of the bot­tle and stand­ing on the seat in one of Roxy’s VIP booths, danc­ing with his butt out over the ta­ble. So that would turn out to be a bit of a head-scratcher, in terms of re­solv­ing state­ment with ac­tion.

Charisma, spunk, be­ing will­ing to say what you think: these are the qual­i­ties Bar­ton iden­ti­fies as the com­mon traits of Auck­land’s lead­ing party peo­ple and they are qual­i­ties he em­bod­ied that night. But then again, some­time ei­ther a bit be­fore or a bit af­ter the booth-danc­ing and the bot­tle-swig­ging, through sad eyes that were in­creas­ingly squinty, he looked at me se­ri­ously and said, “This is my job.”

A few days ear­lier, he had told me: “Hav­ing a job like mine is very tax­ing on the body and the soul some­times. You just have to con­stantly be up, you have to be 100 per cent happy all the time, it’s your job to make peo­ple happy and com­fort­able. I did it for so long. Some­times when you hit the off but­ton and you ac­tu­ally get to see how much you have to put on for ev­ery­body, it’s a bit over­whelm­ing.”

TIME WARPS,

ob­vi­ously, when you’re in a dark­ened cor­ner booth filled with a ro­tat­ing cast of at­trac­tive strangers kiss­ing and hug­ging Bar­ton and drink­ing great gulps of Moet from the bot­tle, so it was ei­ther mid­night or some com­pletely dif­fer­ent time when a voice rose above the mu­sic and said “Look who’s heeeeeerre!” and I turned to see that the voice be­longed to noted party boy Loic Quedec, who was re­fer­ring to the ar­rival of him­self.

At 22, full-time In­sta­gram fash­ion guy Quedec is al­ready big on the Auck­land scene and friends with a lot of promi­nent peo­ple, in­clud­ing Bar­ton.

Colin Mathura-Jef­free, who is usu­ally held up as the lead­ing ex­am­ple of the Auck­land man who is never not at a party, says that although he is in­vited to two events every day, on av­er­age, he at­tends, on av­er­age, only three a week. By

con­trast, Quedec, who is friends with Mathu­raJ­ef­free, was re­cently out par­ty­ing every day for 13 straight days.

“It started off on a Tues­day,” Quedec says, “then — God — it was a new Zambesi col­lec­tion launch on the Wed­nes­day, then on the Thurs­day — dam­mit, what was Thurs­day? Oh, I think it was a vodka launch or some­thing, then on the the Fri­day I ended up just go­ing out, then on the Satur­day, um, that was, ah, the night that I was fly­ing to Fiji, BlueSky Fiji, so I par­tied for Satur­day, Sun­day, Mon­day Tues­day, Wed­nes­day, came back Wed­nes­day night, went to a movie pre­miere — Jus­tice League — and then Thurs­day ... God! I just can’t re­mem­ber Thurs­day.”

On the night of his grand en­trance at Roxy, he was wear­ing some kind of flam­boy­ant blazer ar­range­ment over mid-thigh-length shorts. Point­ing at his en­sem­ble, Bar­ton said, “What do you call that, bitch?” Quedec replied, “A jacket, bitch!” and then they let loose at each other with a phe­nom­e­nal num­ber of one-line in­sults all end­ing in “bitch”. It was ei­ther very good-na­tured or vaguely the op­po­site.

Quedec’s po­si­tion in the scene has been built partly off his In­sta­gram ac­count, which con­tains pho­tos of him in a wide ar­ray of mostly mono­chrome streetwear, do­ing a range of hard fa­cials, wear­ing small-lensed sun­glasses. The aes­thetic is “Eastern Euro­pean Drug Dealer Who Won’t Brook Your Shit”.

As a so­cial me­dia per­son­al­ity/in­flu­encer he’s been flown to many big events, in­clud­ing first class on Cathay Pa­cific to Hong Kong Fash­ion Week, and some­where else over­seas by Sam­sung. He drops brand and prod­uct names ca­su­ally through­out our chat: Grey Goose, Moet, Veuve, Rolls Royce, Lan­drover NZ Polo Open, Rhythm and Vines, Our House — or­gan­i­sa­tions that have paid him or given him free stuff or both — these be­ing the cur­rency of a so­cial me­dia in­flu­encer.

His ice-cold In­sta­gram styling is in­con­gru­ous with his ac­tual per­son­al­ity, which is ex­citable and warm and un­self-con­scious. At Roxy on Satur­day night, con­tem­po­ra­ne­ous with his an­nounce­ment of his ar­rival, he danced solo for sev­eral min­utes to the fresh hip-hop jams, in front of our booth. In ad­di­tion to me and Bar­ton, that area by then con­tained a party pho­tog­ra­pher, a young woman who had re­cently run a marathon, and another young woman who re­fused to say what she did but knew some­one promi­nent in so­cial me­dia.

Quedec had spent the day at a big elec­tronic mu­sic fes­ti­val called Sum­mer­fest. It wasn’t like he was sober. I’d texted him a cou­ple of hours ear­lier to ask if he was com­ing to Roxy tonight and he’d replied, “Freu still here broo” and then fol­lowed that al­most im­me­di­ately with another text, “Pretty roll d haha”. Af­ter spend­ing a good few min­utes root­ing around in ur­ban­dic­tionary. com I still had ab­so­lutely no idea what he was talk­ing about.

A FEW days be­fore, I had met 18-year-old DJ Fred­die McKen­zie, at home in the Re­muera man­sion he shares with his par­ents. The pool area is off the chain.

McKen­zie is try­ing to make it in the scene and has risen quickly. He’s only re­cently started DJing at cool par­ties around town, in­clud­ing at Roxy, where his older brother works be­hind the bar.

His goal has al­ways been to be a big shot mu­si­cal artist and pro­ducer. He has worked on Max Key’s vlog, mostly be­hind the cam­era, but is tran­si­tion­ing, grow­ing his name and his brand.

Asked if he thinks he’s part of the scene, McKen­zie says, “I’d say I’m def­i­nitely bro­ken into it slightly.” But he adds, “Where I have bro­ken into it, I feel like I’ve pissed off a cou­ple of peo­ple at the same time ... I get re­ally ex­cited some­times and I like to talk and I’m en­er­getic, as op­posed to peo­ple who have been around longer and are maybe a bit more ma­ture. I’m a bit more ex­citable and I feel like I might have pissed off some peo­ple who don’t like my at­ti­tude. When I piss off peo­ple, it’s not in­ten­tional. I don’t want to make en­e­mies. I hate en­e­mies. Even if some­one doesn’t like me for one day, that sits at the back of my mind and I go to sleep think­ing,

‘This per­son doesn’t like me — that sucks.’ Even though there are all these other peo­ple that might like me, there’s this one per­son [who] re­ally has an im­pact on me.

“So noth­ing I do is out there to piss any­one off. I’ve never done any­thing in­ten­tion­ally to piss any­one off. I’m just out there par­ty­ing, hav­ing fun, and if peo­ple don’t like you, that’s on them.”

“Do I think I’m in the scene? I would say yes, I would say I’m only just in, and there’s a lot more peo­ple to meet and a lot more to go. Ob­vi­ously my name wouldn’t go as far as some­one like Ger­ard or Loic or Ari [a DJ friend of his] or some­one like that but I’d say it’s a start and I want to meet ev­ery­one and I want to go to all these events and be able to talk to ev­ery­one and have a good time. And I’m try­ing my best to do that at the mo­ment.”

MATHURA-JEF­FREE SAYS he thinks of the party scene as the place where the best busi­ness is done.

Quedec knows how to do busi­ness. One in­stance: af­ter the photo shoot for this ar­ti­cle, he sent an email to the Can­vas ed­i­tor ask­ing if he could pho­to­shop the im­ages. She said no. Another in­stance: ex­plain­ing his am­bas­sador role at the Lan­drover NZ Polo Open in Fe­bru­ary, he said, “I’ve got ac­cess to all the tents, like the Veuve tent, which is great. In re­turn, I’d like this and that — like I’d love to be flown in a he­li­copter.”

At the BlueSky Party in Fiji a cou­ple of years ago, he was sat next to a guy he’d never met who turned out to be leg­endary party boy, founder and or­gan­iser of New Zealand’s most sig­nif­i­cant multi-day coastal new year’s party Rhythm and Vines, Hamish Pinkham.

“I was like, ‘Let’s to­tally do some­thing; here’s my email,” Quedec says. “Then, a week later, when we’d flown back to New Zealand, he was like, ‘Hey, I’d love to do some­thing with you,’ so ever since 2015 I’ve been do­ing Rhythm and Vines with him.”

Although the oth­ers are also about busi­ness, Pinkham re­ally is about busi­ness. He re­cently took me into his of­fice and in­tro­duced me to

How much in­flu­ence Quedec’s en­dorse­ment has on whether it re­ally is hot de­pends how many other hot peo­ple think he’s hot.

his mar­ket­ing direc­tor, long-time friend and band­mate, Kyle Bell. Bell joked about how there’s a jump in sales for Rhythm and Vines when­ever Pinkham goes out.

Pinkham joined in: “It’s when I’m sin­gle isn’t it?”

“Yeah,” Bell said, “It’s more that when he’s got a girl­friend it’s ac­tu­ally quite flat.” He pulled up a graph show­ing a sales surge at the end of a longish flat patch: “He was with Sam Hayes up un­til there,” he said.

Quedec’s cul­ti­va­tion of his re­la­tion­ship with Pinkham, as with al­most ev­ery­thing he does, is a step to­ward his even­tual goal of hav­ing his own cloth­ing la­bel. Mathura-Jef­free calls him “a strate­gic busi­ness­man”.

“It’s like fun and games,” Quedec says. “It’s in­cred­i­ble to be work­ing with some of the big­gest la­bels and com­pa­nies in the world — but it’d just be awe­some to have my own la­bel for peo­ple to wear.”

“That’s like my 2018 goal. I’ve been say­ing it for a few years now.”

I ask if the rea­son it’s taken him so long is be­cause he’s been go­ing to too many par­ties.

He laughs. “Like, no com­ment!” he says. He laughs again, “Oh my God! Dam­mit ... maybe ... No. No com­ment!”

NOT LONG af­ter ar­riv­ing at Roxy, Quedec said that, while at Sum­mer­fest, he had asked one of his friends when le­git mas­sive in­ter­na­tional DJ and head­liner Dead­mau5 would be on. His friend told him that Dead­mau5 was al­ready on. In other words, Quedec ab­so­lutely owned Dead­mau5.

Ob­vi­ously that own­ing will have lit­tle ef­fect on Dead­mau5’s rep­u­ta­tion but it raises a wider point about so­cial in­flu­ence.

Quedec hangs out at Roxy, thereby tac­itly en­dors­ing it as a hot place to hang out. How much in­flu­ence his en­dorse­ment has on whether it re­ally is hot de­pends how many other hot peo­ple think he’s hot, and their own hot­ness de­pends on other hot peo­ple think­ing they’re hot and so on, ad in­fini­tum across the so­cial web. So you can see how fraught the whole scene might be, un­less you’re Mathura-Jef­free, who says, “When I walk into a party, I am the scene.”

WHEN I was in my early 20s and go­ing out to famed Auck­land meat mar­ket The Loaded Hog once every cou­ple of months, all I wanted was to get laid and I never did and as a re­sult I al­ways had a ter­ri­ble time.

Mathura-Jef­free says, “Who is the most at­trac­tive per­son at a party? The per­son hav­ing the most fun.”

On my night out at Roxy I told Bar­ton my story of how the door­men had told me I couldn’t come in be­cause there was a pri­vate func­tion on.

“Was that just be­cause I’m too old and nerdy? I asked him.

“They just want peo­ple who are go­ing to spend money,” he lied.

I quickly es­ti­mated that, as an Auck­land home­owner, I have more as­sets than 90 per cent of Roxy’s mil­len­nial-based clien­tele, and as a mid-ca­reer salary­man, I prob­a­bly have more in­come as well.

I told Bar­ton this and he im­me­di­ately aban­doned his po­si­tion of three sec­onds be­fore. There was zero pause be­fore his re­ply, “Yeah, they just didn’t want you to come in.”

I left at 1am. Bar­ton and Quedec were still there. I didn’t think Roxy was es­pe­cially hot.

So­cial me­dia in­flu­encer Night­club king DJ

Gemma Ross and Hamish Pinkham at Les Gens Win­ter Mas­quer­ade Ball at Mari­vare House, 2014.

Colin Mathura- Jef­free and Mary- Diner en Blanc Therese Kinsella at Pah Homestead at in March.

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