Darkroom

NOTE: This post probably contains quite a few errors and an inaccurate timeline – there is very little info online about old Christchurch venues, so I welcome all corrections and additions!

Also known as: Part of ‘The Archive’, along with Galaxy Records and Next Gallery

Location: 336 St Asaph St, Central Christchurch

Loading
Center map
Traffic
Bicycling
Transit

Current Status: Running!

Active as a live music venue: 2011 –

Bar Manager: Marcus Winstanley

Bookings: info@darkroom.bar

Website: http://darkroom.bar

Capacity: 100

After the devastating Canterbury Earthquakes of 2010 and 2011 closed (or even destroyed) virtually all of Christchurch’s live venues, entrepreneur Jasper Bryant-Greene and local musician T’Nealle Worsley (Bang! Bang! Eche!) saw a vacant hole in the local live music scene.

With virtually no previous building experience, the duo started the conversion of an old clothing manufacturing warehouse on St Asaph street, stripping the site back to the bare wood before installing a full bar, stage, upstairs accommodation, toilets…

Charlie Ryder of Bang! Bang! Eche! at The Archive’s opening party

Initially an all-ages house-party was held in May 2011, christening the building as ‘The Archive’ with performances from Valdera, The Transistors and Bang! Bang! Eche! – an absolutely stonking welcome back to live music in the garden city.

Once the full renovations were completed the bar itself was christened ‘Darkroom’ – Bryant-Greene developed the in-house ordering / payment himself and Worsley brought substantial inside knowledge and previous experience (despite her young age) to booking excellent live acts and running the bar.

The duo put substantial care in developing strong craft alcohol selections and creating a relaxed environment with comfortable refurbished furniture – even the outside (but enclosed) drive-way was utilized as a smokers area.

Log Horn Breed at Darkroom

Darkroom lives up to its name – the venue is VERY dark, particularly around the stage itself. They have a great PA system with strong foldback wedges and a powerful PA that is more than a match for the size of the room (which itself is quite small).

The mixing desk sits opposite the stage and is sheltered from other noise in the venue, making for nice and clear band/desk communication. A 2nd floor space beside the desk has been used in the past for a 2nd stage, allowing for long band line-ups with quick change-overs.

Hannah Harding aka Aldous Harding, at Darkroom in October 2011.

Darkroom was immediately successful. An early show by Bachelorette had people queuing out the door, and as one of the few available performance spaces in Christchurch they had their pick of live acts. Though as is the case with most venues – even some future super-stars found it tough to draw large crowds at times:

I used to play there with Aldous Harding every 3rd Wednesday to approx 5 – 10 people, for free.
– Simon Gregory

Marlon Williams did a short residency, playing to similar crowds, sometimes only to the staff. And The Unfaithful Ways. And All Seeing Hand, plus many, many more.

– John Bell

Galaxy Records moved in to an available space in the Archive, and for a period RDU ran a remote studio from the site, too. The last space in the building was refurbished and turned in to an art gallery, originally called Room 4 – however after this closed an additional stage was built and this back room space became available for paid gigs (Mick Harvey, Die! Die! Die! and Shayne P Carter etc), while Darkroom retained a free entry policy.

With the venues general success (and a keen interest in upmarket liquors), the duo decided to open a 2nd venue – the New Regent Street whiskey bar The Last Word. Eventually Worsley would take over running The Last Word.

Photo I took of Peter Gutteridge at his last Christchurch show at the Darkroom, March 2012

However in 2015 some financial issues were unearthed encompassing both bars – as a result over the course of several months several changes would take place.

Fine whiskey importer Whiskey Galore decided it was in their best interest to keep The Last Word open, and took over the running of the bar as it looked like it was to close.

Marcus Winstanley would take over propriety of Darkroom, starting a new chapter in the venues promising history. Thankfully Winstanley is a fixture of the local music scene (as a guitarist or drummer in a variety of bands – Barnard’s Star, The Undercurrents, Minisnap etc) and was previously a tutor at Christchurch’s MAINZ music recording school – for a period he was the venue manager of the Media Club, and has been involved with several other venues over the years as well.

Winstanley made several changes on taking over the venue:

I decided all shows (Darkroom included) needed cover charges and it was a lot of work to have both venues going and personally, I thought the sound quality in the back room was sub-par, so I decided to flag it.

Rebecca started up the gallery again so it’s been running as NEXT Gallery since 2016. After they moved from New Regent Street (Next door to The Last Word), the Canterbury Society of Sonic Artists operated their venue The Auricle out of NEXT Gallery from July 2016-July 2017

– Marcus Winstanley

Darkroom Alleyway

As of Winter 2017, Darkroom is the most active live music venue in Christchurch, with firm connections to up-and-coming bands (through Winstanley’s connections to MAINZ, plus a young clientele), as well as plenty of established bands up-and-down the country on tap.

Darkroom also hosts comedy and performance nights, and has strong ties to both the gallery and record store, with the occasional market or special event that encompasses each.

The Original DarkSpace

Lastly Darkroom has established a strong connection with Space Academy – the multi-use venue opposite on St Asaph Street; so far this has resulted in a handful of co-hosted multi-venue events (i.e. ‘Dark Space’), plus shows are usually planned to accommodate each others crowds.

History

2011: The Archive debuts with a warehouse party in May – eventually Darkroom opens as the music venue, with Galaxy records following.

2013: Darkroom proprietors Bryant-Greene and Worsley launch The Last Word whiskey bar on New Regent Street.

2015: Marcus Winstanley takes over the proprietorship of Darkroom.

Contact Details

info@darkroom.bar

Links

DarkSpace III

DarkSpace is back!

Seven bands from around the country will be tearing it up across Darkroom and Space Academy. Check out the lineup!

Teeth
All Seeing Hand
Hex
Yeats & Russell (of the Dead C)
Opposite Sex
Fran/Bar Group
Ov Pain

DarkSpace has always sold out so you’ll want to get in quick. Limited tickets from Under The Radar.
DarkSpace is an R18 event.

All Seeing Hand, Seth Frightening and Yvnalesca

Seth Frightening
Seth Frightening
All Seeing Hand
All Seeing Hand

First in a series of 4 excellent gigs at the Darkroom over ANZAC day weekend. Wellington Groups All Seeing Hand and Seth Frightening supported by mellow local beat maker Yvnalesca.

Click here for the complete photo set on Flickr.

Camp A Low Hum 2012 – Part Three

Kirin J Callinan
Kirin J Callinan

I awoke to a wonderful, sunny day in Wainui. Finally the heat that had made the 2009 festival such a delight had returned, although I was still not going anywhere near the lagoon! I had a really relaxed morning, taking in repeat performances from the terrific Guerre, Wintercoats and a little bit of Brian Borcherdt.

I somehow managed to miss Watercolours (the current pseudonym of Chelsea Jade – one of the wonderful voices behind Auckland trio indie-folk trio Teacups) and took lunch during the mid-day slots before catching Perth 3-piece Usurper of Modern Medicine inside the noisy room. Describing themselves as post-rock is a bit of a stretch, but I did enjoy their big bass-grooves, before heading to the forest where solo drumming-based act Sexy Merlin had a few technical difficulties to start his set.

The impressive Bare Grillz played their repeat show out in the harsh sun of the lawn stage, but it was Christchurch’s Sleepy Age I couldn’t miss in the afternoon slots. A fairly packed room saw the indie-pop 4-piece play a solid selection of songs, including the disco-tinged single Décor (which they’ve made a terrific video for) and a couple of songs showing off front-man Josh Burgess’s falsetto skills.

Prince Rama
Prince Rama

I spent a lot of the afternoon chilling at the camp site with my friends, hearing the tongue-in-cheek hair-metal sounds of Razorwyre echoing around the camp. Wellington’s quirky Orchestra of Spheres impressed with hand-made instruments and out-there costumes, and guitar whizz Kirin J Callinan received a rousing reception to a large crowd at the Lagoon.

As the evening approached I was in the renegade room checking out some quality indie-rock. Firstly Auckland’s Grass Cannons played to a packed crowed; bassist Paul Brown somehow kept playing despite suffering a broken arm earlier in the festival.

Christchurch’s punky Trio Ipswich had to call upon Rueban Winter to fill in on drums for the absent Jamie Larson; which gave the group a sloppy but intense feel. As night fell US duo Prince Rama graced the big stage, playing a very theatrical percussion based set – high on atmosphere.

Crowd for Dan Deacon
Crowd for Dan Deacon

Sydney duo Baaddwere super-fun down at the lagoon, heating up the crowd with dancey songs and a whole lot of cheeky screaming; proclaiming ‘You don’t need musical talent to form a band. Just wear a leotard, jump around and scream a lot’.The Dan Deacon Ensemble were probably the head-line act of the festival, and it was an incredible site watching their crowd ripple back in forth following Dan’s dance move instructions and pulsating sound. An over-excited crowd flowed forward too fast for their own feet, causing havoc at the front of the stage.

BMX Rapists
BMX Rapists

The night was a bit of a blur from this point on – US dance act Publicist brought the trance vibes back to the forest, $noregazZm played an exciting repeat show in the noisy room, as did All Seeing Hand at the new ‘screen’ stage (which consisted of a projection screen backed against the hillside covered in native forest) and I ended the festival with the incredible (and incredibly vulgar) BMX Rapists, and popular hip-hop act Tommy Ill – both lighting up the noisy room with enthusiastic performances late into the night.

Absolutely brilliant festival, I can’t wait for next year.

[Published in the Christchurch Press 2/3/2012]

Camp A Low Hum 2012 – Part Two

Spring Break at Camp A Low Hum 2012
Spring Break at Camp A Low Hum 2012

Continuing our review of Camp A Low Hum 2012; a 3 day music venue set in the scenic natural reserve camping ground Camp Wainui; nestled in the hills of Wainuomata, Upper Hutt.

Parties tend to run all night at camp, so sleeping can be a bit tricky at times. However I arose fresh, but a little sweaty in a sun-drenched tent. The weather had improved markedly over night, so I enjoyed walking around the camp in the sun, putting together a make-shift camping breakfast, drinking (a lot of) water and planning my strategy for the next two days.

Strolling down to the lagoon I was welcomed by the lovely, reverb-laden voice of Whanganui’s Castlecliff Lights. A tremendous vocalist who entertained the crowd with her sultry voice, layers of acoustic guitar and even some tastefully utilized melodica. A nice way to start the day.

Dead at Camp A Low Hum 2012
Dead at Camp A Low Hum 2012

While eating breakfast I happened to meet a young Wellingtonian named Flo Wilson, who mentioned she was performing a renegade slot later that morning as Foxtrot. These shows pop up through-out the festival, with makeshift poster adverts placed around camp to entice the festival goers, along with word of mouth advertising. You often find the best parties at camp are these renegade shows! Flo performed a solo set of songs based on vocal manipulations. She utilized loops and even an old tape player to create a particularly unusual sound; including a surprising cover of the Velvet Underground’s ‘Waiting for my man’.

After a dash to the Wainui shops and back, I sprinted to the lagoon to witness what promised to be the classic pool party of the festival; the appropriately named Auckland pop duo Spring Break (James Dansey of the Sneaks and Ryan McPhun of the Ruby Suns). Spring Break are hilarious; hamming up their performances with skimping (and soon to be discarded) outfits, dancing and singing like a 1980’s era Prince covers act. With incredibly catchy songs with that get stuck in your head for days (‘No Tango Dinero’, ‘Do You Want Me?’), I can’t imagine anyone walking away from their performances without a smile on their face.

Jon Lemmon at Camp A Low Hum 2012
Jon Lemmon at Camp A Low Hum 2012

Brutal Melbourne rock act Dead revved up a sizable crowd gathered on the lawn. With just bass and drums the duo showed incredible chops, releasing a pulsating, distorted sonic attack on a crowd just barely waking up (at mid day!). It would be a hard act for Christchurch act Dance Asthmatics to follow in the noisy room, but the 4-piece led by Stephen Nouwens (also front-man of the rather more shambolic BnP) showed why they’ve become a bit of a crowd favourite back home; with drummer Brian Feary pulling out some slinky drum beats, and talented guitarist Joe Sampson letting his fingers do the talking.

I didn’t get to see a great deal of Adelaide act Terrible Truths at the lagoon, but Wellington musician Jon Lemmon (playing as a duo with supplementary vocalist Ben Bro) brought a smile to my face playing a set of dancey, blissful numbers in the forest. Dressed in all white and with long hair, Lemmon led the crowd through his songs like he was commanding his faithful (‘I love it when you sing along!’ he proclaimed). His recordings and also appearances with former Christchurch act Wet Wings, never cease to impress me.

The Shocking and Stunning at Camp A Low Hum 2012
The Shocking and Stunning at Camp A Low Hum 2012

After a more conventional minimalist dub performance from Melbourne’s Absolute Boys and a couple of songs from ‘Holy Fuck’ vocalist Brian Borcherdt, I made my way back to the forest to catch (ex-Christchurch) Wellington sorta-prog duo The Shocking and Stunning. With Sam now possibly New Zealand’s finest drummer, and involving, enveloping keyboards from Jack Hooker they really do live up to their name.

Rackets at Camp A Low Hum 2012
Rackets at Camp A Low Hum 2012

Sydney downbeat R’n’B producer Guerre was next on the lawn, with some tasty, smooth songs with a real understated quality. Understated is something that popular auckland rock group Rackets are not – their songs are full of big, catchy verses and punky bravado, but I was surprised at just how pop and accessible they’ve become recently – they could very well be New Zealand’s next big thing, and if the attention they’ve been getting of late is anything to go by they’re well on their way.

The Phoenix Foundation we’re probably the most prominent name on the festival’s bill; making their first appearance at the festival since 2008 to a large audience on the big stage – which included their children in the front-row. The group ran through a familiar set of songs, stopping only for some somewhat awkward between song banter. I got a little tired and wandered off for some food, stopping off at the ‘Karaoke Dick’ van; a rolling Karaoke machine set up near the camp kitchen. Witnessing Teen Wolf’s Bradley Artesque run through his own take on Biggie Small’s ‘Juicy’ was a delight!

All Seeing Hand at Camp A Low Hum 2012
All Seeing Hand at Camp A Low Hum 2012

Things got very very fun from this point on; I was glad to have stuck to all water! Melbourne dance-duo Forces absolutely tore up the forest with their authentic retro house tracks; I swear for a period I was witnessing Bomb the Bass the beats and bass were so catchy. With my eyes wide open and my heart racing I was enticed into the noisy room where an intriguing trio had set themselves up in the middle of the room. With Alphabeathead adding colour on the turntables, All Seeing Hand are based around bombastic drumming and truly absurd vocals, the crowd simply lapped it up.

Wellington metal crew Beast Wars showed that camp isn’t all about skinny indie kids. Dominating the big stage, vocalist Matt Hyde couldn’t resist joining the dozens of kids that flung themselves into the crowd. After watching a rather under-whelming Vice Cooler in the forest running through Hawnay Troof material I stopped by the noisy room and witnessed an odd site – Brooklyn duo Prince Rama leading a small crow through their own home-filmed Yoga excercise video!

Beast Wars at Camp A Low Hum 2012
Beast Wars at Camp A Low Hum 2012

Auckland group Poor You Poor Me advertised themselves around camp as containing ‘the least interest members from…’ a variety of New Zealand groups; but I really dug their very later performance at the lagoon. With violin and gang-vocal singing, they had a nice party vibe going to keep the late-night punters warm. I ended the night with a repeat performance from Spring Break – this time crammed into a sweaty noisy room. Things got a little dubious towards the end of their set as clothing went flying and the crowd hit the stage, all great fun though. What a terrific day!

Click here for more photos. Days 3 to come.

[published in an edited format for the Christchurch Press 24/02/2012]