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

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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

Darkroom’s 1st Birthday

Brown Leaves
Brown Leaves

The dynamic duo of T’Nealle Joie (Bang! Bang! Eche!) and Jasper Bryant-Greene (who ran the Gold Sounds record label, releasing T54’s first recordings) saw a hole in the Christchurch Music and entertainment market after the earthquakes of February 2011. With virtually no live music venues in the city and very little night-life to speak of, the pair leased ‘The Archive’, a multi-use venue on St Asaph Street, initially with a warehouse all-ages event that featured the Transistors, Bang! Bang! Eche! and Valdera. After a refit the Archive would go on to encompass the venerable Galaxy Records, a studio for the RDU radio station, the art space Room 4, and perhaps most importantly, the Darkroom.

Transistors
Transistors

Back in October 2011 the new bar opened with the experimental sounds of US sound artist C Spencer Yeh and a very special sell out show from Christchurch’s own Bachelorette. Over the course of the last year the venue has not only grown in reputation as Christchurch’s finest local venue for independent music, but also in stature, with additional seating area, a huge array of drinks and an ever-increasing clientele. Saturday marked the Darkroom’s 1st birthday, and as a tribute to the early history of the venue, the same key groups were present to celebrate.

Brown Leaves are a rebirth of prior group Valdera, featuring the same duo of James Musgrave (guitar, vocals and pedals) and Matt Scobie (drums), though in a punkier, more straight-forward style. These days Musgrave seems more comfortable as a front-man and the duo ripped through a short set of sharp, jagged rock numbers with gusto.

Bang! Bang! Eche!
Bang! Bang! Eche!

Speaking of gusto – the Transistors have recently returned from the United States, touring alongside Japanese Rock n Roll icons Guitar Wolf. Lead singer James Harding was a live-wire, bouncing around the stage but still hitting ever mark in their blistering, non-stop show. The trio showed the well-honed chops of a group that’s spent months on the road together, not stopping for a breath during their opening handful of songs.

Lastly Bang! Bang! Eche! took to the stage, building up the tempo of their performance as the night came to a close. With Joie and Charlie Ryder exchanging bass, guitar and keyboard parts, vocalist Zach Doney triggering electronic effects and climbing around the audience, and drummer James Sullivan as energetic as ever behind the kit – it’s hard not to have fun at a Bang! Bang! Eche! show. What a great way to cap a terrific 1s year as a venue.

You can see more photos from this show here.

Campus A Low Hum 2011: Day 2, Part 2

The Coolies
The Coolies at Campus

Hey back to the camp reports! missed a whole heap of bands on day 2 – Nudge, Royal Headache, the usually fantastic Sam Hamilton and No Zu before catching a little bit of Karl Stevens’ new bluesy outfit the Drab Doo Riffs.

Bachelorette got a great crowd as she played a set with Hamilton robot band the Trons. things took a while to get going but it was a choice set; including a fantastic cover of the Tall DwarfsNothings Gonna Happen‘.

Glass Vaults were totally chill in the pool, but I missed Rat vs. Possum on the main stage. Unfortunately i’ve lost track of a bit of what went down, some renegade shows went down (including my fellow camper Jos playing a chip-tune set, and the always entertaining Cosbys – both in the renegade room) and there was much revelling…

The Cosbys
The Cosbys at Campus

Things really kicked in to gear next, the Coolies absolutely ripping shit to shreds in the barn. Main their new material rules, totally free form, creative and brutal – I LOVE the new generation Coolies, can’t believe i haven’t got the new LP yet…

Parking Lot Experiments
Parking Lot Experiments at Campus

Parking Lot Experiments played to a big crowd in the pool, completely overwhelming and yes fun once more -these guys really were one of the highlights of Campus for me, and I even managed to catch one of their shows when I got back home to Christchurch.

My Disco
My Disco at Campus

In previous years and in previous A low Hum tours I’ve been front row centre for My Disco. However I’m one of those lame ‘I like your early stuff better’ kind fans as I reckon their earlier LP ‘Cancer’ is their best – it’s so minimal and sharp, I just go nuts when they play that stuff… So yeah their new material doesn’t really sit so well with me. The guys are still amazingly talented, but they’ve lost a bit of that minimal, incredibly tight sound…

Disasteradio!
Disasteradio! at Campus

Luke Rowell is an A Low Hum legend; and he showed it with a stonking, chock-a-block Disasteradio! set in the pool, surrounded by laser lights and stage-invading fans. Oh man, total love-fest of cheezy awesome synthy sounds. Great fun.

The Sneaks
The Sneaks at Campus

Again I missed a couple official outfits – Dunedin kids TFF and the Wilberforces, PlusF in Covers, Blinks DJ Set and All Black Wolf at the party stage, but the Sneaks MORE than brought the party. Those guys are seriously my favourite party band of all time – i was jumping around like mental in the stage area of the Renegade room as Dansey was climbing all over the crowd and letting himself go. There are few bands with so many great songs (Kuzai Heart You Girl, North Shore Pussy, No Sex, Thowback etc etc) that bring such joy and fun to their shows… Thats what camp is ALL about!

Bachelorette

Biography

Wonderful home-brewed recordings from Annabelle Alpers – the now Auckland-based guitarist, keyboardist and singer-songwriter formerly of the supremely under-recognized Christchurch troop Hawaii Five-0.

Her debut EP ‘The End Of Things’ is full of memorable, catchy pop gems – smothered in quirky electronic textures, and featuring a guest appearance by none-other than Mick Elborado (Scorched Earth Policy etc), plus former Fang drummer Andrea Holmes.

In 2006 Alpers produced her 2nd release (and full length debut) ‘Isolation Loops‘, leaving Arch Hill to form her own Electroplate Recordings and touring with former Mestar bassist Stefanimal for the albums release.

After further success with ‘My Electric Family’ and a self-titled 3rd album – both co-released on US label Drag City, Alpers retired the Bachelorette alias in 2011 – creating a Kickstarter project for new album ‘Remote’ performing under her own name for the 1st time.

Members

  • Annabelle Alpers (Vocals/Guitar/Bass/Piano/Keyboards/Sequencing, 2004 – 2013)

Discography

  • The End Of Things EP (2005, Arch Hill, AHR015)
  • Isolation Loops (2006, Electroplate Recordings, ERP001)
  • My Electric Family (2009, Particle Tracks, PT003)
  • Do The Circuit 7″ Single (2009, Drag City, DC423)
  • Bachelorette (2011, Particle Tracks, PT005)
  • Blanket CD Single (2011, Souterrain Transmissions, SOU024PSINGLE)

Links

 

Hawaii Five-0

mid to late 90s christchurch band known for their organ sound and catchy singles – especially ‘hurricane bob’ (produced through peter king’s lathe-cutting facilities and put out on the tiny beat atlas inprint that also spawned the terrific barnard’s star) which actually won a bfm music award as the best unreleased song in new zealand. unfortunately they never released any further recordings (except for an appearance on the dollar mixture compilation and on ‘indie hit disc #6’) and disbanded in the late 90s.
discography
picks in bold

  • ‘speed of weed’/’soda stream’/’the salem stranger’ 7″ single [1998? beat atlas Beat004] rn
  • ‘hurricane bob’/’fry’/’kingpin’ 7″ single [1998? beat atlas Beat005] rn