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

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

Space Academy

Also known as: Kadett Cafe, Doki Hair Salon

Location: 371 St Asaph Street, Central Christchurch

Current Status: Running!

Active as a live music venue: 2015 –

Bar Manager: Richard Sewell and Hamish Campbell

Bookings: spaceacademychch@gmail.com

Website: http://spaceacademy.ac.nz/

Capacity: Around 150?

All-Ages: Yes

Multi-use space on St Asaph Street, opposite the established Darkroom bar. With Doki Hair Saloon at the front, and running during the day as Kadett Cafe, Space Academy is a lively, spacious live music venue and bar from 4pm – 11pm every Tuesday till Saturday.

Every Tuesday through Saturday Mirabell and Gareth run the Cafe during the day before Richard and Hamish run the bar from 4pm, with Miki running the saloon at the front from 11am till 7pm.

The Transistors at Space Academy

Space Academy doesn’t just host live music though – a variety of performances plus movies and other events have taken place in the main venue, making use of the permanent PA system, bright decor and comfortable seating. Closing at just 11pm – forcing efficient running schedules, the venue harks back to the old days of the Dux de Lux.

One great aspect of Space Academy is their co-operation with established live music venue Darkroom, which is opposite Space Academy on the other side of St Asaph Street. The two venues have been known to put on joined shows, or accommodate each other to avoid conflicts etc.

The Original DarkSpace

Shows at Space Academy are easy to organize and run with minimal fuss – a straight forward two speaker PA with a control desk location fairly close to the performing area allows easy setup, the foyer area at the front of the venue is ideal for setting up a cover charge and merch area, and the bar staff are very warm and accommodating.

History

  • 2015: Space Academy / Kadett Cafe Opens in a former warehouse at 371 St Asaph Street
  • 2016: Doki Hair Saloon is added to the venue

Contact Details

Links

Christchurch Venue Map

Note: This is a work in progress and will have additional content added both in the Map (i.e. venue images) or in the body of this post (i.e. a list of the venues in questioned, grouped by status etc).

Feel free to comment, give suggestions etc – this was put together as part of thebigcity’s on-going Venues archive.

Thrill Collins, Log Horn Breed and Brian Luv at Darkroom

Hilarious, brilliant show at Darkroom last night.

Thrill Collins
Thrill Collins
Headliners Thrill Collins are comprised of Ex-Christchurch folk Jos Van Beek (vocals and discordant, not-really-guitar-at-all guitar) and Nick Robinson (rhythmic, gnarly bass), plus slinky local drummer Ben Dodd. The trio have existed in name-only fashion for quite some time, though eventually the single ‘I eat pretty well for a poor person’ established their sound back in 2010. With Jos and Nick both moving about the North Island, last nights show was essentially a reunion.

Log Horn Breed
Log Horn Breed
The always terrific Log Horn Breed opened the show, toning down the frantic feeling of previous performances to a tight, explosive set of songs. Recalling the grooves and guitar of the Birthday Party with shout-spoken storylike vocals and a bunch of interesting noise thrown in for good measure. Love these guys.

Brian Luv
Brian Luv
Speaking of Love – local singer-songwriter Brian Feary debuted his new stage persona ‘Brian Luv’, dressed to the nines and performing covers in a swarthy showman type way, even ending the night with a swag of Karaoke favourites, climbing the bar and wooing the ladies. Nice!

For the rest of the photos click here.

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.

The Bilders at Darkroom

Bill Direen
Bill Direen

Wow it certainly has been a long time since I’ve contributed to thebigcity – sorry about that. It’s been a pretty quiet holiday break in Christchurch, at least musically – however I’m really looking forward to Mount Eerie’s tour and of course the great annual trip to Camp A Low Hum – both in February.

 

Last week however I had the great privilege to catch the latest line-up of Bill Direen’s might group the Bilders. Direen’s back catalog of fantastic songs (‘Do the Alligator’, ‘Love in the Retail Trade’, ‘Sad But True’ etc) is truly immense and this sharp three piece pulled out all the pieces.

Mick Elborado and Stu Page
Mick Elborado and Stu Page

Word has it their drummer (and fantastic film-maker) Stuart Page was in a car accident earlier in the week and shouldn’t have been playing, but he soldiered on anyway. It was also fantastic to see Christchurch legend Mick Elborado back on stage, playing bass the way only Mick can play – he contorted and tore up that ‘Mickenbacker’ on the more excitable numbers. Direen himself was relaxed and demur up front, leading the fellas through-out the night.

Click here for all the photos from the night.

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.

Carb on Carb w/ Males and Coate

Carb on Carb
Carb on Carb

Carb on Carb are the Auckland-based Indie-pop duo of Nicole Gaffney (Guitar and Vocals) and James Stuteley (Drums) – an outgrowth of former group Mammal Airlines (which also featured Giles Thompson). Friday’s show at the Darkroom featured the group supported by top-notch local emo group Coate and Dunedin trio Males.

Coate have settled in to regular performances at the Darkroom, their intricate songs catching many a keen ear. With front-man Will Roud delivering melodic, driving vocals and exchanging guitar lines with 2nd guitarist Taylor Welsh, the 4-piece are one of the most technically accomplished groups in New Zealand.

2nd group Males are new to Christchurch, the poppy trio wearing their hearts on their sleeves as they flew through a selection of indie-rock numbers. Bassist Sam Valentine caught some flack for his haircut, one particular punter pointing out the young guy’s resemblance to Blur bassist Alex James. Their songs push the low-frequencies to the front, and the trio displayed an infectious enthusiasm throughout their set.

Both Carb on Carb members have been heavily involved in the Auckland all-age music scene – Gaffney’s previously played guitar, synth and sang with popular Auckland teen group Moron Says What?!, whilst Stuteley is partly responsible for Papaiti Records, an independent record label that compiled and released the excellent ‘Pressure to be’ album (distributed in the United States by Calvin Johnson’s legendary K Records). I was impressed by the groups catchy, shuffling songs, noisy guitar and Gaffney’s subdued vocals – they’re well worth tracking down on BandCamp.

See the rest of the photos here.

Also – Carb on Carb played a house-party alongside Christchurch’s Dance Asthmatics and new duo X-Ray Charles the previous night. Photos from that party are here.

Coate, Winter, Half Mountain, Teke and Craig and Steven at darkroom

Coate
Coate
Sorry this has been a long time coming. Epic 5 band night on a Thursday night at darkroom. Coate have to be one of my favorite local groups these days, and Winter were a lot of fun too. Opening act Steven was an uncompromising, impassioned guy, Teke and Craig were as slick as ever and debutant Half Mountain show a lot of promise.

Winter
Winter
You can view more photos from the set here.

Sherpa w/ Bang! Bang! Eche!, Dance Asthmatics and Zen Mantra

Tam November of Zen Mantra
Tam November of Zen Mantra
Smashing line-up friday at Dux Live, with a great mix of young, up-and-coming groups from Christchurch, with poppy Auckland group Sherpa headlining.

Youngest of all would be opening trio Zen Mantra. Fronted by the barely 17 year old Sam Perry, Zen Mantra take on a psychedelic approach to clean and concise indie-pop. With swirling guitar, bass and rolling drums their songs are warm, fuzzy and comforting and are simply drenched in melody. A young group absolutely absolutely overflowing with potential.

Dance Asthmatics make for quite a contrast. Brian Feary (drums), Joe Sampson (guitar) and Ben Odering (bass) create a tight, flowing and often groove filled backing with more than a little krautrock style rhythm – but frontman Stephen Nouwens can steer the group in any number of directions. He can take a plaintive but acerbic and poetic approach to singing (like a young Mark E Smith of the Fall), and then the next minute rip into an aggressive rant, gasping for breath between each delivered sentence. Always exciting and always a lot of fun.

T'Nealle Worsely  of Bang! Bang! Eche!
T’Nealle Worsely of Bang! Bang! Eche!
Despite lacking practice since previous shows, Bang! Bang! Eche! lived up to their reputation as one of Christchurch’s finest and slickest live acts – with the best reception of all the groups on the night. Particularly on form was bassist T’Nealle Worsely, though the group lock together like a syncopated, pulsing singularity.

Out-of-towners Sherpa have been making quite a reputation for themselves up in Auckland – their album Lesser Flamingo and stunning new video Turtles are unabashed slices of pure New Zealand power-pop. Gleeful and with great dollops of catchy guitar and keyboards. Frontman Earl Ho is a colourful character – leading the group through a sharp set of songs at blistering pace. A lovely way to end the evening.

See more photos here.

[Published in the Christchurch Press 27/07/2012]