The Penthouse

Also known as: Unlimited Paenga Tawhiti, Level 5

Location: 135 Cashel Street, Central Christchurch

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Current Status: Demolished post-earthquake, replaced by commerical buildings

Active as a live music venue: 2005 – 2011

Capacity: 250

All-Ages: Yes

The Penthouse (sometimes just referred to as ‘Level 5’) was a venue name given to the 5th floor of Unlimited Paenga Tawhiti School in Central Christchurch, above the old Hallensteins building in Cashel Plaza.

The school was originally used as a venue for All-Age shows promoted by Unlimited Paenga student Jeremy Barribeau, and was quickly established as a suitable spot for shows for AA community group Red Panda, plus several others associated the school such as Will EdmondsOut of Kilter and a series of Raves organized by teacher and DJ Brent Silby.

We started with a couple gigs called Citizen Jam. The Glasson family owned it and leased it to the school – so getting permission for an alternate usage was not the easiest. Lots of planning with the fire department and security/risk analysis plans – Rose Jenson Banner helped a lot with that stuff.

– Jeremy Barribeau

Funding initially came from the city counsel and school board in the form of seed capital to start a radio station (Metropolis Radio) with the intent of fostering a local all ages community. (Early headliner) The Shocking Pinks charged what we all thought at the time was an exorbitant NZ$1000 to play haha!

– Jeremy Barribeau

The Shocking Pinks at the 1st Citizen Jam show, June 2005

 I organized several alcohol-free raves up there under the Audiodreams brand. We called the venue “Level 5” for our raves.

Audiodreams was a company started by myself with some students. White Elephant helped with supervision and marketing of the raves.

– Brent Silby

Every show had a strictly no-alcohol policy and security was provided at the ground floor.

The floor was a large, open plan space, and Red Panda shows utilized a decent PA (provided by the White Elephant parent group), plus the schools facilities such as a film projection screen.

Red Panda had connections to A Low Hum and as such a handful of A Low Hum’s touring parties put on AA shows at the venue – the highlights including So So Modern‘s show in September 2006 with Australian act Alps, popular Christchurch electro-pop duo Frase+Bri and youthful indie-pop trio Black Market Art.

Another fun event put on by the group was the Red Panda Prom, held at the Penthouse in both 2008 and 2009. I had the pleasure of playing in a couple bands (including a ‘super-group’ made up just for the event) and dressing up for the occasion.

Last AA show we did was the weekend before the quakes with Parking Lot Experiments in the basement of Unlimited (under the Crossing). I remember it vividly – was 48 hours before the Feb shake. Last normal weekend in old Chch. It was a WE show I think as RP was officially wound up into WE and I was working at WE. A local AA band supported (Die Robotor).

– Netta Egoz (Red Panda / White Elephant)

The venue was in heavy use right up until the 2011 Earthquake – in fact AudioDreams had a rave planned for March 2011 that was cancelled due to the February Quakes:

Poster for Earthquake-cancelled rave

However the Earthquakes unfortunately brought a particularly active period in Christchurch All-Age shows to a close, with the Hallensteins building eventually demolished and the school moved.

History

  • 2005: Students from Unlimited Paenga Tawhiti move into the Northern Tower – i.e. the Hallensteins building, after 2 years in the smaller Southern Star Building. In June the first Citizen Jam gig is held.
  • 2010: Building is damaged in September earthquakes, however it remains open until February 2011 Earthquakes.
  • 2011: US group Parking Lot Experiments are the last headline act to play with a show in the basement, an AudioDreams rave planned for March is cancelled after the Canterbury Earthquakes of 2011 close the venue for good.

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Metropolis

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: The Green Room, Hofbrauhaus Restaurant, Honeypot Pizza Bar

Location: 112a Lichfield Street, Central Christchurch – Above the Honeypot Cafe

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Current Status: Demolished post-earthquake

Active as a live music venue: Early 90’s (Metropolis), 1997 – 2000 (The Green Room)

Capacity: 50?

Though I have no experience of 112a Lichfield Street when it was in its prime as a venue – i.e. when known as Metropolis – I did see a couple shows upstairs from the Honeypot Cafe when the venue was known as the Green Room.

112 Lichfield Street from Kete Christchurch

In fact my debut as a performer was here in 1998, playing Bass guitar in Mysterioball – a grotty punk band that at that stage was just a duo (along with guitarist/vocalist Kyle Denovan). We had been invited to perform by our pals the Davidson Collective, in a show that was part of Christchurch Art Week – somehow we came on after a stage-play!

The Green Room (and presumably both Hofbrauhaus and Metropolis before it) was a tiny upstairs Cafe/Bar, with a small area in the corner allocated for performers. Eventually the Cafe would become the Honeypot Pizza Bar before being claimed by the Canterbury Earthquakes of 2010/2011.

The live music performance that sticks out in my memory was that of Nick Hodgson (later Harte) in his pre-Shocking Pinks group The Incisions, absolutely TEARING THE ROOF off the place by double-amp’ing his guitar in such a tiny space. Needless to say The Green Room had noise complaint before the first song had even ended, presumably from the Honeypot downstairs.

History

  • ?: Hofbrauhaus Bar
  • ?: Metropolis
  • 1997: Venue becomes The Green Room.
  • 2000: The Green Room shuts, becomes Honeypot Pizza Bar / Hofbrauhaus Restaurant.
  • 2010: Building damaged and eventually demolished after the Canterbury earthquakes.

Links

The Brunettes – Mars Loves Venus

2004, Lil’ Chief, LCR007

Over the course of the last two years, The Brunettes must surely go down as one of New Zealand’s most productive bands, with a series of long-stay live tours flowing across New Zealand and stories of their international travels. along the way they’ve had trials and success, line-up changes (including a little controversy) and the odd bit of exposure and critical response, spiked by the release of their debut-following EP ‘Boy Racer’ last year.

Boy Racer was a little sloppier than their tightly constructed Holding Hands, Feeding Ducks, and maybe showed a bit of initiative towards diversifying their 50’s/60’s pop-schlock referencing sound – not that their debut wasn’t a marvel in genuine catchy pop.

Despite accusations of regurgitating long-dead music styles, the Brunettes (full-length) debut posses a level of panache and intricate song-play that even their influences (Phil Spector, Jonathan Richman and Shadow Morton springing to mind) would be proud of.

Compared to Holding Hands.., Boy Racer was the darker side of the tracks. Suddenly the ‘Leader of the Pack’ / ‘Out in the Street’ side of the band was shining through, a pop group with dark themes – much akin to Mortons’ Shangri-Las, the production on Boy Racer’s ‘I Miss My Coochie Coo’ / ‘Don’t Neglect Your Pet’ cut back the gloss to show a beating heart at the center of the band.

My immediate impressions on the new album have been that it sounds almost claustrophobic compared to what has come before. Musical influences are less obvious (with the exception of ‘record store’ – a catchy mix of the modern lovers and what sounds like a Tex Pistol guitar lick), the band now concentrating on a more lyrically focused, vocal-heavy mix with guitar, hand claps and percussion making up the majority of the sound. Secondly, its probably the most addictive, catchy album I’ve heard in a long time, particularly Polyester Meets Acetate, which i’m continually finding myself singing along to after just a few listens. Jonathan (Bree) takes a more active role as vocalist on the album, leading a fair portion of the tracks or fueling duets with Heather (Mansfield) with the kind of quirk and honest edge you’d normally only hear from such song-writers as Lee Hazelwood (and his greatest chanteuse, Nancy Sinatra), or early Richman minus the naivety.

After the shiny burst of the opening trio of songs comes ‘Too Big For Gidget’, the first track to really emphasis the presence of erstwhile ex-member Nick ‘Harte’ Hodgson, now having a particularly rough time with his own band, The Shocking Pinks. Harte’s drumming is to the front over what is one of the albums musically somber tracks, constructed from a reverberate organ, emphasizing piano and guitar flourishes and Harte’s double-timed drumming. A downbeat but fairly throwaway lyric pretty much spoils what could have been one of the albums finer notes.

In fact the entire second side of the album is far darker than the first, tracks like ‘Don’t Hit Your Head Honey’ and the two-part ‘Your Heart Dies’ new-wave pastiche add an intimate and conversational element to the album, often full of hipster pathos – which oddly seems to be the defining element in Bree’s song-writing here. Very modern, post-ironic cool lyrics distinguish Bree (along with some fine touches from Mansfield with ‘These Things Take Time’ and even guitarist James Milne’s rather off-beat ‘You Beautiful Militant’) as fairly removed from their name-checked influences, creating quite a distinctive style throughout the album.

A pretty fine follow-up to one of the most intriguing debuts in recent memory, Mars Loves Venus is the maturing of Holding Hands, Feeding Ducks’ carnival candy-floss and ferris-wheel naivety, showing the cracks of regular life, and presented in a charming blend of a plethora of musical influences, distilled into the Brunettes own, and surely by now unique sound. Even their throw-away and catchy numbers (‘Loopy Loopy Love’, ‘Whale In The Sand’) stick in your head like the intro to ‘Da Do Run Run’ – though maybe not in the same capacity as their slick all pop first album. Though Boy Racer showed a band in transition, they haven’t quite settled yet, and thankfully that makes for an eclectic musical mix and a dynamic sophomoric album.

Black Albino

Biography

A one-off return to more caustic noisy sounds from Nick Hodgson (The Shocking Pinks).

Black Albino was the name of a trio Hodgson fronted as guitarist for a single show in 2005, reuniting last-generation Incisions members Tim McDonald (Drums) and Karl (Bass) for a balls-to-the-wall explosion of noise – excellent stuff and an indication of what Hodgson can do given the context.

Members

  • Nick Hodgson (Guitar)
  • Tim McDonald (Drums)
  • Karl Jensen (Bass)

Discography

Links

 

The Brunettes

Biography

Sunshine and candy-canes, The Brunettes were a hard-working and extremely promising, genuine kiwi pop band – a rare thing in this day and age.

Forming around Heather Mansfield and Jonathan Bree’s girl-boy vocals and a plethora of instruments used both on record and live (Heather being a rather talented multi-instrumentalist and Bree taking on the role of recording whiz Svengali), the band expanded to a 5-piece for the release of their brilliant 2002 release Holding Hands, Feeding Ducks – a Beach Boys / 50’s girl-group pop inflected album which was to be released independently, before EMI scooped them up for distribution at the last minute

After the albums release they furiously beavered away at new material, putting out the charming (and often bizarre) Boyracer EP and making low-key tours both nationally and internationally.

The Incisions‘ Nick ‘Harte’ Hodgson joined as drummer in early 2003, as the band entered the studio for their follow-up release. Harte left the band on the brink of 2004, concentrating on what would become his signature group, The Shocking Pinks.

By mid-2004 The Brunettes had once-again cemented a new line-up, and their sophomore release Mars Loves Venus (taking the name of their ultra-rare debut lathe-cut 7″ EP) was completed with the line-up of Mansfield, Bree, James Milne (aka Lawrence Arabia) and new drummer Ryan McPhun (soon to find fame with his own group The Ruby Suns).

With the success of their 2nd album the group once again departed for foreign shores, taking in South-By-Southwest and building an overseas audience.

Over the course of the next 3 albums the group would court US audiences (releasing their 2007 album Structures and Cosmetics through legendary US indie label Sub Pop), go through a myriad of line-up changes and some internal conflict.

Paper Dolls and the Red Rollerskates EP would be their final releases – both put out via the Lil’ Chief Records imprint in 2009. Bree would go on to release his debut solo album The Primrose Path in 2013.

Members

  • Jonathan Bree (Guitar/Vocals/Bano/Sitar/Keyboards/Drum Machine/Percussion/Arrangement, 1998 – 2009)
  • Heather Mansfield (Vocals/Glockenspiel/Harmonica/Marimba/Organ/Piano/Clarinet/Arrangement, 1998 – 2009
  • Jia Xin Cheng (Cello, 2002)
  • Kari Hammond (Drums/Percussion/Vocals, 2002)
  • Scott Mannion (Guitar, 2002)
  • Dominic Blaazer (Harmonica, 2002)
  • Tom Dale (Saxophone, 2002)
  • Kingsley Melhuish (Trumpet/Trombone, 2002)
  • Peter Wood (Vibraphone, 2002)
  • Andrew Gibson (Violin, 2002)
  • John Fennell (Violin, 2002)
  • James Milne (Guitar/Bass/Vocals/Chamerblin/Vibraphone/Percussion, 2004 – 2007)
  • Ryan McPhun (Drums/Percussion/Vocals, 2004 – 2007)
  • Mike Hall (Bass, 2005)
  • Amee Robinson (Saxophone, 2005)
  • Nick Hodgson (Drums, 2004)
  • Harry Cundy (Trumpet, 2005 – 2007)
  • William Cotton (Vocals/Saxophone/Celesta, 2007)
  • Dionne Taylor (Guitar, 2007)
  • Jamie Power (Drums, 2007)

Discography

  • Mars Loves Venus 7″ Lathe EP (1998, Self-Released)
  • Holding Hands, Feeding Ducks (2002,  Lil’ Chief Records, LCR001)
  • The Boyracer EP (2003, Lil’ Chief Records, LCR002)
  • Mars Loves Venus (2004, Lil’ Chief Records, LCR007)
  • When Ice Met Cream (2005,  Lil’ Chief Records, LCR010)
  • Structures and Cosmetics (2007, Sub Pop/Lil’ Chief Records, LCR019)
  • Brunettes Against Bubblegum Youth CD Promo (2007, Sub Pop, PROCD122)
  • Red Rollerskates EP (2009, Lil’ Chief Records)
  • Paper Dolls (2009, Lil’ Chief Records, LCR025)

Links

 

Coal

Biography

Coal are energy in another form.

Long-lasting groovy Christchurch noise-rock cum post-rock band based around the core guitar duo of Andrew Hensley and Jeremy Symonds.

Despite the best part of 2 decades as a live act, the group has yet to record, and have been through several ‘phases’ in their lifetime with an evolving sound and band line-up.

The group have connections to several groups, with members of A Flight to Blackout, The Pickups, Smith the Alien, and The Shocking Pinks forming the base of the group over the years.

Circa 2016/2017 the group are now a tight 4-piece with a huge sound – bolstered by excellent bassist Gareth Heta’s shear volume and the confidence the group now posses. Hensley in particular has come on in spades, with a great snarl and caustic lyrics (ala Mark E Smith) added to his guitar attack. ‘Peter Mead’ is a live favorite.

Members

  • Andrew Hensley (Guitar/Vocals, 2004 -)
  • Jeremy Symonds (Guitar, 2004 – )
  • Lachlan Beban (Guitar, 2004 – 2006?)
  • Scott Butcher (Drums, 2004 – 2006?)
  • Jared Kelly (Drums/Bass, 2006 – 2008?, 2014 – 2015)
  • Cam Walker (Drums, 2006?)
  • William Daymond (Bass/Organ, 2006 – 2007)
  • Fleur De Lis (Guitar, 2006, 2007)
  • Matt Craw (Guitar, 2007?)
  • George Gossett (Keyboard?, 2007?)
  • Paul Kidd (Electronics, 2008)
  • Danny Knight-Bare (Drums, 2008? – )
  • Gareth Heta (Bass, 2015? -)

Discography

Links

 

House Party w/ The Shocking Pinks, Tiger Tones, Ed Muzik, Frase+Bri [09/02/07]


At the Muzik Farm, Cashmere [09/02/07]
see more photos from this show at flickr

The Incisions

Biography

Nick ‘Harte’ Hodgson’s loud rock’n’roll outfit.

Started life as Tony Valens and the Incisions in the mid 90’s and were mostly concentrated on harsh primal dirges and noisy guitar flourishes – creating some absolutely brilliant sounds far outside the commercial scope of rock’n’roll.

Self-titled Lathe Cut

Band competitions, a short-lived lead singer and the rock’n’roll revival brought changes to their sound, reverting to a more pop (but still incredibly loud) rock format, but Nick was unhappy and soon the band was changing again.

The result was the manic Let Terror Rain – Nick’s first attempt at adding vocals to his old blend of sonic mayhem, and it worked.

Thick guitar-dirges and sound-checking The Velvet Underground was the order of the day, and it looked like the band was onto a promising direction before Hodgson split the band (and Christchurch) to seek his fame with Auckland-based popsters The Brunettes, eventually settling with his own new band The Shocking Pinks.

The Incisions template did resurface again in 2004 as Black Albino, however this seems to have been a short-lived reunion of sorts (the group featuring Hodgson on guitar and MacDonald on drums played a support slot for Die! Die! Die! at the Jetset Lounge).

Members

  • Nick Hodgson (Guitar/Vocals/Drums, 199? – 200?)
  • Ben Johnstone (Bass/Vocals, 199? – 2003)
  • Brett Croft (Guitar, 199?)
  • Tim MacDonald (Drums, 199? – 200?)
  • Lynton Denovan (Drums, 200?)
  • George Gossett (Keyboards, 200?)
  • Karl Jensen (Bass/Vocals, 200?)

Discography

  • Tony Valens and the Incisions Lathe-Cut 7″ EP (High Tension House)
  • All the Greatest Hits of.. cassette (High Tension House, HTH015)
  • Tony Valens and the Incisions (2002, Kato, KCD3)
  • Let Terror Rain (2002, Kato, KCD005)

Links

 

Leper Ballet

Biography

Christchurch 4-piece with a heavy Birthday Party flavor comprised of Mark E Smith-channeling vocalist Janus Currie, Nick Cave look-a-like guitarist Herbert Palmer, drummer Kris Taylor and bass-playing Karate enthusiast Rush Jopson.

These guys exploded onto the local scene in late 2004, claiming an unlucky 3rd place in the annual RDU Round Up band competition at the Dux de Lux behind excellent wall-of-sound propagators Happy Palace in 2nd and under-performing victors Chickenyard, before anybody had ever heard of them.

Somehow they managed to emerge fully-formed, with a tight and effective rhythm section, some killer guitar and top notch off-kilter vocal spasms (say Mark E Smith meets a kiwi accent). I wrote a length piece on them for A Low Hum back in 2005.

Basically the band started when some friends of ours came to NZ after living in Europe for a few years and decided to put on a country gig.

Stupidly drunk last Christmas, Janus and I said we were in a band and we would play, so we had 2 weeks to write a few songs and perform them.

At first we had a different drummer but he was shit so Kris joined and after playing a bit, Rush (who used to be in another band called Spankdirt) asked if we wanted a bass player. So the full band has only really been together for a few months.

– Herbert Palmer

The group spent a couple of years garnishing a loyal local following before the various members splintered off to different cities – on a couple of occasions Chris Andrews (i.e. me) filled in for Jopson on bass whilst he was overseas.

Their last shows were fund-raising events that packed out both Creation and Wunderbar – terrific events and a testament to the popularity the group had built in such a short time.

The group made a couple of reunion appearances at Wunderbar and Goodbye Blue Monday in 2009.

Members

  • Janus Currie (Vocals, 2004 – 2005, 2009)
  • Herbert Palmer (Guitar / Accordion, 2004 – 2005, 2009)
  • Kris Taylor (Drums, 2004 – 2005, 2009)
  • Rush Jopson (Bass, 2004 – 2005, 2009)
  • Chris Andrews (Bass, 2005)

Discography

  • Soft Machine (2004, Self-Released)

Links

 

Leper Ballet [April 2005]

The Leper Ballet burnt so brightly and so quickly that it’s astonishing they didn’t garner wider acclaim. Like Iggy and his Stooges during the epochal hey-day, the group were a writhing, for-the-moment ball of energy, engulfing rooms with pulsating sound and an engaging, contagious enthusiasm – i have never seen audience take to new bands like they did they Leper Ballet, they just drove the kids insane.

Basically the initial idea came about one night when Janus and myself were at the Wunderbar watching this punk-metal band called Fisting Mary. I pretty much thought they where a whole lot of messy shit, and hardly anyone was watching them, but still the good folk at the Wunderbar where dishing them out free beer after free beer. I was still at school at the time and didn’t have all that much money to buy beer, so i said to Janus that we should start a band just for the purpose of getting it for free.

For a year the only thing that came of that was the band name, we thought it was great and celebrated by buying beer (still not quite understanding the concept of ‘getting out what you put in’, or whatever it is).

So it went until the Christmas of 2003 when this dude (his name was Delaney Davidson, from a band called The Dead Brothers who are signed to a Swiss label called Voodoo Rhythm; all of which are fucking amazing, look them up on the net) came back to his home town of Christchurch and set up a couple of gigs. Being it the holy celebration of Christmas Jani and I where drunk enough to tell this guy we were in a band and would gladly play at his show in two weeks… And so it went. In those two weeks we managed to write five songs and do a couple of covers and find some pretty nifty looking suits at the salvation army op-shop.
– Herbert Palmer

Though their debut didn’t quite go as expected (as they don’t give out free beer at the Media Club), the seeds were sewn. Over the next couple of years the boys gathered steam, eventually fleeting to Berlin – ‘a city where the beer is only 30 cents for a 500ml bottle and all the homeless alcoholics look like pirates’.

After a couple of fumbling steps the group fell into a tight 4-man permanent line-up. Janus Currie produced warped and slanted rants, sprinkled with obscure references and loaded language, adding to the dark feeling of their songs – a touch of Mark E Smith via Elizabethan-era gutter poetry. Meanwhile Herbert Palmer rushed through a literate, complicated and frenetic set of nasty guitar riffs – sprinkled with his rock-a-billy, old-timey country and gothic-pop influences. Herb’s grasp of guitar styles and approach is hugely impressive, not to mention his song-writing and additional musicianship. Strung together by a fantastic, upbeat rhythm section in the form of Kris Taylor and Rush Jopson, the group was the most unlikely of dance sensations!

My initial impressions of the group seemed to revolve around the visual look of the group – in particular their striking ‘dirty suits’ dress style and Herbs’ resemblance to a young Nick Cave, which was thoroughly appropriate considering the sound his guitar made on their more gothic numbers. Tracks like ‘The Cabaret’ and ‘I’m Ian’ spewed forth the kind of cataclysmic noise and rhythmic orgasms that prime era Birthday Party channeled (though without the heroin addiction and leather pants).

You never knew what you were going to get with the Leper Ballet – their songs swung wildly from gothic poem’s over a slow and dirgy beat, through sea-shanty carnival romps (thanks to Herb’s secret weapon – the piano accordion) to full-on, full-tilt assaults, usually hastening a messy ending to the set. The group wasn’t afraid of covers, choosing to completely destroy ‘these boots are made for walking’ (complete with an introduction ‘This ones’ for Nancy!’, and bringing things to a close with what almost became there theme – a free-for-all take on the stooges ‘I wanna be your dog’. Usually an indicator that Janus was opening up the stage to crowd participation.

Janus was certainly a polarizing front-man – possessing a down-on-his-luck showman look and comical approach to fronting the band, he never really saw himself as a musician in the group, but rather an entertainer in the Tom Waits mold. It almost seemed as if Janus was a host for the groups’ events – and as Leper Ballet performances often divulged into hands-on and frenetic finales, it’s pretty succinct.

Over the course of just over a year the group played a huge amount of shows, often rushed in approach and result – and no wonder! Herb was double-timing as the Shocking Pinks 5th generation guitarist, often leaving for out-of-town sojourns (which included a memorable show up in Auckland; known for the interaction of a certain 8 Foot Sativa member), whilst Rush took a couple overseas holidays – leading to my own hasty initialization into the group as backup bassist. Eventually Herb, Kris and I formed our own retro-rock-a-billy covers group we dubbed Herb and the Spices – supporting the real group proper as the band wound down.

Though hastily produced, they did manage to get some recordings together – a single session in a home studio produced some (admittedly slightly underwhelming) results, but later live recordings and a bit of remixing allowed the group to produce a pretty strong (if messy) parting album. A limited edition CDr with striking artwork in the Ralph Steadman tradition captures some of the feeling of Leper Ballet shows – with all the grandstanding and pomp, not to mention the carnage.

In May 2005 the boys played a series of shows that both defined them as a live force, but also signaled an end to a chaotic 18 months. Raising some funds through their final hurrah, Janus and Herbert left our shores for England and then Germany – taking in the music of their idols in London before settling in Berlin. It’s unclear what plans the boys have for the future, though their partners in crime back in Christchurch have been keeping themselves busy.

Rush Jopson has spent some time trying to get his own project up and running, along with a reunion of his old band Spankdirt, meanwhile Kris Taylor has made a tremendous impact on eclectic locals the House Of Dolls; filling out their sound with some punchy, rumbling drums and turning them into one of our cities finest almost over-night.

I still anticipate a triumphant return for the Leper Ballet – though i can imagine Janus and Herbert fit in perfectly in the bizarre Berlin underground. When they eventually return they’ll come back to a strong all-ages environment that’s developed in their absence – a scene they helped spark.