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

The Log Cabin

Also known as:

Location: 448 Madras Street, St Albans

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Current Status: No longer a venue

Active as a live music venue: 2000’s – 2010’s

Bar Manager: –

Bookings:

Website:

Capacity: –

All-Ages: House-Parties

Old and dilapidated wooden villa on Madras Street that functioned as a rather excellent venue for house parties and all-age events for a few years prior to the Canterbury Earthquakes in 2010 / 2011.

Occupied by a variety of individuals connected to Christchurch live music, student radio (RDU) and all-ages (Red Panda) scenes, the house was opened up for day time shows on the front-lawn or in the living room.

Chris Young of the Insurgents performing outside at the Log Cabin

The occupants lived through the 2010 / 2011 Canterbury Earthquakes, but eventually moved out – the owners then discovering how extensively damaged the building was – though the original building still stands as of 2017.

Former tenant, Red Panda member and RDU Sheep Technique DJ Eamonn Marra provided a (presumed) complete list of the acts that played the Log Cabin over the years:

  • Crackhouse 5
  • Ghostwork
  • Sleepy Age
  • (classic) Insurgents
  • The Hatemen
  • Valdera
  • Jeffrey and Jack Lewis
  • Wet Wings
  • Canterbury Rams
  • Body 125
  • Hypercolour
  • Thrill Collins
  • Tono and the Finance Company
  • Capsul
  • Delaney Davidson
  • Jack Hooker

History

 

Contact Details

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.

Thunderdome: Familia Moja Fundraiser

Transistors
Transistors

Cracking fundraising event for Fionn and Netta’s trip to Kenya last night. They put together 10 of the best young acts in Christchurch to raise a little dosh to help with the construction of an orphanage.

With Sleepy Age, Transistors and Bang! Bang! Eche! all playing a whole swag of new material it seemed like a real milestone event, putting the last year behind us.

Great to see the younger kids getting into the show too, I’m just sad I missed the opening few acts – I still haven’t managed to catch the much-vaunted Psych Tigers, instead arriving at the beginning of St Eden’s mellow electronic set, followed by similarly laid back sets from the thoroughly slick Coate, and a lovely droney set from Valdera.

Planet of the Tapes
Planet of the Tapes

From there things picked up a notch with Transistors kicking ass and taking names, Planet of the Tapes just going out of this world (and encouraging the crowd on stage to surf along), Sleepy Age bringing the Disco vibes and falsetta vocals, and Bang! Bang! Eche! playing their hand as the manic closers.

Sleepy Age
Sleepy Age

Click here for the rest of my photos from this excellent event.

Valdera, Glass Vaults and Seth Frightening

Valdera at the Brewery
Valdera at the Brewery

Thursday night at the Brewery. Local lad James Musgrave opened up playing a solo set under his Valdera moniker (which is sometimes a duo). Laid-back layered guitar and vocals, including a take on Antony Johnson’s take on Beyonce (which led to a bit of a side-of-stage sing-a-long).

Glass Vaults are something else. There the guys who can hear everything. Who layer up guitar, bass, keys and other noises into a Maelstrom of sugar-syrupy sweet sound that just sounds perfect. Cracking songs, some excellent one-drum percussion and great vocal harmonies. Probably the best band in Wellington these days.

Seth Frightening at the Brewery
Seth Frightening at the Brewery

Seth Frightening also layered things up, with looped vocals, beat-up guitars and even the odd screamy moment to wake up the less attentive punters. Glad I hung around for the whole show.

Click here for the rest of my photos from the night.

TV3 cover the Archive / Gap Filler

Along with the ‘Sugarloaf Shakedown’ event up in Auckland (a fund-raiser from ex-Christchurch musos), TV3 covered the recent opening of the Archive, plus had some old footage from Gap Filler – cool stuff! Theres some video of Valdera plus some of my pics from the other night, and a pretty sweet interview with T-Nealle. Choice!

TV3: The Sugarloaf Shakedown

Valdera

Valdera is many things: A region in Tuscany; an art deco apartment block on Peterborough st; and the solo moniker of James Musgrave, under which he explores the medium of guitar and voice. Valdera songs embody the reflection, solitude, and frozen hope of a southern winter, and the joy and fulfilled promise of spring. Summer and autumn… not so much.

The first version of Valdera was a two piece consisting of James Musgrave on acoustic guitar and Bri Yaakoup (Frase and Bri) on piano. Early recordings on James’ computer attest to the band being formed in late 2004, which seems like a long time ago now. They intended to make quiet and pretty music, as a reaction to the very loud style of their previous band, where they were joined by mutual friend Fraser Austin (Frase and Bri, Secrets).

However, this duo didn’t last long. James forgot about quiet music and went off to form A Flight To Blackout, and Bri linked up with Fraser again to form Frase and Bri. But James never stopped playing acoustic guitar. He continued to write songs, singing softly to himself in various freezing flats across Christchurch City, and slowly gaining the confidence necessary to do so in front of other humans.

Before live performance however, he spent long hours teaching himself to record the best of the songs that he had so far written, again in various freezing flats across Christchurch. Eventually, in a modest room on Nicholls st around 2006, James was finally happy with the sound of the recordings. Unfortunately, after hearing them over and over ad naseum, by this time he was also completely sick of the songs themselves – so he left them to sit idle on his hard drive.

Fast forward to 2008, and James decided that the only way he was going to play live was by forcing himself. Therefore, the first Valdera show was booked, and on 01.06.08 he supported A Flight To Blackout and I.Ryoko at the Christchurch Media Club. The songs ranged from ones written in 2004 to the present, and were completely acoustic and unaccompanied.

Since then Valdera has branched out into the world of electricity, with about 50% of the currently played songs involving electric guitar, programmed drums, and synth all plugged into a loop station with vocals on top. Sometimes the Valdera setlist is acoustic, sometimes electric, and sometimes a mix of both.

Now, several years later, the finishing touches are being put on the Nicholls st recordings, and will be released as a 4 song EP before the end of 2008.
This extended bio was brought to you by the letter A, the colour white, and a completely shameless use of the third person. Thank you.

Discography (picks in bold)

  • 145 [November 2008 self-released]
  • Terminus [September 2009 self-released]
  • All Past and All Future [January 2010 self-released]
  • Early Earth [May 2010 self-released]
  • Remnants [November 2010 self-released]

See-Also

A Flight To Blackout

Excellent instrumentalist trio from the garden city formed by Matt Craw (Guitar), James Musgrave (Bass), and Jared Kelly (Drums) in early 2005. Taking cues from a variety of informed directions, the group were prolific features of the local live scene, and attached themselves to both r18 and all-age crowds with varying success. Playing an involved instrumental sound heavy on dynamics, the group enlisted ex-Substandard bassist Gareth Heta as a 2nd guitarist for a short period before reverting back to their original configuration. However, this was soon broken when Kelly left to play with the Pickups full-time, so Cam Walker was recruited to carry on where Jared left off.

Throughout later 2005 and early 2006 the group had a strong association with fellow garden city instrumentalists Coal, with Walker sitting at the throne for both groups for a period – however this was halted by problems with the tendons in Walker’s wrist, which caused him a great deal of pain during a show with the touring groups Jakob and American outfit No Funeral.

After losing Walker, Craw and Musgrave added Thomas Lambert (synth/guitar – aka i.Ryoko) in order to create a fuller sound than the rock trio lineup. Through him they found a great replacement drummer in Adam Jack, who picked up the groove of the songs quickly and added his own heavy hitting style. At this time, Gareth Heta again showed an interest in being part of the band, so he was recruited on guitar (and bass when James swaps to guitar). These changes have lead to further creativity within the group, with new songs eventuating at the start of 2007 (including for the first time, a song with vocals provided by Musgrave).

More live shows followed, a highlight being a gig with the Enright House, Pandora’s Bucket, and Wellingtonians Donatello. Towards the end of 2007, A Flight To Blackout entered the RDU Roundup band competition without any expectations of success, and came away with 2nd place, pipped by the more RDU-friendly (but by no means lesser) Bang! Bang! Eche!

As seemed to be the rule by now, Jack left the group at the end of 2007 to travel to Canada, and Lambert left for Wellington. This allowed the remaining members to focus on the tracking of their debut release, which is currently being mixed and produced by Thomas for release on his and partner Matt Faisander’s ‘Sonorous Circle’ label before the end of 2008.

In early 2008 Hayden Williams and Josh Black (both also of Neil Robinson) made fine replacements on drums and synth respectively, their first show with the band being the farewell/fundraiser of friends The O’Lovelys.

Discography (Picks In Bold)

  • No Releases

See-Also