Black and white films flicker in a white room. Old chairs and tables are scattered about. The bar looks like an afterthought. There is definitely no air conditioning. This is the rock 'n' roll corner of Cable Street Studios, the location of the Static Hearts club and tonight's gig.
I'm tempted to say this is the way gigs should be. I'll grant you it would be nice to have a bit of stage lighting (come to that, it would be nice to have a stage) but this kind of ramshackle informality is much more to my taste than the corporate-sponsorship-with-everything state of affairs that now exists on much of the gig circuit.
Static Hearts is not sponsored by a premium lager brand or a mobile phone company. There are no banners on the wall plugging leisure footwear. At a time when you can't even flick through Artrocker magazine without falling over ads and plugs and product placements for mainstream High Street brands (Converse, Top Shop, Burger King - actually that last one's not true, but hey, give it time) it's nice to find somewhere, at least, that has yet to succumb.
I don't quite know if I'm likely to succumb to Relics, mind. A guitar, bass, and stand-up drums three-piece, the band seems rather hesitant, standing diffidently in the implacable white glare of the video projector. Their sound is also somewhat hesitant. It's a little nervy and flimsy - hardly the wall of warped noise that the recorded stuff on their MySpace page led me to expect. The recordings sound huge and fuzzy, as if My Bloody Valentine and the Chameleons had formed a supergroup, got themselves produced by Phil Spector, and the resulting tapes were then marinated in treacle and angst for six months.
But tonight, at least, Relics don't reproduce that big, bad, sound. I don't know if this is because they're essentially a studio band that hasn't got the live thing nailed yet - if that's so, they're the odd ones out in the twenty-first century new wave scene, where most of the bands are live acts first and foremost. Or maybe they're just not at home in the basic surroundings of this scruffy room, which is admittedly a difficult location in which to create rock 'n' roll melodrama. I'll give 'em five for now, and catch them again somewhere else, some other time. Can't say fairer than that.
Notwithstanding the prosaic surroundings, Project:Komakino do a good job of reproducing their after-dark proto-gothic rumblings. As I dare say I've remarked before, Project:Komakino sound - odd though this might seem - like half the bands of the 90s goth scene rolled into one. I assume that's unintentional. The bands of the 90s goth scene were by and large a pretty obscure bunch, even within the goth scene itself. Outside the scene, they made virtually no impact. While it would be intriguing if Project:Komakino had indeed drawn on that scene, that era, for their inspiration, it's got to be a pretty unlikely proposition - even if the band's sound does uncannily hint at it.
I suspect, in fact, Project:Komakino have gone back to the same source as those 90s acts - 80s goth bands, basically - and, thus prompted, are coincidentally going in the same direction. Well, you never know: that might open a few unexpected doors for the band. Given that the Wave Gotik Treffen in Leipzig has apparently only just discovered the 90s British goth scene, Project:Komakino might have a whole new fanbase in Germany awaiting them, if they went out there and grabbed it. But here in an East London art den, I'm not sure that the band's sepulchral, downbeat detonations do the right stuff to my head.
Artery find themselves in the odd position of being the cool new band of the twenty-first century post-punk zone, while having a history that goes all the way back to the original post-punk era of the 80s. Recently reformed (at the instigation of Jarvis Cocker, no less) the band must feel like the godfathers of gigs like this, but I'm sure they also feel entirely at home. At any rate, there's something about Artery's austere, understated power that fits in here: there's a certain no-frills severity about the band's approach, and yet somehow they push at the very walls of the room.
Taking up positions on the floor, singer Mark Goldthorpe dangerously close to the audience, who are favoured with his best stare-straight-through-you gaze, Artery proceed to set out their stall - those circling, looping, basslines, the clang and crackle of the guitar, keyboards adding colour as the drums tie everything together as tightly as if drummer Garry Wilson was using ratchet straps.
'Who's Afraid Of David Lynch?' encapsulates the Artery sound - it's a new song from the band's new Standing Still EP, recorded over twenty years after the band's last recordings, but it has the essential Artery identity - those intense, out-there vocals, the reined-in dynamism of the band. Up against the shifting video images on the back wall, in the hot un-air conditioned atmosphere of this ramshackle room, Artery somehow connect the wires between then and now.
For more photos from this gig, find Artery by name here.