It’s an odd place for a music venue. Secluded towards the back of a small, gloomy industrial estate, now largely populated by evangelical mega-churches, in one of the few remaining parts of South London yet to be ‘gentrified’ (though with the council’s plans for a ‘New Bermondsey’ development that could be set to change), you can bet that DIY Space for London doesn’t get a huge amount of walk-up trade. But that’s part of the attraction – run by a cooperative and incorporating a record store and cafe plus meeting and creative spaces, DIY Space for London has a genuine underground vibe that goes beyond the industrial surroundings and stands it out from most venues on the London circuit. Tonight it’s sold out for the arrival of Cardiff-based six-piece Joanna Gruesome.
Before that, support act Frau scratch their way through a support slot of furious proto-punk. Vocalist Ash is a formidable onstage presence spitting venom and glaring at the audience between lines. For those looking for the true spirit of punk in this year of 40th anniversary celebrations, you’ll find more of it here than in all of the Mayor of London endorsed museum and gallery exhibitions combined.
The last time I saw Joanna Gruesome was in the rather grander environs of The Scala, and it was great (check the review here) but here, packed onto a stage just big enough to accommodate them all and with a fervent crowd within touching distance, they really excel.
There are few things that I love more than a band that combines sugary indie-pop with shrieks of angular guitar and Joanna Gruesome do it better than pretty much anyone else around right now. Vocals switch from blissed out slacker harmonies to pin-sharp hollering at the drop of a hat, driven along by a rollercoaster rhythm section and catchy guitars that soon reduce crowd to a sweaty mass.
By the end of the set there are band members in the crowd, an audience member hammering random notes from a guitar and smiles on every face in the room.
Review and Photographs by Paul Maps
Joanna Gruesome head on tour at the end of May, playing the following venues:
30th May – LEEDS, Belgrave Music Hall
31st May – MANCHESTER, Star and Garter
1st June – GLASGOW, Stereo
2nd June – BIRMINGHAM, Hare & Hounds
3rd June – DERBY, Hairy Dog
4th June – EXETER, Cavern