To Canning Town for our second round heat of the Surface Unsigned "battle of the bands" experience. As you may recall, we defaulted through the first round because two bands dropped out. They make it quite easy of course—in the first two rounds fully four out of the six bands playing each night make it through. (Generous of them? Of course not: they need to drag it out so that your multitudinous fans will keep paying to see you in heats.*)
That first round was in the Boston Music Rooms, a sizeable (and consequently fairly empty) joint at Tufnell Park. This time we find ourselves at "The Legendary Bridgehouse 2". You can't help thinking that any venue that actually needs to tell you how mighty is its legend is probably deluding itself. Hell, I haven't even heard of the Bridgehouse 1. (I feel they should have come up with something a bit more inventive, or at least a subtitle—"Bridgehouse 2: The Nightmare Continues", or just "Bridgehouse 2: Bridgier and Housier".)**
You would not believe there is a venue here: it's on a rubbish-blown industrial estate, devoid of humans (apart, I think, from a man selling burgers through an armoured hole in the wall). Even when you find the right building, the venue turns out to be through an unassuming door, past some toilets and up two flights of stairs. (See Mark's photo below of me reaching the venue. I particularly like the flag.)
The weird thing is that once you get in there you can tell someone has spent some money. The room has two bars, a powerful PA and an astonishing light show with lasers and everything (which was apparently switched off while we were playing; story of our lives). They clearly expect trouble, as they have crash barriers along the front of the stage (meaning Alex could not do his usual trick of prowling around the audience during Freak Tornado Blues, so he elected to lie down for the guitar solo instead.) But it's also tiny.
I'm still perplexed about this place. Did it really have a heydey, say in the late 80s acid house scene when there was a drugs factory underneath and the place was the private pleasure dome of the drugs baron? Is it used for discreet industry showcases (in Canning Town, the heart of the music industry...)?
I actually had to nip out after we played first, to deliver some posters to another venue, before returning in time to see the last two bands. At no point in my travels did I see anyone else not connected with the event. I thought I glimpsed a feral dog with a human hand in its mouth, but I may have imagined that...
*(We still didn't get through this round though. I guess they realised they didn't want losers like us cluttering up their competition.)
**(Now that I think about it, it isn't even anywhere near a bridge, unless you count the flyover...)