Club 85 in Hitchin is something of an odd little place. It’s easy to miss, not exactly jumping out as a music venue, perched as it is above a fairly nondescript pub at the bottom of a residential street that has the look of having been a working men’s club or the like at some point in its past. The entrance to Club 85 is just around the corner from the pub door. Once past the door and upstairs, visitors find themselves in a small, dark little room with a simple stage up front, sound desk at the back and a bar on the far wall.
It’s here that senses are assaulted, throats ruined and hearing damaged as Club 85 puts on all manner of musical acts from death metal to jazz, ska to hip-hop, comedy to rock. Tonight it was celebrating ‘Matt’s Birthday’ and on the bill were music/comedy act G. La Roche, the near indescribable Jesus Hooligan and the inimitable master of chap-hop Professor Elemental himself.
Kicking things off was G. La Roche, whose act could perhaps be described as a one man punk cover band slash children’s entertainer who sings songs about blowjobs. With nothing but an acoustic guitar and some electronic looping wizardry he covers songs such as ‘Suspicious Minds’, ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, ‘The Lion Sleeps Tonight’ and even performs some of his own numbers such as ‘I want to love you in the poop chute’ – which is catchier than any song like that has any right to be. G. La Roche has magnificent stage presence and quickly gets the audience involved in his act, even putting on game show segments where audiences must try and guess the movie/TV theme song for the delicious reward of a packet of Haribo.
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Following on from this we had the far more industrial Jesus Hooligan. Jesus Hooligan are a tough act to describe. The closest comparison would need to be Heilung, but Heilung are far more, dare we say, melodic? It’s the auditory equivalent of stepping out of an air conditioned office into 98% humidity, a near physical sensation that crashes against and wraps around you. Jesus Hooligan are fearsome, primal, a force of nature that assaults the senses with the thunder of drums. Oil drums, that is. Here we have a band where most of the raw noise is from plastic oil drums being beaten with sticks, mallets and fists while huge chains hang on them, a didgeridoo rasping in the background, electric guitar helping to add some semblance of structure to the thunderous wave of noise that obliterates any and all attempts at conversation while lead singer Stephen Brunton’s growling voice thunder through the room.
Anyone who talks about a ‘wall of sound’ doesn’t really know what that’s like until they’ve seen this band perform. This is the sort of music that wouldn’t sound at all out of place marching at the head of an orc warband, galvanising the marauders and terrifying the victims.
The final act of the night was the ever-awesome Professor Elemental, his pith helmet and his rhymes a regular visitor to Club 85. He always puts on a great show, with one of the highlights of the night being a freeform rap presented with the assistance of a local beatboxer where the lyrics are inspired by the items presented by members of the audience. He performed songs from his latest album School of Whimsy as well as fan favourites ‘Fighting Trousers’ (performed with G. La Roche) and ‘Cup of Brown Joy’ which included an audience singalong.
At the princely sum of £8 a ticket, this represented a whole lot of entertainment for not a lot of money. Club 85 is definitely one of the best places in Hertfordshire to see smaller and more obscure acts. They have Mister B (The Gentlemen Rhymer) playing next month so any fans of chaphop should get their tickets booked now!