Tucked behind Angel Tube station on City Road is Islington Metal Works, or Electrowerkz, a huge warehouse space and former late-19th-century three-storey horse stables. Whatever its correct name and history it hosts the most diverse, fun and way-out irregular freak shows in town.
It’s a labyrinth of rooms, corridors and spaces that seem different each time you visit. Tonight the sick and slick Amy Grimehouse crew are putting on a 12-hour John Waters-inspired Filth Festival, and they’ve booked us to play. These reprobates are showing Waters movies all day and night, interspersed with the filthiest riot that would have local councillors tearing up licences immediately should they stumble into this carnival of doo-wop Americana nightmare, but would then be found dancing naked on stage with a transvestite dressed in a full red lobster outfit while smearing themselves in egg mayonnaise, no doubt.
Waters would approve, as when you enter the venue the Egg Lady from Pink Flamingos is sitting inside her playpen, welcoming you in and asking, “Are you the Egg Man?” Inside, the bar is half a London Tube train, and hanging from the ceiling are lots of mock(?)-stained white Y-fronts and female sanitary products. Filthy! Lots of twisted surf, rhythm and blues, exotica and 1950s dirty sax-driven rock’n’roll blasts out while we play a game of vibrator racing, and after catching bits of Cry-Baby, Mondo Trasho and Female Trouble, which are showing on different screens, the place fills up with many Divines, Mink Stoles, Hatchet Faces and other fruity characters from Mr Waters’ murky imagination.
There’s a table of marker pens so you can “colour in your favourite serial killers”. These get stuck to the wall behind the stage and it quickly fills up up with Ted Bundys, Ed Geins and Charles Mansons in a variety of disguises. Then a call to arms by the filthiest fright-fest host leads everyone to another room where we are set up, ready to go and get our kicks out. Initially I seem to have trouble Hula Hooping and playing the trumpet as I have a sex toy tied to it and I’m dressed head to foot in tight black leather, looking like a messed-up Barbarella/Poison Ivy. We mash up and belt out songs about Facebook Killers, Cindy’s Tiger, Caves and Voodoo Meatshakes.
Everyone seems to rumble, stampede and slide with us admirably at this sleazy free-for-all… Zing… Was that a blast or what?! More ales and rum, then the highly anticipated Filthiest Person in London competition, which is worse/better than you could ever imagine. The wildest troupe of wackos cavort and strip onstage admist whipped cream, other foodstuffs, and whatever they can find to taunt each other with until the winner is selected. Onwards we now lose ourselves in a riot of colour, crazed cross-dressers and grotesque fun while frugging to Little Richard, Link Wray, Wooly Bully and a whole bunch of other social outcasts, until the sun comes up and we know we’ve been to Amy Grimehouse’s Filth Fest!
The Lock Tavern is a “tarted-up boozer” that has been running things up on Chalk Farm Road, north London, for years and is, in part, responsible for the annual Field Day Festival at Victoria Park, east London. Although the cultural shift has been heading eastwards for a while now, The Lock Tavern still puts on decent shows, and it’s where we used to put on our own night a while back and also somewhere we pulled pints in the past. This weekend they are putting on a four-day festival that is also the leaving do of a friend of ours who managed the place for eight years (or considering it’s Thursday and the festival lasts until Sunday, maybe that should be leaving dos).
Female garage three-piece band and our friends Abjects are playing tonight. They go on first and rip it up fine. Headlining are another all-female band, a great post-punk/garage band from Manchester called Pins, who we’ve heard about but never seen until now. They are cookin’ hot and what a drummer! After much free IPA, courtesy of the departing manager, we walk back through the fallout of the high street as people get looser all around us and we bump into a buddy who is looking for a nightcap. We head to The Black Cap cabaret bar, one of Camden’s oldest recorded pubs. It’s still open; we step in and on we go
Heading to Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club for this evening’s excursion, to DJ for a friend’s night called Coney Island. It rains on us every time we make our way here for some reason, but that makes it all the more important to get there in good time and cut some rug. Rob from top skiffle-billy band The Severed Limb is the compere, and Cléo, who runs the night, always makes us feel welcome with the obligatory drinks tokens, with which we always get the infamous Banana Beer. The tokens look like something you’d shove in a bumper car at the fair. Well, it is Coney Island, complete with sailor-tattoo stand, sideshow games, hot-dog-eating contest, limbo competition, twisted circus freaks and a 60-year-old transvestite glass collector called Stephanie.
We have our regular “DJ barney” around 10pm, which consists of some panicked row about which tune to play next as the crowd are fully worked up. This is normal and part of the fun. Rob hosts the night with a travelling-carnival-type schtick, heavy on the sarcasm. In short, a scream. Cléo leads the limbo competition and twist dance-off with kitsch panache and, as with all their games, it results in the finest of prizes for some “lucky winners”: generally a Top Gun or suchlike DVD, or maybe some sparkly hairclips (the pound shop does a roaring trade on their night). On stage Stephanie picks out the hot-dog-eating-comp names and much ketchup-smeared sausage gobbling ensues with some gung-ho participants. Thankfully nobody pukes and we play more records. We decide to end with The Witch by The Rattles, I Won’t Come Crawling Back to You by Melvin Davis, and there’s always time for Runaway by Del Shannon and The Kingsmen’s Louie Louie. Rob, as ever, plays out with some blissful Allen Toussaint as the lights go up.
Next location is on our way back, when we stop off at Ye Olde Axe in Hackney Road, a gorgeous Victorian pub that, until 10.30pm, hosts erotic dancers for whacked-out City boys, but from 11pm things change completely as Spencer, a sax-playing friend, spins hours of amazing obscure rock’n’roll 45s until the small small hours… Now it’s time for OGQ to quit and decide to either cab it or bus it on the crazy train home. Tune in next time, folks, for more nocturnal adventures with Oh! Gun Quit.