By Jake Parry
The square hole in the side of the building has “TOB” haphazardly daubed in black paint on a white placard. Temple of Boom. We’re in the right place.
Stairs lead down to the basement out of Fight Club, then open into a sizeable room with capacity for a few hundred bodies. The stage is an ideal height for the band to kick unruly fans in the head if they get any ideas.
The ceiling and walls are stenciled with skeletons, like the photographic negatives of human beings that are left on pavements and buildings by a nuclear blast.
Its empty and utilitarian. The ticket booth is caged off. There are no bouncers. My wife and I look at each other and smirk. She knows what I’m thinking – I know what she’s thinking. This place is great.
We’re unfashionably early to meet with our French mates, the Parisian street punk band Rixe. They’re outside smoking cigarettes and drinking Carlsberg from cans.
“Hey! The bloody Saxons are coming!” shouts Wattie the singer as we approach. It’s all in good fun.
After we’ve caught up with Rixe, the first band begins their set with a squeal of ear-rupturing feedback.
They’re called Arms Race and, like The Flex who follow after, they’re part of a new wave of British hardcore bands. They’re the clean and well oiled machine guns of the scene delivering, rapid-fire, track after track of intense noise. Each song a short, sharp shock, bursting from the chest and briefly terrorising the room before dropping dead.
We head outside for air and cigarettes. The only chairs available look as though they were stolen from a state school that bottomed out in the 1980s. The outside toilet is a trough screwed to the wall covered in band stickers.
We hear the howl of a distorted E chord; the full stop at the end of The Flex’s set. Rixe head inside. They’re on next.
The room has filled up. I discover that Eagulls, a successful indie band who just recently appeared on David Letterman, are top of the bill for the night. It seems like an odd pairing. Street punk and indie. Only in this place.
The air is wet outside and the walls inside glisten with dew like the Jackson 5 in polyester. Lungs struggle and gasp. Breathing gets harder as the writhing bodies collide to the rhythm of aggression. The mob wrestling with itself in a pit of pseudo-violence, dilutes the air with the moisture of sweating men.
Rixe fans dominate the room; a hivemind Tazmanian devil whirlwind in the centre of the crowd. Fists fly, boots kick and faces laugh and grin with blood coming out of them. The lyrics are all in french and I don’t “parlez Francais”. I do share the universal language of action. Action for its own sake. Action as catharsis. Life is sterile and Rixe came to mess it up during their 50 minute set.
The venue was our Alma Mater, it enabled us. The Leeds gentrification has left a number of alternative venues dead in its path in the name of progress.
The Temple of Boom on Millwright street in Leeds is the last bastion – a place with very few rules, where the cage is opened and good music is unleashed.