As far as community spaces go, the old Heffron Hall in Burton Street Darlinghurst, with its bland red brick 60s façade, served the area well for more than a half century. Back in the laissez faire days of the 60s and 70s you could hire the venue for a song, sling the caretaker ten dollars to disappear for the night, run your own illegal bar and make as much noise as you liked. The cops were nowhere to be seen.
As such the old Heffron became a popular weekend venue for many a young band, looking to run their own gig and carve a niche in the city’s then burgeoning live music scene. Combos such as The Hawaiian Housewreckers and The Drifting Daleks played for an entry fee that was around two or three dollars along with added attractions such as MC extraordinaire Mort Fist and the infamous Midget Review.
These days the almost brutalist old Heffron is unrecogniseable, following a multi million dollar, architect designed, makeover – reborn as the now two storey East Sydney Community & Arts Centre (aka ESAC). Some might label it just another cash splash vanity project on the part of the current Lord Mayor, along with the similarly hyper-refurbished Juanita Nielsen Centre in Woolloomooloo. However it’s good to see that some of the spirit of those earlier days lives on with a series of nights dedicated to some of Sydney’s lesser known fringe artists.
When it comes to the marginal and so called underground culture, the ebullient husband and wife teaming of Jay Katz and Miss Death have long been at the forefront of promoting and hosting numerous film nights and festivals, live music and dj events and all manner of weird and confronting warehouse experiences. Not surprisingly when the crew from Brand X approached them to become part of their Flying Nun program at ESAC, they jumped at the opportunity to stage a regular monthly showcase of outsider and experimental artists.
Titled The Experiment, Miss Death and Katz describe their night as a kind of avant garde variety show, encapsulating a diverse cross section of fringe dwelling artists drawn from music, film and performance – all designed to deliver an event of totally unpredictable, obscure and unique entertainment. As they point out:
“Art should be driven by passion and not purse strings. Sydney has become one of the most expensive cities in the world and therefore its ability to nurture the talents of grass roots creativity is now virtually non-existent.”
The opening night promises a totally eclectic mix from Kcin, the experimental sound project of Australian drummer/producer Nicholas Meredith, through explosive Northern Soul dancing with Kyle ‘Rawhide’ Druery to the outstanding young ten year old ballet dancer and child prodigy Christian – to name just a few.
If you have ever been to an event hosted by Death & Katz you’ll soon realise that their multi-medium attack on the senses seldom stops (along with Miss Death’s knitting). Interspersed amongst the various live artists will be a cavalcade of short films and music clips from contemporary sources augmented with archival footage gathered in their Mu-Meson Archives over the course of many decades – collaborations with the Found Footage Festival, Trasharama, the Sydney Underground Film Festival, Glass Doll Films, Vivid KX Sinema, Cult Sinema Obsurca, Delux Media Arts and much, much more.
The Experiment stages this coming Friday February 2 at the East Sydney Community & Arts Centre in Burton Street Darlinghurst. Check out the full Flying Nun program at: www.brandx.org.au