The Harmonic Room

When I first arrived in Leeds in 2002 the experence of going to regular gigs was pretty new. Coming from Plymouth, the idea of a ‘music scene’ was a joke, the very concept seemed like something that only existed in America or maybe London. In my 19 years in that town, which had its architectural history stubbed out by Hitler’s bombs during WWII and a strong Naval presents (hence Hitler dedicating more bombs to Plymouth than any other town outside of London). Lots of these naval folk frequented the chip shops and offered to wrestle you around said chip shops on the bases that they didn’t like your face, Mos Eisley cantina style.

Aside from dodging flying pint glasses for having long hair and being flung around chips shops in Union Street (voted 5th most dangerous street in the UK), during my stay I’d been to precisely two memorable gigs: Radiohead and Clinic. If you were to track the gig actively in those years I’m pretty sure that you’d find that these where in-fact the only two gigs of worth (I’m not including Steps and Take That).

It was mind blowing to be a young student in Leeds and getting to meet this living-breathing group of active people, which you could accurately describe as a ‘local music scene’. This largely revolved around Cops & Robbers - a collective of musicians and promoters that printed a low cost monthly gig guide with a leaning towards a ‘for love not profit’ attitude and still does to this day.

When you’re young you’re so open to the world, but I guess, totally naïve. You get older and snobbery kicks in, which perhaps comes from bitterness from realising that you were so naïve. Never the less that youthful openness seems to leave you. Why dame it! Don’t let go of your openness people, cling to it like your heartbeat, otherwise you’ll be blind to the good stuff.  I remember going to a lot of these shows in the first few years and witnessing this communal atmosphere thing.
“We’re all going through the same thing and its beautiful”.  I guess its like church, but with out all the unnecessary fuzzy logic.

One of the many easily hireable venues that these shows happened in was The Cardigan Arms. I don’t know how easy it is to hire these days.
This photo has been a major source of inspiration for me over the years; it’s where I lifted all the graphics to make this web site and font. The name Harmonic Room intrigued me. What happened inside a Harmonic Room? Maybe the same thing that I’d witnessed at those early DIY Leeds gigs? Who made a Harmonic Room? That question lead to the ‘Architects’ bit of Architects of Harmonic Rooms. It also refers to the artists and audience who all make up the Harmonic Room, we’re all architects of our own reality after all. The Harmonic Room as I choose to see it, is a room that contains air particles, which are laden with atmosphere. Where every member of the room, contributes to its happy existents.  

Various drunks took over the pub over the years. I remember one of the last times I tried to book the Harmonic Room upstairs which I reluctantly referred to as the ‘gig room’. These guys had a ‘Harmonic Room’ dame it! It had the potential to blow peoples minds into hyperspace, but no, the new owners decided to rip out the beautiful bar and paint over the intricate wallpaper with ‘toilet duck blue’ and adorn the walls with cow skin rugs, what class… I digress, so, I’m at the bar talking to the staff, asking if its possible to speak to someone who I could book the room with. Apparently the landlord is away and has entrusted his brother to run the place. This guy is off his face, pulling free pints for his mates and “just one more” for himself while he’s at it. As I'm attempting to communicate, one of his darling friends gets up off his perch and places his face about two inches away from my face and proceeds to tell me in a very loud voice to “Fuck off”. I figure the best course of action is to ignore the man and carry on with getting some information out of Mr Alcoholic barman. I’m told to come back later in a somewhat more polite manner, which I figured I never would… who wants to put on a gig in that atmosphere?

Until, I got to thinking, on my last visit, the cut glass Harmonic Room door… was missing. They sold off that beautiful bar a few owners ago, so maybe they sold off the glass or maybe the tasteless trolls left it in one of the resident skips in the car park out back, ready for me to swipe and take into my possession. I did some research which involved: looking into the skip, nothing but junk, so I ventured in the public house one last time to see if I could get any info. The drunken brother was nowhere to be seen, a more sober barman greeted me and I asked about the glass on the ‘gig room’ door. “Some drunk punched it in” he said.
That was the end of that. Failure of saving and death of the scared door.

Fuck failure though, I’m taking these harmonic rooms with me everywhere I go, the bastards can punch in and sell off all the beautiful things they like but they’ll never take away my Room of harmonics and I’ll travel to globe to find and witness more of them and try as be as responsible as I can for helping create them.

Harry Wheeler – Homeless and couch surfing.
January 2014

If anyone out there knows any more history about the origin of Harmonic Rooms (I’ve heard that there one in Liverpool and on in Glasgow) I’d love to know, please fill in the contact form.  

© Architects of Harmonic Rooms 2005 - 2014