Believe it or not, Chelmsford is the birthplace of radio (we are so proudly reminded by a road sign on the way in). Yet, walking down the High Street, past Yates', Lloyds No.1 and other drinking establishments at midnight, it's tempting to write off the county town of Essex as the binge-drinking capital of the world, contributing hardly any dance music worth whatsoever. But, avert your eyes from the glitzy glare of the town's central bars and look a little deeper you'll discover a warm, glowing beacon of nocturnal light living a few streets over. A funkily clad hub of revelrous joy still fighting to preserve the reputation of this unassumingly heritable music scene, soon to play host to some of the most cutting edge names in house and techno courtesy of new promotion outfit Gist.
Plonking itself on these concrete shores as a two-room club named Barhouse back in 2008, it welcomed Erol Alkan, Skream and Riva Starr to a town that, in the midst of throwing off the abrasive shackles of indie-guitar bopping dominating it during the best part of the noughties, sat primed to embrace some proper electronic music and get deep, down and funky without hopping on the train to London every weekend.
Today, after re-branding and scaling down to one room last summer, the venue (now called Hooga) has had been tastefully made over, taking as much from the vintage, bohemian styles of London's Shoreditch as it does the hip student hang-outs of Manchester or Glasgow.
Home to regular stand-up comedy, live music and boutique parties, the vibe is kept fairly low-key during the week, then revved up for occasional blow-out club nights at weekends. Fresh from welcoming Miguel Campbell on New Years Eve and soon to showcase Baalsaal's Samu.l this month (11th February), it's set to add a new jewel to its crown in March when Gist, a semi-regular night co-run by Magma's Gav Raynor, Hooga's Marc and his business partner Jon Board, launches with One Records co-boss, our Best of British Breakthrough DJ, Subb-an, on Saturday 3rd March.
“The ethos is to create unique, distinctive parties for like-minded people who enjoy the more underground sounds on the dancefloor,” says Gav. “We'll cover all aspects of deep house and techno with a little touch of bass, funk and disco thrown in for good measure.”
True to policy, this snug, 300-capacity trove clearly has big ideas, gearing up for Claude VonStroke's Essex debut alongside Eats Everything for a Dirtybird special on Thursday 5th April, followed by a Leftroom special as part of Matt Tolfrey's 'Word of Mouth' album tour also with Laura Jones and Sam Russo in June. If you ever needed a reason to visit Chelmsford, Gist is most definitely it.
Saturday 3rd March
+ GIST residents
Thursday 5th April
+ GIST residents
Saturday 2nd June
'Word of Mouth' tour