With the recent announcement that the legendary Throbbing Gristle, those early purveyors of industrial music, are to reform for a TG 25th Anniversary event next year, this screening now seems like a clever viral marketing exercise. However, this too was a genuine anniversary event as Throbbing Girstle played live in the courtyard of the Architects Association on 3rd March, 1978. In cult terms this evening was pure class. Although nowhere near as cool as the original fluxus like event of course. But still real underground stuff. Literally, as the location for the screening was a modestly sized basement room just a few yards from the courtyard where the performance originally occured. A series of suitably cheap looking photocopied A4 signs emblazoned with the famous TG lightning logo pointed the way.
A digital clock projected on the wall (again flanked by matching red TG logos) counted down the time from the screening start to the end. The film image itself was projected at a suitably oblique angle, with the squed picture appearing as much on the ceiling as on the back wall of the room. What followed was a real-time record of that 1978 performance, jazzed up slightly with dated, but agreeable late 70s video processing technology. This low-fi image distortion was perfectly suited to the machine noise soundtrack. Modern digital processing would have somehow been wrong, and so the combined audio/visual effect was, in all honesty, surprisingly engaging.
Before very long, provided one had a reasonably uninterrupted view of the film in this crowded space, this became increasingly hypnotic. Even so, some younger, black-clad members of the audience who seemed to be there more out of a sense of respectful duty to TG than as real enthusiasts soon, gracefully admitted defeat and departed with smiles on their faces, as if acknowledging that this was just a bit too out there for their tastes. Was the much debated so called pop-ularisation of industrial music perhaps behind this lack of handling, I wondered?
The unexpected light entertainment value of seeing employees and students of the Architects Association literally throwing stuff at the band members in protest at the (what they presumably saw as) dreadful, indulgent, art wank noise that Throbbing Gristle were churning out, produced several incongruous belly laughs. In the wrong, less talented, hands a filmed event such as this could have been interminably dull - like some 'experimental' dance video work cluttering up late night Channel 4 schedules. Instead, this was a surprisingly life-affirming artistic experience. Challenging for sure, but never indulgent. From this alone, it is easy to understand why Throbbing Gristle are one of the most important bands in the history of the industrial music movement.