At the entrance to the toilets in the upstairs bar of The Social, there’s a gripping sight. A feast of a photo. It’s of Bowen, the guitarist in Idles, who you probably recognise prancing around stages in his pants. In the photo, he’s shirtless, holding a freshly cracked open bottle of Staropramen, handlebar moustache limp with sweat and eyes glazed over with adrenaline and exhaustion as he stares directly in to the face of a lens, post-performance. It’s Rowan Allens’ lens. This is a Rowan Allen photograph. But, you don’t need the credit to know this.
Tonight, at The Social, is the launch of an exhibition that celebrates all of her work from the past two years. A personal selection of photographs that have documented her time on the road, in the pit, at the afterparties and all the debauchery in-between. The sheer wealth of people that have turned up from various ends of the country (the Gurr girls came from Berlin) is testament to her ability as a trustworthy figure in the industry and the respect that she garners. The Social is a great space for any creative endeavour, everything slots neatly in to its cosy capacity – from people ruminating over the photos, to Ash from Happyness slut-dropping on the bar in 7-inch heels whilst Grace from Femme Collective drops Thank U Next from the decks. It’s the type of ‘big fuck-off launch party’ that Rowan intended to have. The kind where Jagerbombs decorate the bar, friendships are forged in toilets and poor life choices might be made.
Rowan’s work is easily recognisable. When you scroll through Instagram, there’s certain grains to the image and a certain emotional understanding that lets you know, inherently, that it’s her’s. She truly captures the essence of her subject; her zoom lens sharpened by their aura and energy, whether it’s the vulgar vitality of Amyl & The Sniffers, Charlie Steen’s sweat-ridden back or the etherealness of Iceage’s Elias Ronnenfelt, most shots are candid but superbly set-up with an avid eye for an interesting situation.
There’s three performances, curated specifically for the launch: Drahla, Ugly and an acoustic slot by Asha, Louis and Campbell from Sorry. Each artist Rowan ‘hugely admires and believes are amongst the best in their fields.’ The stop-start acoustics of Sorry are serene, a charming starter to the night, as Asha’s delicate vocals overlap Louis’. Ugly, grins plastered across their faces, gift aural treats via clean reverbed guitars, drawling vocals and a general languidness that tilts and turns at anomalous angles. Drahla finish the night off with a platter of gnarled post-punk.
Tonight is a perfect catalyst for Independent Venue Week and shows the unity and pride that binds the underground together and keeps it fertile. It’s hard to pinpoint where the night ends or rather, carries on, but it’s safe to say that ‘big fuck-off launch party”, is ticked off a on a list somewhere.
Check out the photos of the night below. Photos by April Arabella
Rowan’s photos are available to view in the upstairs bar of The Social on Little Portland Street for the next month.