Night out in the underground

  • 2009-02-11
  • By Kate McIntosh

RIGA -  Looking to escape the pressure of Riga's uber-cool high-heeled, skinny jean scene?
Then lace up your Doc Martens and make your escape at grunge dungeon "Depo."
Offering an eclectic program of rock, reggae, ska, metal, and more, Depo is Riga's hip underground lair for the more alternative.

It's here I find myself one frigid Friday evening shivering amidst a crowd of tattooed and pierced revellers waiting for admittance.
After passing muster with a typically jaded bouncer, I enter a dimly lit top bar which doubles as a relaxed cafe during the day.

In a nod to its urban, grunge leanings the no frills decor, the club comprises solely of stripped paint, graffitied walls and shabby furniture. The thrown together interior gives the place a lived in, comfortable feel that is more lounge room than club.
People congregate at the bar, nursing drinks over lively conversation.
Meanwhile a coat-check attendant expertly tends to a mountain of coats hanging haphazardly from oddly protruding wall hooks.

Depo has become something of a Riga institution over the years and is the lifeblood of the city's fledgling indie music scene. It has also been host to a raft of international acts from Scandinavian punk rock outfits to Canadian experimental DJs.
Among the most surprising things about Depo is the ease of conversation flow.
I'm barely in the door when a black hooded arts student with perfect English engages me in lively debate and a round of vodka shots.

"We are like the excrement; that is how they think of us," he volunteers bitterly when I ask his opinion on Latvia's current political and economic upheaval.
He continues with an articulate if somewhat uneven diatribe about Latvia's litany of woes before violently tossing back a shot of vodka for emphasis.

I leave the student to his musings and wander down a creaking staircase to the Depo's underground main bar.
In the semi darkness black clothed punks and Goths mingle, sharing smuggled vodka.
Estonian black metal outfit Talbot are at full throttle with an ear splitting set that comes as an immediate assault on the senses.
Yet, for all its weirdness, the duo's dark industrial style serves as a unique musical experience.
Next on the line up are local regulars. The Riga-based four-piece soon swell the dance floor with their less abstract brand of rock.

Meanwhile in the adjoining bar the club's owner, who also doubles as the in-house DJ keeps the crowd moving into the early hours with a selection of chilled, funky beats.
As the hour grows later the crowd grows decidedly more raucous, with nearby chairs and tables all utilized as dance floor props.

Depo isn't going to be to everyone's tastes. But for those looking to experience a more alternative night out in Latvia's capital with minimal fuss or pretension, then head underground.
Valnu iela 32, Riga.