“THERE’S 350 GIGS a night in London!” was once exclaimed by a much-loved veteran BIMM lecturer. An unbelievable number, truly. Hyperbole or not, there are more places in our city to see live music than anywhere else in the world. To commemorate Independent Venue Week, here are our favourite five.
Words: Johnny Fry
1. The Windmill
Situated on a back street, The Windmill is London’s Mecca for rising stars, making stars of bands such as Black Midi, Black Country, New Road, Fat White Family and Shame. A humble setting with a rock and roll, anarcho atmosphere. You only have to sit in the smelly “shed” with the owner’s big, but friendly, Alsatian for a second before like- minded conversations start flowing.
Tube station: Brixton
The no-holds-barred, 24/7 techno hotspot welcomes all the freaks at any time. You will arrive at 7am for the afterparty and party with people who have been there all night, making for a very fluid and ever-changing demographic. Famous for their queer parties and heavy-hitting electronic music, this venue is perfect for anyone seeking extreme hedonism.
Tube station: Canning Town
3. Cafe OTO
Is it a café? Is it a record shop? A music venue? A cinema? Every time, the vibe is different. In the epicentre of trendy East London, Dalston’s Cafe OTO showcases all things weird and wonderful to the East End beard-scratchers. It’s not pretentious, it’s just high-brow. Go and hear a classic album on their audiophile hifi system or see an arthouse film!
Overground station: Dalston Junction
4. The Scala
The Scala is especially accessible to those who live outside of London. Utilising an old art-deco cinema as a music venue is not uncommon but is fantastically done here. Not only does it accommodate big name musicians but also London’s most famous fetish night, Torture Garden, if that’s your kind of thing…
Tube station: Kings Cross St Pancras
5. The Roundhouse, Camden
Camden, London’s home of all things rock and roll, it’s not yet past it! Historically revered, with a swallowing sound system that fills the large dome-like building, it’s seen many greats pass through its doors – The Doors, Hendrix and Led Zeppelin, if you’ve ever heard of them. Echo and The Bunnymen are stepping through in 2022 – not to be missed.
Tube station: Chalk Farm