When you’re new to the city it can be quite hard to navigate the best places to find live music in London. Bar Editor Daniela CM has you covered with a list of ten of the best.
I am guilty of taking for granted, and often forgetting, how lucky I am to live in London. Besides the many reasons of London being a great city, without a doubt, is the amount of music venues and bands that come to play here every year. Big iconic bands to smaller more underground bands grace our stages on a weekly basis.
There are endless venues to choose from. In London if you have license to play live music, space and no douche neighbors, anyone can just about have bands playing at their place. It is a hard list to condense but I have decided to stick to the slightly bigger and more iconic venues in London and in no particular order;
The Underworld, is a basement venue part of the World’s End pub. Located across from Camden Town stations it has become the heart of Camden’s alternative scene. This venue holds a special place to me, as here was the first gig I went to see in London; Esoteric. Since, I have seen a lot of my favourite bands like; Pagan Altar, Sodom, Saint Vitus and the Devil’s Blood to name a few.
A very important venue, with many bands releasing live CDs and concert DVDs such as Motorhead’s ‘Live in Hammersmith’ and Iron Maiden’s ‘Live After Death’ (side 4) and ‘Beast over Hammersmith’. Other bands such as Rush, Celtic Frost, David Bowie and Tears for Fears also recorded CDs and DVDs over the years.
Located by the busy King’s Cross station, the Scala is a venue I remember for being full of staircases. The way the venue has been built it is great for a short person like me to go to a gig as their different levels stop tall people standing in front of me. I have had the pleasure of seeing many amazing acts such as High on Fire and Shrinebuilder. An interesting fact is that Iggy and The Stooges played there in 1972 while recording Raw power in London.
Originally a roundhouse between London and North Western Railway, it was used as a warehouse for many years until it was later reopened as a music venue. This Chalk Farm venue has had many exclusive acts such as The Doors’ only UK appearance in 1968.
The Garage is a British music venue in Highbury, considered to be one of London’s “landmark venues”. Opened in 1993 as an iconic rock and indie venue. Over the past years Live Evil festival has been hosted here and many bands like Pentagram, Grand Magus and 40 Watt Sun have graced the stage.
The Koko is a big theatre-like venue with beautiful red interior and a rooftop terrace. Besides hosting gigs they also run regular club nights. I have been to see various gigs such as Neurosis, Church or Misery and Monster Magnet and absolutely love it in there.
There are about 20 O2 venues around the UK and unfortunately I haven’t been to all of them.
Here are my top 3 choices.
- Shepherd’s Bush Empire O2
A venue which has become much more than just an important music venue, it has also become one of the capital’s iconic entertainment venues. It has seen some truly inspirational artists such as; late Bowie, Prince, The Who, Rolling Stones and Saxon.
- Kentish Town Forum
The Forum, is a venue I almost frequent as much as some of my regular bars. Hosting bands like Blue Oyster Cult, Sleep, King Diamond, Roky Erikson and even Boltfest it is one of my favourites in terms of the artists who have stepped on it’s stage.
- Brixton Academy
Most of the rock venues in London are mostly concentrated north of the river, but the Brixton Academy brings rock music to those south. With great acts like Eric Clapton, Dire Straits and the Police in the ‘80s it became very popular. More recently, it keeps surprising us with acts like Motorhead, Judas Priest, New Order and even comedy with Doug Stanhope’s visit earlier this year.
The Electric Ballroom is both a music venue, a club and an indoor market during the day. This two-storey building has two dance floors and fours bars. I have been to this venue a few times to see bands like Electric Wizard, Obituary and Graveyard. Warning! Hide your gum. If the bouncers catch sight of ‘em you’ve lost ‘em.
The 100 Club is a music venue and a club located in busy Oxford Street. Going through various name changes, the club became iconic in British music. In particular this venue became very important with the punk scene, being associated with Punk Rock in the 70s, the likes of the Sex Pistols, The Clash, Buzzcocks, The Stranglers and the Damned to name a few.
The Half Moon Putney
Yet again representing South of the river, The Half Moon Putney is known to be one of the longest running live music venues, hosting live music every night since 1963. During its early days, this venue had the Rolling Stones, The Who and U2 as regular acts.
Honorary mention to: the Black Heart, The Unicorn, The Old Blue Last, The Dev, The Dublin Castle, Camden Assembly and the Monarch and all their support to the music scene.