London music fans: where to go

08 November 2017

London is a music fan's paradise, here's some of London's cultural movers and shakers on their favourite music places to hang out.

The Old Blue Last, 38 Great Eastern Street, Shoreditch

music fan
From an outside point of view, The Old Blue Last is the most important venue in London. Every rising band that we’ve ever written about has played here or done a DJ set here. It’s been fantastic the gigs we’ve put on here for our magazine launches.

Our first event here was a Halloween show and featured The Big Moon in the line-up. Since then we’ve probably done about ten events and have booked bands like HMLTD and shame. Last summer we put on a three-night festival which featured Lemon Twigs and Yak. It was great - we had a massive queue going all the way down the stairs and out on to the street. The staff are brilliant here, they always offer help putting on gigs and are so supportive.

Chosen by Sam Ford and Josh Whettingsteel (Co-Founders of So Young Magazine)

Sounds of the Universe, 7 Broadwick Street, Soho

music fan

Firstly, it’s a great record shop and secondly, it’s in Soho. For me Soho’s like the beating heart of London. It’s where it all stems from.

I've lived in London for 30 years and Soho has changed beyond belief. Yet it’s still got something quite naughty about it. As with all great record shops the staff are very knowledgeable. They sell you things you don’t always want which for me is always a good sign in a record shop. I know a couple of guys who work behind the counter very well. They put things aside for me. You get that personal service you might not get in other shops. They know what I like. They also know to push you in a different direction.

They have a label called Soul Jazz that’s based on the top floor of the shop which releases some great stuff. You can buy their records from the shop cheaper than anywhere else. It’s also a beautiful building, which used to be a pub called The Bricklayer’s Arms. The Rolling Stones formed in a room upstairs in that pub in spring 1962. The Stones released Blue and Lonesome late last year. Sounds of the Universe did a big promotion because it was all about the band going back to their roots.

Chosen by James Endeacott (Label owner of 1965 Records)

Bussey Building, 133 Rye Lane, Peckham

music fan

I’ve been playing at Bussey Building for about two years. It’s a bit of a Peckham institution and has a huge spread of arts and culture within its walls; Theatre, film, galleries, the CLF Art Cafe and record shop Rye Wax. The club nights go right across the board musically, particularly on the dancier side of things - pretty much everyone’s played here at some point. It has a real warehouse rave atmosphere, and is always really good fun.

Our monthly night Main Squeeze concentrates mainly on Hip Hop and Soul. The staff are lovely too. It has a real family vibe. The building was basically saved from demolition a decade ago, by community group the Chronic Love Foundation (CLF) & Peckham Vision. It has since become a real cultural hub in this little pocket of south London. There’s something for the whole family here.

Chosen by Rob Bignell (DJ BobaFatt)

MOTH Club, Old Trades Hall, Valette Street, Hackney

music fan

MOTH club is a good example of how regeneration can work with what’s already there. This place is still a members’ club - MOTH stands for The Memorable Order of Tin Hats. It is non-political and non-religious organisation which remembers and celebrates the comradeship and help between the servicemen who served during the World War II. It still has all the original decor from over the years, the booths are the same, with an added sparkly gold ceiling.

The members still come and play bingo upstairs but then you have loads of young people coming in for the gigs. It’s a nice celebration of old and new, the generations coming together. It works very well. There’s been loads of great shows here and there’s also cabaret and comedy. It’s quite a special place - even Lady Gaga asked to play here for her last single launch.

Chosen by Lucy Pitkethly (promoter at Eat Your Own Ears)

Cafe Oto, 18 - 22 Ashwin St, Dalston

music fan

Cafe Oto is my local. I’ve always lived around here and this is the local experimental music venue for the area. I believe it used to be an old shirt factory. I’ve also played here quite a bit. I had my second album launch here. There’s a night called Krautrock Karaoke which I’ve played at with lots of interesting people.

I’ve seen lots of great bands here. Most recently I supported a band called Sacred Paws who are brilliant. It’s a cafe during the day and then transforms at night for the live performances. Most importantly for me, Cafe Oto curate a very interesting programme. I always check out what they have coming up. That’s why I’d recommend it anyone who’s interested in live avant-garde music.

Chosen by Serafina Steer (Harpist and Musician in Bas Jan)

JAS Musicals, 14 Chiltern St, Marylebone

music fan

I’ve been coming to Chiltern Street for years. There are lots of very nice coffee shops. More unusually, it has an oboe shop, bassoon shop, clarinet shop, an saxophone shop all next door to each other. At the other end of the street is JAS Musicals which stocks instruments that I don’t play. There’s always something interesting in there that I’ve never seen in my life before. Instruments which can only be described as a cross between a sitar and a guitar. There are also baskets filled with various bells and tiny one-stringed instruments which are very reasonably priced. Always an added incentive to buy them. The staff so helpful too. They sell these amazing miniature Indian harmoniums. I must’ve taken in half a dozen people to this shop. Everyone one of them has wanted to buy one of these incredible instruments. It really is a shop for retail inspiration.

Chosen by Steve Beresford (Improvising Musician)

The Social, 5 Little Portland St, Fitzrovia

music fan

The Social is a gem of a music venue in central London. Tucked away from the chaos of Oxford Circus on Little Portland Street, it's a haven to escape to after a busy day's work. Its upstairs bar is friendly, with records being played out, sweet cocktails whipped up, and booths to kick back in for the night. The basement offers a stream of live music nights, literary evenings and a sweaty dance floor to lose yourself on. Plus, The Social has the world's nicest sound guy, Tall Paul, who provides quality sound for any given night. 

The venue was founded in 1999 by independent record label Heavenly Recordings. It’s launched a million successful hangovers in the 18 years since it opened its doors.

Chosen by Katherine Cantwell (Heavenly Recordings)

Rough Trade, 130 Talbot Road, London

music fan

Rough Trade changed my life. I was studying are when I found out about the shop. I used to visit every Saturday. Loads of people would be hanging out chatting, bands would form and relationships and friendships would be made. It was an amazing place to be especially as I came from Portugal. Nothing much was happening there apart from the revolution! For me it was like going to another planet. It was interesting, vibrant, alive and beautiful. After a while I ended up working in the shop.

Then Gina Birch and I formed The Raincoats. Geoff Travis (who set up Rough Trade Shop as well as the Rough Trade record label) liked what he heard. He asked us to do a single and then we ended up going on tour. He next asked us to do an album and then another and another which were released on the Rough Trade record label. Fast forward a few more years and this shop was also the catalyst in The Raincoats resurgence. Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love came into the shop and asked our friend Jude (who was running and working in the shop) if they could get a copy of The Raincoats first album. It was out of print at the time. Jude sent him to where I was working and in the end one of the other co-owners of the shop, Pete Donne, donated his personal copy. I embellished to make it a bit more of a special edition. Because of that he invited The Raincoats to tour with Nirvana. Sadly, we never ended up going on tour with Nirvana but to this day The Raincoats story very much begins with those times at Rough Trade.

Chosen by Ana da Silva (Musician in The Raincoats)

House of St Barnabus, 1 Greek St, Soho

music fan
As soon as I walked through the doors - I wanted to do an event there. It’s a very special place. That’s why in October 2016, I teamed up with the Man Booker Prize to celebrate the biggest gong in literature. We programmed a Book Slam with Paul Beatty reading from his brilliant novel The Sellout [he won], Ottessa Moshfegh reading from her incredibly dark novel Eileen, Brummie poet and playwright Polarbear. We also had the 30-piece London International Gospel Choir.  It was immense.  Ever since then I’ve been dreaming about what else I can programme in there. I have a long list.   


1. The church is incredible - such an intimate [and secret] space in the seedy heart of Soho.

2. Jarvis Cocker and Gilles Peterson have curated events at the House. Gilles said "there’s magic in this place.” He’s right.  

3. It’s a social enterprise. They help people get skilled up and into work and break the cycle of homelessness.

4. It’s a charity which helps the homeless.  

5. It’s like an oasis. When all madness is happening outside the front door - it’s so calm and serene inside. The garden is great in summer and the first floor is great in winter.

6. It’s full of amazing art including work donated by Tracey Emin, Damien Hirst and Sir Peter Blake.

Chosen by Elliott Jack (Bookslam)

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