Live Music in London this Autumn
Summer's over, so banish your thoughts of festival frolics for another six months. Tell yourself - the sound's rubbish and it always rains - then get inside and embrace music, up-close and personal.
There's another world aside from cavernous venues like Brixton Academy or Hammersmith Apollo, where you pay through the nose and mightn't even be able to get a glimpse of the stage. Pack inside a small pub to watch an upcoming punk band rip through a furious set, sink into a leather armchair in the confines of a smoky club with nothing for company but a Cuba Libre and some sexy sax, or let your foot tap away to the irresistible rhythms of a band from some far-flung nation in a café setting. Variety is the spice of live music in London town.
Check out our guide to the capital's best small venues with a run-down of the top autumn concerts now booking. If you love live music, you shouldn't miss out on London's brilliant collection of bantam venues.
49 Chalk Farm Road, NW1
Writing a venue guide to London without including an entry for Camden Town - home to a thriving indie scene and the destination of hundreds, if not thousands, of black-clad teenagers every weekend - would be tantamount to gross journalistic misconduct. Of the huge tally of pubs and clubs that line her streets, Barfly stands out thanks to the predominant quality of the live acts, in spite of the fact they put on gigs on each and every night of the week.
Optimistically speaking you might expect to catch tomorrow's flavour of the month, or even a band destined for super-stardom - Coldplay, Blur, Oasis, the Strokes and Death in Vegas have all graced the stage of Barfly. But this only happens on the rarest of occasions. Nevertheless, the promoters - who listen to over 500 hopeful demo tapes every week - have a knack of talent spotting, hence a crowd often speckled with record company A&R men. Such has been the success of the venue, that sister venues have opened in Cardiff, Liverpool, Glasgow and Birmingham, spreading the Barfly word across the British Isles.
Enter the gloomy downstairs bar, pick up a pint and head upstairs for the main event. On a busy night they pack the punters in, standing room only in front of the stage. It might be a bit tight but this makes for a fabulous atmosphere with the audience pressed right up against the stage. Join the young, enthusiastic crowds and show your appreciation by manically jumping around with wild, carefree abandon.
11th October 2006: Sunshine Underground - this melodic guitar band have managed to rip a bit of everyone off to great effect.
9th November 2006: Soho Dolls - twisted glam-electro-pop.
21st November 2006: Seal Cub Clubbing Club - stupidly named, yet quite excellent, off-kilter indie from the Wirral.
Barfly - Information | Hotels near Barfly
311 High Road, NW6
Music in its original form - it really ought to be terribly simple. But live music never seems to work out that way. However, the people behind the Luminaire like it that way, stripping everything down to the bare essentials. You can't argue with the pitch-perfect sound-system - when it gets loud it doesn't turn into a tinnitus-enducing screech, and the bass bin doesn't suffer severe flatulence. Many actually, really rather good bands, have had their subtle sound totally bastardised by small venue PAs, and, vice versa, appalling dross has been able to excuse itself. The Luminaire only tells the truth - it's amazing what sorting out the volume levels can do.
Working together with musicians, the well-trained, friendly staff have put on some truly terrific nights in the venue's short history. They only opened their doors back in 2005 but have already converted a whole host of music lovers to their cause. Before then north-west London was a barren desert in terms of live music.
Kilburn's not the most happening of neighbourhoods, but there are more and more young ones moving up to this corner of the capital, reflected in the appearance of The Luminaire and a clutch of tasty pubs and restaurants. Expect a mixed crowd of 20-somethings in band t-shirts, older muso folk, and whoever else has made the trip to see their favourite band. If you fancy a bite to eat before the band take the stage, you can fill up with some decent Thai nosh downstairs in the Kilburn Pub and Kitchen.
26th September 2006: Bonobo - gorgeous electronica sound-scapes and swirling vocals
31st October 2006: I Love You But I've Chosen Darkness - epic rock melancholia
10th November 2006: Trademark - 80s-inspired synth pop
The Luminaire - Information | Hotels near The Luminaire
109 Commercial Street, Old Spitalfields Market, E1
Spitalfield's Market has enjoyed a place right at the heart of the regeneration of east London. The Spitz is perched right on the edge of this bustling indoor collection of stalls and traders and, like its multifaceted, colourful neighbour, this venue is no one-trick pony.
You've got two options if you want to catch some live music. Book a table or have a drink in the downstairs bistro and listen to the free classical, jazz and blues concerts that happen four times a week. These are fairly low-key, background affairs but make a charming accompaniment to your night out. On the other hand, if you want the music to take centre stage, ascend the staircase to the venue proper, where you can enjoy concerts daily. You won't find a venue with a more eclectic list of acts on the bill. A carefully selected roster of classical, jazz, Latin, blues, folk, indie, beats and electronica all share the limelight without seeming muddled or out of place.
The candlelit interior is a relaxed, charismatic place to catch a band, and the sound quality is really excellent. We loved the strange mish-mash of patrons, composed of music buffs, lost city boys, market customers and strays who've wandered down from Hoxton and Brick Lane. For a breath of fresh air pop out to the terrace overlooking the market.
29th September 2006: Beth Orton and Bert Jansch - the two British folk stars take the genre into the 21st century
18th October 2006: Emmanuel Jal - African hip hop by a Sudanese, former child soldier
10th -19th November 2006: The Spitz plays host to a series of gigs for the London Jazz Festival.
The Spitz - Information | Hotels near The Spitz
275 Pentonville Road, King's Cross, N1
Housed inside the old King's Cross cinema, The Scala might be a bit tattered around the edges but this only adds to its battered charm. The venue welcomed legends like Iggy Pop during the 70s, but didn't dedicate itself solely to music until 1993. Since then, though, it has seen an illustrious series of soon-to-be-famous bands pass though its doors, including Foo Fighters, Chemical Brothers, Scissor Sisters and Suede.
The old cinema layout works really well, allowing you to watch bands from the pit, on one of the raised tiers, or in the upper gallery of seats - so short or tall, sitting or standing, you can get a decent eye-full of the band. The acoustics are pretty agreeable too. The Scala attracts a fairly heterogeneous array of bands, but the posse of hip hop artists is particularly remarkable.
King's Cross is by no means the most pleasant area of central London, especially after dark, but things are looking up with the planned arrival of the Eurostar in 2007. The Scala started the trend and now there are a few places to head on afterwards. We recommend the recently opened Big Chill House just down the road.
26th September 2006: Amp Fiddler - funk soul hybrid for the noughties.
17th October 2006: Seth Lakeman - Devonshire folk musician and Mecury Prize nominee on the fiddle.
2nd November 2006: Californian hip-hoppers with a sense of humour.
| Hotels near The Scala
Current events at Scala
Wednesday 27th May
Wednesday 27th May 2015 - 6.30pm-10.30pm
Alt rock and indie outfit featuring Adam Franklin, Jimmy Hartridge, Steve George and Mikey Jones....
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Effra Hall Tavern, SW2
By no means your average watering hole, The Effra defies most attempts at description or classification. From the outside it looks like a shabby south London boozer, and inside it has much the same feel. It was for places like these the phrase "je ne sais quoi" was invented: it’s got it in droves, whatever it is.
The welcoming staff laud over the island bar, dishing up pints of lager at bargain prices. There’s live music (usually jazz or reggae) nearly every night, which is rare in any pub - especially a low-key affair, off the main thoroughfare like The Effra. The motley ensembles often look as though they’ve borrowed a couple of musicians off the street, but rarely fail to impress. Last time we were there, the entertainment came from a Brazilian three-piece comprising guitarist, flautist and bongo player - they turned out to be magical and we left with a copy of their CD.
You can't help but feel some love for the clientele - a bizarre blend of locals, eccentrics, and new-age muso types. Plus the kitchen serves up a thought-provoking selection of Jamaican staples including a fiery jerk chicken and curried goat.
Recommended gigs: Well, the music programme at The Effra is none too organised, so you can't expect anyone to know what's going on very far in advance. Phone ahead to check if there's a gig - there usually is.
Effra Hall Tavern - Information | Hotels near Effra Hall Tavern
310 Uxbridge Road, Shepherd's Bush, W12
The Bush Hall is one of the capital’s most unique venues and its grandiose high ceilings have played host to a wide variety of artists, from classical ensembles to cutting-edge electronica. Built in 1905 as a dance hall, it sailed its voyage to 2001 in various incarnations; as a soup kitchen, bingo hall and snooker den, before being renovated by the current owners. Inside, The Bush Hall is really quite special, retaining literally all its original features, down to the opulent chandeliers that hang overhead and the elegant period plaster work. The long thin hall has a lovely acoustic and the promoters never fill it to bursting point which means it's easy to skip to the bar between acts.
The larger Shepherd's Bush Empire down the road gets all the mainstream gigs, whereas The Bush Hall welcomes niche artists and those on their way up. Plenty of now-famous acts have plugged themselves here, including Alanis Morissette and the Kings of Leon. Established bands also seem to love it for secret and fan club gigs - REM and Scissor Sisters have played to rapturous reception in recent times.
7th October 2006: BMX Bandits - old school Scottish indie poppers
14th October 2006: Trickledown - difficult to pigeonhole, this Yorkshire band are headed for greater things
Alternatively, check out Buzz, their monthly unsigned bands night, to uncover some rough diamonds.
| Hotels near Bush Hall
Current events at Bush Hall
Thursday 4th June
Thursday 4th June 2015 - 7.30pm
Folk singer Bridie Monds-Watson performs in support of her debut album, Before We Forgot How To Dream....
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94 Parkway, Camden, NW1
Legendary on the indie scene, thanks to some great work by their promoters, the Dublin Castle has seen many a fine band grace the cramped backroom stage on their way to the top. Madness started out here, Blur played a secret gig at the height of the Brit-pop era, not to mention the heaps of other groups including Cast, Travis and, err, Gay Dad, who have impressed the crowds along the way. Some of this success is based on the mud-throwing principal - hurl enough and some will stick. With gigs six nights a week, some turn out brilliantly, whilst others are truly dreadful. With music it's not easy to separate the wheat from the chaff.
Inside it looks like a skanky working men's club - but for some this adds a veneer of charm. It's certainly got that Marmite factor - I love it, my girlfriend considers it the devil in entertainment form. This is the kind of place to strut around the dancefloor clinging to two overflowing pints, head banging away, whilst holding an animated conversation with a newfound friend about the pros and cons of the new-wave-of-pseudo-Brit-punk revival. Open till two o'clock on weekends, it gets rammed to the gills, as an indie disco charms the youthful ever-so-Camden crowd. Loud, scuzzy and grubby, this is a place for people who like their gigs.
Recommended gigs: They only announce gigs shortly in advance, but you're guaranteed live music every night, save Tuesday.
| Hotels near The Dublin Castle
Current events at The Dublin Castle
Thursday 28th May
Thursday 28th May 2015 - 7.15pm
£6, adv/concs £4.50
Punchy classic metallers from Canada with support from Whiskey Chaser, Guns Of Anarchy, Seven7....
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The Dodgy Few
Wednesday 3rd June
Wednesday 3rd June 2015 - 7.15pm
£6 & £4.50
The band plays ska, funk and soul with support from Shoot The Preacher, Yvonne Mcdonnell, Echoic and The Gramotones....
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263-267 Old Brompton Road, SW5
This is Kensington's original boho coffee house - my dad saw Hendrix here back in the 60s and the family have never heard the end of it. Of course, Kensington has changed a great deal over the last 40 years and so has The Troubadour. These days you're unlikely to see a penniless poet in a threadbare suit or a struggling musician, but you will see some well-heeled 30-somethings and possibly still my dad.
Nevertheless, it still retains a thoroughly atmospheric ambiance. Bands huddle together on the tiny podium in the smoky basement, as the arty crowd squeeze in round the tables and into the standing area. The roster of bands strum through an eclectic range of genres from soul and singer-songwriters, to blues and country, as well as the standard indie schedule. The week is broken up with some more off-beat cabaret and poetry nights.
But it's not just a performance venue - upstairs there's a charmingly petite Gallic café decorated with large mirrors, stained glass, rustic wooden furniture and all sorts of trinkets from coffee pots to antique instruments. It's a great place for a drink or a bite to eat. Not to mention the delightful sylvan garden, the upstairs art gallery or the next door deli where you can pick up a treat to take home.
19th September 2006: Chris Singleton - Irish singer-songwriter melds classic melodies with contemporary sounds.
29th September 2006: Soulkitchen - timeless blues outfit.
| Hotels near Troubadour
Current events at The Troubadour
Wednesday 3rd June
Wednesday 3rd June 2015 - 7.45pm-11.30pm
The singer-songwriter plays rock/pop with support from Erin Mortimer....
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Thursday 4th June
Thursday 4th June 2015 - 7.30pm-11.55pm
The two-piece from the Sahara performs its world rock songs. Wotan support from Danto Acacusine....
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