The Antlers at Hackney Empire
I'm in Wales at the moment, more specially seeing the Manic Street Preachers at Cardiff Castle with the lovely Gemma. Steve and I are driving back to London tomorrow as we're going to Field Day on Sunday to see Patti Smith, Ride and a few other awesome indie bands. It's been a super busy music week for us. We saw the wonderful London based pop duo Summer Camp on Monday and the gloriously folky Scottish Admiral Fallow on Wednesday. We were meant to see long term rockers The Replacements on Tuesday but ended up selling our tickets due to a manic week. On Tuesday we're going to see the Death Cab For Cutie for the first time ever which I'm very much looking forward to.
Steve and I go to a lot of gigs, a few each month but in the summer this seems to increase thanks to the festival season. We've got some exciting festivals planned over the next few months and Field Day is the official start to the season so I'm really getting into my summer fun mode. London has so many great venues and I've been meaning to write a post about my favourites for a while.
Haiku Salut lamp show at St. John on Bethnal Green
First things first, I hate large venues and try to avoid the likes of Brixton Academy, Ally Pally and the O2 at all costs. Even Shepherd's Bush Empire is a little large for my liking and I'm starting to feel the same about the Roundhouse, which is a shame because so many fantastic bands play there and it's a lovely space. Maybe it's because I'm a bit short and have terrible eye sight but I can never see very well in these big places. Fortunately a lot of the bands I like play in small spaces which are a. more intimate b. have better acoustics c. have fewer drunk idiots and d. sell cheaper tickets. Even though I'm not a fan of One Direction it makes me sad that when they play arenas they charge so much money for their tickets, even though the majority of their fans are teenagers. The nice thing about small gigs is that because they don't cost too much you can go to more. The Admiral Fallow gig on Wednesday cost £10 each and there are plenty of others gig that cost even less.
Islington Assembly Hall has become a really popular gig venue in the last few years and it's Upper Street location in Islington makes it's pretty easy to reach. I do miss Steve living in the flats next door as it would take us approximately 11 seconds to get home, now it's a long tube journey down south. This is a mid sized venue with a standing capacity of 600 people and even when I've been to sold out gigs it's never felt rammed. The building itself is beautiful with a big stage and decorative interior. The floor isn't slopped but the stage is raised enough that you can see without too many issues. The sound quality is great with the music sounding loud and clear, the one time I sat upstairs I still felt I could hear just as well. The venue attracts indie-pop-folky type bands and due to this genre and the little 'cash only' bar the vibe has always felt friendly. This is definitely a nice venue for nice people.
2. Bush Hall
Bush Hall is a little like Islington Assembly Hall, just smaller (capacity 400) and grander. Again, when I've been to sold out shows it's never felt rammed and I've been able to squeeze to the front of the room pretty easily. This is a hidden gem, from the outside the venue looks like a gastro pub but once inside you'll be shocked by how beautiful the concert hall is. There's not as many gigs here compared to Islington Assembly Hall, perhaps because it's a little out of the way in Shepherd's Bush but when you do get the chance to visit make sure you do because it's a really special place.
The Scala is an old favourite on the London gig scene and I never think it's anything special until I actaully go there. What I really like about this place are all the little platforms scattered about the place, meaning you can get a really good view from most parts of the room. With a capacity of 1,145 it's the biggest venue on my list but because of the layout it doesn't actaully feel that massive. It's Kings Cross location means it's super easy to get to.
I wanted to include a small 'pub' venue but there are so many decent ones to choose from it's hard to find a favourite. I love the Lexington, the Shacklewell Arms, the Sebright Arms, the Victoria, and Hoxton Square Bar and Kitchen for their small, intimate shows but recently I've really loved Oslo in Hackney. A relative newcomer in terms of venues, Oslo has only been around for a year or so but the gigs I've seen here have always been remarkable. The sound system is impressive and because it's such a small space you feel really immersed when the lights getting going. It's situated in the old station house next to Hackney Central station and boasts a fantastic Scandinavian restaurant on the ground floor. The chicken wings are some of the best I've tried. Apparently the capacity is just under 400 but it's always felt like a lot less when I've been there.
5. Union Chapel
Union Chapel is probably my all time favourite venue in London (900 capacity). Situated in a beautiful church on Upper Street, Islington (do you sense a theme) the sound and interior of this place are stunning. You can find all sort of gigs here from comedy, film screenings and music. The seating is unreserved so it's good to get there early and bag yourself a decent spot, but in all honestly everywhere has a good view, even upstairs. Once of my favourite things to do is watch a band whilst sipping a cup of tea in the pews.
I've still not made it too Wilton's Music Hall so I'm looking out for a gig there as it's meant to be a really beautiful venue and shout out to Hackney Empire as well which is a really beautiful, old theatre. As you can see there are so many amazing venues in London to suit a whole variety of bands. I said earlier that I didn't love big venues but if you ever get a chance to see someone at the Barbican or the Royal Festival Hall, take it because these huge concert halls are on a whole other levels from your standard arenas.
Cosines at Shacklewell Arms
I might as well mention my least favourite venue in London and that is without a doubt the Forum in Kentish Town. The sound is truly horrendous and I will avoid seeing anyway here unless they are my very favourite band, and I doubt the National or Green Day will be playing any time soon.
I'd love to hear what your favourite venue is and what sort of bands you like to see.