Music History

Planning on visiting London soon? Here are some tips for music fans

[Next month, I’m leading a group of music fans with Flight Centre for a rock’n’roll tour of London. Jess Walter has done a little reconnaissance for us. – AC]

Small is Still Beautiful – London’s Best Live Music Venues

With over 17 million tourists visiting London each year, the city has never been more on trend. It’s a popular location for Canadians who feel an affinity with the British – and then there’s the sights, food, culture and people-watching. And of course, the music. There’s nothing quite like getting up close and personal to your favorite band or singer, or seeing a musician while they’re in the process of ‘making it’ and progress onto the bigger, less personal stadiums. London’s small independent venues may be dwindling, but they are still as potent as ever. There are currently only 88 live music venues in London, which seems surprisingly small for how important London is on the music scene. If you’re visiting London it seems more vital than ever to visit and support a live music venue as part of your itinerary.

South and West London

If you’re here to experience London’s infamous nightlife, then you’ll be pleased to hear that some of the pubs double up as the best live music venues in London. The iconic location The Windmill is exactly that. Charmingly tatty from the outside, the venue has hosted some quality names such as Plan B, The War on Drugs and Bloc Party in its relaxed venue. West London is one of the smarter and more well-heeled areas of London and has lots of luxurious places to stay.  Notting Hill may be upscale these days, but the Notting Hill Arts Club maintains it’s low key attitude and relaxed ambiance. The basement venue has seen names such as La Roux and Lily Allen grace its stage before they made it big.

Central and East London

A music hotspot, Camden is home to the well-established venue Dublin Castle, most famous for being Amy Winehouse’s favorite haunt. In its lifetime as a music venue, the Dublin Castle has played a vital role in the music scene, from providing a home to Madness through to being a Britpop institution during the 1990s. Bands which have played here are some of the biggest names in the business – The Killers, Supergrass, Blur and The Arctic Monkeys to name a few. Soho, with its bustling streets and louche ambiance, has long since been home to a myriad of live music greats. There’s Ronnie Scott’s jazz bar as well as The Borderline with its eclectic range of acts from folk through to Ska.

East London retains its title as the super hip place to go out. The Shacklewell Arms is a buzzy indie venue which specializes in putting on small and intimate gigs in Hackney. It’s definitely the place to head to if you’re looking to see some up and coming bands on the indie scene.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

Alan Cross has 38291 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

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