The hottest places in town

The Culture section’s guide to all the best clubs and cafés on either side of the river!


The Roundhouse (Camden) – Amika Shah

The Roundhouse is my favourite of the larger venues. It has an interesting history where, despite being an old (yet beautiful) building, originally used for railways, it still has a modern feel. There’s a real spiritual aura too, with so many legendary bands having played there in the 60s and 70s, including The Doors and The Clash.

It’s easy to get to, being within reasonable walking distance of Camden tube. Usually I’ll get the bus to Camden and then walk from there. The location is another thing I like about the venue: it manages to be near enough Camden to retain the musical history, but far enough to be away from the all tourist traps. Camden is great for post-gig drinks, as you’d expect, and I recommend the Lock Tavern and the Hawley Arms.

The pubs in particular can be good. The Wheelbarrow is quite lively too, and if you’re struggling to find a space at the bar in the other places then it’s worth trying out. It often has great music on for Rock lovers.


Cafe Oto (Dalston) – Jake Thorne

It’s hardly diamante but before I go on I must mention The Macbeth in Hoxton, which occupies a special dark corner of my heart. It’s endearingly grotty, but fun. Unfortunately it’s closing down, so I’d recommend everybody check it out before it goes.

Café Oto is next choice. It’s a bit more serious, frequently putting on free jazz amongst other genres. It has a great selection of wines and foreign beers which you wouldn’t usually find in other venues, and is right by Dalston Junction, so neatly placed for travel.
I mean it’s no rockabilly stomp night, and the beards and jam jar enthusiasts are out in force, but the music always surprises, even if it is on the aloof and experimental side for some.

Plus, you can get tickets on the door most nights, so it’s not like you have to read Wire magazine religiously to pre-empt gigs and nab your tickets. I usually get the bus up to Dalston, and there’s plenty going on there at night, as you’d expect, with clubs like The Alibi and The Nest just around the corner.


How Does It Feel To Be Loved? (Brixton) – Neil Jones

If you’re looking for something raw and soulful on a night out in London, an antidote perhaps to the blood and thunder of trend-obsessed hipster hangouts, then a humble eleven year-old club night by the name of How Does it Feel to be Loved? might well set you on fire.

The clubnight is run by ex-Melody Maker writer Ian Watson, and rings with the poetry of outsider pop music, affectionately merging Motown classics and obscurities with the classics of popular indiepop and the kind of awkward, often shambling guitar-based indiepop music that’s been left in the shadows by the market-driven mainstream music media.

HDIF also runs an occasional record fair from the (alas) soon-to-be closed Canterbury Arms pub in Brixton, where Pop enthusiasts can find all kinds of stuff that’s fallen off the edges of popular culture, as well as new music from the margins.

Although it’s not exactly a live music night, it certainly pulsates with the same kind of energy, so if you need a place to rock out and there’s nothing else on that tickles your fancy, check it out!


Paper Dress Vintage (Dalston) – Neil Jones

Running a club night here myself, I might be judged as biased for including the venue as my pick (strike me down with a giant inflatable banana), but if you’re looking for a place outside of the rub of trendy London clubs, with some genuine balls, a dose of humour and a bit of mischief, check out Paper Dress Vintage.

It’s a Shoreditch boutique which by day is a favourite shopping haunt of Keira Knightly; by night, a club that puts on a range of stuff from jive dancing and fashion illustration classes to rockabilly and swing jazz jamborees.

Stumbling in on a late-night party here is like being beamed into a B52s video on LSD, the place swaying to vintage vinyl whilst everyone drinks from large fishbowl glasses. Shimmering spectre-like on the walls are a bunch of immaculate dresses from the 1920s.

And if you don’t happen to be dancing, you’re likely to be perched on the seat of a hairdryer from the 50s. As a music venue, it’s the stuff of uncategorisable dreams.

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