List: London Music Venues

Here are a list of my 7 favourite music venues in London. 7 is an weird number to have for a list, I hear you say. That’s because I originally thought of 5 but then thought of 2 more that I really like. I obviously haven’t been to all the venues in London so I may well be missing some goodens. When bands announce tour dates these are the venues I hope come up.


The Borderline is conveniently located just off of Charing Cross Road. Handily, it’s opposite Foyles bookstore. Because I have a habbit of arriving unfashionably early to most gigs I usually take a look around Foyles before a show at the Borderline. Plus, it always seems to be raining when I see shows there so Foyles is good to escape the rain. The Borderline is small and cosy and underground and has a nice atmosphere. It’s pretty good for starting and finishing near enough on time too. The hand stamp people are always cheerful and friendly. My only complaint is the lighting! I find it so hard to take nice photos at the Borderline.


Ok ok, half the reason why I love this venue so much is because it’s literally across the road from me. Other reasons include the fact that shows there are usually pretty cheap, around £5. They had St Vincent and My Brightest Diamond play there before I moved to London, dammit. I wish I could have been at those shows. The venue is really, really tiny and intimate. It’s cosy and the sound man does a great job of getting the sound to be perfect. There are comfy sofas to sit on and candles on the tables, it would be quite easy to drift off to sleep in there.


Shows here are great! I wish more bands would play in St Giles. I love that they actually open the doors on time, because alot of venues don’t. The atmosphere is epic, and there’s a nice novelty of seeing a band you like play in a church, it feels special. The lighting is bright too which makes photos easy. The only downside is I fidget alot and the church pews are uncomfortable.


Located way out in Kilburn (not in walking distance!), it had to be a pretty nice venue to make the list. I’ve only been there once but I’d love to go back there soon. They opened doors a little late but the staff were all very friendly. The venue inside is very pretty, there’s a big disco ball and velvet-y red curtains. The light was quite nice and the sound was good. Handily, there’s a little alcove type thing by the side of the stage, and because people are always like “ohnoes I don’t want to go stand up the front!” it makes a nice spot to sit in and be close and take photos in while the rest of the audience are being shy and hanging back.


Cargo is nice! They don’t seem to like starting on time though. It’s not so bad because there’s a nice comfy seating area in the bar/restaurant area. Because I’m cheap I can’t afford the food, although it looks tasty. The sound is great and the light is nice too. I never, ever buy drinks at venues because it’s they’re always ridiculously expensive. I don’t understand why or how anyone can afford to buy drinks at these places, but when I fainted I thought I needed some sugar so I got a coke from the bar. If I remember correctly it was £1.60! For a little cup of coke, mostly full of ice. I could have gone to a newsagent’s and bought three cans of coke for that price! It’s the same everywhere though, so it’s not really Cargo’s fault. Cargo is also pretty close to me and not far from Old Street station for people travelling in.


Another great venue way out of central London. You have to get the Victoria line to Brixton, and there’s not really any other lines you can take to get there. It’s about 10/15 minutes walk  from the tube station. Brixton is quite notorious, people say it’s a dangerous place but it seemed fine to me. The venue is nice and cosy, almost TOO cosy. Nah, nothing is too cosy, but it did get very very hot when I saw Jeff Lewis. The venue is tiny and I see it sells out it’s shows alot. The tickets are cheap and good value for your money. The lighing is great, nice atmosphere, great place.


A pub owned by Vice Magazine. Small, intimate, nice light, good sound. The atmosphere is great. It’s handily in walking distance from my halls, not far from Old Street Tube station either. The lighting makes taking photos quite nice. I’ve only been there a couple of times but I look forward to seeing more (hopefully free) shows at the Old Blue Last.

That’s the end of the list. I haven’t been to Bush Hall yet but I hear it’s nice. It’ll probably make me sad to be there though, because I still think about that Emily Haines & the Soft Skeleton show that I missed there in June 2007 because of my exams. All the venues on my list are pretty small and allow cameras, two important criteria. I always get a nicer, more trusting vibe from venues that don’t feel the need to rifle through your bag before they let you in. I do like ULU and Scala, they have wonderful light and nice sound. Shame about their camera policies. Koko is big but is very pretty inside, it’s just a nightmare getting out of the venue. In terms of instores, Rough Trade and Pure Groove are so great; we’re lucky to have them here. Pure Groove are good for lunchtime instores, and Rough Trade for dinner time. That’s how it should always be, every day.

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5 Responses to List: London Music Venues

  1. Adam December 21, 2008 at 4:28 pm #

    As someone who has been to almost every venue in London, that’s a pretty decent list. Luminaire, Union Chapel, Bush Hall, St. Giles and the Cargo would be my top 5 – the sadly departed Spitz would have been up there too. Try to get yourself to Union Chapel next year, it’s such an amazing setting for shows.

  2. anikainlondon December 21, 2008 at 6:13 pm #

    I’m excited about seeing Frida Hyvonen at Bush Hall, I’ll keep an eye on what’s on at Union Chapel. I think Beirut would be quite good in a place like St Giles.

  3. crazybobbles December 21, 2008 at 11:47 pm #

    Bush Hall is all kinds of horrific! Though I suppose it’s nice if you saw a big band play :P Spitz was pretty neat, but pretty sweaty (that or I was going to a Polysics gig and I had to expect that). I think my top 5 are St Giles, Scala, ULU (mmmm fuck off lights), Roundhouse and Wembley Stadium (hahahahahah, it was fun smuggling a camera there!)

  4. Mike January 5, 2009 at 10:31 pm #

    Good list Anika. Cargo is a great venue isn’t it, and the Brixton Windmill is such a fun place. My favourite venue has to be the Brixton Academy, great sound, great views, great bands. Brixton really isn’t that bad these days.

  5. anikainlondon January 5, 2009 at 10:39 pm #

    Thanks Mike. I like your venue guide alot too.

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