Where to see music
The 100 Club on Oxford Street is one of London’s most celebrated and cherished music venues.
The intimate venue, which holds just over 300 people, started out life as a restaurant and then primarily a blues and jazz club. It held several different names and incarnations in the 1940s but has long been a brilliant place to watch live music.
Those familiar with rock history will know that in September 1976 the 100 Club hosted the first ever punk extravaganza, featuring The Sex Pistols, Siouxsie and the Banshees and The Clash, among others. The venue has been synonymous with the punk movement ever since that day.
But the 100 Club has done a lot more than kick-start the British punk revolution. Just take a good look at the list of performers who have entered its doors. The likes of Muddy Waters, B.B. King and The Rolling Stones have all performed at the 100 Club in during its long and distinguished history.
In December 2010, with the club under the increasing threat of closure due to rising rents, ex-Beatle Sir Paul McCartney played an intimate show to raise awareness of the club’s plight, which thankfully played its part in ensuring the landmark 100 Club kept its doors open.
An historic venue that is a great place to see local or undiscovered talent, yet still hosts big-name bands and artists.
Location: 100 Oxford Street, Soho, London, England W1D 1LL
An ornate, Grade II listed former theatre, KOKO has been a popular spot for rock ‘n’ roll shows under several different names and incarnations for many years now.
The venue, in the heart of Camden and once known as Camden Theatre and The Camden Palace, originally opened its doors as in 1900 as a theatre, and then served some time as a cinema and recording studio for the BBC.
It was in the 1970s that it first became know as a significant home for live music. As The Music Machine from 1972-82 it became a welcome outlet for the punk and new wave music of that era. The Clash, for instance, played a four-night stand here back in 1978.
Rock aficionados may also recall that it is the place the late AC/DC singer Bon Scott was last seen leaving on February 19, 1980, before he was later found dead from alcohol poisoning.
The building became the Camden Palace nightclub in 1982, before changing its spots once again and becoming its present incarnation, KOKO, in 2004. Since then the likes of Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks, Swans and Mogwai have trampled the stage here.
A great venue with impressive acoustics that is steeped in rock history.
Location: 1A Camden High Street, London, England NW1 7JE
The Hope & Anchor
The Hope & Anchor in Islington has played a significant part in London’s rock ‘n’ roll history.
The north-London public house became a significant home for the short-lived pub rock phenomenon in the 1970s, before going on to host shows by punk and post-punk bands.
The facilities have certainly improved since those early days, when The Hope & Anchor hosted the likes of Dr. Feelgood and The Stranglers in the 1970s. The latter even recorded their album Live At The Hope & Anchor here. Indeed, several other bands recorded material at the pub’s old studios, before signing onto independent labels.
After those pub-rock bands, seminal alternative rock acts such as The Cure and Joy Division turned up to play shows in the tight, smoky space of this venue.
In terms of its rock ‘n’ roll history, it doesn’t get much more notorious than a now infamous gig that took place here in December 1979, when a fledgling U2 supported the Jools Holland-led Squeeze.
“There was, literally, a bloke and his dog in there,” Holland later recalled.
“The bloke left. Then the dog left. So the only audience for us was U2, and the only audience for U2 was us.”
Bono and the boys would play to much bigger audiences in the near future, but the Hope & Anchor remains an important part of their folklore.
Location: 207 Upper Street, Islington, London, England N1 1RL
The Roundhouse in Camden is one of London’s premier live music venues.
A former steam-engine repair shed that originally opened way back in 1847, the advancement of rail technology meant it soon became obsolete for that purpose and was next rented out as bonded warehouse for liquor by Gilbey’s Gin company.
Since the 1960s, and the establishment of Centre 42, it has been a celebrated home for live music and the performing arts.
As Centre 42 (named after a trade union movement for free arts for everyone) it became a cutting-edge arts venue, re-opening its doors in 1966 with the launch of the radical underground newspaper The International Times. The event featured a performance from a then largely unknown psychedelic rock band called Pink Floyd.
Soon after it hosted a number of underground music festivals and plays, as well as memorable performances from the likes of Jimi Hendrix and The Who.
The 1970s saw punk and controversial theatre productions such as Oh Calcutta! (which featured a lot of nudity) maintain The Roundhouse’s reputation as a cutting-edge venue. The Rolling Stones, Ramones, Black Sabbath, Patti Smith and The Sex Pistols pranced across the stage during this era.
After closing in 1983 due to lack of funds, the venue spent a period in disuse and disrepair, before being saved by the takeover of The Norman Trust in 1996. It shut down again in 2004 but this time to allow for a £30m redevelopment, finally reopening two years later on 1 June 2006. Since then it has re-established its position as one of London’s most prestigious venues for live music and the arts.
The Roundhouse also has the distinction of being the only UK venue that The Doors ever played, and the final public place cult singer Amy Winehouse was widely seen.
Location: Chalk Farm Road, London, England NW1 8EH
One of North London’s finest small-scale venues, The Lexington presents a potent mix of different genres and styles of music within its doors.
The American-style bar hosts riotous rock ‘n’ roll upstairs (stoner punks Wavves and the late Jay Reatard have played gigs up here) and on the ground floor lounge boasts what it describes as “downbeat decadence and bluesy class – with perhaps just a dash of burlesque elegance thrown in for good measure”.
The live performance space can house about 200 punters at its full capacity, and has impressive acoustics. Indie bands such as Brooklyn’s Yeasayer have stopped by on tours in recent years, but The Lexington is just as likely to feature an array of emerging local talent.
The venue serves up an impressive array of American beers, bourbons and Whiskeys from its bar, and is known for its friendly atmosphere.
A regular stop-off point for up and coming indie bands, The Lex is certainly a joint to check out if you find yourself on the north side of the UK’s capital city.
Location: 96-98 Pentonville Road, London, England N1 9JB
The Electric Ballroom is a key venue for rock and indie bands from home and abroad intent on touring the UK.
The likes of Sebadoh, Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks, Panda Bear and Sleigh Bells have thrilled audiences here in recent times, and the Ballroom is often the place to catch fledgling bands before they graduate on to larger arenas.
The Ballroom has been running in some form or another for more than 70 years, and the two-storey, bright red bricked building has two dance floors and four bars, as well as the ground floor stage and concert facilities.
The dance floor comes in handy on weekends, as besides being a concert venue, it doubles up as a club. Friday night’s ‘Sin City’ booms out rock, indie and alternative genres with occasional stage performances.
Also on weekends, the Ballroom has in recent years hosted an indoor market, with about fifty or so stalls selling a variety of CDs, vinyl, t-shirts and more.
There was some worry at one point that the venue might be destroyed in order to rebuild and expand the adjacent Camden Town Underground Station, but thankfully this hasn’t materialised and the Electric Ballroom continues to attract top acts from around the world.
Location: 184 Camden High Street, London, England NW1 8QP