Freshers Guide to London Music Haunts

The sound of London is a musical genre all of its own and although it’s sometimes difficult to decipher a melody out of the sounds of the city, it’s definitely there and within its hidden coves and caverns, it has and still does provide a platform of fortuity for some of the greatest musical discoveries of our time.
Posted: 20 September 2018 Words: Caroline Polledri-Jones

Guide to the thriving music scene and some of the hottest venues in all of London Town.

The sound of London is a musical genre all of its own and although it’s sometimes difficult to decipher a melody out of the sounds of the city, it’s definitely there and within its hidden coves and caverns, it has and still does provide a platform of fortuity for some of the greatest musical discoveries of our time. The Rolling Stones formed here in 1962, The Cure followed suit in the 80’s, Blur the 90’s and Bastille in the 2000’s, they all credit London for their creative influence and are grateful for its enthusiastic podium. So, there’s no ignoring the evidence, London is a great hub for music, but where are the greatest places to experience it? Below is a list of the best gig venue’s in London, North, South, East and West, from grand well-established arenas to the undiscovered intimate taverns and honky-tonks. Whichever way you like your music served, London is the perfect maître D to welcome you in.

North London

London Gig Guide


What to expect: A concert venue situated at the Grade II* listed former railway engine shed. Capacity: 3,300 standing Who you’ll see: Over the years this iconic venue has housed a string of impressive legends; The Beatles, Rolling Stones, Ed Sheeran, Linkin Park and Oasis and as well as performing they’ve all recorded live tracks for their albums at this iconic venue. The Doors, Prince, David Bowie, Jimi Hendrix and Pink Floyd have also graced the stage here. Nowadays the calibre is still as impressive and they also showcase new talent, up and coming artists, within all music genres. Their tagline is ‘create to transform’ an ethos they deliver.

229 THE VENUE, Camden

What to expect: 2 live music halls staging touring indie and rock bands. Capacity: Venue 1: 620 standing, venue 2: 200 standing Who you’ll see: Since launching in 2007 The Venue has obtained an impressive bill overall. Kings of Leon, Paul Weller, Florence and the Machine, Tinie Tempah and Biffy Clyro, they also endow new rock and indie bands. Run by the charity, International Students House (ISH) - all profit made goes into the fund which provides scholarship programmes for students from less advantaged countries wanting to study here. So basically, you’ll be doing good while you’re gigging, big bonus.


What to expect: An award-winning classic London boozer with a hint of Kentucky charm. Capacity: 200 standing Who you’ll see: In the upstairs of this little gem you’ll enjoy a high standard of new indie and rock groups bouncing onto the London circuit. In the past, the likes of The Drums and Sleigh Bells have all gigged here, so rest assured that whoever’s booking the acts has a good ear for great music. And if you after something a bit different you can pop along to their Sugar Push Swing Dance Lessons or their weekly pop quiz.


What to expect: A music and arts pub for over 100 years, with authentically preserved décor. Capacity: 300 standing Who you’ll see: This historical venue on the border between North and East has survived two world wars and was once frequented by Charles Dicken and if it was good enough for Charlie... Over the years this intimate forum has seen the likes of The XX, Pete Doherty, Bombay Bicycle Club, Annie Mac, Example, The Spring Offensive and Metronomy, the full list is on their website and it’s endless. They promote new and unsigned bands also and is a popular choice for album launches as well as some really fun old school themed nights. The Macbeth is tucked away but once you find it you’ll never forget it.

South London

London Gig Guide


What to expect: An informal pub built in 1971 names after the last working windmill in London. Capacity: 51 – 100 standing Who you’ll see: What started as an unknown backstreet pub, The Windmill went on to become a music venue by chance. When the owners realised that their regulars “carried a wealth of musicianship, sound engineering and promoting” they decided to host gigs which as good news for us. It has since gained worthy notoriety and been the stage to many new and undiscovered punk and indie bands Squid had their single launch party there recently and in the past the likes of The 5678’s who performed at The Windmill after they appeared as the house band in Kill Bill 2 – pretty cool we think.


What to expect: A cooperatively run social centre that offers space for performers and creatives. Capacity: 160 standing Who you’ll see: This venue allows all its must be members (you have to pay a £2 yearly joining fee) the chance to decide how the space is run. It’s 100% vegan and ethically sourced and has had performers including Skinny Girl Diet and Shopping and a host of Album previews too. There is something very special about DIY space from its message to the way it’s run, on their website they state “The space works to promote ideas of mutual aid and cooperation. Providing a welcoming space for everyone, including those whose voices and contributions are not always heard or appreciated, is a top priority for us”. A creative music forum that cares.


What to expect: A pretty gastropub with a secret gig room at the back. Capacity: 150 standing Who you’ll see: A venue for both new and established artists, The Half Moon has been hosting live music events every night since the 60’s. Over the years, The Who, U2 and Rolling Stones have all played there and they present everything from new indie and rock bands to folk and pop groups. Don’t let the number of cover acts they have on their bill put you off, amongst them, there are some real classic and fresh artists that you’ll be privileged to get up close and personal to them.


What to expect: The ultimate rock venue with a suggestion of Italian renaissance interior Capacity: 4.921 standing Who you’ll see: One of the biggest and most notorious non-arena venues in London and over the years, Iron Maiden, Culture Club, The Prodigy, Eric Clapton and The Smiths have all showcased here. Over the next three months, their line-up includes Kaiser Chiefs, Wolf Alice, Sigrid, Miles Kane, Cypress Hill and Ben Howard. Many artists have also recorded albums and live DVD’s at the venue; Motorhead, Good Charlotte, Machine Head, Kasabian, Two Door Cinema Club and countless more. They sell out fast so it’s worth joining their mailing list and checking their listings to see when tickets for your favourites go on sale.

West London

London Gig Guide

100 CLUB, Oxford street

What to expect: A former 1940’s jazz club Capacity: 350 standing Who you’ll see: The 100 Club started out as a swing and jazz club in the 1940’s formerly known as the ‘Feldman Swing Club’. When it was taken over in the 70’s as well as a re-branding, the venue opened its doors to a much more diverse musical scene. The Sex Pistols, The Clash, and Muddy Waters have all performed here and nowadays the likes of The Fat White Family, The Smith Westerns and Blood Orange are the types of people they showcase. The club thrives on exciting new music and delivers exactly that, to its loyal crowd.


What to expect: An opulent and regal 1940’s music hall Capacity: 5,272 seats Who you’ll see: Don’t be fooled into thinking this is merely a venue that for classical music lovers, it really isn’t. Over the years the likes of Pink Floyd, The Sisters of Marcy, Led Zeppelin and Iron Maiden have all played here and it is where The Killers recorded their first live album in 2009. It’s a magnificent music venue that offers a flamboyant musical experience. The smartest on our list but in no way stuffy. It’s also a registered charity and their purpose is to promote arts and science and preserve and enhance their grade I listed building, they get no government funding. It’s an extravagant night out but worth treating yourself.


What to expect: A historical live music venue (formerly the Astoria) Capacity: 100 – 300 standing Who you’ll see: In the last 32 years, Debbie Harry, Kula Shaker, The Verve, Muse, Stereophonics and Blur have all played here. Nowadays Borderline is still setting the bar with cutting-edge new artists like Lankum, Remo Drive, S-X, Molotov Jukebox to name but a few. An intimate venue tucked away in the Orange Yard of Soho, a place with a passion for music and introducing unique acts.

BUSH HALL, Shepherds Bush

What to expect: A beautiful Edwardian building which was formerly a dance hall turned snooker and social club before being restored to its former musical glory. Capacity: 350 standing Who you’ll see: A calibre of icons and forward-thinking performers, Tom Morello, Ginger Wildheart, Chase Rice and Pete Murray and as well as gigs, they put on nights that play homage to many musical legends without the cheese. There is seating too which is worth noting.

East London

London Gig Guide

MOTH CLUB, Hackney

Capacity: Not listed but we’d guess 400 What to expect: A no-frills, former service man’s club that will have you feeling you’ve stepped back into the 1970’s. Who you’ll see: The new and unearthed and some interesting club nights is what you’ll discover at The Moth Club and it may surprise you to know that in 2016 Lady Gaga rocked up here. It’s a venue that doesn’t take it’s self too seriously but that doesn’t mean that the performers are in any way a novelty. The eclectic mix that has the pleasure showcasing here include, Amyl and The Sniffers, Mien, Shintaro Sakamoto and Palm, not artists you may immediately recognise but have faith that The Moth Club has chosen wisely. It’s definitely a venue you’ll take a gamble on and return to time and time again.


What to expect: A traditional east end boozer with an upstairs gig room. Capacity: 150 Standing Who you’ll see: The Guardian once called The Old Blue Last ‘The Cradle of British music’s future’ and we agree, it provides an all-encompassing stripped back gig experience, this no-nonsense boozer has earned the reputation of one of London’s best music venues. The likes of Amy Winehouse, Hot Chip, Mumford and Sons, The Wombats, Santigold, The Vaccines, Frisco, Moose Blood and even Kylie Minogue have all performed here. And as well as those highly established, they also lay way for the fresh and exciting new kids on the block. A venue that allows you to mosh out within feet of some musical mega (and soon to be mega) stars every night of the week.


What to expect: An unkempt, almost grotty little pub in Bethnal Green Capacity: 150 Who you’ll see: On a quiet night, you could find yourself walking past this unassuming London boozer with no more than an inquisitive peer into its dusty windows and think not much of it, unaware that this is one of East London’s most popular gig places. Once you’ve fallen in love with it you’ll be a regular frequenter and be treated to the likes of Skating Polly, Half Waif, Farao and Mint Field. Once you’ve grabbed a pint and hot dog you’ll make your way to the basement wondering how you ever underestimated this magnificent little find, oh and the burgers are amazing too.

RICH MIX, Bethnal Green Road

What to expect: A cinema and community arts and performance hub. Capacity: Various Who you’ll see: A lot of people assume The Rich Mix is just a cinema, but it’s so much more than that. A creative arts hub staging music, dance and spoken word performances. They also put on many music festivals and the venue is stretched over 5 floors. Lately, the artist’s billed are Beduk, No Party for Cao Dong and other rising talents. They specialise in the alternative and diverse which will open your musical mind and give you access to some fresh melodic horizons. A social enterprise whose aim is “to be a place where communities of the world, who are citizens of East London and beyond, can come together to experience and make world-class art and fee that it’s a place where they belong”. Just what we need in this current climate.

More from buzz