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An Alternative Music Guide to London

12 April 2018 Simon Banks Read time: 4 min
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Simon Banks

The O2 Arena, KOKO, The Royal Albert Hall, Hammersmith Apollo - London is home to some of the world’s most iconic music venues. And we’ve covered 15 of the best live music spots in the capital too. But what about those off-the-beaten-track places?

Just like our alternative London shopping guide, we’ve been crawling the capital for the music venues that might not initially come to mind. These places play great music and offer something different from the more well-known joints.

So, get your dancing shoes on - or if you’re slightly more chill, just bop your head back and forth - and read our alternative guide to London’s music scene.

Jamboree, Limehouse
Interior of Jamboree music venue in Limehouse

While East London areas like Dalston, Shoreditch and Old Street are well known for an impressive music scene, Limehouse has gone under the radar. Located at the end of Cable Street, Jamboree doesn’t scream music venue on first impressions.

In fact, you might think you’ve been transported to one of the pockets of Parisian Paris. The style is home-made furniture, and the passers afford a certain eccentricity, all of which adds to the charm of this venue.

Expect to find musicians from all over the world performing at Jamboree, with no genre left out. Thursdays are known for jazz nights, while Wednesdays and Fridays play host to folk night. If you’re looking for something quirky and intimate, Jamboree is the place to be.

Address: 566 Cable St, London E1W 3HB

Brixton Jamm, Brixton
Exterior of Jamm Brixton

Jam. Oh, jam. Jammmmmmm. Teddy jam for me. Sorry, this Movebubbler got a bit carried away upon writing the word ‘jam’. Still, the indie venue in on Brixton road has everything from acoustic sets to hardcore grunge concerts.

While indie is the main music, there is still a selection of sounds, including Nu-House, jazz and drum and bass. There’s even a hint of Eastern-European. The multi-purpose music venue has lived a long life, initially starting out as a travellers inn in the 18th century before turning into a pub in the 19th century.

As well as live music, there are regular jam sessions (hence the name), late-night parties and comedy nights. Jamm is one of Brixton’s liveliest venues and is a favourite with locals. Next time you’re in the south-west London town, make sure you drop by and get jamming.

Address: 261 Brixton Rd, London SW9 6LH

Nambucca, Holloway
Hand Fire performing at Nambucca in Holloway Photo credit: www.kentishtowner.co.uk

If you’re looking for a venue that covers all the genres, look no further in Nambucca in Holloway. This north London joint creates an intimate atmosphere with its small seating area. It should also be commended for garnering a reputation for supporting local north-London artists.

Previous bands to perform at Nambucca include Wolf Alice, The Enemy, The Kooks and The Wombats. If you’re looking for a lively night, Nambucca should be high on your list. Get to the venue early when all drinks are priced just £3.

Camden might have a reputation for a gigging hotspot in north London, but Nambucca is repping for Holloway and Archway. And it’s providing competition for the more obvious scene in NW1. Who knows, your next trip to Nambucca might just unearth the UK’s future big music act.

Address: 596 Holloway Rd, London N7 6LB

Blues Kitchen, Camden
Performance at Blues Kitchen Camden

Wait, weren’t we just talking about how Camden already has a reputation as a place to watch live music, you’re thinking. And you’d be right; we were. But Blues Kitchen isn’t an obvious Camden venue for music, hence why it makes it onto the list.

Head to Blues Kitchen for a slice of Americana. The music on offer is deep-rooted in blues (what gave it away?), yet there is still a host of UK artist who performs at the venue. There’s a mixture of established and up-and-coming artists so that you might spot the next gem.

As well as great live music, Blues Kitchen provides scrumptious food (what gave it away?), from ribs and burgers to wings and cajun fried chicken. So, if you’re looking to listen to great blues music and fill your belly with ribs, make sure you head down to Blues Kitchen.

Address: 111-113 Camden High St, London NW1 7JN

The Bedford, Balham
Exterior of music stage at the Bedford Balham

Back to south London now, this time to The Bedford in Balham. This pub hosts loads of music events and is a critically acclaimed venue. Much of the live music is free through Monday to Thursday, and you can always head there for a drink even when no bands are playing.

Set in a Grade II listed building, its history dates far back, and the venue is famous for launching the careers of U2 and The Clash. From the inside, it seems like a somewhat old-fashioned venue, with patterned carpets and floral wallpaper.

None of that matters once the music starts playing, though. There is also comedy nights, dance nights and plenty of other entertainment. It’s known as one of the more popular alternative music venues in the UK and will be a smash with anyone search for something slightly left field.

Address: 77 Bedford Hill, London SW12 9HD

The Lexington, Angel
Exterior of the Lexington Angel Photo credit: www.facebook.com/LexingtonClub

The Lexington is known as one of London’s best small rooms and is an alternative venue in high demand. The music is mainly indie, with plenty of up-and-coming bands performing at the Lexington before they make the breakthrough.

The venue itself is set over two floors. The downstairs area hosts a pub that offers food and, of course, beer. There is also a weekly quiz night if you want to take five from the live music. The Lexington’s reputation as a small London gem means that many high-level promoters host shows at the venue.

There are over 100 American whiskies and bourbons available for the drink connoisseurs, but it's the live music that will leave an impression on you. The Lexington has solidified itself as a staple amongst London’s finest alternative venues.  

Address: 96-98 Pentonville Rd, London N1 9JB

Embrace London’s alternative side

If you're looking for sounds and venues away from the mainstream, any one of these fantastic establishments will more than cater to your needs. London is one of the most important music cities in the world. These venues help to keep that reputation intact and offer great music from aspiring and established musical acts.

What do you think about our alternative music venues? Have we missed any? Sound off in the comments below and let us know your favourites.

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