indie travel guide                                                                                                      home
a city by city guide to the best indie clubs, bars, record shops and local bands

London, UK

Where do we start? With London's rich musical history, stretching from the mod and northern scene in the sixties, through punk and post-punk in the seventies, indie pop and shoegazing in the eighties and Britpop in the nineties, right up to the city's thriving underground in the present day? With a live circuit that boasts any number and range of gigs on any day of the week, taking in indie pop, art rock, lo fi, post rock, haircut indie, and whatever else can be mangled from six strings and an overheating amp? With an equally as vibrant club scene that encompasses small scale fan only gatherings in pub back rooms and garguantuan multi-room nights in state of the art venues that will assault your wallet as well as your senses? With online communities based in London, magazines based in London, radio stations....? It's impossible to cover everything, but here are our favourite things about our hometown....


Clubs

How Does It Feel To Be Loved?
Third Saturday of the month at The Phoenix, 37 Cavendish Square, London W1, £4 members, £6 non members, 9pm-3am
Run by our good selves, so we're a little biased. Why not take The Guardian's word for it instead? "Absolutely the best night in the whole of the world!" Phew. We play indie pop, northern soul, Tamla Motown, girl groups and sixties heartbreak. If you want to dance to The Smiths and The Supremes in a friendly, unpretentious setting, then we might just be able to help...
(www.howdoesitfeel.co.uk).

Star Shaped
First Saturday of the month, Upstairs at the Garage, 9pm-3am.
New club celebrating the sounds, styles and stars of Britpop. Expect to dance to Blur, Suede, Pulp and the like, while guest DJs from the likes of Shed Seven and Dubstar play the hits of the mid nineties.
(www.facebook.com/groups/starshapedclub/)

Buttoned Down Disco
Monthly, Koko, Camden, 9pm-3.30am
If you want to experience a gargantuan indie disco, then BDD, held at the 1000 capacity Koko in Camden, is the one for you. Resident DJ Christian Lang plays everything from current favourites to cheeky mash ups, with a few cheesy anthems thrown in for good measure.
(www.buttoneddowndisco.com/)

Oddbox
Times and places vary
Trev Oddbox mostly puts on live shows but every so often he throws in some DJs for a bit of dancing after the bands have finished. Oddbox are certainly the people to go to right now if you want to see a cool, DIY indiepop show in London, as they put on loads of gigs and always keep the quality high. The Oddbox Weekender, usually on the first weekend in May, is one of the capital's DIY gig-going highlights.
(http://oddboxrecords.com/).

Unskinny Bop
Bethnal Green Working Men's Club, 9pm-2am, third Friday of the month, £5
"Disco dancing opportunities for girls, gays and misfits," declares the website for this superb indie dance night, which plays everything from The Gossip and Le Tigre to Girls Aloud and Britney.
(www.unskinnybop.co.uk)

Duckie
Vauxhall Tavern, Saturday nights
Super legendary south London club night that's been running since 1995, providing cabaret and dancing for "homos, their friends and fans".
(www.duckie.co.uk/)

The Nitty Gritty
The Constitution, Camden, second Sunday of the month, £4, 6pm-10.30am
Our favourite club night in London. An intimate and super cool soul and R&B dance party hosted by Dapper D and Jaybird Slim, playing 50s and 60s tunes to make you dance and swoon and dance some more.

AC30
Times and places vary
Excellent shoegazing and post rock night. AC30 also promote gigs. Cool club and good people.
(www.clubac30.com)

Great Big Kiss
The Phoenix, Cavendish Square, London W1, second Saturday of the month, 9pm-3am, £4 members, £6 non members
HDIF's little sister club, playing 60s girl groups, northern soul and rock'n'roll, with guest DJs from the UK's best soul clubs. Hip-shaking soul, handclapping rock'n'roll, foot-stomping go-go-power!
(www.howdoesitfeel.co.uk/greatbigkiss.html)




Venues

 

The Windmill
22 Blenheim Gardens, Brixton, SW2 5BZ, prices vary, 8pm-late
South London's finest small venue. New music seven days at week at this atmospheric pub just off Brixton Hill. Don't be fooled by The Windmill's rough'n'ready exterior - inside lie fairy lights, wooden tables with candles and Brixton's freaks and hipsters determined to have a good time.
(www.windmillbrixton.co.uk)

The Lexington
96-98 Pentonville Road, London N1
Owned and run by the same people who owned the late lamented Buffalo Bar, this 200 capacity venue boasts a gorgeous bar downstairs, and a cool venue upstairs.
(www.thelexington.co.uk)

Shacklewell Arms
71 Shacklewell Lane, Dalston, London, E8 2EB
An excellent gig pub just off the main drag in super hip Dalston, the Shack boasts a regular front bar and atomospheric covered back yard (festooned with fairy lights and heated in the winter), and a cool gig and club room. Many of the best indie gigs and clubs now happen here.
(www.shacklewellarms.com)

Sebright Arms
31-35 Coate Street, London E2 9AG
Not one of our favourite live venues by any means, but a popular gig venue right now, so well worth listing. The pub upstairs is a decent east end boozer, but the gig room in the basement is cramped, windowless and claustraphobic, with just one small winding staircase for access.
(www.sebrightarms.co.uk)

Old Blue Last
38 Great Eastern Street, London EC2A 3ES
This once hip pub, owned by VICE magazine, was left behind slightly when the hipsters migrated en masse to Dalston, but it's still a decent place to see live bands, often for free.
(www.theoldbluelast.com)

100 Club
100 Oxford Street, London, W1D 1LL
Historic 300 capacity family-run venue in the very centre of London that's played host to everyone from Jackie Wilson, The Who and The Rolling Stones to the Sex Pistols and Oasis. The legendary 6Ts northern soul all nighters are currently based here.
(www.the100club.co.uk)

Scala
275-277 Pentonville Road, London, N1 9NL
Once a down-at-heel cinema famous for its smokey and boozy all night movie and rock'n'roll sessions (Hawkwind and Iggy Pop both played here in the 70s, while Blitz-era Spandau Ballet did the honours in the early 80s), the Scala is now a modern, air-conditioned 900 capacity venue.
(www.scala-london.co.uk)

Power Lunches
446 Kingsland Road, London E8 4AE
This super intimate concrete basement makes The Sebright Arms look like the Albert Hall. Just 80 capacity, it hosts some of the best queercore, riot grrrl and DIY shows in the capital, but it's not for the faint hearted, and the dripping air conditioning unit above the stage is probably best ignored.
(http://powerlunchesltd.co.uk)

Bush Hall
310 Uxbridge Roadm London, W12 7LJ, prices and times vary
West London's finest small venue. Well, relatively small venue. This early 20th century dance hall is elegance personified - chandeliers and red velvet carpets are the order of the day here. When the likes of Nick Cave or R.E.M want to throw a stylish secret gig, this is where they come.
(www.bushhallmusic.co.uk)

Barden's Boudoir
38-44 Stoke Newington Road, London N16 7XJ
Indie venue in the hip Stoke Newington/Dalston strip. Fans of avant noise, left field indie and forward thinking underground music will find something to delight them here.
(www.bardensbar.co.uk)

ULU
Malet Street, London WC1E 7HY
Short for University Of London Union. A mid sized, 800 capacity, rites-of-passage gig for any band heading seriously for the big time. Ricky Gervais of The Office fame was once Events Manager here.
(www.ulu.co.uk/ululive/)

The Star Of Bethnal Green
359 Bethnal Green Road, London E2
Bethnal Green's best small venue, a 150 capacity bar renouned for new bands and small club nights.
(www.pleasureunitbar.com/)

Jamm
261 Brixton Road, London, SW9 6LH
As the Old White Horse, this 200 capacity Brixton venue regularly played host to punk bands like The Clash, and these days they host techno, house and reggae clubs at the weekend, as well as after show parties for bands playing at the Brixton Academy down the road.
(www.brixtonjamm.org)


Bars

The Boogaloo
312 Archway Rd, London, N6 5AT
Proclaimed "London's greatest rock pub" by Time Out, and supposedly boasting the "number one jukebox in London" (Time Out again), The Boogaloo is a coolly unpretentious drinker in the leafy middle class borough of Highgate. Famed as much for its events as its day to day ambience, The Boogaloo hosts spoken word nights, a movie and pop quiz, live music nights with the likes of Shane MacGowan and Pete Doherty, and anything else with a tinge of rock'n'roll.
(www.theboogaloo.co.uk)

The Prince Albert
418 Coldharbour Lane, London, SW9 8L
Much loved Brixton boozer, despite having a bright orange frontage. Relaxed atmosphere, excellent music ranging from indie to punk controlled by a laptop on the bar, and a cool patio beer garden out the back which hosts poetry evenings and the occasional gig during the summer.

The Phoenix Theatre Bar
Charing Cross Road, London, WC2H
Known to some as Shuttleworths, this atmospheric basement bar is often packed with indie musicians and music journalists taking in a pint or seven either before or after catching a show at the nearby Astoria, Mean Fiddler or Borderline venues. Admission is restricted to members after 11pm, although guests can be signed in.

The Good Ship
89 Kilburn High Road, NW6 7JR
Cool bar on Kilburn High Road. Entertainment comes in the form of live bands of all types, a 100 CD jukebox (including Tom Vek, The Smiths, Sly and The Family Stone, Interpol and a load of Nuggets and Rough Trade compilations), a pop quiz, a general knowledge quiz, open mic night and DJs on Friday and Saturday.
(www.thegoodship.co.uk)


Record Shops


Rough Trade
130 Talbot Road, W11 1JA/91 Brick Lane, London, E16Q
Legendary record stores that spawned not only the Rough Trade label but also highly regarded indie Wiiija (named after the postcode of the Talbot Road stores). The larger Brick Lane branch also hosts live shows at lunchtime.
(www.roughtrade.com)

Sister Ray
75 Berwick Street, London W1F 8RP
Cut price indie store in the heart of Soho stocking a decent range of underground and alternative sounds. Cool range of t shirts too.
(www.sisterray.co.uk)

Reckless Records
30, Berwick Street, London, W1F 8RH
New and second hand indie rarities abound in this famous Soho record shop.
(www.reckless.co.uk)

Sounds Of The Universe
7 Broadwick St, W1
Soul, ska, jazz and more at this super cool Soho record shop.
(www.soundsoftheuniverse.com)

Flashback
50 Essex Road, London, N1 8LR; 144 Crouch Hill, London N8 9DX; 131 Bethnal Green Road, London E2 7DG
Rare and second hand CDs and vinyl in this cool north London shop chain.
(www.flashback.co.uk)

Alan's Record Shop
212 High Road, London N2 9AY
Well worth braving the trek to East Finchley in north London for this excellent record shop, supposedly Bob Stanley of Saint Etienne's favourite.

Music And Video Exchange
38 Notting Hill Gate, W11; 23 Greenwich Church St, SE10; 95 Berwick Street, W1
Legendary chain of second hand record stores.
(www.mveshops.co.uk)

Sounds That Swing
88 Parkway, Camden Town, London, NW1 7AN
Excellent 50s, 60s record store in swinging Camden.
(www.myspace.com/nohitrecordssoundsthatswing)

Out On The Floor
10 Inverness Street, London, NW1 7HJ
Soul, jazz, rock, reggae and punk in this small split-level shop named after a northern soul classic.

Soul Brother
1 Keswick Road, Putney, SW15 2HL
Excellent soul, funk and jazz shop selling new and second hand CDs and vinyl.
(www.soulbrother.com)

Rye Wax
The CLF Art Cafe, 133 Rye Ln, London
One of a couple of new records vying to make Peckham a new record shop centre for London. This is based in the bsaement of the sCLF Art Cafe, also known as the Bussey Building, a multi storey club venue that's super hip and often rammed at the weekend.

YAM Records
135A Rye Lane, London, SE15 4ST
A hop and a skip from Rye Wax, YAM - short for You And Music - stocks mostly second hand vinyl, with some casettes in the racks too. They cater for fans of "funk, soul., boogie, jazz and beyond".

Love Vinyl
5 Pearson Street, London E2 8JD
New and second hand records, covering most genres - Rock, House, Disco, Nu Disco, Techno, Funk, Soul, African/Global, Jazz, Reggae, and more.
(https://www.facebook.com/lovevinyllondon)



Local Bands

 


Veronica Falls

The latest band from the people responsible for Sexy Kids and The Royal We. Expect classic thrilling indie pop that fuses fuzz pop with girl group melancholia.
http://veronicafalls.com/

Fanfarlo
Fragile, romantic orchestral pop.in thrall to Sufjan Stevens, Beirut and Arcade Fire.
(www.myspace.com/fanfarlo)

Allo Darlin'
Four piece fronted by uke-toting Elizabeth Morris who play giddy, infectious indie pop that sounds like Jens Lekman in a spin with Camera Obscura.
(www.myspace.com/allodarlin)

Flowers
A brilliant new three piece from London, Flowers draw a line between the joyous fuzzpop of the Pains and the minimalist brilliance of Young Marble Giants - singer Rachel plays a bass guitar with just a single string, for example.
(www.facebook.com/flowersdomusic)

Cosines
Featuring former members of Arthur And Martha and Vermont, London's Cosines describe themselves as a mathmatical pop group, inspired by both the krautpop melodies of Stereolab and the sunshine pop of latter period Beach Boys.
(www.facebook.com/Cosinesmusic)

Joe Innes And The Cavalcade
No relation to the indiepop duo from Preston - they're simply The Cavalcade of course - Joe Innes And The Cavalcade play sumptuous indie folk that pitches up somewhere between Bright Eyes and Jeffrey Lewis. .
(www.joeinnes.com)

Lucky Soul
A female fronted five piece from Greenwich, Lucky Soul sound like The Pipettes flirting with Saint Etienne, all sleek sixties melodies and songs to make your heart melt.
(www.luckysoul.co.uk)

The Fireworks
Featuring a former Pocketbook, a former Popgun/Wedding Present and one of the Big Pink Cake collective, London fuzz pop four piece could almost be an indiepop supergroup. Add a visual artist who's worked with the Henry Moore Foundation to the mix and you have the makings of a classic pop group, as their recent single, "Runaround", brilliantly proved.
http://thefireworksgopop.bandcamp.com/

The Drink
A brand new trio from London, The Drink have been compared to Throwing Muses, The Breeders and Madder Rose. All fine reference points for their dreamy, evocative guitar pop, but we feel they're closer to the likes of Electrelane. They've already been picked up by Lauren Laverne and Tom Ravenscoft and are clearly headed for big things, so come and check them out while they're still playing small shows.
http://thedrinkk.bandcamp.com/

Owl & Mouse
One of our favourite bands, and always a joy to include on a HDIF line up. The four piece, fronted by Australian songwriter Hannah Botting, play swoonsome songs that lie somewhere between the melodic sparkle of indiepop and the poignancy of anti-folk.
http://owlandmouse.bandcamp.com/

Chorusgirl
A brand new four piece from London, Chorusgirl describe themselves as a "jangle'n'roll band", citing Lush, The Breeders and Bikini Kill as inspirations. Collapseboard recently praised them for their Go-Go's bounce, and we couldn't agree more. Fans of thrilling noise pop step this way!
https://www.facebook.com/chorusgrrrl

 


Miscellaneous


Urban75

Brixton based online community that takes in political protest, music, sport, travel, education, relationships, the lot. Also hosts a club night, Offline, in Brixton, where Indietravelguide DJs have been known to spin the odd tune. A vital part of south London life.
(www.urban75.com)

London Gig Guide
The pick of the capital's live shows. You'll find the coolest gigs happening in London listed here. Updated weekly.
(www.howdoesitfeel.co.uk/londongigguide.html)

Main London photo © Urban75

If you'd like to recommend a club, bar, record shop, band or any indie delight for inclusion in the Indie Travel Guide, please email us. If we've included a link to your band/shop etc, it would be lovely if you could link back to us. Thank you!

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