The scene around live music in London has a proud heritage, taking in the post-war jazz boom which in turn begat the modernist movement, the coffee bar scene that spawned Britain’s own mutant version of rock and roll – not to mention punk, and its many offspring. Today the city promises an eclectic choice of destinations for the discerning gig-goer. Fluid London has had a strokey beard meeting and decided on what we perceive as the Top 10 best bars, pubs and clubs for London gigs. Now, let's rock!
Camden / Bar /
Yep, you heard correctly - Amy Winehouse and Suggs (of Madness) served stints behind this legendary bar when they weren't taking to the mic and rocking the house down, naturally. Camden's Dublin Castle has proved the epicentre of indie cool for more than 28 years, run by the same family and offering four bands in their live lounge every single night. We could sprinkle more names - Blur, The Killers, Billy Bragg - but we'd run out of room. There's also a fabulous juke box.
Greenwich / Bar / Club / Cuisine: American
Brooklyn Bowl, the acclaimed NYC nightlife destination hailed by Rolling Stone as "one of the most incredible places on Earth," can now also be found at The O2 in London. The 800-capacity concert venue, features 12 lanes of bowling - three of which are elevated in a private party area with its own bar - and food by the famed Bromberg Bros. Blue Ribbon Restaurants. The signature menu includes oyster po' bos, Cajun catfish, French bread pizzas, egg shooters, and of course the world-renowned fried chicken. In addition, the bar features beers from the local Meantime Brewing Company.
The Blues Kitchen Shoreditch
Shoreditch / Bar / Restaurant / Club / Cuisine: American
Shoreditch's own juicy cut of burly Americana does exactly what it says on the tin, serving up live blues bands, jam sessions and DJs for your ears most nights of the week, and down-home bluesy bites for your taste-buds every day. Jambalaya, chilli, burgers, smoke chicken and ribs are all on offer, as, at weekends, is that most famous blues staple...er...brunch ("Woke up this morning, life treatin' me mean, so went out for a cup of tea, and some fresh Eggs Florentine"). Rooms with private bars and personal DJ booths are available for party hire.
Angel & Islington / Bar / Restaurant / Club / Cuisine: Bar
Live music in Angel - The Lexington has won over London's gig-goers with the promise of good times, a top range of booze and even better music. Bourbon (of which there are 80 types), scotch and American craft brewery beers feature strongly on the drinks menu, suggesting that John Lee Hooker's spirit lives on; the high calibre live music in the 300-capacity club upstairs also sticks faithfully to the Americana theme: mainly guitar focused; always rock n' roll, indie or hip-hop music.
O2 Academy Islington
Angel & Islington / Bar / Club /
If your idea of cool is plinky-plonky piano music and overpriced champagne cocktails, don't go here. Seriously, this isn't the venue for you. If you can put up with sticky floors, and teenagers wearing too much eyeliner, maybe it is. You'll feel like the oldest person in the world for about an hour until the watery lager kicks in, then you'll have a great laugh, and dance drunkenly at the sell-out club nights.
Ain't Nothing But Blues
Soho / Bar /
Forget Nashville, forget New Orleans; at least when you're this side of the Atlantic. This little bar off Regent Street has most definitely got the blues, so you don't have to. Packed to the grafittied rafters with live music every night - plus a cheeky extra dollop of burlesque the first Sunday of every month - the roof barely stays on this joint. It opened in the 90s, and big names - ranging from John Primer to the Ian Siegal Band - have stolen the show here.
The Wilmington Arms
Clerkenwell / Bar / Cuisine: Pub
An elegant 19th century refurbished pub in Clerkenwell? Well, yes. But while gastro burgers are never far from hand, you're never far from a foot-tapping tune either. The menus are actually in vinyl sleeves. The pub regularly hosts live music and has welcomed the likes of Noah and the Whale, and Mumford and Sons through the doors of the separate venue next door. And for a laugh, comedy at the same venue has seen the likes of Stephen Merchant and Phil Jupitus.
Kensington / Bar / Restaurant / Cuisine: European
A true slice of London's history, Troubadour has been serving up live music alongside fine coffee and best brunches since 1954. The private cellar beneath the club started life as a folk venue and now maintains its reputation for original music and the spoken word. Yes, they do poetry readings too. Before you scoff, Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, Joni Mitchell, Paul Simon, Elvis Costello and more recently Adele have all performed here.
Camden / Bar / Cuisine: European
Offering live music 7 nights a week, Jazz Cafe in Camden is one of the most iconic venues in London for music-lovers. Amy Winehouse, Adele and Bobby Womack have all performed here. Their recent focus is on more up and coming acts; apart from supporting jazz musicians, they also welcome soul and reggae artists along with other genres that tend to get less airtime. The venue also has restaurant and bar spaces for those hungry and thirsty music-lovers.
West End / Bar / Cuisine: Bar
Fancy some midweek live music in the West End? This bar is brought to life throughout the week with a programme of live music and events. For music lovers, get down on Tuesdays for a showcase of some of London's hottest jazz and swing acts; or go up-tempo with electronic and dance DJs on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays lasting until the early hours. If you happen to around on a Monday, kick the week off in style with Manhattan Mondays, where beginners and cocktail connoisseurs alike can utilise the custom-made Manhattan ordering system to individualise and innovate the well-loved classic.
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