Saturday 12 November 2022

The Saturday List #385 - Ten things that make music venues special to me

 Last night, I went to see The Stone Foundation and Graham Parker at Koko in Camden Town. This was the first visit since the venue was nearly destroyed by fire a couple of years ago. It was a great night, but what really made it was the fact that Koko is such a brilliant venue. It has numerous bars on many levels, as well as a terrace that has a great view of Camden Town road. 

It got me thinking, there are many venues that I love, but what is special about them? Here is a list of my favourite venues and what I especially love about them.

1. Koko (formerly The Camden Palace and The Music Machine). This is a wonderful venue. I especially love the plethora of different bars and the terrace, it is one of the few venues that is worth going to, even if you don't like the band, because it is such a great place to spend time.

2. The Roundhouse. Formerly a railway shed. Probably my favourite venue, it has a great view of the band and excellent acoustics. What really makes it special is the Victorian architecture and ironwork, which makes you feel as if you are in a place of history. As I've seen some of the finest bands on the planet there, it is very special to me. It seems the Rock and Roll has seeped into the brickwork.

3. The Royal Albert Hall. Another absolutely wonderful venue. Like the Koko, it has many levels and many bars. The granduer of the place is almost overwhelming, a band has to be good to live up to the backdrop, but when they do, it is truly special. I particularly enjoy the Proms at the Albert Hall.

4. The Dublin Castle. This is the other end of the spectrum. A small music pub in Camden Town. The Dublin Castle has been at the centre of the London music scene for a very long time. Just about every decent musical act that has emerged from London since the late 1970's has a chapter written at the Dublin Castle. The posters, murals and pictures tell the story. My band wrote this song and made this video as a tribute to give you a taste (you can see us play there on Weds 23rd November - Get your tickets here). Even if you are not going to see a band, it is worth a visit just to feel the vibe.

5. The Hope and Anchor. Another wonderful London music pub. Like the Dublin Castle, Rock and Roll oozes through the place. The venue is in the basement. I've always liked most the experience of descending the stairs into a rock and roll palace. I've always liked venues in basements.

6. Under The Bridge. By rights, I should hate this venue, as it is in Stamford Bridge Stadium, home of Chelsea FC, but it is a wonderful venue. It is one of newest venues in London, specifically built to be a venue. I like the fact that it is a new venue and is well designed. It shows that some people have faith in music.

7. 100 Club. Another wonderful venue. Like the Hope and Anchor, it is in a basement, which ticks a big box for me. I love the pictures that decorate the walls of the wonderful artists that have played there. I love the big stage with a massive 100 Club logo on it. When you are in the venue, you feel the echoes of music from the very start of Rock and Roll. 

8 Ronnie Scotts. If you like Jazz, then you simply have to love Ronnie Scotts. I particularly like the Sunday Lunchtime sessions. Nothing better than watching a great band and tucking into a roast dinner. As with most historic venues, it has great pictures. A special bonus is that you can have an espresso and a custard tart over the road at Bar Italia, watching the Mods gather before you go in. 

9. Jazz Cafe. This is a venue that I like more every time I go. As I'm now an old codger, I quite enjoy watching a reggae band their from the upstairs area, over a bottle of wine and a steak (vegan options available). It seems very civilised and if the mood takes you, you can nip down for a boogie. I generally don't like sitting in upstairs areas watching bands, but for some reason it feels right at the Jazz Cafe.

10, Crazy Coqs in Zedel's. This is perhaps the best intimate venue to watch a small Jazz act, such as a solo, duo or quartet. It has a decent piano and you are on top of the audience. I think the capacity is about 50. It is the London venue where you can get up closest to the artist. I've seen artist such as Ian Shaw and Joe Stilgoe there and it is an absolute hoot. 

What make a venue great for you? There are a long list of venues that should be there, but we've lost, not for artistic reasons. The Marquee, The Rainbow, The Moonlight Club are just a few that spring to mind. Losing such venues is what made myself and a group of like minded people start the Save London Music Campaign, which is still as needed as when we launched it.

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