South London is the place to head to for live music. No, really.
Friendly and accessible gigs from the best new bands, in unpretentious and welcoming pubs and club: those in the know are heading South.
A burgeoning South London music scene is producing hotter than hot new bands like Nova Twins, Ojerime, Fat White Family and Goat Girl, as well as being home to worldclass talents such as spoken-word artist Kate Tempest, supercool producer Paul Tipler (recently of Liines fame but with a heady back-catalogue including Stereolab and Elastica), and Tory-bashing MC Stormzy.
While shiny North and ironic East London venues are struggling to stay open, relatively hipster-free venues are opening up across SE and SW postcodes. Many offering you change from a fiver for your pint.
And with 24 hour tubes at the weekend taking you even to Morden, no worries if your cabbie won’t cross the river at this time of night.
Here are a few South London gems to check out:
96-108 Ormside Street, London SE15 1TF
Opened in 2015, this co-op run cultural centre has become the beating (ethicially-sourced and 100% vegan) heart of the DIY music scene. The Space has hosted rising stars like Skinny Girl Diet and Shopping, alongside regular First Timers workshops for new would-be bands, and affordable printmaking skills training. There’s also an actual record shop – vinyl junkies better bring a shopping trolley.
The Sound Lounge
210-212 Upper Tooting Road, London SW17
Opened in January 2017, this shiny new arts venue was funded by a crowdfunder which raised enough to kit out the 250-capacity space with state-of-the-art sound and lighting. With local (Wimbledon) beer on tap, and a lush vegetarian cafe, keep an eye on the listings for this club: it just may be your new favourite place in London.
The Bird’s Nest
32 Deptford Church Street, London SE8 4RZ
Hosting folk, punk, blues and ska bands Thursday to Sunday nights, a well-attended regular open mic every Wednesday, and a hiphop open mic night the first Sunday each month. There’s a youth hostel upstairs, a pretty groovy art gallery out the back, and there’s a £2.50-a-pint happy hour. What’s not to love.
The New Cross Inn
323 New Cross Road, London SE14 6AS
Newly refurbished to create a tidy 250-capacity venue with no sticky floors, but still bar prices the regulars (mostly Goldsmiths students) can afford. Live music six nights a week (with an excellent pub quiz on Mondays), hosting a mix of local and touring DIY bands and more established artists.
The Hand in Hand
61 New Park Road, London SW2 4EN
Brixton has long been a hub of live music, and this little gem just off the Hill is fast gaining respect for music ranging from ska to electronica and everything inbetween.
There’s an open mic on Thursdays, and a semi-posh grub menu.
The Bread and Roses
68 Clapham Manor Street, London SW4 6DZ
With regular live music in the front bar, one of London’s few surviving pub theatres out the back, and a cracking Sunday roast in the conservatory, it’s well worth the trip.
Matthews Yard, Off Surrey Street, CR0 1FF
Yes, Croydon. Seriously. A trip to Matthews Yard and you’re going to want to live in Croydon. Al fresco burgers and jerk chicken, craft beers, an art gallery, theatre and rehearsal space.
And if that hasn’t convinced you yet, did I mention that Croydon has an actual tram you can ride home?
All words by Cassie Fox. More from Cassie on Louder Than War in her author archive.