Marc Burrows, December 2017
London’s musical legacy is the stuff of legend, probably unmatched anywhere else in the world. This is the city of the Rolling Stones, the Clash, The Kinks, Blur, the Who, the Sex Pistols, Billy Bragg, the Pogues and thousands more. Every day musicians flock to the capital to seek their fortune, and they’re all looking for gigs. As a result the city is stuffed with cool places to catch live music, and much of it won’t cost you a penny.
This rather swish bar, just a stone’s throw from Waterloo station, offers free live music every single night, and match it with a superb cocktail menu. Primo showcases a handpicked selection of mostly-acoustic artists, some of them are internationally acclaimed, others are newcomers or hidden gems. The curation is excellent, and booker Didier Agueh goes out of his way to sculpt consistent nights of quality music.
Park Plaza Victoria, Piano Sessions Victoria
There’s something extremely classy about a hotel piano bar, conjuring images of undone bow-ties and smoky drinks late at night. The Victoria location and excellent drinks menu make this a brilliant place to warm up to a night out, wind-down at the end of one or else just sit at the bar and while the night away.
The Lock Tavern
The epicentre of alternative culture in the UK, Camden Town has long been London’s go-to for live music. The Lock Tavern is one of the area’s best venues, with a classy drinks menu, excellent food and a fantastic garden terrace. The Lock puts on free music throughout the week, and while it’s a little indie-centric you’re almost guaranteed to see someone who’ll be on the cover of the NME a few years later. When people talk about supporting grass-roots live music, this is the kind of gig they mean.
Rough Trade East
Even without the live element, Rough Trade East is worth a visit for any music fan for the records alone – it’s an Aladdin’s cave of vinyl and CDs, featuring every genre under the sun. In many ways it’s the ultimate record shop. And to top it off, there’s live music throughout the week including most saturday afternoons. The booking policy obviously tends towards bands with an album out, so you get an extremely high calibre of artist from critically acclaimed newbies to bona fide legends. Higher profile acts may require reserving your place in advance. And of course you can pick up a band’s latest album, and usually get it signed on the spot.
Ray’s Jazz Cafe, Soho
Situated in the legendary Foyles bookstore on the Charing Cross Road, Ray’s Jazz Cafe is a must-visit for fans of jazz of all kinds. Throughout the week events curated by journalists and jazz purists like comedian Stewart Lee and Gramophone magazine’s James Jolly feature elegant performances from legends and jobbing musicians alike. The coffee selection is absolutely first class as well, and there’s something about the comforting aroma melding with the soothing strains of the music that casts a unique spell. Of course the library of CDs and records available to buy is second to none, and free wifi also makes this a great place to work through the day.
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