In their purest form, live venues serve as the heartbeat of the world’s musical communities, big and small. Whether a new sound is being tried and tested on the dancefloor or artists are bringing the live experience to their audience, nightlife helps us understand where music is going.
From London and Toronto to Johannesburg and Tokyo, no two nightlife scenes are the same and nor should they be. They represent the multifaceted make up of that unique part of the world. Starting with the UK capital, we want to highlight some of the world’s most distinctive music venues and what makes them tick. It could be a great soundsystem, a quirky set up or a devoted audience, but these locales carry fantastic reputations.
Scroll down for 10 from London's live music scene.
Co-founded by Rhythm Section head honcho Bradley Zero, JUMBI is a bar and restaurant describing itself as “celebrating the sounds and flavors of the African-Caribbean diaspora.” With a stacked vinyl library and a Hi-Fi, one turntable sound system, it hosts weekly events that bring an eclectic musical tone. Since its opening in June 2022 it has hosted amazing sets by the likes of Haseeb Iqbal, Hagan and Blue Note Reimagined, building a very loyal clientele in the process.
Brilliant Corners is an intimate space but prolific with its amazing programming. A spot for live performances, listening parties and all out club nights, the bar/restaurant carries a classy feel to rival most jazz clubs and has hosted everyone from FKA twigs to even the Mixcloud team. All genres are welcome and you can expect anything from soul and reggae sessions to immersive sets across African and Asian music. A truly hidden gem of a venue.
Matchstick Piehouse has become an essential spot for live performance. Its unassuming presentation - located under a set of train arches - and sparse layout allows for maximum enjoyment across jazz, spoken word, drag, club music and more. Most notably, Matchstick hosts weekly improv shows by the jazz collective Steamdown every Wednesday, which have proven immensely popular in their own right.
Describing itself as a “basement of dreams,” VFDalston caters to its mostly queer clientele with impeccable range. They host panel discussions, platform emerging LGBTQIA+ performers through talent showcases, comedy nights and open mics and party the night away with equal energy. They prove a venue can be more than just a dance; it can incorporate an entire community with ease.
We had to show some love to one of London’s most infamous spots, ground zero for any invested club goer. Fabric is a world class locale and has been making history out of its multi-storey in Farringdon, Central London, for over two decades, staying on the pulse of the city’s variant musical scene. Nothing is off the table musically, and revelers can expect grime, bass, drum & bass, funky, hip hop and everything in between. You have to go at least once in your life.
Colour Factory carries big warehouse energy in that it operates out of a converted warehouse, but it keeps a very firm hand in club music. This is reflected in its programming, which strives to be inclusive and advocate for cultural diversity. Any given weekend, you can catch Pxssy Palace, Eastern Margins, Tiffany Calver and Ahadadream spinning at the Factory and with that, you’re covering a lot of the exciting representatives of London’s nightlife. An essential fixture of modern London’s club scene.
Despite moving venues in late 2022, The Cause has worked to keep the groove alive for its many revelers. They employ an open-door policy, welcoming every creed and color through its doors and that is reflected in an expansive roster of DJs and artists, including Ben UFO, Fabio & Grooverider, Octo Octa and dozens more over its timespan. Now celebrating its fifth year of existence, The Cause has plenty of gas in the tank to continue impacting London nightlife and etch its growing status as a cult nightspot.
Cafe OTO places focus on music on the fringes of the mainstream by providing daily live sessions of self-described ‘adventurous music.’ Part cafe, part book shop, part record shop, it programs everything from ambient and computer music to psychedelic and synth, embracing the weird and wonderful of global sounds. Additionally, its OTO Project Space just a few minutes away offers artists the chance to work on their music and develop concepts for art, workshops and installations. You name it, Cafe OTO does it.
FOLD strives to offer a safe space for its largely queer community. With a capacity of 500 people, its focus on dance music enables memorable nights ranging from hard house and electro to techno and gothic industrial. On top of being a venue, FOLD is a fully functional creative hub, engaged within its community by offering its space to creatives, interviewing DJs and artists and more. On top of its own record label. Can someone say range??
By now, Dalston Superstore is a staple of the queer nightlife scene. Specializing as a nightclub, cabaret spot, cafe, gallery and community space, it has welcomed some heavy hitters to play sets, such as Honey Dijon, The Blessed Madonna and the late Andrew Weatherall. Its status has also unlocked residencies at the Glastonbury Festival’s famous Block 9 stage and Lovebox Festival among others. If you’re in the mood for letting loose, Dalston Superstore is not to be missed.
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