If 2015 headlines are anything to go by, London’s music venues are falling like dominoes. Just this week, the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers, which represents venues in the UK, reported that the number of clubs in the country has halved in the last decade. This year in the capital, superclub Fabric was threatened with closure after a series of drug-related deaths at the venue (it hasn’t closed, but stricter security measures have been introduced). Meanwhile, cabaret club Madame Jojo’s had its license revoked, ostensibly for a violent incident involving bouncers; 24-hour Caribbean social club Peoples Club was closed by the council, apparently because of noise complaints from residents; and Whitechapel’s Rhythm Factory and Shoreditch’s Plastic People have both made the decision to permanently shut their doors.
While the reasons for the closure of these clubs differ, gentrification is a recurring theme: Rhythm Factory blamed pressure from local authorities, who had granted permission for apartments to be built around the club. Mark Harris, who once co-ran the club night White Heat at Madame Jojo’s, told the Guardian that he believes the council "clearly don’t want a late night drinking presence anywhere in Soho anymore. They want to make Soho about families." There’s also the matter of existing venues that are battling to stay open: east London pub and gig venue The George Tavern has for several years now lived under the threat of luxury property developers.
But among the detritus, there's life still. After all, people need somewhere to dance. To find out where the party's moving to, The FADER spoke to 10 artists, DJs and promoters to find out their most vital venues in the city.
Chosen by Bradley Zero
DJ, Promoter [Rhythm Section]
BRADLEY ZERO: "The thing is, there’s nothing very typical about this venue. It is very much a functioning pool hall, which over the last few years has grown to accommodate a few hundred dancers on the weekend. I started doing the first regular party there (Rhythm Section) almost four years ago, and have been doing it twice a month since. We’ve gone from using my dad’s old soundsystem and bringing decks and lighting in every time to having a multi-channel custom Funktion-One system permanently installed in the venue. The decks are now in-house, but still proudly rest upon a functioning pool table.
"Canavan’s is accidentally brilliant: the size, the layout, the acoustics and the pool hall itself all work together to create what I find the most comfortable, unusual and dynamic dance hall in the capital. It’s a nighttime space that’s shifted organically to accommodate a new demographic, without affecting the old one. Come to Canavan’s on an afternoon and you’ll still see county pool tournaments, youth workshops and wedding receptions. Because there’s no curatorial policy or overarching aesthetic, every night is different—from old-time locals coming to do karaoke on a Sunday to late-night techno experiments on a Saturday. Everything goes, with a serene lack of pretentiousness."
Power Lunches, Dalston
Chosen by Simon Whybray
DJ, Promoter [JACK댄스]
SIMON WHYBRAY: "Power Lunches is perfect. You can squeeze 100 people in the basement and it’s lined with mirrors, so once you get it thick with smoke and pink lights it feels huge. I started my club there in 2013 just as they installed a new sound system and air conditioning. It still gets super hot, but if you’re dancing and not sweating you’re doing it wrong.
"Everyone who works there is a musician so they just get it. It’s exactly what a DIY venue should be—and London desperately needs more of them. They just celebrated their fourth birthday which is a testament to how hard Sian and Andrew have worked to keep it open and thriving."
Rye Wax, Peckham
Chosen by Bok Bok
Artist, DJ, Promoter [Club Rez], Night Slugs boss
BOK BOK: "Rye Wax is a badly needed, tiny basement venue in Peckham. By day it's a record store, run by an old friend who used to go raving at Plastic People, so [they] know the levels. Most nights a week it turns into a tiny lounge club. When we do Club Rez there, the vibe is like a house party with super-low ceilings and flat, warm subs massaging your body! I especially love the unusual position of the DJ booth."
Warehouse space, Bermondsey
Chosen by Endgame
Artist, DJ, Promoter [Endless]
ENDGAME: "We've had some really emotional nights at this warehouse space in an industrial estate near Bermondsey—my brother Lexxi threw the Endless raves here for sec. Always a very headless atmosphere—loose and kinda reckless, but in a positive way—and it’s far enough away from other club spots that you can feel free to be yourself, and move how you like. There are no lights, no DJ booth, no bar, no bouncers, and usually a very low-key cover fee. It represents an opposition to the conventional club, which is a really important thing for London right now. The police can come shut it down from time to time, but you can usually keep it rollin’ regardless."
Chosen by Monki
MONKI: "I know of a new club opening in Brixton which everyone is excited about. One, because a new club is actually opening, ha! And two, because it's in south London, not in east for once. Plus, the twist is there will be Fridays where one DJ plays all night long, and Saturdays will be looked after by new resident DJs. Taking it back to basics really—it sounds like a breath of fresh air. The club is called Phonox (previously Plan B) and will be run by the same guys from XOYO, so we all know it's in good hands."
Chosen by Kareem Reid
Visual artist/curator, DJ, Promoter [Body Party]
KAREEM REID: "Body Party at the Miranda is a nightlife event created specifically for queer black people, women especially. The whole concept of the night is to create a feeling of safety for marginalized people. Other than Night Slugs guests/residencies (Bok Bok, Girl Unit, Jam City, Manara, Sweyn Jupiter and 2SHIN have all made DJ appearances), queer black artists Larry B, Pepper Coast and I (Westindians) all contribute to making the night what it is: a really fun and intentional queer setting to unwind and be carefree in!
"Body Party centralizes genuine connections and friendships, that's what it was founded on. Miranda's small, intimate, familiar—lots of artists/fashion/creative types are already familiar with it—and casual enough to facilitate this atmosphere I'm trying to maintain for the night."
Tate Modern, Southbank / Tate Britain, Millbank
Chosen by Throwing Shade
THROWING SHADE: "The Tate got in touch with me for the first time last year, and said they wanted to commission me to compose a piece of music for one of the Turner Prize nominees. They then invited me to do a live performance at the Tate Britain; recently they contacted me again to invite me to perform live in the Turbine Hall at the Tate Modern. The Tate puts a lot of effort into its live music events, and they always try to cater to what the artist wants their performance to look and feel like in terms of sound, stage setting, projections etc. It's such an honor to be invited to perform in two of the most important cultural institutions in this country, and even more so because of the freedom that the Tate gives you to do your own thing.
"The musical events curated and hosted by the Tate are vital for London's music scene. The Tate is cultivating, showcasing and supporting new music being created by young Londoners. Other galleries and museums ought to follow suit and open up their doors to the spectrum of new music that's bubbling away in our city by offering artists the opportunity to redefine these spaces through live performances."
The Victoria, Dalston
Chosen by Logos
Artist, DJ, Promoter [Different Circles, Boxed]
LOGOS: "We've been running a summer season of Different Circles nights at the Victoria, which on one level is just a pub with a back room, so it's very DIY, but the night has a great social vibe, just the right amount of people and a very good (for London, and the venue size) Funktion-One system. For us, it's about music as a communal and forward-minded experience; the venue fits really well for that."
Corsica Studios, Elephant and Castle
Chosen by Russell Smith
Promoter [Oscillate Wildly, Eternal]
RUSSELL SMITH: "Corsica has a great atmosphere and vibe: no matter the night, often it feels more like a house party more than a club. People feel safe and actually dance and I’ve rarely seen or heard of unsavory behavior. The sound and music is great too—slight bias here of course, but the programming of the in-house nights and the promoters they work with is top notch. There aren't enough venues in London full stop. The number of mid-sized venues with a good system and two rooms is even rarer, and when you add in the fact it's in Zone 1 (just), Corsica is pretty unique. When you look at the development and regeneration of the surrounding area you have to fear for its long term future, which is a shame as it's pretty vital to music and culture in London."
Chosen by Siobhan Bell
DJ, Promoter [Work It Girls]
SIOBHAN BELL: "Usually at XOYO, I'd start upstairs at the bar before going into the 500 capacity room downstairs, where there will be heavy, floor-shaking music with amazing lighting and production. I usually go to a night called Deviation by Benji B where they always have a massive line-up and random special guests. The sound system there is brilliant and really caters to the DJs. It’s also a great venue for live music."
Eventim Apollo, Hammersmith
Chosen by GEoRGiA - Artist, Session drummer
GEoRGiA: "If I was to pick a venue, I would go always to Hammersmith Apollo, which is now the Eventim. It’s a really historic place. It’s the most beautiful place to see music. I went to see D’Angelo there recently, and the sound—it was like sticking on the record and hearing Voodoo. It needs to have a bit more of the younger blood in there to make it a bit more accessible, because it is all the sort of high artists that play there; Kate Bush played there, and I think Prince has. But it’d be great to get the young blood in there."