After years of travelling the country attending music concerts that range from the size of a living room in the depths of Cornwall, to the likes of Milton Keynes Bowl with thousands in attendance, I can honestly say I have seen and done it all. I could spend hours telling you stories from my many experiences at London music venues. Let’s keep that as a “save for later” idea. In the meantime, I want to share with you what I consider to be my top 5 favorite music venues in London.
O2 Academy Brixton
This venue has hosted many bands I’ve looked up to since I was in my early teenage years (Sum 41, Papa Roach, Less Than Jake, Rise Against to name a few). I love the organization of the queue that literally wraps around the entire building prior doors opening, with a welcoming entrance that splits off left and right for stairs to the upper area, and further along is the floor entrance to the left and right, but not before being greeted by the merchandise stand everyone congregates around to start planning what items to buy and if they chance to wait until the end of the show.
Once you enter the main floor, the surroundings boast some really interesting theatre-esque statues and old-fashioned style VIP boxes above the stage area giving more to take in while you’re waiting for the musician to take to the stage. Another amazing feature about the venue is the floor is on a slope, which gives an advantage of actually being able to see something no matter where you stand! That’s a top feature in this venue in my opinion.
Venue features: seating area, cloak room, bars, balcony view to stage
Address: 211 Stockwell Rd, Ferndale, London SW9 9SL
Nearest station: Brixton
O2 Academy Islington
This may cheat a little, because there is in actually 2 rooms for live events and could be happening on the same night! With the smaller room ‘O2 Academy2’ that puts on smaller shows, this has been a great experience for me to see a really impressive show by a Danish band called Siamese which I could not recommend enough (The venue and the band that is).
What we are really here to discuss is the main space which has let me see the likes of August Burns Red, Of Mice & Men, Patent Pending, Fozzy and even a stand-up comedy show from Steve-O (Jackass), the list literally goes on. As you enter from the bottom set of stairs, you begin to notice on the steps all the bands and the year they played in the venue, which is a great piece of information to really capture a part of history in realising many of these musicians excelled and pushed themselves to much bigger venues where you could only dream they’d play a show of this size again for probably one-fifth the price it would be now. At the top of the stairs you find the merch stand before entering the main floor, with a bar to the left, a bar to the right (with more stairs leading to additional upstairs space) and the stage directly in front of you. You get a great view, with great space and still very close to the stage when you perch up on at the bar to the right! That’s where you’ll find me for most of the night – Close to the action, but not enough to share sweat!
Venue features: 2 room (ground floor and first floor), cloak room, bars, no barrier to stage
Address: 16 Parkfield St, The Angel, London N1 0PS
Nearest station: Angel
This venue is impressive in a visual way. From the outside it is exactly what it says on the tin – round. Step inside and yes you guessed it, round! With a dome-like roof and pillars within the main floor in a circular form, you feel like you’re in an indoor birds cage. To tell the truth, it looks quite stunning, definitely a not-to-miss venue!
With great acoustics circulating this unique venue, I have seen a variety of acts here from Bowling For Soup with their energetic punk rock vibes, Infected Mushroom with their electronic-trance beats and one of my most memorable shows, Biffy Clyro playing an acoustic show for MTV Unplugged on a center stage as the crowd was circled around them. The stage was designed like a woodland with a 6 meter leafless tree that branched over the entire stage. It was magical.
Relive this moment with me, if you would:
This venue has an incredible atmosphere to soak in while you enjoy music, I think taking advantage of doing more shows with the circular stage in the center would be a great way for Roundhouse to step up from their competition. I know I’d love to attend another one of those!
Venue features: balcony seating area, cloak room, bars, restaurant on site
Address: Chalk Farm Rd, Camden Town, London NW1 8E
Nearest station: Chalk Farm
A chapel you say? Yes. That is not some quirky, hip venue name, it is quite literally a functioning church, with live entertainment on a pretty frequent basis! If this is heaven, then where do I sign up?
This venue has accommodated some amazing musicians in a stripped-down acoustic fashion, taking away that distorted guitar tone, and trading out those hard hitting drum sticks for the brushes to not penetrate your ear drums on the many occasions you forget to bring earplugs to shows! With the church seating you find yourself having to shuffle along or get up entirely to let others get through, but when you are settled into your seat, you are in for a treat. Since it’s not your conventional music venue, you will be able to trade your regular beer with a hot chocolate instead. Watching One Republic with a hot cuppa? Sounds delightful!
The authentic church arches and stained glass windows make for great photographs, along with the acoustics which are as clear as day! The sound is so beautiful that it makes you get the chills while hearing the stripped back versions of Jimmy Eat World and Yellowcard, from my experience when Jim Atkins and Ryan Key did solo shows there. Once the gig is over, you feel relaxed, rather than battered and bruised from all the rocking out from other shows!
Venue features: seating area, cloak room, no barrier to stage, balcony with view to stage, relaxed atmosphere, bar, food kiosk and did I mention hot chocolate
Address: 19b Compton Terrace, London N1 2UN
Nearest station: Highbury & Islington
Concluding my top 5 is one of my favourite venues in London, Electric Ballroom. The sound for a club is always impeccable, with every musician I have seen in this venue has been perfectly clear. The layout of the venue works so well, upon entering and going down a few steps you find a bar that you can get to from all angles, with the toilets to the right, and the merch stand to the left upon entering. A single step separates this section to the main room, with a bar at the back of the space and just a simple rectangular room for the fun to begin.
After experiencing the likes of Three Days Grace, Dillinger Escape Plan, Creeper, Sleeping With Sirens, I can honestly say the experience as a whole makes it for me the best venue in London. The venue is not big or small, just the right size. It’s a great atmosphere with people who look out for one another. It’s simple and effective. All of that is what I look for in a music venue. I have always felt welcomed in Electric Ballroom, whether I’m finding my place near the front and in the action, or taking the stairs to the upper floor at the back of the room that looks head onto the stage and down on everyone having the time of their life.
Venue features: balcony view of stage, cloak room, bars, seating area
Address: 184 Camden High St, Camden Town, London NW1 8QP
Nearest station: Camden Town