Sounds of the City - London

5th May 2019

United Kingdom - UK Team

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« Our guide to unearthing musical adventures in the always buzzing home of music »

For many people, London is the music city to visit. It has iconic locations used across legendary album covers by Pink Floyd, David Bowie, and Oasis, and it’s been the scene of some of the most famous gigs of all time, from Queen at Live Aid, to The Beatles playing their final show on the rooftops of Saville Row. But at its core, it’s the passion and creativity of London’s residents that makes it such an essential destination for music lovers.

The Swinging 60s to Britpop

As the 1950s turned into the 1960s and pop music was born, the capital quickly became the UK’s hub for new artists, with bands like The Kinks and The Rolling Stones forming the ‘British Invasion’ that swept into pop charts around the globe, establishing London as the home of a thrilling new movement. The 1970s brought superstars such as David Bowie, Jimi Hendrix and Queen, who continued taking London’s music scene to the world, and towards the end of the decade there was the arrival of punk, with The Sex Pistols and The Clash trailblazing a new direction that impacted culture forever. London’s creative buzz continued over the years as the city evolved while never standing still, bringing the boom of dance music in the late 1980s, Britpop in the 1990s and the recent jazz resurgence, to count just three of the many scenes that have flourished. If you want to fully immerse yourself in music, there really isn’t many better places to visit than the English capital, but where best to head to?

Iconic Venues

London has a raft of incredible large-scale venues for catching superstars, and one of the most memorable is the famous Roundhouse in Camden. In the 1960s, it was the home of many of the city’s most exciting movements, and acts like The Beatles and Pink Floyd were regulars. After closing for many years, it reopened in 2006 and is now an inspiring arts and culture hub, with its iconic circular music space being home to performances from some the best live acts in the world. Recent guests have included Radiohead and Alicia Keys, and during 2019 it will host shows from Tom Walker and Rodrigo Y Gabriela. 

While venues like The Roundhouse host the biggest names in the word, London has a rich selection of well-curated spaces showcasing the next generation of talent. Omeara in London Bridge is one such place with a strong music heritage. Built in an old Victorian railway arch, it’s a beautiful place to catch a gig, and always busy and atmospheric for shows. With a great soundsystem and an ornate stage that bands love playing on, it’s become one of London’s must-visit places for music.

Club Culture in the Capital

As evening turns into night, you likely need somewhere to keep the party going. XOYO has established itself as one of the best clubs in the city, with a great location in Shoreditch and programming that attracts some of the finest DJs in the world to play its impeccable soundsystem. It’s a club by music lovers, for music lovers, and well worth losing yourself in the dark room and its many lasers!

Festival Season

Should you only have a few days in the capital and want to cram in as much music as you possibly can, then London has plenty wonderful inner-city music festivals to experience, including All Points East, which only launched in 2018 but has already established itself as a hugely exciting fixture on the city’s music landscape. Taking place over two weekends in late May and early June, it’s based in Victoria Park in Hackney (close to where the Olympics were held in 2012). For this upcoming summer, it has blockbuster names like The Chemical Brothers, The Strokes and Bon Iver headlining, with a mouth-watering support bill across various stages. 

 

If you want to experience a world-famous street party while in town, then late August is the time to visit, when the Notting Hill Carnival takes place over a holiday weekend. Spread across neighbourhoods in and around the famous West London district, it hosts ear-rattling soundsystems on the streets as well as an unmissable parade through the area featuring dancers, drummers and DJs. There’s a strong focus on Caribbean music due to its roots in the area, so expect to hear reggae, dub and soca blasting from major speaker racks, but the Carnival has evolved over the years, with plenty of dance music stages and live MCs now an integral part of the fun. When the sun is out, there are few better places to be in London than celebrating good times at the Notting Hill Carnival.

The Vinyl Revival

And when you’re in the home of so many key music scenes, you may well want to pick up a selection of records from tomorrow’s big names. Rough Trade East, as the name suggests, is in the east of the city near to the popular Brick Lane area, and is an essential record shop visit. As well as being constantly ahead of the curve with new vinyls, it has a fantastic cafe and book shop, as well as hosting gigs most days, meaning you can easily spend a few hours taking in London music life here. 

You could spend a lifetime and only experience a fraction of London’s music life, but we hope these recommendations will at least give you a taster of the capital’s buzzing atmosphere!