Going underground: London’s best independent music venues

November 2, 2018

Here at Kore Studios, we love going to great music venues in London. Whether it’s seeing a pop superstar selling out Wembley Stadium, a classical quintet at the Barbican or indie rock’s next big thing at Dingwalls, we’re obsessed with live music.

We’ve written before about some of our favourite venues in the capital, but they were big, bombastic and world famous. In this article, we’ll be taking a look at the hippest spots in town, the best alternative and independent venues in London, where you can see tomorrow’s musical giants today.

Village Underground, Shoreditch

Just down the road from the curries and bagels of Brick Lane and almost next door to shipping container-based market Boxpark, the Village Underground is nestled in the centre of London’s hipster heaven. Since 2006, the Village Underground has been fulfilling its self-described role as ‘a space for creativity and culture in the heart of East London’ with plenty of art exhibitions, film screenings and, of course, alternative music.

Situated inside a Victorian railway viaduct and spilling into the tube carriages-turned art galleries placed on the roof, it’s easy to see how the Village Underground developed its too cool for school reputation. Of course, you can’t get by on aesthetics alone. The VU has played host to dozens of the most unique and groundbreaking artists out there.

Experimental hip-hop trio Death Grips, Jpop-inspired electropop wizards Kero Kero Bonito, trap superstar Playboi Carti and plenty of other artists you’ve lied about listening to before they were famous have all graced the stage at this alternative East London landmark.

The Underworld, Camden

Located beneath the iconic World’s End pub on Camden High Street, The Underworld is a legendary haunt for fans of all things heavy. From hard rock to the most extreme subgenres of metal, if you like your music loud, hard and heavy, you’re guaranteed to find it here. What better place could there be for all this metal goodness than a venue built on the site of the cottage owned by a 17th century witch?

Visitors to The Underworld can look forward to seeing bands take a stage that has turned the smallest rock bands into titans of the genre. The likes of Ghost, Kvelertak and The Black Dahlia Murder have all played here, while the venue also stands as a focal point of the annual Camden Rocks Festival.

Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club, Soho

If metal isn’t your scene and you’d prefer a smoother night on the town, then Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club is the place to be. Founded in 1959 by the legendary Scott and his bandmate Pete King, the club has been jazzing up the West End for almost 60 years.

The club quickly became a jazz mainstay, attracting its first American performer – Zoot Sims – in 1962 and moving to a larger premises at its current location of Frith Street in 1965. With plenty of big names in jazz, including Ernest Ranglin and Stan Tracey, taking up residences the club became a hit, revitalising a jazz scene that was beginning to decline in mainstream popularity.

Since the 60s, Ronnie Scott’s has played host to a range of artists from a variety of genres. Classic jazz acts Ella Fitzgerald and Chet Baker stand shoulder to shoulder with the likes of soul legend Curtis Mayfield, 80s pop god Prince and even Jimi Hendrix, who played his last gig at the club in 1970.

The Windmill, Brixton

The Windmill in Brixton is one of the undisputed kings of London’s underground music scene. Despite only having a 150-person capacity, the Windmill has consistently championed up-and-coming musicians since 2002 when it switched from average pub to a hub of live music in South London.

With gigs put on five to six days a week and commanding some of the lowest on-the-door prices in London, it’s no wonder that the Windmill has developed its beloved reputation. Relaxed, cheap and always cheerful, a night at the Windmill is a must if you’re looking to check out some of the coolest new bands around.

From post-punk to krautrock to electropop, bands from all genres regularly perform at the unassuming Windmill. You might not catch a performance from any chart-toppers, but the Windmill has attracted its fair share of underground heroes. The likes of Biffy Clyro, Bloc Party and The War On Drugs have all played to the pub’s tiny, but always thoroughly energetic, crowd.

The Dublin Castle, Camden

If Camden is the home of London’s alternative culture, and The Dublin Castle pub is its epicentre. It may not be as big, nor as well known, as the Roundhouse, Dingwalls or Koko, but it’s still brimming with musical heritage. Since the late 1970s, plenty of incredible musicians have taken the stage at The Dublin Castle.

The Castle’s reputation as a musical goldmine began in 1979 when Madness, then known as The Camden Invaders, began a residency at the pub. In the 90s, it was a springboard to success for the steadily growing Britpop movement, with Blur playing a number of performances in the 200-capacity venue. In the new millennium it became a regular haunt of Amy Winehouse, who not only staged her soulful performances in the pub, but could often be found pulling pints behind the bar.

Considering that The Killers, Muse and The Libertines all played early gigs at the legendary independent boozer, we can safely say that it’s one of the best places to visit in London for a peek at tomorrow’s rockstars – or to become one yourself.

To get a slot at one of these iconic underground venues, it’ll help to have a great record under your belt already. To get involved with one of the best recording studios in London, contact us today to see what we can offer you and your band.