Explore London

Why independent music venues are definitely better

The capital is playing host to an event to convince you otherwise. Independent Venue Week launches at the end of January, with an extensive line-up of smaller and more intimate stages for acts to have a play. The smaller stages do have their faults: but for us, bigger is definitely not better.

Why go smaller?

Smaller venues offer a degree of flexibility and spontaneity not available to the main stages: one September morning in 2015 Muse announced a gig for that evening in Camden’s Electric Ballroom – and one call from a friend saw us attending a performance described by the Telegraph as ‘absolute blitzkreig‘ and an ‘escape’ from the major stadia.

It’s not as if the two are incompatible. Muse have since gone on to a major international tour as well as being a headline at Glastonbury, playing to around 175,000 festival-goers – a distinct contrast to the 1,200 or so who gathered in North London. Bands enjoy the experience of being ‘closer’ to their fans, and certainly it is a more intimate setting. Perhaps slightly too intimate, it could seen, with Muse’s lead guitarist Matt Bellamy bemoaning being unable to play a song demanded by cheering fans because he ‘forgot’ to bring his bass guitar.

Don’t try classical at the O2

It really depends what type of music you’re seeing, and who you’re after: a bar won’t exactly be suitable for London’s Philharmonia Orchestra, somewhere more ornate being preferable for their grand music. Though it could be argued equally that the Royal Albert Hall, despite its historical association as the home of British classical music during the BBC Proms, has poor acoustics (it does) and sometimes poor views (it can do). More appropriate is their permanent home in the Southbank Centre, actually designed for an orchestra, as heard when attending their 2016 performance of Mozart’s Requiem which was simply astounding.

Wembley, the O2 Arena and the Royal Albert Hall are all, rightly, titans of the international music scene, with stunning visuals, volume and visitors giving them spectacular atmospheres from the world’s best artists. Independent venues, however, offer something different: not for its own sake, but an opportunity for unknown bands you may fall in love with, or a chance to see the big names in a different light.

Independent Venue Week

This brings us to the big event for this year’s smaller stages: the national Independent Venue Week. London has 24 venues across the city hosting small new and more established bands throughout the week. West London features Half Moon Putney and Bush Hall; in the south you will find bands playing at Omeara and Windmill Brixton; North London has Nambucca and The Good Ship, while out east Sebright Arms and Village Underground are just two of the multitude of smaller venues. If you need to try something new in 2017, check out these rising stars – and you’ll be back before you know it.