Where would we be without our independent music venues? It doesn’t bear thinking about, and each week we seem to read about another one threatened with closure. Thankfully though, we are still blessed with some incredible music venues, each dedicated to bringing us the best new live music experiences. They take a gamble on upcoming artists, ensure our music scene is not a bland homogenised behemoth of stadium shows and, over the years, have given us some unbelievably sweaty memories.

Seeing as it’s Independent Venue Week then, we thought it time to pay homage to some of our absolute favourites, and the people who make them what they are. Here are our top 6, in no particular order…

100 Club, London
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London’s iconic 100 Club has been trading under the name since 1964 and has put on live music since 1942 as the Feldman Jazz Club (amongst other names), earning it the title of the oldest independent venue world-wide. They’ve seen it all; whether championing the blues music of Muddy Waters, playing a central role in the birth of punk, hosting the first ever Northern Soul all-nighter in the 80s or putting on early Oasis and Suede shows a decade later. This place is full of history, and so has also become the go-to venue for secret shows and underplays, with big names like Blur, Primal Scream, Mark Ronson and Nas all having performed there. Jeff Horton, who runs the place, has achieved near legendary status in our eyes.

Ramsgate Music Hall
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Ramsgate Music Hall is a 125 capacity venue in Kent; pretty much the only venue in Kent, come to think of it. Considering there are 35,000 students in Canterbury too, it is badly needed and luckily, it more than delivers. Crowned “Britain’s Best Small Venue” by NME in 2015, they consistently pull in big bands while priding themselves on great acoustics and a friendly atmosphere. The likes of Fat White Family, Sleaford Mods, Neneh Cherry, Four Tet and Jungle Brothers have all played there (owner Jules Bigg’s daughter is even dating Baby Bam!). Not bad considering they’ve only been open since 2013.

Green Note, London
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School friends Immy and Risa founded Green Note as they wanted to create their own ideal place to hang out and share with everyone the music that they loved. It turns out a lot of people liked hanging out there too, and now the venue can’t seem to stop winning awards. Voted ‘London’s Favourite Music Venue’ by Timeout in 2015, last year they also received recognition as the ‘Top Cultural Attraction’ in Camden. It’s intimate, laid back, and home to the best roots, world and acoustic music. Leonard Cohen has even graced their stage for God’s sake! A must for lovers of more intimate gig spaces.

Brudenell Social Club, Leeds
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The Brudenell’s ‘About Us’ pages read like a manifesto: “The Brudenell is a lively and fun loving venue that embraces music and art under a wide and diverse umbrella that has no boundaries. Our open music policy believes in freedom and creation and holds the belief that music and expression provide useful social interaction.” Hear hear. You might not think it to look at the unimposing frontage (it really does look and feel like a ‘social club’), but Brudenell is the centrepiece of the Leeds music scene, and a glance at their upcoming listings shows the calibre and diversity of acts they put on: Girlband, Pulled Apart By Horses, The Handsome Family, Lee Scratch Perry, Jens Lekman, the list goes on. Owner Nathan Clark literally lives at the venue too, as in it’s his actual home. You wouldn’t get that at corporate venues.

The Cellar, Oxford
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We couldn’t leave out our local now, could we? A family run business for the last thirty years, The Cellar started off as a rock club before dropping drum ‘n’ bass and trance music on unsuspecting locals. They’ve always had a great commitment to local artists as well as less mainstream styles of music and have hosted early gigs from the likes of Young Knives, Deerhoof, Fuck Buttons, Stornoway, Blood Red Shoes and Foals. In fact, what better endorsement than this quote from Walter from Foals: “It’s the venue that members of my band have been thrown out of more times than we’ve played there. Quite an accolade. Long may it continue for all to enjoy real gold shows in the most intimate of settings, just please stop spilling Sambuca on my shoes..”

Vortex Jazz Club, London
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Dalston’s Vortex Jazz Club is a not-for-profit, volunteer run venue that programmes almost 400 performances every year (all booked in house and not by outside promoters, giving the club complete autonomy) and has helped launch the careers of Polar Bear and Portico Quartet. Saxophonist Evan Parker has a residency here too, describing it as his spiritual home – and it’s easy to see why. Bringing Jazz to a wider audience for over 25 years, we think this place is awesome, and with a capacity of only 100, you won’t find a more intimate setting.

For more like this follow @WGT_Henry on Twitter.

One thought

  1. Kent also has The Duke of Cumberland in Whitstable. Lee Scratch Perry, KRS 1, Big Daddy Kane, Roy Ayers, The Blow Monkeys, Hot 8 Brass Band, Sticky Fingers, Chali2na and Krafty Kuts, Nu Mark, Dead Prez, Hamish Stuart Band, Juan Martin, Osibisa are a few of the acts that have been through in the last year or so. It’s a great space for about 200ish. There are regular free gigs also. All the best Tony.

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