O2 Academy Brixton
211 Stockwell Road, London, SW9 9SL
+44 (0) 20 7771 3000, +44 (0) 844 477 2000 (box office)
This 5,000-capacity Art Deco theater located in South London has long been one of the U.K. capital’s most popular midsize venues, playing host to an almost-nightly procession of British and international artists, as well as one-off club nights. It’s perhaps the city’s best place to catch acts about to make the transition to even bigger stages.
INTEL: “Brixton Academy is London’s greatest and most iconic music venue. From my first visit in 1993 to see the Orb to seeing Frank Ocean last month, it’s impossible to count the incredible gigs I’ve seen there. It’s an absolute rite of passage for bands to play it, and has become a benchmark for people on the up — if they get it right, they’ll get rewarded with a pretty magic atmosphere. Sadly, the infamous drinking spot next door, the Goose, got closed down. However, the Trinity Arms in nearby Trinity Square is a good, and safer, alternative.” -Ben Mortimer, A&R director, Polydor
Villiers Street, London, WC2N 6NG
+44 (0) 20 7930 2020
Housed under the Charing Cross train station, a short distance from Trafalgar Square, Heaven is one of London’s leading gay night spots. On Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, its warren of bars, dancefloors and hidden spaces are occupied by the G-A-Y clubbing franchise, but during the rest of the week up-and-coming artists regularly ply their trade in the 1,000-capacity space.
INTEL: “Heaven is perhaps my favorite midsize club venue in London. The Function-1 PA system is fantastic and really benefits more electronically driven acts — deep bass and very rich sound. The sight lines in the venue are great. You can see the stage no matter where you’re standing. It never gets too hot or uncomfortable. It’s a unique capacity for central London, a great bridging venue for a band who is trying to climb up to a Shepherd’s Bush Empire-sized [2,000-capacity] room.” -Jason Edwards, booking agent, 13 Artists
Hoxton Square Bar & Kitchen
2-4 Hoxton Square, London, N1 6NU
+44 (0) 20 7613 0709
Mumford & Sons, Vampire Weekend and Florence & the Machine are among the long list of now-famous names that started out playing this 300-capacity venue in East London’s trendy Shoreditch area, which remains an industry hotspot for catching the latest buzz acts. A rousing playlist of indie, rock, soul, pop and electro can be heard on Fridays and Saturdays, when live acts give way to clubbing revelers.
INTEL: “I’ve always enjoyed seeing new and exciting acts from the U.K., U.S. and all over the world here. It’s a great venue built around this lovely traditional London square, and is just the right size to ensure a decent turnout that will give the acts a sweaty and atmospheric welcome to London’s trendy East End. The bars and restaurants in Shoreditch are an amazing range — from famous old local pubs to new Mexican, Indian, Thai restaurants and many more. It’s as diverse and interesting as the bands you’re going to see that night.”
-Steve Melrose, joint A&R managing director, Epic Records U.K.
Peninsula Square, London, SE10 0DX
+44 (0) 20 8463 2000
The top-grossing arena in the world for the past four years, according to Billboard Boxscore, the O2 Arena simply can’t be beaten when it comes to catching A-list talent and megawatt touring productions. Capable of holding up to 20,000 spectators, the building is just one part of a huge entertainment complex that also contains the 2,800-capacity indigO2 venue, 3,000-capacity club space Building Six and a wide variety of restaurants and bars. Up at the O2 provides visitors 360-degree views of London as they journey across the building’s famous dome-shaped roof.
INTEL: “The O2 is fast becoming a truly iconic venue to play for artists. Apart from the venue being one of the best in the world, visitors are able to enjoy an entire evening of entertainment. Arriving via London Underground or Thames Clippers [river bus service], you’re delivered directly to the front door of the O2. Afterward, it’s always worth letting the crowds die down before you exit and head for the Underground — best to enjoy a pint and update your social media with images from the night’s performance.” -Ben Martin, head of marketing, Marshall Arts
32-37 Cowper St., Shoreditch, London, EC2A 4AP
+44 (0) 20 7354 9993
With a playlist that spans hip-hop, house, techno, dubstep, garage and everything in-between, XOYO has quickly established itself as a prime late-night clubbing destination since opening in 2010 and relaunching two years later. Based in the heart of Shoreditch and spread over two floors, the club features a 450-capacity main room that doubles as a popular live music space, with Foxes and Icona Pop among the upcoming bookings.
INTEL: “As an agent who grew up on club culture, the new opening of a venue is always exciting. [XOYO] was purpose-built at a time when Shoreditch had lots of bars and pubs, but needed a really proper heads-down nightclub again. And that’s exactly what it got. It opened as a work in progress and there were parts of it that needed changing — including the padded cell bars — but a nip here and a tuck there and it’s now one of the most used and liked venues in London, both as a live and club space.” -Nick Williams, booking agent, Coda Agency
Ministry of Sound
103 Gaunt St., London, SE1 6DP
+44 (0) 20 7740 8600
Since first opening its doors in 1991, this legendary 2,000-capacity club has long been one of London’s — and Europe’s — premier clubbing destinations. Found just a short walk away from the Elephant and Castle train station, the club features a sound system justly lauded as one of the best in the world (reportedly capable of reaching an ear-splittingly loud 156 decibels). The five rooms, including main dance space the Box, host the biggest names in house and EDM every week. Manager Jason Ash’s advice for attending? “Wear comfortable footwear. We rave long and hard.”
INTEL: “Ministry is like a home away from home for me. The crowd and the staff are passionate about quality electronic dance music. The Box’s sound system is every bit as good as the legend states-I can’t think of a better place to DJ in the world.” -Mark Knight, DJ/producer
45 Queen Caroline St., London, W6 9QH
+44 (0) 844 249 4300
Formerly known as the Hammersmith Apollo, this easily accessible 5,000-capacity West London theater is steeped in history — numerous icons, from the Beatles to Bob Marley, have played there. Acquired by AEG and CTS Eventim in 2012, the Grade II–listed building has undergone a major refit that successfully preserves its elegant Art Deco fittings while amplifying the visitor experience with great sight lines throughout.
INTELl: “Following a recent multimillion-pound investment from AEG and CTS Eventim, with a huge visual transformation re-creating the 1932 iconic Art Deco design, the refurbished venue is even more atmospheric for its fans, with no detail spared, from raising some seats to ensure a great view of the stage to improving overall leg room. The Eventim Apollo envelops you right when you walk through the doors-you instantly escape the outside world and lose yourself in the power of the show.” -Colin Chapple, COO, AEG Live
77A Charterhouse St., London, EC1M 6HJ
+44 (0) 20 7336 8898
A mainstay of the London club scene for more than a decade, Fabric has long been the choice destination to hear the latest cutting-edge electronic music. Dedicated to showcasing underground talent, be it house, techno, dubstep, drum’n’bass or any possible permutation of these sounds, the 1,500-capacity purpose-built club attracts only the hottest DJs. Sunday’s Wetyourself night extends the dancefloor hedonism into next week.
Intel: “Fabric is amazing. I don’t go to too much when I’m not playing there because it’s just so fucking crazy and hectic, but it is a pretty special place. I’ve had some really great experiences playing there. It’s just the best sound system. Even being asked to play is half the battle. It’s almost like a nod of respect. It’s like, ‘OK, you’re still one of us. You’re still relevant.’ When you’re playing there, kids come and just want to have the Friday night of their lives. It’s really special in that way.” -Mark Ronson, DJ/producer/artist