Rock & Pop: East London
- Why East London is poised
to take on North London and Soho as the centre of the capital's
music scene: An
exclusive LondonNet feature by Catherine Chambers
For too long North London and
the West End has dominated music venues and club culture. But
now the traditional backbone of London's music and clubbing industry
is facing a new challenge - from its Eastern neighbour.
East London - specifically
Hackney, Spitafields, Shoreditch and Hoxton (the latter two often
christened 'Shoho') is not only home to a smorgasbord of bars
and trendy eating places, but has witnessed a mushrooming of
small club and music venues over the last few years.
Cantaloupe and the much-lamented Blue Note heralded the change,
as well as the popular 333 Club, which has become a magnet for
clubbers. But over the last two years a new wave of venues has
emerged combining club nights with live music.
Of these, the Spitz,
which celebrated its fifth birthday in April, 93 Feet East set
up at the tail end of last year, and newly opened Cargo are leading
the way. Bands on the first rung of the ladder who want to get
away from Camden sweatboxes, and DJs after fresh and vibrant
club venues are turning towards the East, as are well known names
who can benefit from larger venues such as the 2,700 capacity
Ocean in Hackney.
"East London is developing
rapidly and in a very exciting way," says Anthony Luvera
of 93 Feet East. It's a notion repeated by the other venues.
London is the centre of not just music but art and the two do
go hand in hand, "says Lucy Whitehead of Ocean, which opened
in April this year. Among Whitehead's theories for musicians
re-locating East are "the number of amazing disused buildings"
which are being turned into venues, and the diverse artistic
communities that provide the cultural base. "London is a
very multi-cultural place and East London typifies this, making
the mix of people and music ever vibrant."
Spitz PR Tris Dickin agrees that the cultural diversity of the
area around Spitafields, EC1, where the Spitz is based, has helped
the venue -which also boasts an art gallery- become popular.
He credits artists such as Asian Dub Foundation and Talvin Singh
as 'revitalising the scene.' "Talvin Singh used to DJ at
the Spitz a few years ago and used to have a studio on Brick
Lane. ADF's success has enabled them to put so much back into
the community from where they came," says Dickin.
Run by a charity called The Dandelion Trust, The
Spitz began life as a dance/theatre/music venue but opted to
slim down its programme to focus primarily on live music and
club nights. While the venue is a main player on the touring
circuit for rising stars such as Turin Brakes and Goldfrapp,
the Spitz has attracted high profile artists seeking to play
an intimate gig, such as Senegalese superstar Baaba Maal who
played to a sold-out crowd earlier this year.
Dickin describes the music policy as 'eclectic'. Indeed it is
hard to think of another venue that covers such a wide rang of
music - from art-rock (Sweep The Leg Johnny) to Godfather of
alt-country Howe Gelb, and from jazz drummer Fred Frith, master
of electronica Zan Lyons, to Balkan folk from female Bosnian
duo Szapora. "We usually get acts who are on the verge of
getting a good reputation and who can pull good crowds,"
What marks the Spitz out from other venues however, is the intimate
ambience, with candle lit tables and vibe similar to the Jazz
Café. It's far far removed from the beer stained floors
of the pub venues. "The audience have done the pub-rock
thing," he says. "Now they want somewhere they can
sit down and have a glass of wine." It's an atmosphere that
has found favour with famous musicians, including a certain David
Bowie who, on visiting the Spitz, remarked that it was 'very
The Spitz's success is such that the promoters are considering
putting on gigs at other venues. "We're thinking of doing
events outside the Spitz," says Dickin. " The maximum
amount of people we can get in is 250 and the natural position
is to go outside the Spitz and put on events in bigger venues."
Right in the heart of Shoreditch
- home to the popular 333 club - and Brick Lane respectively,
Cargo and 93 Feet East are two venues that have capitalised on
merging club nights with music. Both pull the punters in through
their popular club nights, with 93 Feet East holding the bi-weekly
Haywire sessions with Andrew Weatherall, and classic house night
Sugar Candy. Cargo hosts a Latin house club on Friday and Worldwide
Live on Sunday with Giles Peterson.
Located halfway along Brick Lane, 93 Feet East launched last
September hosting Ninja Tunes 10th anniversary party on its inaugural
night, with Coldcut, Mr Scruff and Amon Tobin. Musically, 93
Feet East matches the Spitz in terms of its range of artists
including Plaid (Warp Records) to the twisted art-rock from Southern
Set in three brick arches in the cornerstone of Shoreditch, Cargo
promises MDF (Music Dance Food) and live music and DJs seven
nights of the week. Run by the folk who own 'Shoreditch Godfather'
Cantaloupe, the 500 capacity Cargo has played host to Jarvis
Cocker and Giles Peterson, the latter of whom DJs regularly at
the venue. Luvera makes that all-important decision of which
artists to put on, anything goes, he says but its 'gotta have
Ocean only opened its doors
in April, but is already riding the crest of a wave, having welcomed
big names such as Fun Lovin Criminals, Brand New Heavies and
reggae legend Lee Scratch Perry. Like the Spitz, Ocean is run
by an independent charity, Ocean Music Trust and receives no
private funding. It's a huge boost for Hackney- currently in
the throes of a regeneration programme - as local residents can
take advantage of Ocean's music education programme, Rising Tide.
The Ocean Resource Centre runs workshops aimed a young people
with little or no musical experience. "The education side
of Ocean is instrumental in improving young music lovers/makers
lives," says Whitehead.
The venue's large capacity - divided into three separate spaces
- the main auditorium, Ocean 2 (300 capacity) and Ocean 3 (100
Capacity) gives it an advantage over the smaller venues in that
it can attract established musicians to the area. But like Spitz,
93 Feet East and Cargo, Ocean boasts hugely eclectic line-ups,
a fact which Whitehead puts down to the promoters experience
and knowledge. Whitehead describes the music policy as 'open
minded', covering a cappella, African, ambient, bhangra and world
music among others. "We have bands from Soca to Jazz to
classical to reggae rock hip hop, " trumpets Whitehead.
Not to be outdone, Ocean also holds club nights -though of a
slightly different nature - a weekly salsa club every Sunday,
and the Beautiful Octopus Club - a night run by and for people
with learning difficulties.
A thriving hotbed of culture,
East London is on track to being the beating heart of London's
music and clubbing scene.
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