2. Bull & Gate
And so to our final (belated) 2011 awards category. Despite the Xmas rush, it’s fair to say votes came pouring in. And the more we – and some of you – thought about it, the harder, and perhaps more futile, it actually seemed to plump for just one venue. After all, you can’t compare a sweaty club haunt with a concert hall. As Fiona said: ‘This is like trying to choose a favourite gallery or colour…pretty impossible.’
But despite the head-scratching, votes were cast in dozens of directions, with Proud Galleries, Electric Ballroom, Dublin Castle and Lock Tavern pulling in a fair few between them. And the Flowerpot was mourned by many, as much as the Wheelbarrow and Heroes (now in the former Flowerpot site) were ignored (which surprised us as both are quite cool little places with decent sound systems). And we hoped the Forum would have done better, being at the heart of the neighbourhood, but it only netted a handful of votes. Perhaps it’s just a bit too, well, ordinary. Or what?
And as for the aforementioned Fiona, well she was so detailed in her appraisal, that here’s what else she had to say: ‘I haven’t been to the Wheelbarrow yet but I miss the Flowerpot: properly eclectic, very friendly and free. And of course the Bull and Gate, on a packed night, excellent. Underworld and Dublin Castle successfully do what they say on the tin. And all the tiny, unexpected places..upstairs at the Oxford, downstairs at Torriano, Under Bar Solo, punk nights at Made in Brasil, and even upstairs at O’Reill. Incredible. So much music.’
But in joint third place we have KOKO and Barfly. Both are legendary in their own way: the former is a beautifully restored music hall playing host to some of the hottest names around (Mrs Kentishtowner is already planning an outfit for Lana Del Ray on Jan 24th); whilst Barfly is a cult venue with a steady following. As that same Fiona says, ‘[it's] the place that seems not only most in keeping with the general musical spirit of Camden/Kentish Town but started a large part of.’ And all this despite increased competition from the area’s new breed of perhaps more on-trend venues (such as the Blues Kitchen and ace Hoxton Bar sister venue, the Black Heart).
We’re pleased the Bull & Gate had plenty of local support following the threat of its demise and it takes a worthy runners-up spot. As Robin says: ‘It has to be the Bull and Gate. Live music with three or four bands every night, splendid layout, just right.’
But in first place is the gorgeous Roundhouse, a world-class venue pulling in major acts every night, as well as being triumphant at general creative programming. Kate praised the best sound in London, Michael its overall ‘aesthetic’ and NickyF its ‘stellar names.’ And as for Mrs Kentishtowner? Well, a gentler soul than some, she particularly enjoyed the mixed media show by Ron Arad, which ran all summer.
Words & pics: Stephen Emms