Words by Sareta Puri
Lewisham might not be the first place Londoners would consider for quality live music but the borough that Kate Bush grew up in and where Blur famously formed at Goldsmiths University of London, is a haven for fine talent as well as home to venues that artists from across the rest of the country, and world, have played in. Only earlier this year legendary festival, Bestival teamed up with the university to present Bestival at Goldsmiths showing that festival curator Rob Da Bank is proud of where it all started for him.
1. The Fox & Firkin - Lewisham High Street
Recently saved from being demolished by pesky property developers, The Fox and Firkin in Lewisham is somewhat of a local institution. If you’re after ska, jungle, reggae, dub or world music this should be your first call. Notable gigs include Soukos band Kasai Masai, legendary reggae queen Dawn Penn who took to the stage in 2015 to a rapturous crowd, and a more recent set from hip hop supreme DJ Vadim. Their reggae all-day events are always packed – most recently with fans of Congo Natty, Tippa Irie and other contemporaries.
2. The Amersham Arms - New Cross
Just round the corner from the university – which also holds Lewisham lad and Mercury Prize winner James Blake and songstress Katy B amongst their impressive alumni – it’s no surprise that the Amersham Arms in New Cross is renowned for great music events. The twice monthly Brockley Ukele Group is unlike anything else in the borough – bring down your uke and get playing!
3. The Birds Nest - Deptford
The Birds Nest in Deptford is another contender for top live music venue of Lewisham. Serving up a plethora of gigs and DJ sets five nights a week, there really is something for everyone from alt-rock to reggae to hip hop. The pub has seen legends such as Dire Straits grace their stage, as well as local talent such as Kate Tempest who will be headlining Nestival in August. If you’re a musician yourself then head down to their open mic night on a Wednesday where you can play for a pint.
4. Vinyl Deptford - Tanners Hill, Deptford
Just down the road, you can also catch the occasional gig at buzzing record shop-cum-café Vinyl Deptford which partners with The Birds Nest on local music festival, Nestival. At the end of Breakcore legends Shitwife and instrumentalist Josh Solo. Throughout the year gigs are more ad hoc but include monthly Teabar hosts Trans-Motorik sessions.
5. The Montague Arms - New Cross
Quirky New Cross pub The Montague Arms is another unique venue that hosts regular gigs in their side room. Diverse, talented music is the name of the game here and on any given week the schedule could include lo-fi, metal or dub. Well, not so much a room, but an area cordoned off by a curtain – so be aware that if you just want a quiet drink on the pub side, you’re likely to still hear the music.
6. New Cross Inn - New Cross
Yet another New Cross venue – the area is understandably often cited as the centre of live music in the borough – the recently refurbished New Cross Inn is one of the most infamous venues in town having hosted the likes of Wilko Johnson, Carter the Unstoppable Sex Machine and London punk veterans The Vibrators. If you really want to work the circuit then the Inn is home to yet another local open mic, this time on Tuesdays.
7. The Rivoli Ballroom - Crofton Park
The Rivoli Ballroom in Crofton Park is not only a Lewisham gem, but a London institution. The only remaining intact 1950s ballroom in the city the Rivoli will wow you from the moment you step through the door with it’s shimmering chandeliers and indulgent vintage décor. There are only three regular nights: “Rouges at the Rivoli” cabaret night, “Jacky’s Jukebox” specialising in ballroom, latin and salsa dance, and the monthly “Jive Party” with a full live jive band. For something extra special you can even hire the ballroom for your own even and jive the whole night away.
8. Jam Circus - Crofton Park
If it’s jazz you’re after you’ll be hard pushed to find a better night than Thursdays at Jam Circus in the Brockley and Crofton Park area. But if you’d rather be served beats then head down on a Friday night where regulars Mr Higgs and Mr Parker run a session of breaks, funk, soul and jazz until 1am and if you pop in a Saturday night it’s usually afro house, soul or hip hop.