Here at Qbic we know the problem – you want to go out and hear some tunes, maybe dance a little, but you’re not up for a full-on, back-at-6am-the-next-day, whatever-happened-to-my-umbrella/wallet/trousers kinda night. What you want, in our opinion is one of London’s new breed of vinyl bars – places with great sound systems, an amazing choice of old records and a better class of booze than you’ll find down at Ministry. Here, in no particular order, are our five faves…
Behind This Wall
Where: 411 Mare Street, E8 1HY
When: 6-11 pm, Tue-Sat
Just a hop, skip and a jump from Qbic, this little vinyl bar is hard to find but well worth the effort. Walking along Mare Street look out for the old-school illuminated BAR sign. Take the stairs and, like Alice, you’re soon in an underground wonderland. The cocktails are classy, the food a typical east London mish-mash – raw bar, poke hot-dogs, oysters – but the real draw here is the sound system. It’s a glorious analogue set-up that once belonged to legendary producer Martin Hannett (Joy Division, Happy Mondays etc).
Where: Granary Square, 9 – 10 Stable St, N1C 4AB
When: 8am til late
If we could have any bar in the whole of London as our local, we’d choose Spiritland. The combination of big-name musical guests playing records – they’ve got Jarvis, Hot Chip and Youth in February – and a food and drink selection overseen by the people behind the excellent Galvin Bistro, make it just the kind of place you pop in for ten minutes and leave five hours later. Add in album playbacks, live radio shows and possibly London’s hardest music quiz and this King’s Cross institution is a must-visit for vinyl-heads.
Where: 470 Kingsland Rd, E8 4AE
When: Tues-Sun 5.30pm-midnight
If Spiritland is where you go to hear the classics, then Brilliant Corners is where you go for new discoveries. Jazz, rare soul, African jams, world music and cutting-edge electronica; all have been heard from the monolithic Klipschorn speakers in recent months. It’s rare for a space this small to have such a great soundsystem and it draws audiophiles from all over Britain for a chance to hear new music at its very best. Oh, and the Japanese restaurant here is pretty good too.
Where: Tileyard Studios, Tileyard Road, N7 9AH
When: By appointment
Here’s one for the hard-core. Gearbox Records is a name spoken in hushed tones among vinyl fetishists. They reissue classic albums on their own label and cut the records right here in London and probably the best analogue gear in the country. Of course all these tunes need to be checked, so there’s an amazing little listening space, which holds only ten people, which is the closest thing to being a mix engineer you’ll ever experience (unless of course, you’re a mix engineer). Chances to sit in that room are rarer than hens’ teeth but if you drop them a line they might find space for you in London’s best-kept vinyl secret.
Old Street Records
Where: 350-354 Old Street, EC1V 9NQ
When: Mon-Sat ’til 1am
The record shops that have thrived in the age of streaming are the ones that have a community feel and Old Street Records is bucking the digital trend with new openings and packed out stores. It’s because the shops have become vinyl bars that just happen to have the most knowledgeable staff around. Their latest venue is one of our favourite places to listen to records in all of east London. They mix it up with a lot of live music, DJ battles and all the scratching and live MCing that you won’t hear in the posher places. Add in decently prized cocktails and great pizzas and you have a buzzing, unpretentious night out with some great new music.