Dancer Dancer STRUMMERVILLE Dubstep Bear
Seyi • 12Tone • Kartel
FILTHY BOY FREE FREE LONDON LONDON MUSIC! MUSIC!
Photo by George Miller
e arrive in Brixton and the dingy bar is full of hipsters and Rastas. I overhear one of our crew say, "This doesn't look like our kind of place." But that's precisely why we're here - away from Big Ben and Parliament, far from the tourist attractions of Central London. We're here, in a largely Caribbean neighborhood that is most renowned for riots that occurred nearly thirty years ago, because this is real London. And we are on an adventure. We down a few pints, chat up the locals, eat some tacos and then we hear the music: a woman wails inside the club as the brass section bellows. The drummer pounds a rat-a-tat-tat beat and the guitarist bounces that fast, chicka-chicka, chicka-chicka ska rhythm. So we dance. And dance. And eat more tacos. And dance. We hang with the band, meet more locals, party with some Aussies (they’re everywhere in London, you know) and we close the club. By the end of the night, we’re sweaty, happy, full and a little inebriated. None of us, however, knows how to get home since the underground has ceased for the evening. We spend a ridiculously long time staring at the bus schedule, never fully comprehending it. But we board a bus heading into Central London anyway. The night bus is full of drunken revelers and the time passes quickly. Before we know it, the bus stops at Marble Arch and for some reason, I say, “I think this is us.” Did I mention we’re just a bunch of American wankers from Philadelphia, 18 students guided by one Temple University journalism professor (me) who has never ridden the night bus in London? This is our first full night together as we embark on the mission that results in the magazine you are now reading. All I know is that Marble Arch is near Hyde Park, and our flats are near Hyde Park. We begin to circumnavigate the gigantic, 625-acre greenspace. We lose a few folks who run off to pee in the bushes. A few others decide to take a short cut through the park, dashing past police and other all-nighters illegally taking a stroll. Others just mysteriously disappear. By the time the remaining handful of us approach our flats, the sun is shining. The underground is running again. Delivery trucks barrel down the left-side of the road. We vow to master the night bus, an essential skill for anyone trying to experience the London you don’t read about in travel magazines. It was an epic night and it set the tone for rest of our six-week journey. On the following pages, you'll find more tales of our adventures, and stories about the amazing people we met along the way. Enjoy.
George Miller email@example.com
Navigating the London music scene.
What's Your Scene?
Robin Tarleton and Leah Williams break down the massive metropolis.
We speak to the guys at 12Tone, R&B star Seyi, Physical Pea and the folks at Pledge Music.
What'd They Say? Free London Music
Erica Vines tells you where to get your groove on for free, five days per week.
This Place Rocks
We party at the Troubador, 606 Club, Peter Parker's, Strummerville and the Bull & Gate.
Christie Francis dances Bollywood-style. Evan Kaucher is the dubstep bear.
The Roundhouse has been a landmark in Camden for more than 150 years. The former train shed became a music venue, playing host to the Doors and Pink Floyd. In its current iteration as a creative hub for young people, the Roundhouse is running its own record label. And kicking ass.
Hanging With The Band
We hang with the Japanese Voyeurs, Sam and the Womp, Brute Chorus, Kartel and Filthy Boy.
Food That Rocks
Grace Dickinson eats on a bus and meets the man who brought the taco to London.
Yeah, this was an academic project for us. Jealous?
Rick Kauffman goes to Cockfosters and ponders the purpose of travel.
Front cover photo of Hella Better Dancer by Evan Kaucher. Back cover photo of a street performer on the South Bank by Rick Kauffman.
Somewhere, Meghan Agnew is doing her makeup. And she's running late.
Meet our staff, a collection of Temple University students who spent six weeks in London documenting the music scene.
Evan Kaucher will dance in a bear suit for cash. Call him for details.
Luke Bilek is a dance machine. Chris Diehl fed Orangina to a dog named Buzz. Not a good idea. Mark Lauterbach likes the Yankees and classic rock.
Photo by George Miller
Elizabeth Iezzi doesn't understand why there are so many pictures of her chimping.
Leah Williams sleeps through class by day, dates British men by night.
Robin Tarleton loves London's museums and her boyfriend. And Skype.
Lisa Aprile dragged two gigantic suitcases around London despite a bloody toe.
Tom Rowan has the worst British accent. Ever. Seriously. EVER.
Alex Brickman is still in London with his guitar.
Chris Banks knows David Cross. And the London night bus.
Rick Kauffman drinks whiskey and lives to write about it.
Kevin Brosky loves his guitar (especially when he's had a few).
Christie Francis shoots her photos on an angle because it looks better.
Don't get between Shanae Mitchell and her BlackBerry.
Erica Vines can find the best markets and Moroccan men in London.
Grace Dickinson knows the taco guy. Did she mention that? Taco guy?
What's Your Scene?
From Pigs to Pubs, Food and Art-Punk and Good Views Fun Clubs Tourists
Today, Notting Hill is a wonderful place to shop, especially for those on a budget. “It is definitely one of the cheaper areas to go out to eat or shop in,” says former Notting Hill resident Cortney Cohen, 23. It is full of seemingly endless stores on the famous Portobello Road. Just be prepared for a crowd. This area has high pedestrian traffic, especially on the weekends. Do not leave too early and miss out on the nightlife of the area. Stop by and have dinner at any of the area’s numerous restaurants. Then, head over to The Notting Hill Arts Club to dance to the latest music (and maybe see celebrities like Mark Ronson and Dizzee Rascal). NOTTING HILL MUST: The Duke of Wellington is a great place to watch some footie and there is live music on Wednesdays.
Southwark is the film and arts center of London. Home of the British Film Institute, Shakespeare’s famous Globe Theatre and the Tate Modern, this is a great place for anyone looking for a unique arts experience. The London Eye flies over Southwark, providing photographers with stunning views of the whole city. Southwark and the South Bank is also home to the modern, helmet-shaped City Hall, as well as a slew of galleries, dozens of street performers, thousands of tourists, gleaming condos and little shops. Southwark caters more to the pub and bar scene than late-night clubbers. But with all the up and coming arts and culture in the area, there is no shortage of things to do here.
North of the City of London, in the borough of Hackney, lies Shoreditch. Home to numerous art galleries and boutiques, Shoreditch is definitely an art-punk scene. It teems with DIY businesses, grafitti, quiffs, vintage clothing, hipsters on fixies and fun clubs of all varieties.
SHOREDITCH MUSTS: The Store Rooms have a careful selection of designer clothes for less than their usual cost. In other words, it’s retail heaven, with such brand names as Burberry, Dirty Velvet and much more. SOUTHWARK AND SOUTH BANK MUSTS: The Tate Modern has five floors of displays, from familiar painters such as Jackson Pollock to lesserknown contemporary artists. Even those wary about art will find something they like here. The Tate also presents live events and films. While there, make sure to stop by the third floor balcony for great pictures from above the River Thames. While the museum is free, some exhibits will cost you. The Oxo Tower Bar and Restaurant offers some of the best views in London, making it a great date spot. With a fixed-price menu along with other options, this is a great place for any budget.
Located in the Spitalfields Market, TeaSmith is a contemporary setting for enjoying teas from all over. They also offer classes to learn the art of making proper tea. Strongroom started as a single studio in the 1980s and now there are four studios, as well as a restaurant/ bar/ lounge. There are frequent live performances by up-and-coming bands. Entry is free all week. Brick Lane features several fun venues including The Big Chill Bar, Japanika, The Vibe Bar, Rootmaster (see page 40), Rough Trade East, The Brickhouse, 93 Feet East and All Star Lanes, a 1950s-style bowling alley with cocktails, food and music.
(L to R) Notting Hill photo by Leah Williams; Borough Market and Shoreditch photos by Grace Dickinson; Camden photo by Leah Williams; Islington photo by George Miller
Notting Hill is a trendy, Bohemian neighborhood located in West London. The area, made famous by the popular movie of the same name, is known for its picturesque streets full of colorful townhouses and shops (below). Many artists live in the neighborhood. This area was not always the cultured place it is today. Not long ago, the area was known for its pig to human ratio (three pigs to every person). Following World War II, the area was a slum, crawling with rats and covered in trash. It became a destination for immigrants, specifically people from the Caribbean. Racial tensions in the neighborhood grew, culminating in the race riots in 1958. In response, locals started the Notting Hill Carnival, which was meant to calm the tensions and bring people together. It was not until the 1980s that these tensions came to a peak and eventually simmered.
By Robin Tarleton and Leah Williams
The Posh Life
Chelsea is located in Central London. Historically known as the “Village of Palaces,” Chelsea maintains its prestigious reputation. Chelsea is the place to go to when looking for the “posh” London experience. Containing scenic roads lined with Georgian and Victorian houses, it is the former home of such writers as Oscar Wilde and Thomas Carlyle. It was the birthplace of several members of the House of Tudors and, ironically, the location where The Sex Pistols were formed. Presently it is known for its highend shopping and high-end nightlife. Chelsea is the place to visit when looking to spend that extra dollar. Its most prominent road, Kings Road, was once a private road leading from St. James Palace to Fulham. CHELSEA MUSTS: The Sex Pistols were born at 430 Kings Road, the former location of Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood’s shop, Sex. There's not much there now but it's worth a pilgramage. Boujis, near South Kensington station, is the late-night hot spot for celebrities and royals - Paris Hilton and Princes William and Harry are said to frequent the nondescript club. In addition to the booming DJ, live bands like Bloc Party and Razorlight perform gigs here.
Late Night Clubs
and The Pink Pound Located on the West End, Soho is known as an area with unique nightlife and fantastic shopping. The area boasts young crowds of outgoing people who love the nightlife. It is also considered the heart of gay London and gay-friendly businesses thrive (the purchasing power of the Pink Pound is strong here). Perhaps its tolerance comes from the many different groups who have populated the area over the years, including the Polish, Jews, Italians and Chinese. Throughout most of the 20th Century, however, this area was known for its sex shops. Only small remnants of those days still exist. The area has a great music scene on Denmark Street (see page 16 for more info). Chris Nikkols, a frequent visitor to Soho’s clubs, says, “The area is great for a younger crowd. Most people like the bar and club scene because the bars and clubs are open later than other places.” SOHO MUSTS: Anyone, regardless of sexual orientation, can find a good time at London’s world famous G-A-Y Bar. Miley Cyrus, Beyonce, Amy Winehouse and Lady Gaga have all performed at Europe’s largest Gay club. Just be prepared for long lines at the door. London’s Chinatown, full of excellent restaurants, is located in Soho.
Punks, Goths and Stable Shopping
Real Hipster London? Islington has tons of attractions outside the normal tourist areas, including markets, music venues, theaters, galleries and much more, including the Arsenal football stadium. The area moves from the businessoriented Angel section of town to the more residential Highbury section. In between, there are blocks of antique shops, middle-class families and lively venues.
ISLINGTON MUSTS: The Lexington is among the newest music venues in Islington. The venue has two floors, each with different vibes - live music upstairs and pub-like downstairs. Lucky Voice is a karaoke bar that allows you to book private rooms for you and your friends (up to 15). They also have wigs and props for a laugh. Camden Town has plenty to offer with its vast markets and bargain shopping - unique clothing, customized jewelry, rare paintings and much, much more. It is also known for its punk and Goth scenes and there are head shops, tattoo parlors and wacky hair salons. There is a big music scene at night, with tons of bars and venues where nowfamous bands once started out. CAMDEN MUSTS: The Camden Stables Market and the nearby Camden Lock Village offer antiques, jewelry, crafts, vintage clothing and international food, among other things. Koko was an old theater and is now a popular night club. The venue has several bars, a huge dance floor and balconies all over. Club NME runs from 9:30 p.m. to 4 a.m. every Saturday.
Photo courtesy of 12Tone
What'd They Say?
12Tone: Modern Brass With A Community Spirit. Changing music and changing lives. Bands like the Chicago group Hypnotic are changing the sounds of brass bands. They combine jazz, big band and hip-hop to create a new style of music that is now becoming popular in the UK. 12Tone Brass, a six-piece woodwind and brass band from South East London, has been impacted by this movement. But they're also adding their own influence on the music - and the London music scene. Meghan Agnew was lucky enough to catch up with exhausted saxophone player Nick Walters after a recent show. 12Tone doesn’t really have a “front man” in the group, so what is the song writing process like? Well, with us there isn’t a formula for writing tunes, it all comes about very naturally.
Sometimes we’ll just be jamming in the rehearsal room and a tune will develop out of it. Other times one of us brings an idea - sometimes complete or other times just the outline of a tune. Over everything else, I think the chemistry between the musicians is what makes the magic happen. Is New Orleans-style brass popular in London or is it something 12Tone saw a niche for? Over the last five years or so, bands like Young Blood Brass and Hot 8 have all been touring Europe and have brought a different dimension to how the UK public views brass bands. There is also a northern tradition here in England, with a very different sound to the New Orleans brass bands. The music is influenced by British classical and folk music. So I guess we wanted to bring a new dimension to brass band music by making it youthful and fresh but also pay homage to the traditions before us. Is 12Tone Brass signed to a label? 12Tone Brass band is part of “12Tone,” a group of artists who decided to create their own record label, events and community project.
So we do everything in house from pressing up records to putting on gigs and also giving back to the community. Our current project as a company is to build a self-sufficient housing cooperative in London. A minimal amount of rent will be paid. It should hopefully make it easier for creative people to have the time to get projects off the ground. As 12Tone C.I.C (Community interest company) we run 3 bands - United Vibrations, 12Tone Brass and The Ruby Rushton Trio. We’re trying to create a new music scene in London that uses its financial gain to help build a better community. What is the biggest show you guys have played so far? The biggest shows so far have been LOVEBOX, Durham Brass Festival and Lounge on the Farm. We’ve only been going for 11months so bigger and better things will follow as the years go on. We’re just finishing our album which should be out by the end of the year. Listen to 12Tone Brass here - www. myspace.com/12tonebrass
Photo courtesy of Seyi
Can Hackney's Seyi Become The Next British R&B Star? Seyi is a 20-year-old accounting student at the University of Kent and a rising star in the London R&B scene. Born and raised in Hackney, East London, he's waiting for his chance to make it big in on a global scale. He spoke with our Shanae Mitchell about his future. So how long have you been doing music? Well I’ve been recording for two years but singing for as long as I can remember. And who inspires you? Lots. Chris Brown, Mario, John Legend, Jill Scott, Usher, Justin Timberlake. The list goes on.
"I love the freedom of it all. You can talk about anything on a song."
That’s a lot of American artists. Do any UK artists inspire you? Well there aren’t many out there. No real UK pioneers in my genre. We had Craig David for a bit but I don’t know what happened.
So I guess you are looking to be that pioneer. What’s in the immediate future for your music? Well I plan on releasing a mix tape based on the skeleton of Chris Browns recent one. It’s going to have 7 tracks and be my first free release, just to penetrate the market. And what do you love most about music? I love the freedom of it all. You can talk about anything on a song. And I love performing. It’s the biggest thrill for me. Its like I’m one on one with the crowd. Its like a holiday everytime. Along with your individual career, you also do work with a group “White Elephant.” What’s that all about? The White Elephant group is just a sub group of what I do. It is a producing quartet. There are two producers and two singers/ songwriters. We make music for other people like Brittney Spears, Trey Songz and Jazmine Sullivan. Oh, well that sounds impressive. So do you plan on staying in London then? Hell to the no! the U.S. is a much bigger market and I plan on migrating there as soon as I can. All I need is one good song. You make a good love song, and you’re there. Listen to Seyi here - www.myspace.com/seyionline
Photo by Rick Kauffman
What'd They Say? From your vantage point in this store, you are witnessing the thriving music scene here on Brick Lane as well as various fashion trends. What have you notcied? The fashion scene in London is blind. You know, it’s like people don’t even look in the mirror anymore when they’re going out. They just slap on anything they want to slap on. I mean, I see girls walking around the street wearing leggings that are just ripped, torn to pieces. They're probably trying to make a fashion statement. I’m the kind of person, I don’t follow fashion. I create my own fashion. I don’t follow trends. I identify myself. But I would say that when it comes to fashion, 60 percent of people are just buying the name brand. From what I’ve seen in London, most people just go for the name brand maybe because a celebrity is wearing it. What group or style stands out most?
YOU DON'T WANT TO MESS WITH PHYSICAL PEA
Pat “Physical Pea” Ademiju takes out the trash for a living. Seven days a week, he’s a store detective, or security guard, at the Rough Trade East music store located off Brick Lane at the Old Truman Brewery site in East London. He says his core values are honesty and accountability, so it seems fitting that the man’s job description includes enforcing common decency and keeping out the “riff-raff.” “You know, the hoodlums, people who come in here and try to steal things,” says Ademiju, a native Nigerian and career bouncer. “You just got to keep them out, keep them under control.” He’s an imposing figure despite being barely 5 feet, 9 inches tall. His shoulders are wide, arms toned and head cleanshaven and shiny. His black T-shirt fits
tightly around his protruding pecs. The only required part of his outfit is a yellow, wrap-around Velcro strap wrapped around his bicep. It contains his bright blue security badge, the official British security certification. He doesn’t look the part of a man who describes his age as 40-plus. How did the job come about? One of my friends was working at Rough Trade. He was leaving the country to go to Brazil with his girlfriend and he didn’t want to give the job up. So I held his place. What kind of music do you listen to? To be honest, I listen to all kinds of music. I don’t discriminate against music.
Probably the hardcore rock and heavy metal people. The way they dress, see, you can always tell they’re the ones that have lots of studs all over their faces and all over their body. They’ve got dark clothes, red streaks in their black hair, skull and bones tattooed all over themselves. They’re expressing themselves, yeah. But then the hip-hop guys, the dubstep guys, they’re walking around with their trousers around their ankles. Your sister lives in Northeast Philly of all places. And you go see her every year, right, for Thanksgiving? Always Thanksgiving, for the last three years in a row now. This will be my fourth. Are you looking forward to going again this year? Without a shadow of a doubt. Always look forward to going to Philly, man. The one place I want to go when I come to Philly this year is the zoo. I haven’t been there yet. It’s good, right? You had said you love the Franklin Mills Mall in Philly. What do you love about it? It’s so big, man! I can buy clothes there and bring them back here and make a fortune selling them in London. I always bring an extra suitcase with me and fill it with all kinds of shirts. The thing is so heavy when I bring it back.
A New Model
Business for the
Kevin Brosky talks to the founder of the service that could change the music industry. Before Benji Rogers founded Pledge Music last year, he was a musician. A very broke musician. “I had just made my sixth record and I was broke off my ass,” Rogers remembers. “I was lying on an air mattress with £50 to my name.” It was around this time that Rogers decided to come up with a new business model, one that would benefit bands, fans and charities all the same. “It had to be a scenario in which no one could lose,” he explains. “There were other websites out there trying to do similar things but they were all kind of muddy.” Fans can log in to Pledge Music and make a donation to help fund a particular band’s effort and also receive inside access into the project, downloads of exclusive tracks and other rare opportunities for interaction with the band. For example, a $25 donation might get you a signed CD and a t-shirt. For $50, you might be allowed to Skype into a recording session. And on the high end, $1,500 might bring the band to your house for a performance. “Pledge Music is the selling of the experience of making a record,” Rogers adds. “We want to keep refining the way we do things so that we can save musicians money,” he explains. “The goal of the company is to get as much money into the hands of bands and their charities as possible. We don’t want to hold onto the money.” Prior to founding Pledge, Rogers worked for a time with Musicians on Call, an organization that brings musicians into hospitals to visit with patients. He also volunteered to help refugees around the world. “Charity just became a part of my life,” he says. So it was a no-brainer for Rogers to incorporate a charity aspect to his website, one that is optional but that very few artists have turned down. Rogers said plans are in the works for charity-
of Making Music
specific benefit compilation albums, which will employ interested Pledge Music artists. In its first year in business, Londonbased Pledge Music saw 77 percent of their bands reach their financial targets, of which Rogers said he is proud and impressed. His goal is for the company to reach an 85 percent success rate. New, interested bands contact Rogers at the rate of 3 to 5 per day, and Pledge Music launches about the same number of campaigns per day. Rogers and his team help bands figure out the campaign’s goal. One band that heard the call early on was the Brooklyn-based Damnwells, a band once signed, then dropped by Epic Records. After years of devout, nationwide touring, they continue to play and record music for a dedicated fanbase. Last fall, the Damnwells launched a Pledge campaign to fund the recording of their fourth LP. Alex Dezen, the band’s songwriter, guitarist and vocalist, said he was initially skeptical of the website and the campaign’s goal of raising $20,000. “I thought maybe we were going to make a couple thousand dollars and maybe make an EP of some sort,” Dezen recalls. “I didn’t think we’d be able to reach our goal, let alone surpass it.” Pledge was still very new at that time and Dezen didn’t think fans would know about it. As Pledge began to evolve – using facebook and online widgets, and the dollars continued to pour in for the Damnwells campaign, Dezen’s faith quickly grew strong. “We kept getting these updates from Benji about what else we could do,” Dezen explains. “It was cool because I felt like we were involved in the evolution of this company at the same time that we were in the midst of our own campaign to raise money. Where other people might ignore you, Benji would call us a couple times a week and email all the time.”
Dezen says the Pledge Music campaign made him and his band want to work even harder to deliver a quality record as soon as possible for the hundreds of pledgers offering their support. “You want to have to answer to the people who have supported you and come to your shows,” he elaborates. “That puts accountability back into the artist’s hands.” In an age when the struggles of the music industry clearly mirror those of many national economies, Rogers has created a new outlet for music. “There’s the music business, which is boom or bust, and then there’s the business of making music,” Rogers explains. “I don’t consider us part of the music business, but we are a new model of the business of making music.” Rogers says his company often works with signed artists and that many record labels have turned to Pledge Music for new, successful artists. Meanwhile, the entrepreneur views the major-label music industry with nearly complete disinterest. “What does ‘Number one’ even mean anymore?” he ponders aloud. “It’s an irrelevant statistic. I don’t buy stuff because it’s popular. I buy it because it kicks fucking ass.” Dezen echos Rogers' sentiment. “I think major record labels have pretty much gone out of their way to make themselves unnecessary in many ways,” he says. “For a band like us, we don’t need a major record label to do what we can do on our own.” After what Dezen describes as a “very unique and inspiring experience” working with Pledge Music, the Damnwells will now decide on final mixes of songs in preparation of the release of their newly recorded album. “Being around Benji, you kind of get this sense of renewal, that anything is possible,” Dezen says. “What he and Pledge Music bring to the music industry is a passion that has been lost for decades.”
Free London Music
Day Weekend Erica Vines tells you where to go if you want to party in London for free during a long weekend.
Thursday! At 1 p.m. on Wednesday and Thursday, St. Olave’s offers free lunchtime recitals. St. Olave’s is a medieval church founded in 1571. The closest tube stations near St. Olave’s include Tower Hill and Aldgate East.
Throughout the summer months, The Scoop at More London hosts an immense amount of events every day of the week. Ranging from film, music, and theatre, you cannot lose when looking for free events to attend. The Scoop at More London is located outdoors near the London Bridge Station on the South Bank and seats 800 people.
The National Portrait Gallery opened in 1856 and is one of London’s most popular galleries. Every Friday at 6:30 p.m., the gallery offers free concerts.
In Brick Lane, you can dance to music at 93 Feet East for free on Fridays. 93 Feet East is a music venue surrounded by Brick Lane’s well known Indian restaurants, street art, hipsters and more music venues. There are usually several bands on the bill and a DJ spinning tunes. During lunchtime, Cafe Consort at Royal Albert Hall offers a variety of Latin American, jazz, flamenco and samba.
Cafe Consort serves coffee and snacks during the day along with a variety of hot and cold dishes. Every Friday and Saturday nights, Hootananny in Brixton (as seen in the image below) has live bands playing reggae, ska, funk, R&B and everything in between. After the bands play, a DJ keeps the party going until well into the night. There is Mexican food available in the outdoor seating area (see page 42 to learn more about the Mexican kitchen). Hootananny's is a staff favorite here at JUMP magazine.
Royal Festival Hall is a venue within Southbank Centre that seats 2,900 people. The Royal Festival Hall is located on the River Thames near Hungerford Bridge. The London Philharmonic Orchestra often performs in the hall.
Photo by Evan Kaucher
The Southbank Centre is home to events, performances and exhibitions. Southbank Centre offers free evening concerts every Friday, featuring jazz, blues, and folk music.
Saturday! Every Saturday afternoon at 4 p.m. until 8 p.m., Rough Trade entertains a showcase of live bands at the Notting Hill Arts Club. Every week varies in style though the majority of bands play rock n' roll. There are usually three or four bands on the bill with groups from around the world performing, like The Monorails (below) who flew in from Tokyo for a brief tour of the United Kingdom.
Listen to free jazz every Sunday between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. at the Grand Junction Arms. The Grand Junction Arms pub is near the Grand Union canal (which was formerly known as the Grand Junction canal). Interestingly, the pub used to have stables for horses that towed canal boats. There are still anchors for the boats. Arts Depot located in North Finchley hosts regular live music at 8:30 p.m. on most Sundays. Bands usually play folk or jazz.
The Cavendish Arms, located near the Stockwell tube station, offers free poetry, acoustic music and performance every Monday. The stylish pub also offers free comedy every Tuesday. The Royal Opera House, located near Covent Garden, offers free lunchtime recitals at 1 p.m. with online booking nine days before the event. Recitals include harmonic sounds of the piano, viola, cello, harp and flute.
Multiple Days! Photo by George Miller
On Monday through Friday at 6:00 p.m. and Saturday from 1:00 p.m. to 5:45 p.m., the National Theatre on the South Bank offers a variety of instrumental performances ranging from cool jazz to upbeat ethnic jams. On Monday, Tuesday and Friday at 1 p.m., St. Martin-in-the-Fields in Trafalgar Square offers free classical music lunchtime concerts.
Between 8 p.m. and 2 a.m. on the first Saturday of the month at Cross Kings in Kingâ€™s Cross, you can dance to the sounds on Poptimism - DJs spinning the best of modern pop and indie music ranging from Justin Timberlake and Nelly Furtado to the Pet Shop Boys and Kylie Minogue.
Dick Laurie and the Elastic band play every Sunday at 2 p.m. at Half Moon in Putney. This experience includes mainstream jazz, romantic swing and speakeasy classics. On the first Sunday of every month, from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m., Green Note hosts an open mic night with new talent playing folk, blues, world, jazz and country. Green Note is a live music venue known for its vegetarian cafe-bar located in Camden Town.
Go to Boaters at 8:30 p.m. to hear sounds of jazz every Sunday. The Boaters Inn is located in a park on the banks of the River Thames in Kingston. Pimlico Wine Vaults offers free jazz from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. every Sunday. Top UK jazz bands are known to play here at this old fashioned wine bar. Pimlico Wine Vaults is located near the Victoria tube station. The staff is known to be laid back and friendly. Do you like to bowl? There are three free lanes of bowling every Sunday night at All Star Lanes on Brick Lane. Rough Trade sponsors the weekly party that starts at 7 p.m. and ends at midnight. There is a competition that offers prizes a two course meal, cocktail, one game of bowling and one hour in a karaoke booth for four people.
On Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 1:00 p.m., go to St. James Piccadilly Church to hear free lunch recitals. Recitals are 50 minutes long. A small donation is suggested. St. James Piccadilly Church was designed by Sir Christopher Wren in 1684. Aint Nothin But Blues Bar in Soho offers free jazz and blues every day of the week. Anyone between the ages of 16 and 25 can join freeB, a scheme offered by the Barbican Centre, the largest multi-arts centre in Europe. The membership includes access to free or discounted tickets for theater acts, art shows, films, musical performances and dance recitals. The free benefits are different for each show, with some offers allowing two free tickets while others are presented as a two-for-one deal.
This Place Rocks
Photo by Chris Diehl
Lisa Aprile explores an Earls Court musical icon. While walking through the bustling crowds on Brompton Road, you may hear beautiful music emanating from deep within the Troubadour Club. The private cellar in Earls Court, located beneath the Troubadour Café, plays host to talented musicians as it has for more than half a century. This small club, which opened in 1954, has built a reputation for providing high quality original music, spoken word and a vibrant, almost family-like atmosphere. “There are a number of people who have had deep associations with the place for over fifty years,” states club owner Simon Thornhill. The Troubadour was originally just a coffee shop. The bohemian cafe welcomed live music performances and became a hotbed for skiffle, an obscure genre of music with a twist of jazz and folk. The genre was widely popular in the United Kingdom during the 1950’s and the Troubador grew in fame. Richard Harris, Charlie Watts and Bob Dylan performed at the club in its early days. A black and white photo of Dylan performing at the club hangs in the club in a Victorian gold frame, alongside four other photos of famous musicians performing in the club. “Those pictures have not been touched for decades,” says John Talevera, the club’s music promoter. “This club has a reputation. They are our reputation.” Originally from Peru, Talevera has been the Troubadour’s club music promoter for six years. “It doesn’t even feel like work,” Talevera boasts. “The experience is incredible.” The ultimate experience begins with the passionate voices drawing you in from the street like a fresh aroma. Descend the dark, slender stairs into a musty room where history and a passion for music remain. Sleek wooden coves offer privacy while hard wood benches line the club’s perimeter, surrounding the stage. The concrete walls are mostly plain, adding to the simplicity of the atmosphere.
The club is but one part of the Troubadour family. There is a café, gallery and wine shop, as well as a boutique hotel. Talevera says that the recession hit the club hard. During 2007 and 2008 the Troubadour fell into a slump. “I recall one night we only had thirty people come out,” he says. “That’s the worst I’ve ever seen it.” However, the club’s business quickly bounced back with the help of their reputation and a few marketing tweaks. Via simple advertisements, Talevera and the Troubador crew reminded people that the club is not just any music venue. When you go to the Troubador, you experience music history. “This place is famous already,” Talevera says. “My job was just to remindeveryone.” He’s also responsible for ensuring that the quality of music remains high. He has brought in artists from around the world. British opera singer Kate Corrigan played here and rock and roll star Pete Doherty held a spontaneous
concert last year. A wild posse of crazed fans had the privilege of listening to Doherty play an acoustic session in the intimate setting. “That night was the craziest I’ve ever seen this place,” Talevera remembers. ”The club took on a whole new wild personality,” Talevera says that 80s icon Adam Ant called at the last minute one Friday and tried to get stage time. “I was booked up,” Talevera recalls. “He grew very angry, asking me, ‘Don’t you know who I am?’ The moral of the story? I stayed reliable to my musicians I had scheduled, not to mention their fans as well.” Entrance fees are usually between £6 and £25, depending on the artist. The music venue continues to attract newcomers, Talevera says, while sustaining their regular fans. Oliver O’Neill, a Hackney resident who has been visiting the Troubadour club for about 5 years, proclaims, “This club is not like any other.”
Photo provided by 606 Club
The 606 Club isn't for
(it just seems that way)
Shanae Mitchell speaks with Steve Rubie, the owner of the Chelsea jazz club that may or may not have turned away international star Beyonce. On Lots Road in Chelsea, discreetly hidden behind a brick archway, lies the renowned 606 Club. Most passersby walk past the subtle entranceway, with a thin “606” atop the arch, not knowing that the small, basement-level club plays host to the best of the United Kingdom’s jazz musicians. Next to the doorway, a sign with multiple arrows points to the doorbell, which must be used in order to gain entrance into the members-only club. The opening screams of exclusivity. Rumor has it that Beyonce was turned away when she tried to visit the 606 at 1:30 a.m. recently. Legendary jazz guitarist George Benson was nearly turned away as well. “He rang the bell and said it was him,” recalls club owner Steve Rubie. “But my guy didn’t recognize him. He didn’t know who he was.” Rubie ran up the steps to take care of Benson personally. He wasn’t around when the alleged Beyonce incident occurred but he laughs when thinking
about it. “Yeah,” he says. “That could have happened.” Rubie, 57, who was born on a farm in Buckinghamshire and raised in Berk shire and Dorset, first visited the club in the late 60s when he was a teenager. The club was then located at 606 Kings Road and under the management of the previous owner, Steve Cartwright. Rubie became a regular visitor when he moved to London to attend dentistry school. Eventually, he worked at the club, serving as the cook. An alto saxophonist and flute player, Rubie left the club for a year to tour and play his music. Upon returning to the club in 1976, Cartwright informed Rubie that he was moving to France. He wanted Rubie to take over the club. “Not a chance,” Rubie answered. Then he accepted. Nearly 34-years later, the 606 continues to provide high quality music, strictly performed by UKresidents, to both members and nonmembers – non-members are allowed in if they order a “substantial meal.” “I wouldn’t stress the membership too much,” Rubie says. “We are a jazz club with membership benefits.” The benefits include a private bar, priority booking and the ability to order a drink without also consuming food.
Membership costs £95 per year with renewal at £60 per year. Applicants must patronize the club three times before they will be considered for membership. The club features live music seven days per week, with two bands per night on Tuesday and Wednesday. The style varies from traditional to contemporary jazz, with Rubie’s band Samara occasionally performing Latin jazz. The 606 moved to its current location in 1988, growing from a tight 30-seat club to a comfortable 165-seat venue. The exposed brick surrounding the room gives it a homey feel, and the close proximity of the performance area to the audience makes the club feel very intimate. Rubie, who lives around the corner from the club, also owns a nearby sandwich shop, he helps organize six annual music festivals and he manages artists. He’s currently developing an exchange program where his artists will play overseas and, in return, non-British acts will play the 606. While the club appears to be exclusive, roughly 80 percent of their weekly guests are non-members, 606 staffers say. And, unlike most exclusive clubs, there is no dress code. “As long as you wear something,” jokes Rubie. “It is a jazz club after all.”
This Place Rocks
Photos by Evan Kaucher
A new club on Denmark Street revives the the spirirt of the 60s. Mark Lauterbach gets experienced.
Peter Parker’s Rock n Roll Club was born out of pure happenstance. In March 2009, Peter Parker came to sell four of his old guitars on Denmark Street, a historic street lined with music shops in Soho. Afterward, he wandered into a Turkish bar looking for a bathroom. When Parker asked the owner of the bar for a bathroom, he was told he had to sit for a drink afterward or find a bathroom somewhere else. When Parker sat down for the drink, he was given the opportunity of his life. The owner asked Parker to run a nightclub in the space. “I think I just looked like I knew what I was doing,” says Parker, who frequently sports a black suit and black tie. Parker, now 34, put in a lot of hard work renovating the place, lining the walls with posters and black and white images of musicians. The club has rapidly grown in popularity. “I thought it was a little ridiculous there were no rock and roll clubs on Denmark Street,” says Parker. "Denmark Street was built on music and I want to keep that spirit alive.” The club is below the former home of Regent Sound Recording Studios. Regent recorded the likes of The Beatles, The Kinks, Elton John, Black Sabbath, The Rolling Stones and Stevie Wonder. In its heyday, this building housed some of the most prolific and popular musicians of the era. Peter Parker’s Rock and Roll Club continues to keep that ‘60s spirit alive with, for instance, their Saturday night ‘Blow-Up’ party when classic rock is pumped through the speakers. Parker, who idolizes the Beatles, says that Paul McCartney’s manager recently inquired about the space. “I don’t know if I should say this or not,” Parker says, “but there’s a rumorPaul might come in a few weeks. He might like to come and have a jam one of these nights.”
HIS SPIDEY SENSES TINGLED WHEN HE SAW THE PLACE: Revelers (above) partying in Peter Parker's Rock n' Roll Club (left). "Denmark St. was built on music and I want to keep that spirit alive," says club owner Peter Parker.
Parker himself is a musician and his band, also called Peter Parker’s Rock and Roll Club, plays regularly at the club. The band recently recorded an album using old equipment leftover from Regent Studios. Nearly every night
during the late hours, Parker takes to the stage with his guitar. Live music is a feature of the club Grammy-nominated American singer Belinda Carlisle, the former Go-Go, once made a surprise guest >>>
Music for the Masses With friends in high places and a DIY ethos, Strummerville offers opportunities to aspiring musicians around the world. Mark Lauterbach talks to the people who make the magic happen. Strummerville sits in a trailer park under the Westway flyover in Hammersmith, near a car repair shop and horse stables. The hub of the operation, a non-profit organization dedicated to keeping the spirit of the late Clash frontman Joe Strummer alive, is a cluttered, ten-foot wide room. There are stacks of CDs piled on the ground, posters on the wall and clouds of cigarette smoke wafting everywhere. It looks more like a teenager’s room than an international music incubator. The woman who runs the place wouldn’t have it any other way. “It’s wild down here,” says Strummerville director Trish Whelan, 40. Strummerville helps young musicians who wouldn’t have the means to get their voices heard by supplying facilities, coaching and recording platforms. They donate instruments to homeless artists and fund youth music programs at orphanages in Africa. “Our objective is to give opportunities through music to people who wouldn’t otherwise have them,” Whelan says. The charity was created by Strummer’s widow, Lucinda Tait, in the months after Strummer died from a heart defect in 2002. Tait, along with Strummer’s daughters Lola and Jazz, continue to top be very active with the organization. Whelan met Strummer three years before he passed away. When the charity was created, Whelan jumped at the
opportunity to help keep his spirit alive and well. The location was chosen because the foundation's founders wanted to stay close to Strummer’s roots. This used to be a favorite squatting ground of the 101’ers, Strummer’s band before The Clash. Strummer also busked in this area.
“We wanted to keep that punk tradition of activity under the Westway,” Whelan says. Strummerville is funded by donations from those impacted by Strummer’s music, which revived rock and roll in the mid-1970s by blending various styles to create a revolutionary sound. They have received support from charity concerts performed by Madness, The Drums, I Blame Coco, Frank Turner and many other artists. Pete Doherty’s band
Babyshambles recorded The Clash’s ‘Janie Jones’ as a benefit track. The organization has helped more than 200 bands. Young bands working at Strummerville are offered use of the “Strummerville Magic Bus,” which they can use for tours. Strummerville partners with Rinse FM, a former pirate radio station based in East London, to showcase young talent. Strummerville has helped more than 40 young bands get into the recording studios. Unsigned bands can post their music for free download to help get their music out to eager ears. “We try to encourage our bands to make themselves get heard by getting up and initiating it," Whelan says. Strummerville has been successful in fostering the music scene in London and around the world. Mumford and Sons got their start at Strummerville and they have taken off recently, releasing their first full-length album one year ago. They now sell out arenas. Strummer’s old music industry friends, like Billy Bragg and Jason Mayall, remain active with the foundation. “Our mentor program pairs up our bands with someone to coach them,” says Wheeler. “Right now, Don Letts is mentoring our band, the Supernovas.” Everyone at Strummerville is passionate and dedicated to perpetuating Strummer’s DIY ethos. “We’re just trying to keep Joe’s spirit alive,” Whelan says. “And keep the fire burning.”
>>> appearance. But the club also hosts numerous other events. “We’re one of the best new places to come to now because we’re open to so many things,” he explains. “We have art shows, photography exhibitions, films, poetry readings, and of course music. We’re one of the last independent clubs left in England and we really are a platform for discovery.” Although it’s been mainly a one-man project, Parker has gotten help from Manny Fleming, a long-time DJ who serves as a promoter and music coach for young bands playing the club. “We try to set a rhythm and blues and
Chuck Berry feel in this place,” says Fleming, a 53-year-old West Londoner. Parker adds, “I love when we do Jukebox Jam nights. We play a lot of early rock and roll and 1950s music.” In the 1950s and 1960s, Denmark Street was home to many songwriters and music publishers. The recording studios followed, as did the musicians. David Bowie lived in a van on the street. The Sex Pistols lived in a flat on the block. Even today, there are still shops that sell instruments and sheet music, clubs, studios and musicians. “Denmark St. was built of music and it offers something you can’t get any
where else,” Fleming says. “We have great people around here and we are dedicated to music,” Parker says. “There is an almost community spirit around here.” Both men are musicians at heart. Perhaps that is what sets this club apart from the others. “I’m passionate about music,” Parker says. “I think this club, with my music as well, can help the music community here in West London.” “This is the place to be and anything can happen,” Fleming concludes. “It’s spontaneous and dangerous above all else, whether it’s good or bad.”
A Budding Empire Gets a Home Meghan Agnew hangs with Club Fandango, the folks who help launch indie giants.
The Bull and Gate, a 300-year old pub in Kentish Town, feels like home. Ornate but worn Oriental carpet spans the floor and Victorian-era, gold–painted molding accents the sky-blue colored bar. The owners of the pub, Patrick and Margaret Martin, pull pints for regulars. Pensioners watch football and horseracing on televisions rather than talk to each other. The relaxed feel makes it surprising that a rock and roll show will break out in the adjacent room at any moment. The Bull and Gate has been hosting bands since the Martins immigrated to London from Ireland 30 years ago. Artists like Coldplay, Keane, PJ Harvey, The Libertines, Muse and Blur took the stage here during those bands’ early years, before they reached stardom. “I love playing here,” Dan Shears, front man for the band Dan Shears and the Velveteen Orkestra, comments after a recent set. “It just has great sound.” The venue has long had a reputation for good music, bringing in quality bands. But they didn’t draw big crowds, especially in recent years.
The Bull & Gate needed help. At the same time, Club Fandango, a local indie promoter, was looking for a regular home to offer shows. In June, the two conspired to turn the pub into one of London’s liveliest, intimate music halls. After several months of renovations, the reinvigorated venue launches this fall. It’s just the latest triumph for Club Fandango, a DIY livemusic promoter that has grown from weekly party-throwers to a mini-music empire. Since their inception in 2001, Club Fandango has built a credible reputation for putting on quality shows with bands that have later become successful in both the indie scene and with mainstream audiences. Club Fandango has promoted bands like the Killers, the Kooks, Bloc Party and, more recently, Royworld - all before they became the international sensations. “Sometimes, ya’ know, we find bands and we want to promote them but more it’s people finding us really,” comments band promoter Martyn Boyle of Club Fandango. With the local reputation they have built, it’s no wonder that demo CDs and myspace URLs are constantly being sent to Club Fandango.
Photos by Grace Dickinson
This Place Rocks
In nine short years, Club Fandango has grown from their weekly Tuesday night shows at the Dublin Castle, to an average of eight shows per week in six venues, including 229, the Buffalo Bar, The Lexington and the Dublin Castle. Now they have a permanent location at the Bull and Gate. But Fandango is more than a show promotion company. In addition to Club Fandango, there is Label Fandango, the branch of the company that specializes in seven-inch vinyl records. Label Fandango concentrates on the distribution of records and mp3s but they don’t actually sign bands, which is a complicated process with lawyers and extensive contracts. “It’s very DIY,” says Tom Edwards, one of Fandango’s four staffers. “The thing is, especially in small runs of singles, you’re never going to make any money back if you have to get your lawyers involved.” In 2007, Fandango created an annual, four-day, indie music festival called Fistful of Fandango. The event, supported by Converse and Art Rocker magazine, takes place every September and features more than 24 bands at numerous venues, with a total capacity of more than 800 people per night. Last year’s event featured headliners like Herman Dune, Future of the Left, and Pete & The Pirates. “I’m literally always working,” Edwards half jokes. Through a separate entrance outside The Bull and Gate, or via a passageway in the bathroom, you enter the actual music area, which has the same worn carpet as the main pub room. Edwards sits at a wooden table collecting money (most shows are only £5) and stamps hands. Staffers regularly double up on jobs - like booking bands during the day and overseeing shows in the evening. The work ethic seems appropriate for The Bull and Gate, whose owners are not above helping with mundane bar tasks. Concerts take place behind a pair of black double-doors, in a dimly-lit room with bench seating around the perimeter and a capacity for 175 people. Fans who hang out in the lobby during breaks can catch up with the bands. Liana Roze, 25, on holiday from Australia, says, “I love the relaxed atmosphere.” The majority of bands play rock and roll and all feature original music. You’ve probably never heard of most of the artists. But with a Club Fandango
show you can never be sure who you might see. The guys at Club Fandango have an eye for upcoming bands, music and, they hope, venues. Back in April 2005, at their weekly Tuesday Fandango show at the Dublin Castle pub in Camden Town, crowds piled in, chatting about a four-piece band from Sheffield. And that band was an opening act, not the headliner. The Fandango guys made a last minute change, putting the unsigned band that had a huge following because of the Internet on as the headliner. That night, as their fans squealed, the Arctic Monkeys sang every word of the demo songs they had posted online. Less than two months later, the Artic Monkeys released their first single. Six months later, they topped the UK music charts. The Fandango staffers hope they have
INDIE HOUSE: Sheffield-based Pocket Satellite (opposite page) performing at the Bull and Gate (above). Coldplay, The Libertines, Muse and Blur played here before they were famous. The next big indie band may be playing there soon. the same good fortune with their new music venue, The Bull and Gate. September marks The Bull and Gate’s 30th year as a music venue. Club Fandango and the pub owners celebrated with 30 concerts in 30 days, starting September 1st. Having a permanent venue changes a lot for Club Fandango. They plan to do more than just renovate the interior of the venerable venue. In March 2011, Fandango will celebrate their 10-year anniversary of promoting shows. But they aren’t thinking that far out yet. They just plan to take it one event at a time.
Photo by Grace Dickinson
People from from around around the the world world have have People brought their their native native traditions traditions to to London, London, brought where walls walls come come down down and and cultures cultures where merge. Our Our writer, writer, from from conservative, conservative, rural rural merge. Pennsylvania, took took an an Indian-style Indian-style dance dance Pennsylvania, class taught taught by by aa Japanese Japanese instructor. instructor. class
he Dance Attic studio looks intimidating from where I’m standing, outside the converted building on North End Street near the Fulham Broadway underground station. A small sign hangs in an arched doorway that would be missed by most walking by. I hesitantly enter and the atmosphere becomes relaxed and intimate. A small lobby stems into a café seating area. A few people sit at tables while two people behind the counter joke about a common acquaintance. Through their laughing, they don’t see me enter as I look around the lobby. I’m not sure I’m really ready for this experience. The counter people look up and I ten
tatively ask, “I’m here for the Bollywood class?” “That’ll be £2 for non-Dance Attic members,” says the male cashier. “Pay the instructor the other five at the end.” I pay and the cashier leads me back to the studio. He knocks on the door and opens it a crack. Through the sixinch opening, I see a young woman, Krupa Chavda, heading towards the door after stopping mid-bounce in her dance. “Sorry, I was just getting in a little practice time for an audition tomorrow before class starts,” explains Chavda, 22. Not wanting to interrupt her practice, I take a seat along the wall, trying not to forget my desire to be in the class. With
the exception of a few rickety cinemastyle seats, a piano and two tables, the room appears like a traditional ballet studio, only less polished and a few degrees hotter than I would have hoped. She dances around the room to an upbeat track that stays true to its Indian roots but also incorporates electro and rap. Chavda moves so quickly I start to doubt myself even more. Her hands twist in the air like she’s replacing a light bulb overhead and her feet bounce from heel to toe, moving swiftly in time with the music. The movements are crisp and calculated, with every one presented for a specific reason: Bhangra dance originated as a celebration of the harvest. The dancer’s body language still tells similar stories - sometimes of a
Christie Francis goes to
Bollywood flower growing or a bee pollinating. The growing nausea in my stomach is almost unbearable. I’m from a small conservative town in Southeastern Pennsylvania most famous for growing mushrooms that are sold in grocery stores around the world. So when I decided to attend Temple University, a large, diverse school in gritty, urban Philadelphia, many were shocked. Since I began at Temple, I’ve made friends with people of many cultures. Because I’m still pushing the boundaries of my cultural comfort zone, I decided that while in London, I would try to learn some form of Indian dance. My university roommates tried to teach me
a few moves before. But they told me I was so uncoordinated that I might need professional help. I decided now is my time to fix that problem. So I, Christie Francis, the 20-year-old conservative white girl from the middle of nowhere, who has never taken any kind of dance lesson in her entire life, am taking a Bollywood-style dance class. Quickly, the clock ticks to 7:30 – class time. Luckily, Chavda’s friendly smile and welcoming attitude calms my nerves when we get up for the warmup. Her smile and tone match the upbeat sound of the song crackling through the speakers hanging above the
mirrors. The simple warm-up combines hand flicks and bouncing with yogastyle stretching techniques to get your body moving. While I’m trying to bounce gracefully around the room, other women start to filter in, much to my delight. I manage to secure a position in the back of the room, hoping that Chavda won’t be able to see me as I trip over my own two feet. When the warm-up ends, eight women from their early 20s to late 30s stand in the room. Chavda demonstrates the beginning of the dance that she has chosen for the day, showing each individual motion before putting them into a combination. Chavda yells, “Smile! Bollywood >>>
First Person is about expressions!” To my surprise, I do not stumble through the first combination. Until she plays the music. The song, Desi Rock by DJ Swami, pulsates significantly faster that I expected. My confidence falters and I trip over my feet, laughing and wondering how I’m still standing in the class. “That’s the kind of smile I’m talking about, Christie!” she yells over the music as she continues beaming. We practice more Bhangra moves and I start to get the hang of things. I struggle during the chorus, one of the fastest parts of the song, but everyone around me has the same issues getting their feet in the right place at the right time. It turns out I’m not the most uncoordinated in the class. Even though my moves are far from perfect, I keep up by the end of Chavda’s class. She reassures everyone that Bollywood dance isn’t always about having perfectly executed moves where your arms and your legs always move in sync with the music. It’s about dancing and having fun while doing it. Though I may not be the most coordinated person in the room, I’m willing to laugh about it and continue with a smile on my face when my arms and legs are going the opposite direction, hitting the person next to me. With a new wave of confidence, I decide then and there that I will return for the Thursday class as well. Indian culture has thrived throughout London and the Greater London area since huge waves of Indian and Punjabi people migrated to England starting in the middle of the 20th century. Dance is one aspect of their culture that can be experienced around the city through festivals, shows and now classes. These activities are available for any London residents or visitors to enjoy. Like most countries, the different regions of India have different cultures, resulting in numerous styles of dance. Bollywood dancing combines Bhangra, a folk style of Indian dance with other styles from around India. Bhangra originally was used in the 14th century as a celebration of good harvest in the Punjab region, an area spanning northwestern India and eastern Pakistan. “From the origins in the farms, the dance has become a popular, regular kind of routine at any form of celebration,” says Mahi Gill, a student at Imperial College and co-president and school’s Punjabi Society. “The dance
is in essence a form of expressing celebration and bringing a community together.” Every aspect of Bhangra dance displays an important cultural value. The costumes represent unity and color, both important in historical and modern times to the Punjabi celebration. The songs express feelings of Punjabi pride and history of the region. Naturally, I still walk into the Thursday class feeling nervous, only less so than before. The instructor, Emiko Ishii, is petite with dark hair pulled back from her face and she shares Chavda’s peppiness as
CULTURE CRASHING: Our white girl writer Christie Francis spins, twirls and dances to a Punjabi beat. And survives to write about her experiences. she dances around the room. Two other students stand with me, waiting for the class to start. “Welcome back Mercedes!” says Ishii as I see another woman walk through the door. Mercedes’ leotard pegs her as a regular dancer, unlike my gym-shorts and T-shirt. Luckily, the age range is about the same as the Tuesday class, so I figure that I’ll have an edge with my youth and energy. This class is called Bollywood Fusion, a mix of folk dancing, street influence, Bhangra and classical Indian style. Some people take the class to appreciate the culture through dance. Others enjoy it as a cardio workout - jumping around to the steady beats. Many people attend the class regularly.
“By coming every week, they feel that the repetition of new techniques has improved their skills but also made them want to challenge themselves further every week,” says Ishii. “It has also made them feel that they have nothing to lose and can go for anything they set their minds to.” The warm-up begins with the first part similar to Chavda’s Tuesday class. Feeling like I’m able to keep up, I start to relax. Then we switch to fast pace steps. While the new steps are similar to Chavda’s steps, there is nothing relaxing about their high speed. When we get to the workout section of the class, Ishii asks us all to stand in a separate corner. With four students and herself, she chooses one of the women to stand in the center of the room. “Don’t worry!" Ishii yells over the music. "You’ll all get to stand inthe center!” Ishii conducts her class like Chavda, demonstrating steps and then combinations until she believes the participants are ready for music. The only difference is that Ishii’s class seems to be more of a group dance than an individual dance, beginning with all outer participants shimmying their way to the person in the middle of the room. I struggle more than the other women to keep up with the steps and the music, convinced that the tempo gets faster and faster by the minute. Ishii, who is of Japanese descent, continually stresses the importance of facial expressions in Bollywood-style dancing. But I'm concentrating. I'm not smiling. When it’s my turn to stand in the center, the dance gods are magically on my side and I perform every leg sweep, spin and hand motion without forgetting. I try to smile, thinking about how ridiculous I must still look bouncing around the room. Like Chavda, Ishii sees my smile and smiles back, recognizing that I am enjoying myself. It’s at this moment that I realize that I have left my cultural comfort zone. So, maybe I’m still the 20-year-old conservative white girl from middle-ofnowhere Pennsylvania. But I came to London and enjoyed something out of my ordinary. And I can now go home to my friends - the ones who told me I was so uncoordinated that I need professional help, and prove to them that I don’t have two left feet.
Photo by Rick Kauffman
Writer Evan Kaucher took to the streets of London dressed lke a bear and danced to dubstep. He thought he'd make some money. He didn't. But he did pass out in his neighbor's bathroom.
rom chainsaw jugglers to George Michael impersonators, the sidewalks of London overflow with street performers trying to earn a decent living. Sure, the tourists get a couple laughs and snap some quality facebook pics but do they appreciate what these performers go through to make money? “How hard could this be?” I scoffed. I had no idea until I tried it myself. After ten hours of dancing in a bear costume, I passed out, woke up on my RA’s bathroom floor, wondering, “What the hell just happened to me?” HOW IT ALL BEGAN Boombox? Check. Liquid courage? Check. Bear suit? Check. I was ready to make a complete ass out of myself. I donned my bear costume in the Embankment tube stop and the nervous jitters hit me. It felt like I was in a locker room before the big game except this time, I was dressed as a bear wearing a neon orange crossing guard’s vest and a gold double-decker bus on a chain. Outside the station, the weather was perfect: blue sky, sun shining and a nice breeze. The birds chirped happily. I
had no excuses to pussy out. I took a deep breath, followed by a swig from my “water bottle.” Then, I hit the play button and the dubstep - the music craze in London, which is basically techno with an extreme bass - started belting, “WHOOMP WHOOMP WHOOMP.” I threw my hands in the air and the show began. Immediately, I started sweating profusely. Not really having a game plan for what dance moves to bust out, I went with the natural approach - ranging from the stanky leg to horrible attempts at the moonwalk. I noticed two common reactions from people. Their faces told me that either 1). I need to take some dance lessons or 2). I look like a drunken idiot. It actually was probably both. No one dropped money into my hat. Younger people - small children to people in their early 30’s - walked by smiling, followed by the occasional snap of a picture with their mobile phone. The older crowd definitely was not having it with me. From them, I received a look that basically said, “Get a real job, ya bum!” It got so bad that my photographer told me an angry man turned around as if he was going to give me a piece of his >>>
First Person mind. Then, he realized it wasn’t worth it. So he just flipped me the finger. I wish I would have instigated a Man verses Bear WWF match. I could see it now: dubstep blaring, children crying and fur flying. BLOODY WANKER After an hour of gaining a new respect for street performers (and Disney World mascots) near Embankment, I needed to move to a new location. We packed up our gear and I waddled my chubby bear belly toward the River Thames and the Jubilee Bridge. The footbridge would take us to South Bank, aka the Street Performer Capital of London (and maybe the world). There was a high flow people on the bridge so I said, “Fuck it, why not?” I dropped the boombox and began Act Two of the Bearathon. I was in the area for only 20 minutes when a large crowd started to gather, making it more and more difficult for people to pass through. On such a narrow bridge, I was forced to interact with the crowd, getting into people’s personal space. This got some tempers flaring, resulting in some people actually pushing me out of the way. Not really caring about what people thought, I continued to dance, fist pumping the shit out of the air. I was like Winnie the Pooh on crack. Hearing accents and languages from all over, I knew this was the place to be to get tourists’ money. Some tourists danced with me. Some got group photos. I was loved so much that a steel drum-playing street performer came up to me and said, “How long are you going to be here? This is my spot.” “I’m just doing an experiment,” I quickly replied, fearing the silver-painted human robots, mimes, break-dancers and street musicians would come beat me up for invading their turf. Hearing my American accent, the steel drum player walked away shaking his head. With a Cockney twang, he said, “Bloody wanker.” I snatched my stuff and ran out of there like a bat out of hell. TOURISTS LOVE DANCING BEARS Imagine running a marathon in a fur coat. That’s how I felt after dancing for hours under the hot sun. I could feel dehydration hitting me like a brick. Feeding off the adrenaline, I pressed on. It was probably the worst decision I’d made since my 21st birthday. South Bank was going to be the last
BEARING IT ALL: The Dubstep Bear made friends and enemies on the Jubilee Bridge, near the Embankment tube station and on the South Bank. He posed for pictures, danced with kids, got romantic with a pooch, skateboarded and then passed out.
stop for Tour de Bear, so I needed a grand finale. Knowing this area was highly concentrated with street performers, I had to make this quick. In London, you actually need a license to perform acts in public areas and you are assigned to a designated spot. I could see it now: “Ummmm, mom? I just got arrested for dancing in a bear suit can you bail me out?” But South Bank actually became really fun. Kids joined the dance marathon, waving their hands and shaking their hips. I seriously felt like I working at an amusement park as parents clicked away while I chase their kids and pretended to eat them. Kids laughed as they tried to grab my bear tail. One person asked if I could do the
worm. I belly flopped onto the concrete ground and began squirming. When I got up, my enormous bear head had toppled off, exposing my face to the crowed. The children’s jaws dropped as though they just learned that Santa Claus isn’t real. Luckily, a security guard approached and said, “Sir, you can’t perform here. Take your act somewhere else.” Gladly giving into his demands before an army of angry kids tore me apart limb for limb, I gathered my stuff and carried on. BEAR ON WHEELS? There’s a landmark skatepark under the Queen Elizabeth Hall on the South Bank and I knew there was nothing
Photos by Rick Kauffman
illegal about skating in a bear suit. So I hopped on my board and cruised away– a pot-bellied bear on wheels. Other skaters and spectators laughed and slapped me high-fives when I could stay on the board. But because of the big, lumpy costume with about 20 pounds of fur, I took spill after spill. After a couple runs it became literally impossible. I had been dancing for hours. My feet hurt. My head felt split open. And gin was seeping out of my pores. I wondered how many other people had perspired in this outfit. Then I started feeling bad for the person who has to clean it after me. I sat there in the suit by the River Thames, dazed and confused, trying to regain my composure. People asked me to dance some more. Others wanted to try on the bear head. A dog owner asked if I could pose for a picture with his dog. I didn’t ask why. But I did it. I knew it was quits for me. My body couldn’t handle anymore. My brain couldn’t function. I needed water. I had earned two measly pounds. BEAT UP BY THE BEAR The Bearathon gave me a new respect for any entertainer hustling to make a clean living – whether it be Jerry Seinfeld or the homeless man on my corner trying to sing Barry White. When I took off the costume, I realized that dubstep dancing in a bear suit had taken a toll on my wardrobe. My shorts were torn from the crotch to thigh. I rode the tube looking like a homeless man (except I carried a bear suit stuffed in a duffel bag, an oversized bear head and a boombox). I dragged the duffel bag through my South Kensington neighborhood and then hiked the wretched, eight-story trek up to my flat. “Why isn’t there a fucking elevator in this building?” I muttered. I was desperate for water and food. I put a frozen pizza in the oven, sat down on the sofa and drank a glass of water. I was delirious. I decided to take a little nap and wandered into what I thought was my room. The next thing I know, my RA was nudging me, asking, “Why are you in my bathroom and why is my bathrobe being used as a pillow?” It ranked among my top ten most embarrassing moments ever. Hours had passed. And the pizza was a burnt Frisbee. At least I wasn’t still dressed like a bear.
Busker Do? London regulates most street performers, whom they call buskers. Does that make life easier for the performers? Our Chris Diehl invesitgates.
mmanuel Pontes raises his hand and, on the down-stroke, begins his set. He strums quickly on the electric guitar, then twitches his hand and screams in a high-pitched voice, “Ow!” It’s not the sound of agony nor is it the jarring of arthritis. He’s playing Michael Jackson's Billie Jean. As the daily hustle and bustle rushes past his pitch in the Leicester Square tube station, Pontes, 35, plucks his red electric guitar, entertaining riders with the music of Michael Jackson. A few people stop to listen. Other dash past, smiling. Coins lands in Pontes’ open guitar case. Pontes is a street performer, a busker. He’s here to work. “It is part of my income,” Pontes, a native of Brazil who also gives music lessons, says between songs. Then he quickly jumps into his next tune. London takes its performances seriously. Home of the Royal College of Music and birthplace of the Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, Madness and Dizzee Rascal, there is very little tolerance for a subpar routine. In London, even the street performers need to have chops. And, in some places, they need a license. In the City of London, which is actually a small area of what is considered Greater London, busking is prohibited. In the Borough of Camden, there are no regulations – as long as you aren’t a public nuisance, performing on the street is legal. But since 2003, it is unlawful to busk in the London Underground without a permit. To perform for profit, a performer must audition. The auditioning process involves performing in front of a panel of London Underground staff, industry executives and music scouts. Each performer must demonstrate their musical ability, range of songs and originality. In May, more than 700 performers auditioned for the right to perform for fourhours per day at one of the 38 official pitches in 25 different tube stations, in the subway system used by more >>>
Photos by Chris Banks
to stick to rice but luckily there are different flavors of rice.” Living as a street musician requires sacrifice, a priority change, for sure. “It seems like 99 percent of the time busking, I am the invisible man, while one percent of the time I'm a rock star,” Muttel says. “I can't decide which one I like better.” The English word “busk” comes from the Spanish word buscar, which comes from the Latin buskin. These terms mean “to seek.” A busker seeks to makes a profit but he or she must connect with the audience. They have to implore the audience to pay them their salary. By no means is a busker a beggar. Buskers have to showcase their skills. It can be a difficult life. SUBWAY SOUNDTRACK: Ramadhami Kayimanda, above, blows his horn in Westminster station. Below, Bucky Mettel plays at the Liecester Square tube station.
than 3.5 million people daily. Minnesota-native Bucky Muttel, 46, auditioned for a busking license in 2006 and has renewed annually ever since. He creates an unusual performance at the Leicester Square station with the aid of his Chapman Stick, a stringed instrument that looks like the fretboard of a guitar. He plays his instrument more proficiently then the average person can brush their teeth. “I started busking in San Francisco in 1991 as an alternative to practicing in my home,” says Muttel. “I really liked the few passersby who stopped, if just for a moment, to listen.” It’s been his occupation ever since. Muttel started playing the piano when
he was six-years old. By age ten, he was playing the tuba. He performed with school bands and choirs and in school plays. He began playing the guitar after high school, at age 19. His most recent instrument is the Chapman stick, which he says sounds like a stringed piano. In 2000, Muttel came to London with his wife in order to be closer to her daughter, a resident of London. Muttel sports a bushy beard and a ball cap with a ponytail sneaking out the back. His face is serious but friendly. Despite his talent, he’s not raking in change from the transit riders. “My wife is a nurse so we have a split income,” he says. “Sometimes we have
Ramadhami Kayimanda, 50, hails from the tragedy-stricken country of Rwanda. He regularly plays his saxophone in Westminster Station. “I came to London because it is an easy place to play music,” he says. "Also it is not too far from Africa. And the people here appreciate the music.” Kayimanda can make about £50 a day just from a few hours of busking. Michael Ward, 52, of South London, began playing guitar five years ago after his children moved away. With his free time, Ward chose to pursue his passion. Working in the Charing Cross Tube station, Ward interacts with his fellow Londoners and visitors alike. He doesn’t earn a huge salary but, he says, “I can pay the taxes!” London is well known for its high taxes but performers still arrive here in huge numbers. Singer Susana Silva, 24, entertains tourists on the South Bank near the Jubilee Bridge. She says, “I chose London because in my country, Portugal, the type of music that I like to sing doesn't have the opportunity to go further.” The fact that Emmanuel Pontes is a practicing musician is enough for him. He accepts his life of rice and beer because he has a passion for music. It isn’t always roses though. A musician is granted only four hours per day on any given pitch. Each musician also needs to get ahead of his competition and schedule pitch time through the London Transportation Authority. Pontes says, “It’s very hard, there are 260 licensed musicians. There’s a lot of competition.”
Photo by Evan Kaucher
LABEL UP: Hella Better Dancer performs during Roundhouse Records launch party.
Roundhouse Knockout The Youth Center in Camden adds a Record label. Luke Bilek listens to the label's First wave of young artists.
t's a Tuesday night in Camden. Heavy foot traffic stomps up the stairs to witness Brit pop star Pixie Lott performing at the famous Roundhouse. Meanwhile, for a special few, the real show lies below. In a dimly lit room below the main arena, an intimate stage sits only feet away from listeners. A small, private audience trickles in and the room slowly fills. It’s the debut of Roundhouse Records, the independent record label recently launched by the Roundhouse, the multi-faceted musical enterprise center. Calm and collected, Oli Kluczewski, the Roundhouse’s Music Program Coordinator and pioneer of the new record label, takes the microphone. “Roundhouse Records came out of an idea we had possibly about two years ago,” he tells the audience. “We thought, we have all of these great
young bands coming through - these great young artists - and we really need to find a platform to kind of push these guys out there and really help and develop them.” An eclectic range of sounds and voices is on the bill for the night, each representing the new label and its future. The line-up is loaded with a range of young talent, from Ken Kobayashi’s experimental pop and Tresor Kiambu’s African-influenced acoustic melodies, to the powerful spoken words of both Indigo Williams and Sean Mahoney. But the main event features performances by Ghosts You Echo and Hella Better Dancer, the two groups whose debut EPs mark the official launch of the Roundhouse Records label. “With so many young emerging artists, the label became a now or never situation,” says Kluczewski. “Someone had to start up this label.”
Kluczewski, 31, believes that quality is extremely important when selecting the artists for Roundhouse Records. “It’s about investing in the idea of potential,” says Kluczewski. The idea, as Kluczewski sees it, is simple. “Everything can be managed in-house for the label, allowing us to promote young artists and help them get into the industry,” he says. “The artists aren’t really ready to approach major labels on their own. ” This is where Kluczewski steps in. Kluczewski has worked at the Roundhouse for four years. For the last two, he has served in his current position, representing the mentor aspect of the label, giving bands as much insight into the industry as possible. He sees Roundhouse Records as a type of middle ground helping to get young, promising talent recognized. Ken Kobayashi, 22, is first to take the stage. As the crowd buzzes, Kobayashi runs through a quick set of both new and old songs. Afterward, a supportive crowd of friends backs Tresor Kiambu as he carries his acoustic guitar up on stage. Midway through Kiambu’s final song, “I can’t do this by myself,” his amplified acoustic guitar cuts out. As the crowd squeezes closer to the stage to hear, Kiambu stays calm and finishes out strong. After a short intermission, spoken word artists Indigo Williams and Sean Mahoney perform. Then Ghosts You Echo, the stage name of solo artist Vicky Wijerante, takes the stage. As the lights dim, Wijerante dives into the eerie, chilling set. A dark, artistic video flashes on the screen behind her, the perfect backdrop for Wijerante’s brainchild of emotions. Her sound is full of nostalgia and memories. Even her album art, a photo of a swan in water, harkens back to her past. “I was with my mum in South England by a pond,” Wijerante says of her “Bare Bones” EP cover. “I took the shot with my Polaroid camera just before I fell in. The swans represent a passing between life and death, the bridge.” Wijerante, now 22, began singing at only nine-years old, and by sixteen, she was already writing songs. By nineteen, she had begun officially writing material for the Ghosts You Echo debut EP. She got her start at the Roundhouse when she took part in their annual 30/30 project last year. After being selected
Photo by Like Bilek
Cover Story LABELED: Tresor Kiambu is a Roundhouse future talent with an EP pending.
to cut a track at the Roundhouse, Wijerante submitted her demo and was picked to be one of the first new artists on Roundhouse Records. “I have built a trust in the Roundhouse over the past two years,” she says. One of her musical inspirations is David Bowie. Always experimenting, Bowie wasn’t afraid to change his sound. Constantly into the idea of adding new dimensions to her music, Wijerante is continually building her sound. For instance, she has found that playing the solo acoustic act can be quite difficult. Playing with a backing band, she says, is ideal. The audience stands both impressed and stunned as they process the artistic audio/visual experience. After Wijerante’s set, it seems as though even more people squeeze into the hall to see the final band. Hella Better Dancer saunters on to the stage with an anything goes,
carefree attitude. The four seventeenyear-old musicians fire up the crowd right from the start. Colorful flashing lights strobe across the stage as the group begins to rock out with their debut EP cover projected behind them on a massive screen. They tear through their set with standout songs, “Stay the Same” and “The City Sea,” making the crowd dance. Each musician brings a different artistic element to the overall sound Soph Nathan’s rhythmic intricacies on lead guitar, Lucas Galley-Greenwood’s spacious backbone drumming, Josh Cohen’s punchy bass and Tilly Scantlebury’s classic, timeless vocals. Some of the band members, all of whom hail from Northwest London, have worked with the Roundhouse crew for more than four years. “My bass teacher was a tutor on the Live Jam course at the Roundhouse and asked me to come along,” offers Cohen with a laugh. “He was aware >>>
of my bodacious bass skills and wanted to share them with the world.” Scantlebury recounts, “My dad signed me up for the Live Jam course at the Roundhouse and forced me into going because all I used to do was play football.” Galley-Greenwood’s father Mel Galley once played at the Roundhouse with the band Trapeze. “When I was 13, my mum told me about how the Roundhouse had been restored and I immediately wanted to be a part of it,” he said. Nathan says, “I met Tilly through a friend who thought we'd get on and enjoy playing guitar together. Soon after that, I met the band who asked me to come play for them and I was lucky enough to get playing and become part of the Roundhouse.” The Roundhouse fostered the group over the years and Roundhouse Records was able to acquire engineer Kevin Paul, who has worked with David Bowie, Moby and Depeche Mode, to produce the group’s EP “Please Stay Here.” “Paul was an amazing producer,” pronounces Scantlebury. “He understood the sound we wanted to get.” The group is willing to take their time and slow the pace down, as long as it means getting the best product in the end. “I want to be happy,” states GalleyGreenwood. “It doesn’t matter what fame comes out of it. With music, we do it because we want to.” “We’re in no rush,” says Cohen. “There’s no point in making a half-ass album.” An ecstatic crowd cheers for more as Hella Better Dancer’s frantic performance brings Roundhouse Records’ showcase debut to a close. Attempting to create a global model here for other people to replicate, Kluczewski has high hopes for the label. They plan to release debut EPs from Tresor Kiambu, Indigo Williams and Sean Mahoney over the next year, as well as produce second EPs from Hella Better Dancer and Ghosts You Echo. “It all starts small and organically grows over time,” says Kluczewski. “Everything we do goes straight back into creating music.” And that is the purpose of the Roundhouse, the creative community for young people. Tonight, that community showed off their talents. And the label’s artists blew the crowd away.
A Positive PLace for Creative Youth The Roundhouse is Camden's stateof-the-art youth center and performance space with a stunning array of creative facilities - seven music production suites, five rehearsal rooms, two media labs, a recording studio and an arena that can host as many as 3,300 people. There are numerous programs, including the new record label, for people age 25 and younger. Thousands of young people have taken advantage of the opportunity to develop skills since the facility opened its doors in 2006. “It really feels like we've still got a long way to go before we reach our peak,” says Laurie Firth, the Roundhouse’s Partnerships and Placements Coordinator. “I think it's going to be a continual evolution.” The Roundhouse was originally built in 1846 as a turntable and steam engine repair shed for the London and Birmingham Railway. It was only used for trains for a short period as larger trains were soon created. For more than 50 years, it was used mostly as a warehouse. Just prior to World War II, the building was left unused. In 1964, Centre 42 took over the building and began offering avant-garde art performances. During the sixties and seventies, bands like Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin and the Doors played the Roundhouse. In 1983, Centre 42 closed as a venue due to lack of funding. Many ideas to revitalize the building were proposed over the subsequent years but they were all cast aside. Finally, in 1996, Torquil Norman, the toymaker whose company created the Polly Pocket dolls, purchased the building through his charitable trust. “Torquil has been a Camden resident for quite some time and he’d seen this beautiful building essentially rundown and becoming quite derelict,” explains Firth. “He was also very aware of the fact that there were a lot of young people around where the Roundhouse stands today who did not have many places that they could go to explore their creative potential and ability.” Music and theater troupes performed over the next few years as plans to renovate the Roundhouse began. Then, in 2004, the Roundhouse was closed for nearly two-years as the £30 million
restoration and expansion began. In 2006, the Roundhouse re-opened with state-of-the-art equipment, flexible seating and a new wing featuring a café, offices and box office. All of the original detailing was kept and restored, giving the facility, especially the main venue, a unique feel. The arena, for instance, features steel, Doric columns supporting the roof, with refurbished glass panels in the ceiling. Since the renovations, the Roundhouse has hosted hundreds of bands including Oasis, Morrissey, Q-Tip, Kanye West, Gorillaz and Smokey Robinson. Many of the artists meet and work with the young people studying at the Roundhouse. All of the programming is connected – there are workshops to develop talent, produce music, operate cameras and engineering equipment, learn photography and broadcast production, practice on-air radio presentation and so much more. During live performances, program participants operate cameras and sound boards, and get amazing behindthe-scenes experience. “We're able to directly apply their skills in such a professional concept,” says Firth. “Our task now is to just to make sure that as soon as people walk through those doors, they know that what we're about is as much an artistic venue as a creative center for young people.” The majority of the funding for the Roundhouse comes from private donations, though the government contributes a great amount. Revenue is also generated through commercial projects like the iTunes festival, which has held 30 concerts over 30 days over the last two summers. While the project is still in its infancy, the Roundhouse operators dream big. “Torquil had a vision early on that there would be at least twenty Roundhouses in London alone, with many more around the world,” says Firth. The immediate goals of the facility are more modest, however. “Over the next five years, I hope we continue to do what we do, making it even better,” says Firth. “Eventually, in twenty years, we’ll see another five of these all over London.”
- Elizabeth Iezzi
Hanging with The Band The Hoxton-based Japanese Voyeurs are leading North London's grunge revival. They recently completed their debut album, Yolk, which will be released in early 2011. For now, singer/ guitarist Romily Alice (L to R), keyboard player Rich Walden and bassist Johnny Seymour, along with with drummer Steve Wilson and guitarist Tom Lamb (not pictured) are touring the UK with Against Me and Fucked Up. The band's unusual moniker is rooted in a story they stumbled across in the International Herald Tribune about a Japanese guy who photographed people having sex in parks. We hung out with the band in Hoxton Square, London's hot spot for filmmakers, fashion designers and artists.
Photo by Rick Kauffman
Photo courtesy of Brute Chorus
The Brute Chorus is not a party band, as Kevin Brosky finds out. The band is dark and brooding. But they know how to have a good time.
Hanging with The Band
he four members of the Brute Chorus amble around Northeast London’s Abney Park Cemetery where they've gathered for a video shoot for their next single, “Heaven.” But things already aren't going according to plan. A guitar has gone missing. And they've heard from people near the cemetery gates who spotted a person on a bike, leaving the cemetery with a guitar strapped to his back. “Police should be able to catch him,” drummer Matt Day pipes up. “Not many people ride around with a guitar strapped to their back. Except for Pete Doherty. And they're always after him.” “I'm not going to get any of the other things done that I need to do today, am I?” bassist Dave Ferrett asks with a groan, easily aware of the fact that they may be in for a longer ordeal than they had planned. The missing guitar is reported to area police, who set out on patrol to find it. Meanwhile, the band borrows a second acoustic guitar from a friend they bump into on the way to the police station. After the setback, the band is finally set to begin filming the video. “Ready!” the director barks before the first take. Then, James Steel, the Brute Chorus’ lead vocalist and guitarist, begins strumming his acoustic guitar. With his deep, dark, piercing eyes and a finely groomed mustache, he sings into the camera, “Feels like they locked the gates of heaven on the day I was born and I won’t be going back there anymore.” The other three members, Day, Ferrett and guitarist/keyboardist Nick Foots, begin following Steel. The quartet, sporting matching black suits, walks a figure-8-like pattern through the middle of the cemetery with “mourners” trailing them. “No, I won’t be going back there anymore,” Steel echoes. Steel wrote the song last year during what he called a “difficult year for the band.” “It just felt like a dark force was working against us,” he explains. “You see all these kids at 19 getting record deals,
and meanwhile, you hit 30, and you just think, ‘Fuck this.’” While the song arose from a rather low point in the band’s career, Steel insists he and the band are not a perennially pessimistic bunch. “I do believe in fate,” he asserts. “And while it is a negative song, I don’t really believe in the amount of negativity I had when I wrote it.” After trudging through three separate takes of the video itinerary, including several laps around the cemetery grounds, the band and friends head to Brute Chorus headquarters, The Haggerston Pub, in nearby Hackney. The band has used the second floor flat above the pub as a rehearsal space for the last two years. "It's home," Day says with a shrug, looking around the unfurnished room at the various instruments and piles of merchandise. Steel changes out of his suit into a simple white tank and black trousers and retreats to the second floor to talk about the origins of the band and its diverse sound. He runs a comb through his hair, an immaculate quiff, the increasingly popular hairstyle in London - shaved on the sides and back, with a long, slicked-back top. The band’s story goes like this: Foots and Day, former schoolmates, began playing music together as teenagers. Somewhere along the line, they met Steel and soon after, the trio found Ferrett, the bassist, via an ad on gumtree.com. They took a liking to a Bonnie “Prince” Billy song called “The Brute Choir” and since their style felt a bit rough and unrefined, they became the Brute Chorus. Steel says the band’s eclectic sound is a direct result of the quartet’s widely differing musical tastes - Foots listens to a lot of classical. Day listens to Springsteen and AC/DC. Ferrett and Steel are more into rockabilly and old R&B. “I think we’re deliberately eclectic,” he explains. “I also love English folk. My dad was a folk singer in the 70s.” The Brute Chorus recorded their first LP in one take, straight through, in front of a live audience at the Roundhouse in February 2009. The self-titled record was released by TAPE, an independent London label that has also released several of the band’s singles on 7” vinyl.
“As soon as we recorded the first record, I started writing for the second album,” Steel recalls. Much of the material Steel wrote during that time period chronicles the deterioration of his relationship with a former fiance. During the recording of the album, the relationship reached a breaking point and the two separated. “We were in the process of vocal recording,” recalls Steel, remembering his distraught state of mind. “I literally couldn’t sing.” Their latest album, How the Caged Bird Sings, came together during cold January recording sessions at Santon Bridge Village Hall, an old Victorian building with high ceilings and interesting acoustics. The album was released last month. In the time between the two records, Steel says the band learned to play slower, darker songs. “Even when the songs are dark, it’s stompy and joyous,” Steel notes. “We’re not a party band. We have guitars but we don’t always use them.” Steel has spent the last few months couch-surfing between band members’ and other friends’ flats. He admits that being in a band full time isn’t always rewarding financially but he says it is constantly rewarding in other ways. “I don’t think any of us want to do anything but play music together,” he asserts. “We can’t stop because we’d be cheating ourselves. Instead of an office job, I get to go to music festivals and play for people.” Steel says he and his fellow bandmates keep each other grounded by following two basic tenets, of which they constantly remind each other. “Number one: Take pleasure where you can find it. That’s easy to forget,” Steel says. “And number two: The only certainty in life is that you will die.” Even though the Brute Chorus has been well received thus far by fans, blogs and other media outlets, the band’s songwriter says he tries to remain realistic in setting goals. The band hopes to continue touring Europe and maybe make it over to the States. They’d like to make more albums, each one better than the last, and release more and more singles. “I don’t think we’ll ever be a breakthrough band,” Steel says earnestly, “but I think the Brutes will be around a while. I think we’ll always play music together."
"Even when the songs are dark, it's stompy and joyous." 33
Photos by Rick Kauffman
Hanging with The Band
Womp Womp Womp
Womp Womp Womp
I love thaT Filth Sam and the Womp, the brass and electronic supergroup, teach Rick Kauffman how to dance to dubstep.
he Big Chill House is alive on Friday night. Downstairs, a group plays a traditional big band sound and people twist and turn to the swing music. Upstairs, the club rumbles and wobbles to a throbbing dubstep pulse. “Come on everybody!” beckons Sam Ritchie, on stage upstairs with his group, Sam and the Womp. “Come and do the womp!” The outstretched hands of the crowd push and pull as Ritchie directs the night’s wompers and wompettes. “The womp is very simple,” he says. “Put your right hand up, your left hand out and we’ll teach you how to do the womp.” Aaron Horn, known as DJ Aaron Audio, fiddles with dials, warping sounds and mixing loops—creating his own brand of order out of chaos. He begins the reverberating bass very slowly and the crowd ebbs and flows in spastic unison. “Okay, that was pretty good, but now we’re going to speed it up,” cheers Ritchie, wild-eyed and ready to party. Horn speeds up the bass line and the crowd jumps into a seizure of dance, pumping their hands and moving their hips as fast as they can. Tonight’s lineup consists of four members, about one-third of the full band. But the elements of the group are all intact: shrieking brass, heavy bass, hints of ragga, a touch of jazz and some hip-hop for good measure. Sam and the Womp is a super group of sorts, a collection of talent in various genres, from different places, forging their strengths together to create something brand new. They play a style that takes the highs of big-band brass and the lows of drum-and-bass and fuses them together. “We play super-skills African skank, afro-funk, Balkan, a ska-inspired fusion of gypsy and fast ragga," titters Ritchie, the band’s frontman and trumpet player. “We just play what we like.“ The result is a dubstep backbone – the womp - with punchy beats, punctuated by New Orleans-style brass. “I fucking love the womp!” Ritchie says. “The brass tradition is where I come
Dubstep is the mesmerizing, moody, industrial sound that evolved in London over the last decade. “It’s a type of electronic dance music that relies heavily on deep, reverberating bass lines, turned up to such a level that your organs rattle in the shell of your ribcage,” says Horn. “It’s forward music, man—music that’s experimenting with new sounds and new equipment and experimenting with the way that people move.” How you dance to dubstep is a mystery in itself. Usually, the huge sound is complemented by the ostentatious movements of the dancers. Limbs flail, spines contort, feet stomp, heads rock and hips gyrate. Dubstep alters the convention of how people operate and interact with each other on the dance floor, almost moving and pulsing together as a solid entity. You don’t move to the music. The music moves you.
stuff. Playing it live and having people dig it is really great.” He began as a DJ playing mixes and samples at house raves, then worked with production-based projects. He did that for nearly three years. “I wasn’t spending enough time on my own music,” Horn says. “I just knew that it was worthwhile and good enough. Finally, I just made the switch.” Sam and the Womp formed as an amalgamation of two entities that met at the right place, at the right time. Horn’s beats and Ritchie’s band, formerly known as QDOS, came together easily and quickly in a melting pot of inspiration. “The idea for the band came together after meeting Aaron,” says Ritchie, “I was doing a hip-hop session at Sarm Studios on the trumpet. That day, we went on and recorded ‘Hey Trumps,’ which is now one of our tracks.” Some nights, with the full band intact, the group appears like some sort of acid-trip funk burlesque show. “What I love about the band is that the music stems from a love you have of this idea,” says Horn, “and all these people get it and enjoy it.”
A week earlier, twice as many members as tonight’s lineup crammed into a basement club for a sweaty affair at the
At the Big Chill, it’s all about the dirty funk. Ritchie leads the crowd, singing and
from but I love that filth, that womp, womp, womp, womp, womp.” He stoops low and thrusts his hands outward, dancing like those in the crowd.
Womp Womp St. Moritz, a dingy dive in Soho. The appeal of their wompiness should not be underestimated – on that Thursday night, Sam and the Womp turned a tame and unwilling crowd into an orgy of dance. “That’s the great thing about dubstep: mixing it up, getting these people on the dubstep vibe,” says Horn. “Having people dig your music is really sort of an addiction.” In addition to writing, producing and performing, Horn runs a record label, teaches music and creates art. “If you produce, you want to perform,” Horn says. “If you perform, you want to produce. And it can be really fun to just sit in my studio and come up with fresh
blowing his trumpet. Drummer Bubu pounds the drums. Horn flips the switches and lays the beat. Resident dancer/ vocalist Bloem, a star in her native Holland, lights up the stage sans her usual getup. “When she’s not singing, she usually dresses up in a big banana costume and dances around stage,” says Ritchie. “It’s a real gag.” The crowd grows in volume and becomes more and more wild as Ritchie teaches them the womp dance. By the end of the night, people let loose. With the club so packed, people dance on the windowsills. “Dubstep has a different feel,” Horn says. “Everyone loves it.”
Don't believe the hype: the hardcore scene in London isn't violent. Well, not that violent. But it is aggressive, loud and proud, as writer Chris Banks discovers While hanging with Kartel.
Photo by Rick Kauffman
Hanging with The Band Kartel is in this studio for the first
time and they're still working out some of the kinks. None of their equipment seems to work correctly. The drums are braced by an old tire. There are too few amps and a distortion pedal suffers battery issues. Half the band arrives late because of subway disruptions. The walls surrounding them are made of carpet and are completely black. With just two lonely lights hanging above the band, there is an ominous tone. Finally, they assemble into the fiveman unit that is Kartel and start practicing a brand of hardcore that is extremely aggressive, representing the tougher, more “urban” side of London. It’s their first practice in several weeks and during a particularly bad bout of feedback, the bandmates accuse their bearded frontman's iPhone of causing the problem. “It's on airplane mode you cunts!” singer DBS yells in response. Drummer Tom Barry tries to keep the band on point as they run through a slew of songs from their 2007 full length, Rise of the Guttersnipe, along with some newer tracks that are expected to be on their long-awaited upcoming full length. The group doesn't have a plan for what they're going to play tonight. Rather, they play whatever comes to mind. Earlier in the day, Barry drank coffee at Foyles Cafe, a coffee house above a bookstore on Charing Cross Road. Sporting a hat that proudly displayed an olde English graffiti-style font and a plaid shirt over a Skarhead T-shirt, the drummer stood out from the well-dressed London crowd. With the Beatles and Oasis playing softly in the background, the 15-year hardcore veteran reminisced about the mid1990s, when Knuckledust launched the modern London hardcore scene. “There was a hardcore scene before Knuckledust,” Barry said. “But really, the hardcore scene you see now came from Knuckledust. They were the main band that took off in London.” Knuckledust started and continue to run Rucktion Records, a London based label that deals exclusively with hardcore. Kartel is signed to the label. “The London scene was influenced by that wave of American hardcore that came about with all that tough guy stuff, bands like Sick of it All,” Barry continued. “It was quite a street scene. The lyrics with bands like Ninebar are
based around tough times, getting by. Things like that.” Barry was in his early 30s when he got into the scene. He remembers the exact moment he knew hardcore was his passion. During the 1990s, there was a community of young hardcore kids putting on shows for one another, rather than having adults presenting to kids. “They weren't like metal kids that dressed a certain way, or rich kids that dressed a certain way,” Barry remembered. “No one was excluded.” That specific night, Knuckledust was playing their straightforward hardcore stuff – heavy guitar but without the masturbatory bravado of heavy metal. It was violent without being outwardly aggressive. The kids were expressing being pissed off but not necessarily trying to hurt each other. “The big head-fuck for me, when I thought that this was my music, was when the four guys who were in the mosh pit got up onto the stage and played their set,” Barry recalled. “Then they got off the stage, back to the mosh pit.” After he left Foyles, Barry met up with DBS across the street at The Crobar. The frontman, who also sings in the bands Injury Time and Bastard Lovechild, sat in front of the bar in his beige Nike windbreaker drinking a Heineken. When asked about the London hardcore scene in particular DBS stated that it's unfairly considered more violent than other scenes. He refers to the somewhat new phenomenon of hardcore message boards which can be both a blessing and a curse for the scene. While people promote shows and network with fans from other cities, there's a lot of negative gossip and false rumors of fights and rapes. “We're just normal people who work and make music and like to smoke weed and drink beer,” DBS explained. Barry added, “There's been fights in the past but that's because it's some people fighting. They'd have fights over stuff any way. They just happen to be hardcore kids that fight.” Occasionally, it gets out of hand, often when suburbanites are exposed to the scene. “People from these smaller towns, they find it insane, and then they accidentally get hyped,” Barry said. “Rather than someone warning someone, it turns into someone stabbing someone.” The reputation stems from the 1990s
when there was considerable violence in the hardcore scene. But things have changed, the two agree. These days, there are fewer incidents but even the smallest altercations get blown out of proportion, usually online. “There's a lot of misunderstanding,” Barry said. “It's stupid because the UK's fucking tiny. I could understand if it was like the US or something. But the UK's too small for that level of misunderstanding.” “It’s frustrating,” DBS said. “It means a lot of kids that may be into our sort of bands just ignore us because they think, ‘Oh God, if we go see those guys, we're going to get beaten up.’” Beyond the stigma of being exceptionally violent, London hardcore also finds itself having trouble breaking out of its own scene. Alex Fitzpatrick, owner of the Londonbased hardcore label Holy Roar Records, wants to see Rolo Tomassi, one of Holy Roar’s bands, tour America. “We're desperate to get them to the States but it's just so hard because we haven't got $20,000 sitting in the bank to help us tour the States,” he said. Rolo Tomassi was recently nominated as the “Best British Newcomer” at the Kerrang magazine awards. But with travel costs and various fees, getting the band live exposure in America may be impossible. “The only way to get over to the States is for a label over there to help us with some money to get over,” Fitzpatrick continued. “It seems like the powers that be in America feel like there's enough choice and variety and there's no need to help talent come over.” For now, the bands keep pumping that aggressive energy into London’s scene. After a few hours of practice, the songs sound spot on but some members are unhappy with how it's going. “It's going to take a lot of work before our next gig,” DBS says. Barry pushes forward. “Come on! Next, next, next!” he says, and then repeats that after every song. Then, the practice ends abruptly, with the band choosing to end spontaneously rather than planning it out ahead of time. They listen to a recording of the session before packing up their instruments and scattering across London. Like flicking off a switch, the five guys stop being Kartel and turn back into Londoners simply trying to go home.
Filthy Chemistry T
“ his is Jeremy,” guitarist Harry Weskin introduces, pointing to the green rubber dildo, dressed in a tiny blue jacket, perched atop the drum kit’s high hat stand. The sprightly sex toy is far from the only eye-catching detail in Filthy Boy’s practice space. In fact, it’s a room full of eye-catching details. Apart from the drum kit, stacks of amplifiers and guitars propped against the wall, there’s a female torso mannequin, a few hanging bras, a smattering of eclectic, twisted artwork, one pink wall and a Jonas Brothers poster of the group’s Rolling Stone cover. “Quite a fun little rehearsal space,” ponders bassist Michael Morrissey. “We tried to customize it as much as possible. I dunno why we have a Jonas Brothers poster.” “They’re one of our main influences,” quips Harry. “We’re really not anti-Jonas Brothers,” Michael clarifies. “It gets a little old how people are always slagging them, saying they’re rubbish. They’re probably some of the nicest guys.” Harry moves closer to the poster for a better look. “Look at this: Girls and God. It’s just full of contradictions,” he argues. “And why is he pulling on his shirt like that?” “Stop mocking them,” Michael says firmly, and the debate is over. The two pick up their instruments and start jamming, waiting for the rest of the band to arrive: Michael’s brother Paraic, the band’s second
guitarist and lead vocalist, and drummer Benjamin Deschamps. The space in the Southeast London flat belongs to the Morrissey brothers’ dad Brian, who lets the band rehearse there freely. They try to wrap it up by 6 p.m., though, so the neighbors in adjoining and nearby flats won’t complain about the noise. The band’s four members, all 18, met in school, where a group music composition project brought them together. The song that emerged from the collaboration, which eventually became one of the band’s signature songs, “Biggest Fan Ever,” had Paraic belting, “And that’s when you fuck me/ You fuck me hard/ Hard in the ass like a superstar.” He recalls fondly the memory of singing the line in front of an auditorium of horrified parents at the school performance. Now that the four of them have just finished their exams, their summer holiday is here, at long last, and they can finally have more time to just “be a band.” The two remaining members walk into the room and get down to business quickly. Ben attaches cymbals to the tops of their stands. The battered white drum kit has seen better days. The
Band photos by George Miller, dildo photo by Kevin Brosky
Kevin Brosky discovers how the members of South London's Filthy Boy (and their dildo mascot) complement each other.
Hanging with The Band drummer bought it used a few years back, when the band was just starting out, for only 120 quid. Still, it more than gets the job done for Ben, who continues beating up on it in the name of passionate percussion. Paraic fixes a microphone to a makeshift mic stand rigged with electrical tape. He picks up his black Telecaster and, without a word, starts into a song with delicate finger picking and ominous oohs. His voice reverberates around the room over his reverb-laden guitar, haunting and deep as he reaches down for the low notes. After a few bars, the rest of the band jumps in, and it’s a full-on performance in a room not big enough for any larger of an audience. It’s a shame, too, because they breeze through a couple of songs with the ease and precision of any live set, bopping their heads hypnotically and bouncing at the knees as though they’re putting on a show. The music is dark and mysterious, but somehow undyingly fun and intriguing, and Filthy Boy has any audience closely following them around every unsuspecting turn. The band got started about two years ago, basically as a novelty, and gradually got more and more serious as the quartet realized they were actually onto something truly original. “Not that we’re that serious now,” Ben jokes, getting a laugh from his bandmates. But as the focus of the rehearsal shifts toward working out a new song, the mood is nothing but serious, each member picking apart the elusive, meandering progression strewn with minor chord changes. Over the course of over two hours, they simplify it, complicate it, change the tempo and rearrange sections of it, no one even cracking a smile until they’ve made some headway. It reaches 6 p.m., but the band’s still not finished tinkering. Today they take a chance and continue playing through the evening. “We’re really close,” urges Harry, who’s been experimenting up and down the neck of his Stratocaster, meticulously searching for the perfect lead guitar fills. “I’d hate to quit on it yet.” After a short break, they get back to trying to sort it out. Paraic experiments with a new, slowed down outro progression. “It sounds too cheesy,” he says at one point, doing a ridiculous dance to the beat of the song to illustrate the point. It’s starting to sound too much like a “college indie rock song,” he notes at
another point. It’s as if Filthy Boy can already anticipate any possible criticism, and for now, they’re going to get it exactly right. Even though the band says they’ve had a decent amount of label interest, they’re taking their time and weighing all their options. “We’ve been lucky,” Michael says. “Promoters have really taken us under their wing and really been interested in our music. They’ve brought a lot of people out to our gigs.” “I think our only goal right now is just to keep writing and build up a decent amount of material,” Harry explains. “That way, if the opportunity arises for us to record a new demo or a serious album, we’re ready.” A week later, Filthy Boy has a much anticipated gig at Proud Camden, a venue that doubles as an art gallery and performance space, in the Camden Town Stables Market. The members of the band sit in a circle with friends outside the back of the building, smoking a few fags (cigarettes) before their set later in the night. Soon after, their manager arrives, and since they’ve got a bunch of time before they need to report to the stage, the band follows him to a pub down the road called the Hawley Arms, to catch one of his other clients, Bridport Dagger’s set. A ruffled Amy Winehouse is being escorted down the steps to the second floor and out the front door as Filthy Boy makes their way up. It doesn’t
seem to phase the band or anyone around them. “She lives just down the street,” someone explains. “They know we don’t get on with her,” Ben jokes. After standing in the middle of the tightly packed room and hearing a few songs, the band file out and return to Proud to set up. At 11 p.m., back in the lively main room at Proud, Filthy Boy sneaks onto the stage, and, after a brief introduction from Paraic, Michael starts into the band’s opener “Jimmy Jammies” with a prowling bass groove. The song quickly turns chaotic when it reaches the chorus, Paraic yelling, “Put on your jimmy jammies and get into bed!” with Michael and Harry adding ambient background oohs and aahs. Next, they debut the now completed new song (yet untitled), racing through it with absolute certainty. They blister through the six-song set, before getting cheered on for an encore, which they are pleased to oblige. Filthy Boy is poised right on the edge of something and they know it. The rare chemistry they exhibit onstage, at some of London's better, small music venues is a sight to behold. They’re waiting to make a splash, and when they do, you’ll know about it. Just don’t expect to see Jeremy on stage any time soon. They don’t want to just be known as the Band With the Green Dildo. They’re way more serious than that.
Photos by Grace Dickinson
Food That Rocks
Double-Decker Delight A London icon finds a new purpose in life. Grace Dickinson samples the vegan fare at the eye-catching establishment.
young couple walks hand in hand down the gray brick lane of Ely’s Yard, part of the Old Truman Brewery just a few steps away from the real Brick Lane. The pair scan the three 10-feet tall, black and white portraits sketched on the brick buildings in front of them. As they glance to their right, a shiny red double-decker bus parked in the back of the Yard draws their eyes from the street art, this time eliciting the young woman to grab her camera from her brown leather purse that hangs neatly from her arm. She lines up her boyfriend, inching him this way and that way to get the perfectly framed photograph in front of the salient red bus. It’s the iconic symbol of London – the classic two-level Routemaster bus. But this particular one isn’t just any Routemaster, which is why it consistently draws so many eyes and photographers every single day. This is Routemaster number 2690, currently known as the Rootmaster, a hip restaurant with an all-vegan menu. Routemaster number 2690 retired
March 2004 after putting in a good thirty-seven years of reliable passengercarting service. But the Routemaster’s career wasn’t quite over. Three years later, in March 2007, number 2690 was back in action. Its new occupation would grant the old 1967 engine a break but it would still have its place serving London customers. “I’ve always loved Routemasters,” says Sylvia Garcia, 28, the woman who recruited Routemaster number 2690 and turned it into the Rootmaster restaurant. “A friend of mine suggested buying a bus and selling items like umbrellas or Wellies at music festivals, but I knew I’d get bored of that because I’m not really passionate about those things. I’ve been vegan for a long time so I decided to get a bus and turn it into a restaurant.” Being the first one to go vegetarian in her family at the age of 12 and then shifting into becoming entirely meat-free, dairy-free by age 16, Garcia is highly passionate about veganism. Although, the concept behind the Rootmaster is less about pushing veganism
and more about introducing people to quality food. “I love food and I love eating,” remarks Garcia. “People assume vegan food means the food doesn’t taste good. We don’t try to push the whole ‘We are vegan’ thing on our menu. We just want to show people good food.” That is exactly what the menu con sists of: Delicious food. Garcia designs the menu seasonally based around what she would like to eat if she dined out for dinner, meaning that she genuinely enjoys every menu option offered at Rootmaster. “I tend to go through phases where I’ll eat the same thing every week. In the moment I’m in my red curry phase,” says Garcia. “I love the red curry.” You can check out the red curry during a Rootmaster dinner in the “Red Lentil Kofta,” consisting of mildly spiced balls crafted from lentils and fresh herbs, served over organic brown rice that is smothered with the slightly sweet and spicy red curry sauce and topped with redskin peanuts and assorted pickled veggies. The red curry is also the star of regular customer Michael Skelton’s favorite “Thai Coconut Curry” lunch dish. It consists of a fusion of organic seasonal veggies, which recently featured creamy cooked zucchini, roasted green peppers and red onions, and soft, sweet carrots, along with chewy cubes of perfectly
fried organic tofu. All are served atop red coconut curry infused basmati rice along with crunchy roasted peanuts, creating a lunch menu offering that certainly does not disappoint. “The vibe there is good, the staff are happy, and all of that really shows and comes through in the food,” says 26year old Skelton, who is currently not a vegan nor vegetarian but just really digs the food at Rootmaster. Garcia estimates that about 80 percent of her customers are probably not vegan or vegetarian. Never relying one bit on advertising, a majority of the customers are initially drawn to the Rootmaster primarily because of its conspicuous and unusual appearance. And few things could garner as much attention – nearly everyone who sees the restaurant stops and stares. Another young couple stops to stare at the bus from afar. Their curiosity leads them to wander over to the parking lot. Two welcoming blackboard signs set at the edge read, “Come join us,” and “Groovy selection of organic wine, beer, and juices.” After reading the sign that helps to clear up some of their confusion, they take a seat at one of the seven casual metal tables hanging outside. “I think initially the bus did a lot of the work,” explains Garcia. “Then, if you maintain that with good food, you develop a reputation. Now we have people who recommend us.” On any given day, you can find a crew of hungry appetites filling at least a few of the outdoor tables placed beneath the Christmas light-lined awning suspended from the top of the Truman Brewery’s eminent double-decker.
ON THE BUS: The second floor dining area (top) and the tofu teriyaki (below).
Tomato plants hang from the corners of the awning, gently bouncing with the playful poppy punk beats from bands, such as the Hives, softly playing in the background, and from the summer breeze drifting in from the open front. Smells of curry seep from the kitchen situated on the lower floor of the bus. Jars of dried beans, rigatoni, chilies, and coffee beans shield the lower half of the oversized rectangle bus windows that give customers a peek into the inside kitchen scene where two chefs are steady at work. A French waiter in black cut off jeans and a loose, white sleeveless shirt runs up and down the three stairs leading into the kitchen to grab finished orders, slightly shaking the top floor that holds another customer area capable of seating 30 patrons. The back corner of the bus’s top floor houses the largest of the tables, able to cozily seat nine people against pillows encircled by bus windows. The windows give way to a view of three drawn portraits and other various pieces of street-art that line the brick walls of the buildings partially enclosing the Truman Brewery Yard.
The top floor, lit solely by candles, bears an even warmer setting once night falls. Both the lunch and dinner menu are sourced primarily from organic ingredients, including all of the Rootmaster’s brews and wine. All of the produce is supplied by a LEAF (Linking Environment And Farming) Marque assured company, assuring that the produce is farmed in an environmentally responsible way. The designation also allows the Rootmaster to track how many miles the produce traveled before landing in their kitchen “Food costs are quite high with all the organics and seasonal produces,” voices Garcia. “But I don’t do it for the money. I do it because I love what we’ve done and I believe in the concept. That’s what motivates me.” The takeaway food options are all served in Vegware, biodegradable dinnerware made from ingredients such as potato and cornstarch. “I could easily cut a lot of cost on typi cal paper napkins, but then I’d lose why I do this,” explains Garcia passionately, emphasizing that keeping a low carbon footprint is one of the main objectives behind the Rootmaster. The Rootmaster also collects all of the oil used in the cooking and sends it over to a cab company who puts it to use as biodiesel fuel. All of the restaurant’s wastes are recycled, which initially turned out to be more difficult than it sounds after Garcia saw the first recycling company they hired throwing their wastes in with the regular commercial non-recycled trash. They have now switched to a reliable company known as Greener World. “It’s one of the only organic, sustainable focused restaurants I know of around here,” says customer Kieran Baine, 36, a vegan who eats at Rootmaster quite frequently. “There’s nowhere else that gives you such a big variety of all good vegan food.” The Rootmaster embodies sustainability in more ways than one. “I’m on a mission to save the world, but I still have quite a lot of work left to do," says Garcia. With a range of tasty dishes reasonably priced between five to seven pounds for lunch and nine to fourteen pounds for dinner, the Rootmaster stands for quality food that’s good for both your vegan or non-vegan body and wallet. “I just want to show people what you can do with vegan food and kind of push the boundaries in a way that’s still interesting and creative,” says Garcia.
Food That Rocks Photos by Grace Dickinson
Some hungry customers return to Winters’ taco stand as many as five or six times in one night. Not only does he proudly take credit for their new obsession, the 40-year old Irishman who fell in love with a Mexican woman during an extended visit in NYC, claims he introduced the taco to London. “It was hard at first because the English didn’t have a clue what a taco was,” says Winters. Now, he’s a celebrity in Brixton, the multicultural neighborhood in South London and the capital of London’s British African Caribbean community.
The Man and His Taco Grace Dickinson learns how Grant Winters, the Irishman who fell in love with Mexican food while living in New York City, brought the taco to London.
t’s 10:30 p.m. on another lively summer, sweater-necessitating Friday night in the beer garden at Hootananny’s, a reggae and ska dancehall in Brixton. Grant Winters sports a black and white pinstriped apron over a loose navy blue T-shirt. The sweat from his forehead seethes into his straw hat as he gazes at the sizzling chicken and beef on a three-foot wide skillet. A persistent line of wobbling customers wait along the front edge of Winters’ Mexican food tent, known as El Panzon,
as he preps the filling for the for his fresh, cut-rate, £1 tacos. Not that the price entirely matters. Many of the chatty characters waiting in line are already three or four beers into the night. And the smell alone has them sold: the aroma of spicy meat and freshly chopped cilantro has noses perked up and headed straight to the food tent. “When people first get a grip on those tacos, they go, ‘Bloody hell, this is a mess!’” Winters shrieks. “But they almost always come back for another.”
Winters says hello to a customer he recognizes in line, while signaling his employee, Ramiro Bazaldua, to toss him the green lighter from his pocket. “He’s always stealing my lighter, every night,” heedlessly gripes Bazaldua. Winters lights up a hand rolled cigarette, one of a handful throughout the night. “Chicken with everything on it,” orders 37-year-old Laetitia Gay, a regular who pops in once or twice per week. Winters steps aside and lets Bazaldua snatch a few strips of chicken. Bazaldua lays the chicken on a grilled, soft corn tortilla and then moves through the assembly line: lettuce, red onions, cheese, salsa, sour cream, guacamole, cilantro and a squeeze of lime. Bazaldua hands Gay an assembled taco in less than one minute. “They’re very tasty,” remarks Gay, swiftly moving the back of her hand to wipe the flowing juices of the taco from her mouth. “Fresh. Natural. Cheap. Usable. Quite handy when you want a quick, healthy snack,” Winters established El Panzon at Hootananny’s in February but the journey of The Man and His Taco started long, long ago. Winters taco career began twentythree years ago when he stumbled into a small Mexican restaurant in New York. Winters, originally from Ireland, spent that summer visiting his “mum” who was living in Greenwich Village. During one of the first nights of his visit, Winters’ mother decided to take him out for his first taste of Mexican food. The restaurant of choice was a small authentic joint called Caliente Cab. During one point of that evening, as he exited the toilets, Winters crashed into one of the Mexican senoritas who was working there. “She apologized,” says Winters with a 17-year-old’s boyish grin as he recalls
his youth. “I was being cheeky and said, ‘How are you going to make it up to me?’” She kissed him. “Not long after,” he confides, “We’re dating.” Winters ventured to Caliente Cab every day thereafter to wait for his waitress to end her shift. She, of course, would always tell him she’d be off work much earlier than she actually was. He would always show up on time (“Like an idiot,” he adds). Desiring to make himself useful during his wait, he asked the manager if he could lend a hand in the back cleaning down the kitchen. “The bar manager would look at me like, ‘What the fuck?’” recalls Grant. “But the chef was always grateful because they’d be rammed.” He started arriving earlier and earlier, hopping right in the kitchen and gratuitously engaging himself in some of the basic kitchen prep work. Two weeks later, Caliente Cab called him up and offered him a job. He extended his summer an extra two months, blowing off school in Ireland, and accepted the job. He spent the next few months in the back of that small, hot New York City kitchen, where Winters learned the foundation for all of his Mexican-cuisine based skills. “I was the only gringo in the kitchen and I couldn’t speak a word of Spanish,” remarks Winters. He didn’t learn much Spanish that extended summer but he did gain a sense of how to cook authentic Mexican food by closely observing the head chef and the other Guadalajara workers. “Man, people’s perception of Mexican food - even in the States - is horrendous,” Winters explains, excitedly thrusting his hands in the air. “You can’t just slap Mexican food with tacos. What about the soups, the stews, the way they cleverly use chilies? In our kitchen we presently have 19 different types of pepper to produce the food that we do. About three are hot, the rest are used for flavor. Americans, all they seem to know is chipotle, chilies and jalapenos. Fuck that! What about the rest of them?” After a few months in the restaurant, Winters returned to Ireland. He graduated from school, then moved to Birmingham, located approximately 120 miles northwest of London, for university to study hotel and catering management. He worked his way through university as a chef. After graduating, he spent the
next 15 years working various chef and management positions at several different restaurants. In early 2004, Winters lost his job in downsizing. After an exhausting 150 interviews over the next six months, Winters decided to launch his own business. During that difficult time, Winters gained a lot of weight. “You wouldn’t know it now but I used to look like I was 7 or 8 months pregnant,” laughs Winters, currently rocking a not too flabby medium built. This is origin of the name, El Panzon, meaning “The Belly.” On November 2, 2004, he opened a
in the United Kingdom. “They’ll come back for plates 3, 4, 5, 6 times.” Pretty soon Winters was appearaning on blogs around the area and he started gaining a decent following.
Mexican stall in Brixton’s at Hob-Goblin, which has since become Hootananny’s. Management issues forced him to move to another bar, where “ego problems” came into play. Then he opened a stall in the Camden Town Markets. In 2007, when Hootananny’s came under new management, he returned to the Mecca of live music in South London. “Tacos were around before us, but they never really took off. They were served primarily in Turkish-owned restaurants. Horrendous Old El Paso tacos using spices you’d never even find in fucking Mexico,” illustrates Winters, referring to tacos constructed with the packaged El Paso dried seasoning and jarred salsas you can buy in the grocery store. “It was wrong, never fresh and it turned people’s perceptions of Mexican food the wrong way.” Winters started out giving away tons of free samples to draw customers and give them a taste of real Mexican cuisine. “The English don’t know what they’re eating at first and when they try it, they’re blown away,” says Winters, who claims that he and another company known as Daddy Donkey essentially pioneered and popularized the taco
Eighty percent of the ingredients he uses are fresh, with eighty-five percent of those ingredients supplied by local businesses in Brixton. “I know the meat guy, the veggie guy, the fruit guy,” says Winters. “I know all of my neighbors here. I do business in the area and have never had a single advertisement. All of my customers come from word of mouth. People talk about me and people come. There’s a great sense of community here.” Winters says El Panzon is a real favorite among the Mexican residents. London holds a considerably small population of Mexicans but Grant claims that a large portion of those who do live in the city flock from all over to Brixton in order to get a familiar bite to eat. “They’re homesick and want to eat tacos, so they come after work, get drunk, enjoy live music and eat tacos,” says Winters. Winters does more than just late night tacos at Hootananny’s. Come early and you can enjoy a laid back scene of slow jammin’ reggae beats serenading in the background as you order from El Panzon’s more extensive daytime and evening menu. Choose your meal from two types >>>
“This guy’s one of the famous people in Brixton,” Bobby Holder chuckles when he sees Winters parked on a wooden bench outside one of Brixton’s local coffee shops. A handful of other people roam over to drop a friendly hello. When he walks around town, people steadily approach the Irishman who has lived in Brixton for 11 years.
of nachos, five different kinds of tacos or four kinds of burritos. Choose your filling from a selection of beef, chicken, pork, chorizo, fish, king prawn, refritos, mushrooms, and vegetarian. Add spice with salsas ranging from “Dead” (pico de gallo) to “Don’t come to me crying!” That’s made from the Dorset Naga pepper, the hottest known chili in the world. “Don’t ever touch your dick after eating that man,” warns Winters. “Once, I touched my eye, washed my hands a million times, cried for hours and then had to pee. Huge fuckin’ mistake.” To craft his Mexican food, Winters simply uses fresh, simple ingredients that can be obtained in almost any country in the world. He emphasized that it is the combination and freshness that is most important. “You can tell there’s loads of care in how they put the beans, fresh onion, and cilantro together with the presentation of the paprika sprinkled on the chips. No other pubs do that,” commented first time customer Terry Saftis about the heaping plate of Nachos Viva Mexico place in front of him. Although Winters makes it sound easy, a six pound burrito can take as long as six hours to make when you include the time it takes to create the tortillas and sauces. “[The burrito] is really quite good,” says Stephanie Parkin of Brixton. “I haven’t really had a chance to eat much Mexican food to be honest but with the beans and mushrooms, they make a flavorful burrito that’s not boring at all.” Parkin explains that a lot of Londoners still see the taco as take away, not sitdown restaurant food. There just aren’t many Mexican restaurants here - or at least restaurants worthy of dining at. Which is what makes Winters The Taco Man. Winters works at Hootananny’s nearly every day of the week. He either cooks or teaches others how to cook - just like he was taught all those years ago in New York City. “Grant’s my friend, my master, my teacher,” employee Ramiro Bazaldua appreciatively states. “He’s taught me everything I know about cooking.” Ironically, Winters, one of the few pioneers of Mexican cuisine in London, has never been to Mexico. Winters is still longingly biding his time until he can one day make the trip to Mexico. “The only Mexico place I’ve been to is a hot kitchen in New York City and a hot woman,” Winters quips.
ON ASSIGNMENT For six weeks, we traversed London, meeting with people in the media and in the music scene. We interviewed club owners, musicians, promoters, buskers, reporters, producers and everyone in between. It wasn't easy. We had to spend a day at Brighton (above) just to chill.
project director/ editor/ designer/ instigator/ not-the-tour guide GEORGE MILLER
project staff MEGHAN AGNEW LISA APRILE CHRIS BANKS LUKE BILEK ALEX BRICKMAN KEVIN BROSKY GRACE DICKINSON CHRIS DIEHL CHRISTIE FRANCIS ELIZABETH IEZZI EVAN KAUCHER RICK KAUFFMAN MARK LAUTERBACH SHANAE MITCHELL TOM ROWAN ROBIN TARLETON ERICA VINES LEAH WILLIAMS
special thanks MARTIN APPLEBY @ FULLER'S BREWERY ELIZABETH BARRETT AND LUKE EDGE @ STATION MAGAZINE COPY EDITOR JARED BREY DANIEL CROSS @ TAPE TOM EDWARDS, MARTYN BOYLE AND ANDY MACLEOD @ LABEL FANDANGO LAURIE FIRTH @ ROUNDHOUSE EVERYONE AT THE FOUNDATION FOR INTERNATIONAL EDUCATION DAVE LAUB @ DARLING UK PAUL NASSAR @ NBC NEWS LONDON ERIN PALMER AND THE SCT STUDY ABROAD DEPARTMENT
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IROCKLONDON.BLOGSPOT.COM JUMP is an independent publication created by Temple University students. For questions or comments, please contact Professor George Miller at firstname.lastname@example.org or TULONDON2010@gmail.com. Go to London. It rocks. For real.
Rick Kauffman asks the ultimate question:
Want to go to Cockfosters? W
hile sitting on the train back to South Kensington, I look at our rag tag group of Philly student-journos and sense a feeling of defeat, as if simply returning to our hostel-esque flat is a sign of failure on our last night in London. For six weeks, we’ve lived the wild life, bombarding the town with brazen carelessness, sacrificing sleep and sanity for lifelong experiences and shortterm mischief. So, beyond better judgment, rather than return home on the midnight train, we hop off the tube in the heart of Central London. The idea is that this night will bring the same recklessness we have mastered on this trip. But instead, what we find is totally different. We find the city itself, a snapshot in time, in all its rough, rugged, obnoxious, brilliant glory. Walking toward Piccadilly Circus, Evan and I attempt to decipher a downtown map as two men begin fighting in the street.
“What do you eat?!” the one shouts while throwing wild punches, inflicting no more damage than you find in a child’s slapping match. The pathetic spectacle is too entertaining to turn away but other people just wander by, paying them no mind. In Soho, we try to enter the least terrifying-looking bar in the area. But the bouncer doesn’t seem too pleased with me. “How many?” he snarls, scanning the group standing before him. “Five guys,” I say. “Five … guys?” he repeats. “Yeah, five dudes,” I reassure him. Taken aback, he looks to his associates and then back to me. After a moment of silence, I snicker, “Five girls would be better, eh?” He stares at me blankly for a moment. We leave promptly, full of laughter and jeers. By this point, it’s well past the time to get a drink from a reasonable establishment. So we begin wandering home. In Trafalgar Square, which we have
now dubbed “Tropical Square” thanks to the many hazy nights we’ve had here, we happily take a rest. I sigh and take it all in. The neo-classical buildings are all lit up, and spotlights illuminate the statues on the square. A roller-skater behind us jives to dub music. Teenagers play kick the bottle. Police officers mingle nonchalantly as police cars careen up the streets. It’s beautiful and chaotic at once. We recount the bits and pieces of past nights here in this mind-blowing city - the parties until 6 a.m., the illegal romps through Hyde Park at night, the rooftop concerts, the nighttime Frisbee games, the crazy clubs and wonderful people. We have only one regret. It’s late and most of the crew are flying back to the States in the morning. We meander to the bus stop we’ve become so familiar with on our late nights/ early mornings in London after the tube has shut down. Trafalgar Square turns out to be the hub of this vast city. No
Because traveling is about more than seeing stuff.
We find ourselves in the middle of a barren suburb with no people, no stores and no cars in sight. What’s worse is that we’re a group of journalists with no cameras to document our triumphal moment. We jump in front of the “Welcome to Cockfosters” sign trying to make best with our cell phone cameras in darkness of the night. It’s clear that Cockfosters at 4 a.m. is no place for loud, fun-loving Americans to party the night away. But this group, none of whom knew each other prior to embarking on this magazine project, has developed a bond. We can have fun together anywhere. We stroll around the neighbor hood, climb up a tree and make fun of each other. We probably spend only 30 minutes in Cockfosters before we make our way home but it’s a blast. At the bus stop, we stumble upon the same bus steered by the same driver
who looks at us with confusion. We sit on the ground level of the bus, all the way in the back (best seats in the house), and pass around the supplies that Tom bought before departing Cockfosters. The camaraderie is at an all-time high amongst Mark, Tom, Luke, Evan and myself as we pick and nibble and sip the few rations we have. By the time we make it home, the sun is shining. We look at each other half awake, redeyed and weary. We may never share a night like this one again. In just a few hours, we’ll be flying over the ocean. Despite the fact that so little happened compared to nights when the wild times never ceased, it was amazing to see friendship at work. We came to London to explore and meet new people through music and culture. What we found was friendship right under our noses. And we learned that in such an incredible place, the most exciting of times aren’t necessary to make the best of nights.
Photos by George Miller
matter where we party, we always transfer buses here on the journey home. “Damn, I never made it to Cockfosters,” Tom quietly says. The typical exuberance in his voice has faded. Cockfosters was never more than a joke to us, a sophomoric appreciation of an oddly named suburb in North London that we discovered when we arrived in London six-weeks prior. But Tom mopes. He’s genuinely disappointed. Not a moment later, a double-decker bus rolls up and to our great surprise, “Cockfosters” is displayed on the front. We scan each other’s faces and nod in agreement without saying a word. We’re not going home yet. It takes more than an hour to arrive at Cockfosters. By then, we’ve eaten most of our pocket supplies and we’re exhausted. After we step off the bus, it drives away, empty.