Your guide to essential bricks and mortar – the venues that are home to the capital’s greatest live music events
Not many people know about Herne Hill. Like Brixton’s quieter, more well behaved neighbour, it sits at the entrance to the sprawling Brockwell Park. And with its leafy Victorian streets, you’d be forgiven for dismissing the area as just another boringly wealthy South London suburb that’s not on the tube. It does, though, have its livelier side!
The Half Moon has existed as a live venue since the early 60s. The Police, U2 and Van Morrison have all reportedly played there and it’s rumoured that once upon a time even Frank Sinatra popped in for a jam after a show.
Robert Harrison took over the venue in 2006. He’d worked in bars and venues since the early 90s and after starting out at the Tea Rooms Des Artiste in Clapham opened The Dogstar – often regarded as the first DJ Bar – in Brixton in 1995.
Since taking over, Harrison has transformed The Half Moon in terms of both a pub and as a live venue. Though the building always had an impressively grand exterior – all the stained-glass finery of a traditional Victorian pub – the interior was in need of a makeover.
Nowadays the bar area is immaculate, with polished wood floors and ornate detail that includes chandeliers, gilding and stained glass as well as a host of other period features.
And the refurbished stage area means The Half Moon is a decent sized venue too. A back room off one of the main bar areas, it has a capacity of around 200 but has the kind of intimate feel that means it wouldn’t feel empty with a much smaller crowd.
And with good PA and lighting systems and great acoustics, the venue is starting to attract more and more credible bands and a few regular monthly nights too.
“It’s a lovely surprise in the back room of a pub,” says Harrison. “It works with 200 or 20. It doesn’t shout or blow it’s own trumpet, but when it does it sounds sweet.”
And what have been the highlights of the live stuff so far? “Tymonn Dogg was a revelation to me,” he says, “not knowing anything about him before he played.
“Miss Paloma Faith was fabulous too. But the best so far for me has to be Turin Brakes in 2006. It was packed to the rafters and and they were an excellent live band.”
One of the new regular nights at The Half Moon is Feeding Time. Held on the last Saturday of each month by Rod and Jake from Dazed and Confused Magazine, it’s a cutting-edge indie/electro showcase that is gaining in popularity and developing a reputation for good music (recent acts to appear include John and Jehn and Let’s Wrestle) and a good crowd. Added to this there’s Folk At The Moon on a Friday – a monthly indie-folk night which has seen Indigo Moss play recently – and regular open mic sessions.
With such a thriving calendar of events and regular flow of great music, you’d think Robert Harrison would be jubilant about the future of The Half Moon, but as an experienced pro it seems he doesn’t take anything for granted…
“The pub is a listed building,” he tells me. “So they won’t be building flats anytime soon.
“However the economy is struggling and London is such an expensive city to live in, I worry that we will loose much of the vibrancy and creativity that we have seen in the past.
“Young people will be forced to move further out of London. You only have to look at the Kings Road to see how corporate we are getting; I don’t see anyone doing anything to challenge this trend. “I remember when I was in Brixton, there was always so much going on… parties every weekend, it doesn’t seem the case now. Maybe I’m getting old.”
Thanks to Michael W H for the above article
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