Opening a venue in Peckham is a fraught endeavour. You’re trapped between the hype on the one hand and accusations of gentrification on the other – not least if you’re a few floors below people sipping negronis and watching the sun set over London from Frank’s...
Russell Porter is well aware of this. He’s leading the team behind Ghost Notes, a new live music and club space in the old multi-storey car park on Rye Lane. As he sees it: ‘If you worried about what people thought of you in London, you’d never get out of bed in the morning.’
Nonetheless, there is a serious effort to make Ghost Notes connect to its location, particularly through its musical identity. Porter emphasises that he’d ‘never pretend to be from Peckham’. Originally a Midlander, he was part of Brighton’s music scene during the noughties, partying and playing with the likes of Quantic and Bonobo. But along with partners Neil Watson, Isaac Tooby, Shane Ranasinghe and Michael Robinson, he’s been part of the south-east London landscape for more than a decade, running pubs around Peckham including The Montpelier and The White Horse
It’s Porter’s jazz/funk connections that make Ghost Notes what it is, though. At its preview event before Christmas, the soundproofing only that day installed, an extraordinary line-up blessed the new space. Giles ‘Kwake Bass’ Kwake – musical director and drummer extraordinaire – put together a scratch band, comprising Sampha, Kate Tempest, Micachu and jazz star Shabaka Hutchings. And rather than launch by inviting promoters to put on nights, Ghost Notes will start modestly – with monthly Sunday clubnights and a weekly Wednesday session where resident bassist Rudi Creswick and DJ/producer/ keyboardist Dave Koor will invite the cream of the currently on-fire south London jazz scene to play more-or-less improvised sets.
The rest of the time, the venue will operate under the guise of sister venue Wildflower, a bar and restaurant serving ‘amazingly crafted but affordable’ vegetarian and vegan food from head chef Joseph Ryan. But Porter hopes that the specifics of the space will be less important than the fact that Ghost Notes as a brand becomes known for ‘a vibe, a set of people and music that people can actually care about’. It’s a challenge, indeed, but at the launch the racial and social mix both on- and offstage was rather more of a cross-section of south London than you find at most nights, and the vibe was thoroughly live. If that’s anything to go by, the right ingredients at least are in place to make that a possibility.