Ticket prices. Booking fees. Uber rides. That ill-advised round of shots. All in all, going to big gigs can be a wallet-wincing pursuit. But there are places you can go to see some genuinely massive bands without it costing a massive price.
With its sparkly gold walls and ‘if you know you know’ side-street location, it’s no surprise that Hackney’s Moth Club has become the go-to spot for ridiculous secret shows. In its short lifespan, Lady Gaga and Jarvis Cocker have popped along for a sing-song, while only last month Dave Grohl and Rick Astley launched the newly returned Club NME there with a set that only cost punters £5. Keep your eyes peeled: Lord knows who might turn up next.
Old Trades Hall, Valette St, E9 6NU. Hackney Central Overground. mothclub.co.uk
Rough Trade East
London’s mecca for vinyl buffs, off-Brick Lane staple Rough Trade East isn’t just good for finding that rare Aphex Twin import that’ll make you look cool to your workmates. Every week it hosts album launch in-stores, which are free to attend if you preorder or buy the record. And we’re not just talking leftfield muso fare either: everyone from Queens Of The Stone Age to Stormzy has passed through its doors, while you can look forward to Metronomy, Thurston Moore and, er, Keane in the coming weeks.
Old Truman Brewery, 91 Brick Lane, E1 6QL. Liverpool St tube. roughtrade.com
Banquet has been the king of Kingston for more than a decade now, and it continues to deliver the goods with a series of shows (usually priced at a mere few quid and available to buy with the purchase of an album) both in the shop and at neighbouring venues. Coming up they’ve got the likes of Emeli Sandé, Jax Jones and Sam Fender – big chart hitters in little cheap venues.
52 Eden St, KT1 1EE. Hampton Wick rail. banquetrecords.com
Want an altogether more sweaty experience? Then head to Banquet Records’ wayward club night, New Slang. Now resident at Kingston club Pryzm, and open until 2am (did somebody say tequilas?), it’s a long-running stalwart of London’s indie club-night scene that’s drawn everyone from Foals and Wolf Alice to, just this year, Two Door Cinema Club. Tickets are bought as part of an album purchase bundle, with the whole thing rarely costing over £20.
154 Clarence St, KT1 1QP. Kingston rail. banquetrecords.com
Radio DJs have a) all the power and b) very heaving phone books, so it’s no surprise that some of London’s most surprise-filled nights come hosted by the kings and queens of the popular airwaves. Annie Mac’s regular AMP nights and Huw Stephens’s sporadic gigs are always worth keeping an eye out for, but Hopscotch – presented by Radio 1’s Jack Saunders – is currently leading the pack. Taking residency at the teeny tiny Sebright Arms (around 150 capacity in the basement), it has recently hosted free secret sets from The Vaccines and Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes.
Sebright Arms, Coate St, E2 9AG. Cambridge Heath Overground. sebrightarms.com
The 100 Club
Iconic punk venue The 100 Club faced closure at the start of the decade but now the central London legend is going strong, after many well-known supporters graced its stage in solidarity. Various stalwarts of music pop up to pay it homage, but for regular thrills, head to the Fred Perry Subculture night. The Specials and John Lydon’s PiL have previously played, alongside newer but impressive bands, such as Shame and Black Midi.
Century House, 100 Oxford St, W1D 1LL. Oxford St tube. the100club.co.uk
Check out Time Out’s guide to the best music venues in London.