10 of the best live music venues
PUBLISHED: 05:09 23 July 2014 | UPDATED: 11:47 03 May 2015
Surrey’s live music scene may not be quite the fertile breeding ground it once was, but from folk to metal clubs, there are still some great venues to take in a gig without heading into London
New Slang, Kingston
Okay, so not a venue as such but definitely the place to be locally if you’re into the next big things – and plenty who’ll have already been gracing the covers of the NME, Q, Kerrang and the rest. The New Slang nights are run by Banquet Records (an independent record shop in Kingston born from the ashes of the Beggars Banquet shops) at McClusky’s every Thursday. Launched in 2006, the project has moved around various venues in its time but has always attracted headline grabbing acts, with Bombay Bicycle Club, The Vaccines, Disclosure, Foals, Franz Ferdinand and Vampire Weekend having all played in the past.
More @ banquetrecords.com
The Boileroom, Guildford
Now in its seventh year, this 300-capacity independent venue punches way above its weight. The Boileroom is a destination venue for emerging touring acts as well as well-established stalwarts such as Ed Sheeran, Kate Nash, The Bronx, First Aid Kit and The Blockheads. Among the highlights over the years, comedian Al Murray did a surprise turn on drums with local act Charley Farley Sunday Four (and tweeted bar staff during the set, complimenting them on their Guinness pouring abilities); Bob Geldof hovered at the back of the room wearing dark glasses and a large scarf while watching daughter Pixie’s fledgling band Violet; and Ed Sheeran managed to shut down wegottickets.com following the announcement of his Guildford show back in June 2011.
More @ theboileroom.net
The Fighting Cocks, Kingston
Claiming to be the ‘most notorious rock ‘n’ roll venue in south west London’, Kingston’s The Fighting Cocks certainly has a rich music history to back up their claims – but it’s not only music where they make their name. Comedians Bill Bailey, Jimmy Carr, Russell Brand and Robin Williams (yes, that one!) are among those who have provided the laughs, while Gallows, Denge and Young Guns are just a few who’ve raise the decibel levels. As well as the entertainment on stage, their drinks specials are a beacon to those seeking a night of revelry, with happy ‘hour’ taking place from 5pm to 8pm… every day! Line up the beers and check out one of the showcase nights hosted by local record store Banquet Records.
More @ thefighting-cocks.co.uk
Cranleigh Arts Centre, Cranleigh
Cranleigh Arts Centre patron and Radio 2 DJ Paul Jones hosts annual concerts here, which have seen the likes of Paul Weller and Eric Clapton take to the stage, so this isn’t what you’d call your average village theatre! Located in a building that hosted a school for over a century, the venue reopened in 1985 as a full time arts centre showcasing theatre, comedy, art exhibitions and film as well as music. It is also something of a local success story, earning 85 per cent of its income from ticket sales, room hire, merchandising and the bar and coffee bar (with locally home-made cakes by Lauren apparently a highlight!), rather than dipping heavily into the public purse as is often the case.
More @ cranleighartscentre.org
Scream Lounge, Croydon
Down in the depths of South Croydon (actually bang in the heart of the rebranded ‘Restaurant Quarter’!), you’ll find the Scream Lounge hidden down an alleyway next to the rehearsal studio from which it takes its name. It’s a tiny little place that has helped launch numerous local acts onto the small circuit (rather than, say, Royal Albert Hall residencies). Croydon is home to a tight-knit, talented and friendly (well, most of it!) local music scene that has seen a fair share of its local venues disappear over the years – this is a town that once hosted Hendrix, Led Zeppelin and The Beatles after all – but Scream continues to fly the flag.
More @ screamlounge.com
Farnham Maltings, Farnham
Ranging from intimate folk gigs with new and emerging singer-songwriters to large-scale concerts featuring well-known names, such as Fairport Convention, Adrian Edmondson and the Bad Shepherds and Elkie Brooks, Farnham Maltings has music history – and beer – at its heart. An old brewery in its former life, the venue is full of unique spaces that complement a variety of musical styles – from the cosy Riverside Café, which hosts regular Girls and Guitars acoustic sessions, to the relaxed, warm atmosphere of the Cellar Bar. For the past three years, the Maltings has hosted BBC Radio 2 presenter and award-winning jazz singer Clare Teal’s Festive Fiesta. The riotous 2013 show featured the band in full fancy dress, including a pianist sporting a giant inflatable turkey costume. Other leading artists to have played recently at the Maltings include Seventies rock legends 10cc, as well as big folk names such as Oysterband and Show of Hands.
More @ farnhammaltings.com
Farncombe Music Club, Farncombe
Some call it the Surrey version of London’s Union Chapel, and Farncombe Music Club has certainly become a go-to intimate venue for high calibre musicians and bands. Based in the beautifully refurbished St John’s Church, Farncombe, and with a licensed bar included, this local venue excels at quality musical entertainment in a very special setting. Since the concerts started in June 2007, they’ve played host to acts such as Beverley Craven, Andy Fairweather Low & The Low Riders and Never The Bride. The club also supports the Godalming-based Trinity Trust Team youth project.
More @ julianlewrymusic.com
G Live, Guildford
As a relative new kid on the block, Guildford’s G Live quickly made a reputation as a fantastic venue for classical music, theatre and ballet etc, but despite hosting some well known acts wasn’t exactly what you’d call ‘rock ‘n’ roll’. Then came Scottish rockers Biffy Clyro last year, and – with Surrey Life in attendance – they proved that they could handle globe-straddling behemoths as well. Since then, G Live has hosted Paul Weller and, as Surrey Life magazine hits the news-stands, should be about to witness The Stranglers – but whether we’ll see more acts of Biffy’s foundation shaking level is yet to be seen.
More @ glive.co.uk
Ram Club, Thames Ditton
Friday night is Ram Club night, or so they say round Thames Ditton way. Their claim to fame: winning the prestigious BBC Folk Club of the Year award in 2007. Not bad at all, especially for such a ‘grass roots’ organisation, which is run entirely by volunteers, several of whom are also performers. In October last year, the venue celebrated its 30th anniversary and today they specialise in acoustic, folk and roots music from the UK and the world. Many of their guests have high profiles on the folk music scene but are not necessarily ‘household names’. They say: “If lager is pop music, we consider ourselves a fine wine, but without any pretensions.” Well said and they continue to draw good audiences who have usually discovered them on the net or by word of mouth. Also a venue for musicians to cut their teeth in, the Ram Club has also hosted acts such as Kate Rusby, Seth Lakeman and Show of Hands way before they were huge.
More @ theramclub.co.uk
Boom Boom Club, Sutton
Established 12 years ago by Pete Feenstra and the late George McFall, this 300-capacity venue has played host to some leading rock and rock-blues. Notable shows at the Sutton United FC venue have included Michael Schenker’s pre-tour warm-up, Joe Bonamassa’s third London show (he appeared twice), a Walter Trout anniversary concert, Jefferson Starship, Focus, Pat Travers, Albert Lee, The Yardbirds, Royal Southern Brotherhood, The Blockheads... we could go on. Make sure to note that the Boom Boom Club is a members’ club – but membership is available through pre-booking and as part of the ticket price.
More @ feenstra.co.uk
Have your say!
If you’ve got a favourite music venue that isn’t included in this list, why not e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org or join our Surrey community on Facebook and Twitter. We’d also love to hear your memories of venues that have been and gone. Did you see Genesis play The Greyhound in Redhill? Hendrix at The Star Hotel in Croydon? Or maybe you were there when Charlie Watts and Bill Wyman became permanent members of the Rolling Stones at a gig at the Red Lion Pub in Sutton? We look forward to hearing from you!
And a few more Surrey rock tales
• In the four years that John Lennon lived in Weybridge from 1964, The Beatles cemented their status as the world’s biggest band.
• Ringo Starr is a keen photographer and has a house in leafy Cranleigh.
• The Faces’ Kenney Jones owns Hurtwood Park polo club in Ewhurst and singer Mick Hucknall lives by Burhill Golf Course in Walton-on-Thames.
• Status Quo's Francis Rossi is happy living the quiet life in Purley's Webb Estate.
• Discover life down The Farm with Genesis' Mike Rutherford.
• Genesis Publications in Guildford has been creating limited edition hand-bound books mainly about rock stars and bands for over 35 years.
• Queen guitarist Brian May lives with his wife, the actress Anita Dobson, in the West End area, near Woking, where they have an animal rescue centre in the garden.
• Recording studios: the now closed Strawberry South studio in Dorking was opened by 10ccs Graham Gouldman and Eric Stewart, in 1976, and is said to be where parts of Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder’s Ebony and Ivory were recorded.
• Ginger dreadlocked Surrey songsmith Newton Faulkner once worked at Fanny’s Farm Shop near Redhill.