London, alive and screaming

Today, I thought I would take you on a journey to some fun London venues, and tell you about some wonderful new, up-and-coming artists that we’ve seen while we’ve been here. We’ve also seen some old and fabulously well-worn artists, who I’ll write about another time.

There are SO many things that I love about London. (Like you haven’t heard that one before!) But one thing that stands out above the crowd for me is just how much everyone loves London! Every day we read about interesting people who are visiting London; if it’s not the Pope (and I just loved the comment I heard on the radio on Sunday, by a young teenager in Birmingham who’d seen the Pope. She said, and try and imagine a nasally Birmingham accent saying this: “He was amazing. He’s kind of like a celebrity. But holy.”), it’s actors here for their movie premieres, singers and bands on concert tours, cricket teams on match-fixing tours, politicans, philosophers, bankers, chefs and models. And, of course, there are people like my husband and me, people from every nation and continent and language and race and accent and religion you can imagine. This heaving mass of humanity, the focus of so much attention, in such a small country. I stand in awe and constant fascination.

It is also the place musicians flock to if they want to “make it” on the music scene. There are weekly magazines and websites that list gigs that happen each week in London, and these number in their hundreds. My husband and I grab any opportunity we can to go and see new artists whose names we may not at first know, but whose gift of music is outstanding, and whose music we now love and share and will follow.

My husband is something of a music geek. He absolutely loves music and anything to do with it. He reads about new artists, tests out their wares on iTunes, and checks out who’s performing where and when. He found out about a young singer/songwriter called Diane Birch, and was so excited to read of a “one and only” performance in London in March. A lovely friend of ours was staying with us at the time, so the three of us went to the Vibe Club in Brick Lane (east London) to watch her performing. If you haven’t heard of her, check her out. She’s a young American singer/songwriter whose talent is incredible, and way beyond her 20-something years. Her style is folk, country, soulful – and she has enjoyed some commercial success with one of her songs, Valentino, which was featured on the soundtrack of an Ashton Kutcher movie, Valentine’s Day. We stood in the small club and enjoyed the treasure of an evening of her brilliant music.

Brick Lane is the best place in London (well, one of them) to get a good, genuine curry (in London people talk about “going out for an Indian”, meaning an Indian meal!). As you walk along the length of Brick Lane, restaurateurs stand in their doorways, touting their menus and trying to encourage you to patronise their spot. After our concert, we headed purposefully towards the far end of Brick Lane in search of one of the legendary bagel shops that stay open 24 hours a day. We found them – there are two right next to each other! – and had a the most delicious smoked salmon and cream cheese bagels ever! At £1.50 a pop (a steal, I tell you), it wasn’t surprising that we “mmm, yummmmm’ed” all the way back down the Lane!

After my birthday in July, we went to see Diane Birch for a second time. It was another unique performance at an outstanding venue in Notting Hill. What a beautiful area that is! If you’ve seen the movie, Notting Hill, you will know what I mean! And being there in person was even more fabulous. Streets of unique little shops selling antiques, vintage clothing, unusual clothing and all sorts of other interesting things! And the houses are just stunning – three and four storey Victorian terraced houses, really beautiful! I want to live there when I grow up! We saw a house for sale there (between £2million and £5million!) – and thought we’d wait until I got a job before we put in an offer!

The concert venue, The Tabernacle, is a beautiful old refurbished church building which dates back to 1888. When it is not hosting well-known and less well-known artists in concert, it is a community centre where you can learn Spanish, capoeira, ballet, belly dancing or zephyr yoga. Its history is remarkable. Diane Birch performed without her backing band this time, although she had a guitarist in tow, and it was another gift of an evening. Quite lovely.

Another concert that my husband discovered was a young, English singer called Rox. We arrived at The Scala in King’s Cross good and early for the 7.30pm start, and immediately realised we were in the minority in a queue-full of youngsters. We were relieved to see some older punters join the queue and, once inside, and the crowd started gathering, we realised we were not the oldest there! The Scala also has an interesting history, having been built as a cinema which was nearing completion just before the First World War began, and which was used as a labour exchange for demobbed soldiers in 1918.

What made the evening all the more special for us were the two opening acts: a young singer/songwriter from Jackson, Tennessee, called Lauren Pritchard. She was first up on the evening programme and, at that stage, there were probably about 30 people in the venue. I couldn’t believe the whole of London wasn’t there watching her and cheering her on – what an amazing voice, a beautiful talent, and achingly soulful songs. I loved her!

Next up was an English singer/songwriter called Liam Bailey. His reggae style songs take you on journeys through pain and triumph, joy and angst; another young, soulful and generously talented young singer. Rox is a tiny dynamo of a singer. And she’s about 12. Actually, she’s 21 and has a big voice, a delightful personality and gave a rocking performance. The tickets cost us just £10 each: what a privilege to be able to enjoy such talent. These are all artists to watch – please check them out and let me know what you think.

One of my most precious friends in Cape Town is the only person I know who’s seen The Beatles live. She went to a concert in London when she was 14, and wasn’t too fussed – although quite intrigued – about these Liverpool lads who had turned the music world on its head. She decided, before she went in, that she wasn’t going to scream and swoon like all the other silly teenage girls, and she stood in the queue, with her painted-on eyelashes and seriously mini skirt, resolute that she would stay cool . Once she got inside, she screamed her voice hoarse with the rest of them – she got totally caught up in the moment. She didn’t know at the time, but she was watching history in the making. Hell, that’s enough to make anyone scream!

Sunshine signing off for today.


12 thoughts on “London, alive and screaming

  1. Thanks for introducing us to these musicians, Sunshine! I’ve heard Diane Birch before…her song “Valentino” is on CBC Radio 2’s current playlist (did you know her parents are Saffas?). You might enjoy Rose Cousins, Melanie Doane, Leela Gilday, and Meg Hutchinson from my list…


    1. I’ll check those other musicians out – thanks, Wendy! I didn’t realise Diane Birch’s parents were Saffas, but I did know she’d spent part of her childhood in Zimbabwe and SA.
      Sunshine x

  2. It’s always such a treat to hear a music lover gush about a new discovery–it’s absolutely one of my favorite things. I’ll have to check out Diane, Liam and Lauren. Thanks so much for the tips!

    1. I’ll check it out – thanks! And I got that you meant young! On my favourite radio station here they give away “squound” coffee mugs – they’re not square and not round! xx

  3. Of all the cities I’ve seen in Europe, London (for me) shows the best merging of very old and very modern right next to each other. Reading your posts has made me wonder again why this is. Maybe because it’s built low and spread out? You don’t have lots of skyscrapers crowding you in.

    I think the British also take care to maintain their old architecture, while at the same time being quite blasé about it. They use their city to the max. London is old, but it’s not a museum.

    1. I think you’re absolutely right. London is so rich in history and has an amazing architectural heritage. We went to a pub in Wapping a while back; it dates back to the mid-1500s and its squiff self nestles beautifully between modern buildings. You see quite a bit of that all over London. Just fabulous. Sunshine x

  4. Diane Birch is still a favourite in this household!!! xxxhow wonderful to see and hear all those fab people….lovely and wish I was there!!!

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