One of my favourite venues to go see gigs in is a little place named The Black Heart in Camden Town, London. Found just five minutes from Camden Tube Station it is one of London’s best kept secrets. It’s in a strange sort of place where you would ever find it unless you were looking for it but it’s also incredibly easy to find. Even for someone with no known sense of direction. The downstairs area is just like a normal bar, with friendly staff and a fantastic atmosphere it’s a great place to hang out before the gig begins but upstairs, if you can pardon the cliché is where the magic really happens.
If you go up the narrow staircase you will find a small room with a tiny bar at one end of the room and a small stage area at the other. I took my friend Natalie there recently and she was shocked at the size of the room. It’s funny though, when the room begins to fill up and it seems so much bigger and when it is empty.
I have only been to five gigs at The Black Heart, seeing the likes of RVIVR, The Smith Street Band, The Mahones, Elway and Bangers to name a few and they have all been fantastic nights. One of the things I enjoy about The Black Heart is the bands hang out in the crowd during the other bands sets. I always think it’s great to see members of one band enjoying another bands set and it gives a great feeling of there not being a case of them and us regarding the fans and the band. It shows a brilliant spirit of community in the punk rock world where there are no stars.
From my experiences the organisation has always been top class as well. From what I’ve seen they only have one guy running the show. I assume he’s in charge of the sound and lighting and generally making sure everything runs on time. Seems like quite a big undertaking but nevertheless the five gigs I’ve attended have always run smoothly.
I like that at The Black Heart like many other smaller venues there is no barrier between the stage and the crowd. This makes for a much more fun show. It allows the band and the crowd to get up close and personal with each other. I don’t really live when there are rails at shows; people get crushed at the front with people trying to get as close to the front of possible. Granted at small shows with no rails people still get crushed, but they don’t come away with sore ribs from being squashed against a metal rail.
I don’t recall ever seeing a security guard at The Black Heart. There have been some very rambunctious crowds and I’ve seen many a body go flying through the crowd, but it’s always been in good fun and the crowd has always played security guard to itself. I can’t think of many other scenes where this would happen.
Another great thing about The Black Heart is the ticket pricing. Natalie was again shocked at the price of the tickets when we went to see The Smith Street Band. I don’t think I have ever paid more than £10 at The Black Heart. When you consider seeing One Direction cost my friend £60 you’ve got to think he was majorly ripped off! He could have gone to at least six gigs at The Black Heart for that kind of money.
So if you’re ever find yourself in Camden wanting to have a drink in a place with a fantastic atmosphere and listen to some great music, The Black Heart is definitely the place for you.