London's top live-music pubs

Published November 19th, 2015

Who doesn't love jamming out to a bit of live music with a pint in hand? We sure do.

One of the best places to find both is the grand old city of London, which has more than a few welcoming venues. Next time you're in the city and feel the need to wet your whistle to some classic cover songs, duck into these five pubs.

The Shacklewell Arms, Dalston

The Shacklewell Arms used to be a garishly painted Caribbean social that sat quietly in an unloved part of Hackney. Now the ripple effect of regeneration has changed all that.

Dalston's rebirth as London's coolest neighbourhood has allowed most of the run-down boozers in the area a makeover, although the Shacklewell appears to have just swapped clientele, as decor-wise it's still resolutely Kingston JA. The back room frequently hosts nights courtesy of London's hippest gig promoters Eat Your Own Ears.

Expect the very best in upcoming music – jagged guitars, electronica, folkie acoustics and plenty of ill-conceived facial hair to accompany it.

#theparrots invade the floor!! #halloween

A photo posted by Shacklewell Arms (@shacklewellarms) on

Cafe Oto, Dalston

There's minimalism and then there's Cafe Oto. Ostensibly a sparsely dressed concrete box, a night out in this former warehouse feels a little like gatecrashing a party.

The fact that this unassuming Anglo-Japanese venue has one of the most extreme bookings policies in the UK only adds to its no-frills charm. The gig listings read like the Wire magazine's dream playlist.

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Ye Olde Rose and Crown, Walthamstow

Although one of the Olympic host boroughs, Walthamstow hasn't seen much of the transformation that's happened in Hackney, Tower Hamlets or Newham. And it hasn't become hip, either; pubs there are still pubs, not places for upmarket food.

This pub remains stoically old school. The back room is a theatre that plays host to comedy nights and the Walthamstow Folk Club, where socialist songsmiths play rabble rousers to a beered-up Camra crew every Sunday.

Smith Sound, plus excellent She17 bunting. A photo posted by Nick Bason (@nickbason) on

The Lexington, Islington

From the extensive bourbon selection on the bar to the bookings policy of the upstairs theatre/gig room, the Lexington is north London's home for all things Americana, offering a stop-off point for travelling troubadours and cowgirls (as well as the occasional heavily feted indie band). And while most pub music venues won't offer gig-goers more than a bag of Walkers, the Lexington has a decent kitchen on the go, not to mention a long list of bourbons and whiskies.

A weekly highlight is Sunday afternoon's Hangover Lounge, where the music never rises above talking volume and any DJ playing cocktail jazz will be asked to leave immediately.

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This article was written by Robin Turner from The Guardian and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

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