The gig venue guide, the Roundhouse, London

The former engine shed has been beautifully redeveloped to become the pre-eminent gig venue in north London. Just beware the pillars

Roundhouse … See what we mean about the pillars? Photograph: Rob Ball/Redferns via Getty Images

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Capacity: 3,300 standing, 1,700 when all-seated. In practice, for gigs, that means 3,300.
Who plays there: At the moment, it’s hosting the iTunes festival, which means some of the biggest names in music. But even in the normal run of things, it attracts a pretty strong selection of all sorts of music, with the autumn line-up featuring Goat, Opeth, Katy B, St Vincent, the War on Drugs, Flying Lotus and Robert Plant, among many others.
Cloakroom: Yes
Admission: You can end up paying stadium prices (the most expensive tickets for Robert Plant are £55), put tickets are usually in the £20-£30 range.
Bar: There are many bars at the Roundhouse – two big ones inside the main room, and one each outside each of the two levels, plus a members’ bar and the Made Bar & Kitchen. The ordinary bars offer the usual assortment of lager and wine, though beer drinkers might wish to note that Marston’s is available in bottles if you don’t want to drink lager. Made offers cocktails as well as a range of craft beers and an extensive wine list. Prices in the venue bars are, once again, what you’d expect in London venues: pushing a fiver a pint, and queues can be punitive at the venues outside the main room.
Food: The food at Made makes it a destination in its own right: it features in the Good Food Guide and has been well reviewed by restaurant critics. Starters are priced from £6.50 to £8.50, including duck and sweet potato croquettes or monkfish carpaccio, with mains from £11.50 to £15.50 (duo of guinea fowl, girolles, samphire and gnocchi sounds nice). In summer, there is often a barbecue on the terrace outside level one. There are also scores of eateries, from kebab shops to good restaurants, within a couple of minutes’ walk.
Toilets: Yes, on every level. Queues can get long, though.
Wheelchair access: The position of wheelchair spaces varies according to the layout of the space. Wheelchair users should contact the duty manager before the event to arrange priority entry and the best vantage point. All wheelchair spaces can be booked in-person, over the phone on 0300 6789 222 or online. Accessible toilets are available on all floors. There is ramp access with power assisted doors at the front of the venue, with lifts providing access to all floors. There are seven spaces for blue badge holders in the car park on nearby Regents Park Road. Contact the venue online or call on 0300 6789 222 to book.
Sound: Usually pretty good, given that it’s a big, echoey space. The Roundhouse tends to reward acts who don’t let the desire to fill a big room with noise get the better of them – play too loud and the risk of everything turning to sludge is there, but get the balance right and the sound can be surprisingly nuanced. However, the nature of the layout means what one person hears may be very different to what someone else hears elsewhere in the venue.
Where to stand: If your ticket is for standing on level one, you really need to think about getting to the Roundhouse in good time to get a good spot. Crucially, you want to be inside the ring of columns that support the roof: it makes the difference between feeling you’ve been watching a gig and taking part in a gig. The seating upstairs is all outside the ring of columns, and there’s no way to know whether your favourite singer’s head will be obscured by a metal pillar until you take your seat. Nevertheless, sitting is a better option than standing at the back, because the sightlines are much better, though the temporary feel of the seating can be a bit alarming – if the person next to you taps their foot, it can feel as if the whole platform is shaking.
The gig venue guide: The Roundhouse, London
Overall: It was built as an engine shed in 1847, then became a warehouse for Gilbey’s gin, but the Roundhouse has been a cultural venue, on and off, for 50 years. From the 1960s to the 1980s it hosted scores of legendary gigs, including the Ramones’ UK debut on 4 July 1976, but fell derelict in the early 1990s. When the Roundhouse Trust was set up in 1998, the building reopened, before closing for a £27m redevelopment that was completed in 2006. Since then, the Roundhouse has become one of the gems of the London gig circuit, and certainly the pre-eminent venue in north London. It looks great – the redevelopment is something of a marvel – and manages to feel new and clean and functional without being sterile. Sightlines on the main floor can be a problem, especially with the columns in the way, but there’s no venue of this size without issues, and the Roundhouse’s are less serious than those at many other comparable rooms.
Address: Chalk Farm Road, London, NW1 8EH
Telephone: 0300 6789 222
Source: EZGuide
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