Where We Live: Proud Camden – London, ENG

If you find yourself in London, this place is as cool as it gets. Proud Camden is on the doorstep of Camden Stables Market, amid a fascinating and bustling sprawl of creativity and tackiness. Directly down the road from another live music landmark of London (the Roundhouse), Proud Camden is the place to go if your hair is purple and your lipstick black, if your taste is more vintage or Victorian, or if you appreciate collectibles and antiques paired with weird and wonderful food.

Proud is a photo gallery, bar, and eatery by day and a live music venue by night. Located in a 200-year-old building, which was once a hospital for injured horses, it retains many original and unique features. Attracting top-end performers as well as breakthrough acts since it opened its doors almost 18 months ago, Pete Doherty, Dizzee Rascal, Florence & the Machine, The Kooks, and Johnny Borrell are among the names who have played Proud. However, you could just as easily stumble upon the Arctic Monkeys at the bar.

You approach the venue by entering a gated area of cobbled streets, traveling up a pathway marked by an incline. If that bit seems like you’re stepping into a bygone age, the inside nicely juxtaposes flashes of modernity and whitewashed brick walls capped by wood-beamed ceilings. Debbie Harry rubs shoulders with Mick Jagger as photos of rock music’s best decorate the walls, for viewing or for sale. However, you will need your Gold Card for the latter, as Proud’s inventory is far from cheap.

Proud is split into two rooms — the smaller, intimate South Gallery and the comparatively cavernous Gig Room, with its quaint cobblestone floor. The Gig Room is different from the average music venue, as it’s much, much wider than it is deep. Rather than being funneled down a long narrow room, as is often the case, your neck can take a break and you can get nice and close to the band to enjoy both side and face-on views. The sound system is relatively state-of-the-art, but the acoustics vary. The sound comes across best when the room is fairly full, enabling peoples’ bodies to absorb most of it. The Gig Room may take 500 at a pinch, but it’s more comfortable with 200. If it gets too thinly populated, vocals in particular, can be muffled. That said, this is not the sort of venue where the sound engineer’s idea of reducing distortion is to crank everything to 11.

Across the Gig Room are a large pair of heavy, double doors, which commonly baffle people attempting to open them. It’s worth the initial struggle, as the doors eventually open to a large bar area with a broad central corridor and individual stables serving as drinking room. The stable compartments add a certain intimacy and unique character to the refreshment process, and the prices are reasonable. While patrons enjoy the spacious bar and fast service, smokers and outdoor types can retreat to the adjacent Terrace Bar without leaving the building or being relegated to an alley.

Proud’s output is eclectic, with cutting-edge bands, DJ sets, regular club nights, themed nights, comedy, secret gigs, and product launches on the agenda. You never quite know what Proud will deliver next, and as you page down a list of bands that only the fans have heard of, you suddenly find that Boy George is hosting a monthly gay night, or that Billy Bragg is appearing with the wonderfully named Get Cape Wear Cape Fly, Foo Fighters’ Chris Shiflett, and several other luminaries straight after the premiere of Bragg’s Breaking Rocks (a new film which charts the role of music in a prisoner rehabilitation initiative).

There’s not a lot wrong with the venue, but the web site needs an overhaul. The clunky process of seeing who’s playing and when is cumbersome. This is only relieved by the occasional gem of detail provided about a band or an event once you’ve worked out the navigation. Proud’s YouTube site could use a modest makeover as well, not to mention fewer videos with poor sound. In fact, take almost all of them off, or find someone to edit together the various annoyingly brief clips of Pete Doherty to add up to one song. The video below, by contrast, is wonderfully watchable and showcases the wacky side of Proud. You also get to see a bit of Lykke Li with megaphone plus her percussionist trying to demolish a tom. They must be proud to be Swedish.

Proud Camden
The Stables Market
Chalk Farm Rd, London, NW1, United Kingdom
+44 20 7482 3867

To view a complete schedule of upcoming events, click here.


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