By Christian Rose-Day.
The season for live music across Camden’s bars and clubs never ends. It grunts and sweats and gobs its way through the spring, the summer, the autumn and on into winter, never once removing its leather jacket or the fag hanging from it lipstick dappled mouth. If Shoreditch is the home of synths (“we all play synth”), then Camden is the burial ground for the electric guitar, and every guitar that enters the borough leaves a little piece of its soul in the grubby, sticker-strewn loos of Camden’s many rock n’ roll bars and clubs.
Yet, just as the Jazz Cafe has proved over the years, Camden does not necessarily have to ride the one-trick pony of rock n’ roll. It can also saddle up with a bag full of classical, jazz, folk, experimental, and Latin American music, if it chooses. And here is why.
Incongruent amongst its peers; quite likely. Crucial for maintaining a semblance of equilibrium; most definitely. I speak of The Forge, a live music venue in Camden, known to few, that I discovered this week when I sipped botanical cocktails out of watering cans in celebration of its Autumn season on live music (apparently, Camden does do seasons after all).
The Forge is small and unique. Unlike most music venues in Camden it has a very tangible presence of light, especially in the glassed atrium courtyard, which provides a communal barrier between the 100-seater musical space and its sister restaurant, Caponata.
Caponata is a Sicilian restaurant headed by Vito Fanara (of former Locanda Locatelli tutelage), and is probably the best restaurant in Camden if you don’t want a scuzzy meal (the options are limited around here); it’s a nailed down, smart-casj of a restaurant.
Although The Forge is a separate venue, the two are linked as closely as teenage lovebirds. Upon the gangway balcony of the atrium, with its vertical garden, a 3-piece string ensemble called Florin treated the gathered crowd to chamber classics composed by Mozart, Dohnányi, and Kodály. The natural acoustics were befitting for the performance.
The Forge is cosy, with a gallery level so the audience can watch the artists from above, plus it has retractable doors to make the occasion cosier if necessary (the music can be piped through the Caponata though). Think weddings, corporate functions, rehearsals, and art installations plus a program of live music that covers many basis and only stops to rest on Mondays. A note to all aspiring musicians: send your CD to this not-for-profit organisation because they guarantee to at least give a listen.
The highlight of my night had nothing to do with potent bellinis, or the Kahlua-Baileys-Vodka-Cream cappuccinos (although both were delicious), but a chap called Randolph Matthews who mixed birdsong and African soul and used only two instruments: a loop machine and his vocal chords. He created noises and beats and harmonies and melodies, with himself, that I found utterly charismatic and engaging. And he was a looker too. Gah, I hate him. See for yourself.
Keep an eye out for The Forge when it takes part in the upcoming London Jazz Festival and the London Blues Festival too.
If you love music, which you do, you’ll be wise to check out The Forge at some point. Give rock n roll the boot for a day.
To book a table at Caponata & The Forge use this handy booking widget.