Lacklustre in appearance but opulently rich in history, the Half Moon is a vital live music venue with a legendary status.
You may not think much of the Half Moon at first: the pub area spreads over a sizeable room which doesn’t stand out for its décor. Alongside the usual wooden furniture and paneling, you may notice some musical instruments hanging from the walls and hundreds of framed photos of the acts who played here over the years. All in all, the décor is not too different from your average pub and, unless you have a vast musical knowledge, the large wall of fame may not necessarily impress you much as most names are not household names. However, the fact that the Rolling Stones, Van Morrison, Kate Bush and the many other famous musicians have graced the stage tells you all you need to know about how it's secured its legendary status.
The Half Moon is a revered musical temple, one that benefits from being small, approachable and intimate. Customers vary greatly in age, spanning from early twenties to fifties, a clear demonstration of its wide appeal. There is a feeling of appreciation for the history of the place, but you also get the impression that most of the customers are more interested in the present. Musical talent scouting aside, everyone, including the leftfield staff, seems to be enjoying the laid-back, yet charged and energetic atmosphere.
All the gigs happen on a stage in a separate room on the ground floor. It’s a dark space with an excellent sound system and plenty of speakers. Music here is taken very seriously and indeed you may be lucky and see one of the next big things being discovered here. The music played varies greatly: the Half Moon hosts live music seven nights a week (often priced at £8) with an engaging programme encompassing folk and blues, rock, indie and everything else in between. Check the listings but also trust the venue, which has been doing just this - serving great live music- for over forty years. No wonder music bible NME have shortlisted it for the Best Small Venue award.
The food is a minor down point of the Half Moon. The menu is fairly standard but what disappoints is the completely unrefined nature of what they cook: a curry resembles something you’d knock together at home. But it’s not all bad: the bangers and mash are, on the contrary, really good. The menu is quite informal and groups together the usual suspects: pub favourites (£6-£7), burgers (£5.50-£7), sharers (£4-£10) and more. The quality is satisfactory and you should be well aware that gig venues are not the place for refined cuisine.
The drink list is quite standard, with twelve wines in total, starting from a cheap and cheerful £12 per bottle (the most expensive is £19.30, with small glasses at £3.05-£4.90). There are two cask ales, including Young’s on draft, accompanied by Red Stripe, Leffe, Kronenburg, Hoegaarden (£2.90-£5 a pint) as well as bottled Peroni, Corona, Budvar and others (£2-£3.50). The usual standard spirits are also available.
The Last Word
The Half Moon is part of the fabric of London’s musical history and continues to champion fresh sounds. A visit is essential for those with a passion for new music.