It’s that time of year, when London throngs with tourists photographing festive light displays, the pubs overflow with office parties (try not to be sick in front of your boss, lads) and the streets fill with the sound of discordant carolers. Instead of putting yourself through the misery of nativities and pantos starring 2012 ‘X-Factor’ rejects, spend your money on something that’ll bring you whatever the heck ‘festive cheer’ might be. This December, you can indulge in noughties smash hits, hypnotic hyperpop and radical punk – with a smattering of indie Christmas partying thrown in for good measure. Not a bloody choir in sight.
For noughties pop perfection
Sugababes at False Idols
We saw them filling out a stage at Glasto and selling out the O2 in quick succession. After a massive summer reunion, Sugababes–the original trio–are bringing pop music back around. Yes, you will hear ‘Overload’ and ‘Caught Up In The Middle’, but they’ll also perform new stuff and come as part of a line-up that includes Shygirl, Eliza Rose and Ross From Friends. Taking place in the indecently large Drumsheds, it’ll attract a young crowd of Buffalo boots and leg warmer-wearing kids alongside the OG fans.
Drumsheds, N18 3HF. Sat Dec 2, 12pm. From £33.50.
Sophie Ellis Bextor
She’s a hitmaker, what can we say? ‘Murder on the Dancefloor’, ‘Groovejet’, ‘Take Me Home’. All of them go off. Of course, we saw Sophie Ellis Bextor bring pure joy to the masses during lockdown with her ‘Kitchen Disco’ series, whereby she performed classic disco from her home and on live-stream. You can expect this show at the Apollo to be a celebration of both her pop career and the recent surge in popularity.
Eventim Apollo, W6 9QH. Tue Dec 8, 6.30pm. From £36.10.
For fire rap tunes
If you’re an old-school hip-hop fan, you can’t miss the chance to see West Coast legend Ice Cube in real life. He’ll be taking over The O2 to play a set spanning over 30 years of music. From his first solo album, ‘AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted’ (released in 1990) to the new single ‘Dump On Em’ he’s asserted himself as one of hip-hop’s most distinctive and most outspoken voices. Get there early to catch support from Cypress Hill and The Game. It’s sure to slap.
The O2, SE10 0DX. Mon Dec 11 Dec, 6.30pm. From £94.10.
This night blends breaks, garage and hip-hop to create a wild night of music at the Colour Factory. Expect high-energy performances from JD Reid, AAA, Shifa Ligero and the 99GINGER soundsystem, with a headline performance from rising London rapper Jeshi. This year, he collaborated with Obongjayar, Westside Boogie and cult producer Vegyn to create a catalogue of thoughtful rap music that blends backpack rap and modern electronic production.
Colour Factory, E9 5EN. Fri Dec 8 Dec, 10pm. From £10.
For internet-fuelled hyperpop
Singaporean songwriter and producer Nat Ćmiel, best known as Yeule, has carved a niche in the saturated ‘hyperpop’ market with their mix of ambient, glitch and Asian post-pop. Songs like ‘Dazies’ channel My Chemical Romance, Radiohead and Avril Lavigne. As a result, Reddit fans have branded them ‘sulky baby’. If you fancy getting a little emotional to abrasive electronic soundscapes, Tottenham Court Road is the place to be.
HERE at Outernet, WC2H 0LA. Mon Dec 11, 7pm. From £18.15.
Having been on the PC Music label for a decade, Hannah Diamond is somewhat of a veteran in the scene. During this time, she’s created an audiovisual aesthetic of hyperreality, balancing harsh synthetic sounds and sincere songwriting. Her debut single ‘Pink and Blue’ drew on J-pop, vaporwave, UK garage and dance-pop, and set a precedent for experimenting. This is something you’ll still hear in newer singles, such as ‘Staring at the Ceiling’ which sticks to the sugary sweet pop formula.
Heaven, WC2N 6NG. Wed Dec 6, 7pm. From £19.68.
Labelmate to Hannah Diamond, Caro♡ is a typical PC Music artist, in the sense that her music very much blurs the margins of genre. Her carefully melancholic synth-pop debut ‘Heartbeats/Heartbreaks’ draws inspiration from the landscapes of Marseille (where she grew up) and melodramatic teenage fantasies. This culminates in a rich and diverse 14-song collection of piano-led ballads, hazy vocals and introspective pop poetry.
The Grace, N5 1RD. Wed Dec 13, 7pm. From £10.
For the indie girlies
Billie Marten is a singer-songwriter and musician from North Yorkshire who gained a steady following, as a teenager, for her YouTube covers. Her debut EP ‘Ribbon’ came out in 2014, which was followed by a career-making performance on the BBC Introducing stage at the Reading Festival. While her earlier stuff is more acoustic folk indie, newer songs such as ‘Blue Sea, Red Sea’ have a pop sensibility. This delicate approach to writing, makes her music perfect for chunky knits and mulled wine weather.
KOKO, NW1 7JE. Fri Dec 8, 6pm. From £20.
Girl Ray is a three-piece comprising of Poppy Hankin, Iris McConnell and Sophie Moss. The band released their third studio album ‘Prestige’ in August, taking inspiration from the rushing sensation of new love and the glistening discotheques of TV show ‘Pose’. The collection’s jangly sound plays into the Dua Lipa phenomena while attempting to incorporate their indie roots; picture Moog solos and Chic-style guitars adorning stories of unrequited love. Rollerskates and flares optional.
Village Underground, EC2A 3PQ. Sun Dec 3, 7.30pm. From £17.85.
Corinne Bailey Rae
The human personification of ‘reinvention’, Corinne Bailey Rae came out of nowhere with the most unexpected musical pivot of 2023. Throwing her twee ‘Put Your Records On’ sound in the bin, her extraordinary album ‘Black Rainbows’ took influence from rock, jazz and Afrofuturism to create a thrillingly diverse record. Taking inspiration from Chicago’s archive of Black art, the collection is a gutsy mish-mash of scuzzy, loud and guitar-powered songs. This night at Rough Trade will explore the album through conversation and live performance.
Rough Trade East, E1 6QL. Mon Dec 11, 7pm. From £15.
For post-punk that’ll please your dad
Thurston Moore Group
The former Sonic Youth frontman is out with a new book, a new label signee (co-headliner Devon Ross) and a very, very good interview by Time Out. This show at The 100 Club is the musical debut of it-girl and actor Devon Ross, who is signed to Thurston Moore’s label. Her alt-rock vibe plays on dark, fuzzy shredding and seventies-style lyrical gumption reminiscent of The Stooges. This is sure to nicely pair with Moore’s signature improvisational music, which often incorporates elements of free-form jazz, percussion and a dash of electronic experimentation.
The 100 Club, W1D 1LL. Wed Dec 11, 7.30pm. From £19.50.
Gilla Band are a Dublin-founded foursome combining cataclysmic post-punk and noise rock. Songs like ‘Shoulderblades’ are the bread and butter of the ‘Loud and Quiet’ readership, as frontman Dara Kiely’s screaming, politically charged verses collide with thrashing, industrial guitars. You can only imagine the surreal mania of the group’s live performances. Catch them at Fabric this December if you don’t mind being jostled and pushed by 40-year-old men in those blue French work jackets.
Fabric, EC1 3HN. Mon Dec 4, 7pm. From £16.50.
This Glaswegian five-piece commands attention for its thrilling live production that throws together live electronics, jarring guitars and chest-pummelling lyrics. Heavy club rhythms twist around synth hooks and post-punk shouting to create some much-needed catharsis. Listen to ‘Shattered Faith’ and imagine being in the middle of a sweaty, dark nightclub, slightly drunk from too many Neck Oils, yelling along at full volume. It could soon be a reality.
The 100 Club, W1D 1LL. Mon Dec 4, 7.30pm. From £12.32.
For a very indie Christmas
The 100 Club is hosting an epic ‘ten days of Christmas’-style celebration, with five brilliant artists hosting late-night festive parties. This one has a special guest headliner who is yet to be announced. Intrigued by the mystery? Well, with support acts including south London upstarts Fat Dog, Speedy Wunderground signees O. and the hotly tipped (if peculiarly named) Borough Council, we can assume they’ll be a pretty headsy rock act. Well worth taking a punt on.
The 100 Club, W1D 1LL. Fri Dec 8, 8pm. From £22.40.
The Lounge Society
There’s not a carol in sight at this Christmas bash. Hosted by Flashback Records at MOTH Club, this festive shindig comes soundtracked by Speedy Wunderground’s The Lounge Society. Though the band may all look like they’ve just finished their GCSEs, they’ve already achieved support slots with The Strokes and Wet Leg and released a critically praised debut album ‘Tired of Liberty’, which encapsulated the essence of rural isolation through an angsty guitar-heavy sound. They’re joined by experimental six-piece, Man/Woman/Chainsaw and The Itch, which is an exciting project from members of Regressive Left.
MOTH Club, E9 6NU. Wed Dec 6, 7.30pm. From £12.10.
Having been tipped by ‘NME’ in February as, ‘the wildest – and funniest – live band you’ll see all year’, Welsh four-piece Panic Shack is wrapping up a wild 2023 in style. The riot grrrl punk band has been on the road all year, playing venues like Clwb Ifor Bach in Cardiff and Leeds’ Brudenell Social Club, alongside festivals such as Reading and Leeds, End of the Road and Latitude. Support comes from Lambrini Girls and The Itch who will be bringing the noise. How very festive.
The 100 Club, W1D 1LL. Tue Dec 12, 7.30pm. From £13.44.
Still dreaming about Wide Awake? As is every other Dalston litty lengy. Well, you can be immersed once more in the world of Stellas and loafers with white socks as the Brockwell Park festival takes over The Shacklewell Arms for a night of music, shenanigans and Xmas debauchery. Post-punk trio Deep Tan are headlining, fresh off tour with Queens Of The Stone Age, performing brash, minimalist songs inspired by everything from deepfake porn to gender-expansive ideology.
The Shacklewell Arms, E8 2EB Fri, 15 Dec, 7:30 pm. Free.
For the real punks
Bristol-based punk band Disorder may have started in 1980, but their sound hasn’t aged a day. Part of the ‘protest punk’ movement, the three-piece was once described as sounding ‘like Triumph Bonneville motorbikes’ by the DJ John Peel. This heavy all-dayer has them on a line-up alongside rising hardcore groups Jawless, Doomsday Clock, T.R.E.S.T and Catastrophe. Signature Brew Haggerston, E8 4EA. Sat Dec 2, 4pm. From £11.22.
Militarie Gun’s confrontational music is the result of a carefully constructed formula, balancing post-punk, hardcore and noise-rock influences. The Los Angeles band have recently been touring with contemporaries Scowl and Touché Amoré, ripping up dancefloors across the US with their earth-shattering sound (play ‘Very High’ for a taste). Catch them at The Dome, a venue which has previously hosted legends of the scene like Fugazi, as they embark on their journey to becoming mainstays of the movement.
The Dome, NW5 1HL. Tue Dec 5, 7pm. From £20.25.
This band is a live phenomenon. That’s mainly due to frontman Aaron Heard, whose manic vocal delivery is described as a, ‘livewire Busta Rhymes’. With shows promoting mayhem in the form of stage diving and circle pitting, these five lads from America are giving you an excuse to absolutely lose it for a night. All to the soundtrack of some good, old-fashioned hardcore. The most recent album, ‘…So Unknown’ is a decent first listen, as it showcases the group’s penchant for metal-inspired, floor-punching rhythms.
Oslo, E8 1LL. Thu Dec 14, 7pm. From £16.50.
For the clubrats
One of techno’s most sought-after DJs, San Francisco native Avalon Emerson is a shit-hot producer that any self-respecting dance music fan should know about. This year, she pivoted from the industrial stuff to dream pop with her debut album, ‘& the Charm’. There’s a kind of city-pop quality to the fizzing soundscapes, soft vocals and reflective storytelling that’s sure to have you dancing like you’re back at a festival.
The Cause at 60 Dock Road, E16 1YZ. Sat Dec 9, 11pm. From £21.68.
Hotly tipped as ones to watch this year by a smorgasbord of music mags, experimental electronic duo Space Afrika are heading to Kings Place for an unmissable headline show. Their music is just as wavy as their name suggests, drawing on dance, ambient, trip-hop, modern classical and pop to create a thrillingly versatile live spectacle that comes bolstered by innovative visuals. Put your goddamn phone down and enjoy it.
Kings Place (Hall Two), N1 9GU. Fri Dec 8, 7.30pm. From £17.50.
A night called Goo better be trippy. The passion project of superstar DJ Daniel Avery and Death in Vegas founder Richard Fearless, this back-to-back experience will be like immersing yourself in a cluttered attic of electronic musical hoardings. We’re talking deep-cuts, unheard-of artists that even NTS isn’t even aware of and all the weirdness you’d hope a DJ with credentials like Avery is secretly hiding. Yeah, it might be a little chin-strokey but it’ll probably be a blast.
The Pickle Factory, E2 9DU. Sun Dec 10, 4pm. From £17.10.
For unexpected electronic twists
Electronic composer Anna Meredith is often regarded as one of the most innovative artists in her genre. In this performance, she will carefully mix club-ready beats with booming brass and lush strings to create an audio-visual experience with live illustrations. This evening is a combination of Meredith’s work and ‘Song of the Earth’ performed with a live 18-piece string ensemble. Very high-brow stuff.
EartH, N16 8BH. Sat Dec 16, 7pm. From £27.95.
Panda Bear and Sonic Boom
Longtime collaborators Noah Lennox and Peter Kembe, aka Panda Bear & Sonic Boom, really got the ‘Pitchfork’ types worked up with their collaborative project ‘Reset’ last year. Drawing on 1960s pop instrumentals and combining them with mind-boggling electronic distortion, they created a psychedelic nine-song collection that sounds gorgeous when performed live. Pairing rippling synthesisers with kaleidoscopic visuals and yelping vocals, they’re quite the sensory overload.
Heaven, WC2N 6NG. Thu Dec 14, 6.30pm. From £21.50.
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