Towards the end of Denmark Street, the short London street off the Charing Cross Road sometimes known as Tin Pan Alley, is a small, intimate and cool music venue called 12 Bar Club. As well as acting as a useful showcase venue for record industry people wishing to promote their new acts, it opens its arms out to up and coming singer/songwriters and bands from indie, rock, pop, folk, blues, and country genres. Its alumini have included the likes of KT Tunstall, Jeff Buckley, Martha Wainwright, The Libertines, Keane, Roddy Frame and Robyn Hitchcock.
12 Bar Club has musician’s kerb appeal since its facade makes up the historic front of Denmark Street where since around the 1920s managers, musicians and artist used to flock to buy sheet music from music publishers. Music shops selling pianos, guitars and drum kits sprang up and Tin Pan Alley’s buzz got louder when in the 1960s 4 Denmark Street became the address of Regent Sounds Studios (where the Rolling Stones cut their first album). So, 12 Bar Club’s location is steeped in popular musical history.
Originally the building that houses the venue was constructed in the 17th century as a stable. It then became converted into a forge, the fireplace of which makes up part of the backdrop of the stage today. It first became a music venue of sorts in the 1980s when as The Forge Blues and Blues Club it played host to growing out of staff and regulars of Andy’s Guitar Workshop.
In 1994 in became known as 12 Bar Club and established itself as a small and quirky venue for up and coming talent. Entering the club there is a small café area followed by a bar. Veering off to the left is a seating area, which houses a pool table. However, the main attraction is the dark cavern-like area of its small stage, which is raised and the quirky addition of a small balcony area with tables and seats, which squeeze in around 20 people. Downstairs in the stage area there is room for around 80 people.
From a performer’s perspective the stage is very tight especially for a traditional four piece beat combo, and there is not much room for throwing expansive guitar shapes – but it has been know to fit five-piece band on the stage. Because the stage is raised performers either look down on punters in a dance floor area or else look up at the balcony area. This area originally jutted out so that performers could touch the floor of the balcony from the stage, which came down to roughly the band’s eye-level. In 2006 this was rectified when the balcony size was reduced and pushed back.
The venue is noted for supporting independent promoters who often host showcase evenings for their acts or else stage album launches from the club. It is also a perfect venue for warm-up gigs for bands going on tour. For fans the quirky set up of the place means they can get up close and personal within smelling distance of bands looking up at the stage from the floor or else look down upon acts from the small balcony area complete with seats and tables. Either way the intimate music venue, one of the smallest in London, is well-worth checking out – you never know which famous future act might be playing that night.