It’s dark, a tad on the dingy side, and too far for the trendy part of East London. It’s unpolished and rough round the edges, and looks a bit like someone’s garage, albeit one belonging to a budding musician.
But from the moment you step through the heavy drapes into a room with colourful lanterns hanging from the ceiling you’d be forgiven for thinking you’d entered a bar in Berlin’s former East Side. A smattering of people sit around drinking bottled beer on sparsely scattered tables and mismatched chairs; a book corner sits complete with leather armchair waiting to be occupied by a young muso; the performance area is basically a gap between tables.
Once the first band starts playing it becomes apparent the team behind Jamboree are serious about their music. Metal and electro aren’t featured much as they’re not really suited to these walls, events manager Samir E. tells me. When choosing bands, he explains, the focus is on music that is ‘innovative’, and that will match the quirky charm of the venue. He then reels off the names of bands that have played in the past, points to the group in front of us assembling their instruments and mentions that a couple of them also belong in the first band of the night, and that the guy I’d just seen perform was jazz drummer Seb Rochford, nominated twice for the prestigious Mercury Music Award. His enthusiasm is infectious and refreshing.
I live in Camden, where once upon a time people fled to in search of new music and the streets throbbed at night with the sounds of thrashing guitars and heavy drums, where dozens of music lovers gathered and spilled out of bars and clubs. Today it’s become a parody of itself, a tourist trap where Spanish students come to take pictures of the odd punk, where teenage emo fans come to drink in Mean Fiddler venues and middle class suburbanites come to visit the Stables Market and have brunch in a Chalk Farm gastropub.
As I walked out of Jamboree, which is housed within Cable Street Studios (a series of units/warehouses now occupied by artists, musicians and even a space which hosts occasional club nights) I pondered whether this fascinating part of the Docklands – which is merely two train stops away from the banking area yet seemingly worlds apart – would be the starting place for a new scene, for these talented performers who all play in each others bands to grow and attract the masses, just like in Camden, and later Shoreditch. Then again, Jamboree seems way too cool for that. I headed back to North London, feeling very excited indeed.