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Ain't Nothing But... Blues Bar
The only seven nights a week blues bar in town, Ain't Nothin'
But... can reasonably claim to be London's 'Home of The Blues'. With a roster of excellent regular acts, carefully nurtured newcomers
and occasional International visitors, their dedication to the blues means
it's packed most nights with an eclectic mix of punters drawn to it's
great atmosphere and top quality music.
It's small, with a house drum kit which helps create a vibe that's unique,
certainly to Soho and Central London anyway, and it always seems to attract
an up for it and friendly crowd. Miraculously for a blues venue, many
of that crowd are under thirty and female, which is no small achievement,
and one which is to be applauded.
Due to the popularity of their Monday night jams, they've just started
doing one on Sunday's as well. We went down to have a bit of a blow, and
to talk to the owner, Kevin, about the inspiration behind the place.
and pics by Ricardo
When did you open?
Kevin: We opened in Oct 1993. Started slowly with just background
music, and soon become very popular with the local Soho animation crowd
every Friday night. We slowly started introducing live acoustic acts Saturday
nights and Friday lunchtimes.
What was the idea/inspiration behind doing so?
Kevin: I opened the bar solely because of my love for The Blues.
I used to see bands play in grotty back rooms in pubs where you couldn't
get a decent drink, which were filthy and not welcoming. One day I was
having a few drinks with some mates and discussing what we would all really
like to do. I came up with the idea of the Blues Bar, and from there started
approaching brewers etc. for backing. I got such a positive feedback at
first, but then no offers of money, so I had to go it alone.
It feels very much like a Chicago lounge bar... Presumably that
Kevin: I designed, and partially built, the actual bar
which is still standing- the whole place including the plans and layout.
It was designed as I imagined a typical Chicago Juke Joint would look,
with the atmosphere of a Saturday night in the cotton field shacks. It
was pure imagination. The whole bar was always only going to be about
the Blues so I had to reflect that. I painted the whole place and came
up with the idea for the sheet music on the walls. Even did the papering!
were your first acts?
Kevin: The first acts were all acoustic style as we did
not have a music license then, nor the money. Some of the originals were
Shakey Vic, Big
Joe Louis & Little
Baptiste, Stevie from Ruthless
business? Seems like it's pretty popular these days... Has it always been
Kevin: Business is pretty good these days as we are established
and have a loyal following, as well as having some great write ups in
magazines and web sites and tourist guides. We have never organised these
ourselves but they have happened on the bar's merits, and through customer
recommendations. I believe the bar sells itself.
In the beginning we were generally very quiet and built trade up slowly.
The bar evolved as custom increased and demanded more. Within a couple
of years we had live music most nights, with the Monday Jam starting very
early on and going from strength to strength, hence the expansion onto
How has the London blues scene changed since you opened?
Kevin: I haven't really noticed to many changes in the
Blues scene, as there really isn't one. There were a few more places for
bands to play back then, but the live music scene in London seems to have
died a lot. However, the quality of our bands just seems to get better
and better. Our new Cd I think is superb.
The one most noticeable thing is the lack of American bands coming to
London, which is why we try to fly over the occasional musician, or we
would never see them. It isn't possible to do that many as they don't
pay for themselves.
What are your standout memories since you've been open?
Kevin: The main events to stand out are the American
gigs - some of them have been amazing. John Primer played back in 94 and
the whole place was up dancing, and it was probably the first time we
had a huge queue outside.
Also, when Paul Jones played we had people travel up from all over the
south coast. I would just like to say that Paul was always a tremendous
supporter of the bar and continually plugged us on his show. We really
are your most popular acts these days?
I think by far the two most popular acts are the Ian
Siegal Band and Jeremiah Marques. They both
put on such amazing performances, and we are lucky to have them playing
here. In Ian's case, he now plays in European festivals all the time,
but still enjoys coming back to the Blues Bar and just loves it. He is
such a talent he deserves more. West Weston is also a
great band and has represented us in a couple of London's street festivals
and gone down a storm.
How do you find the acts that play there?
Kevin: We find all are acts now via CD sent to us. It
is so hard trying to give everyone a chance, and deciding who would be
right for the bar. Some bands are really good but are not suitable for
Do you see any trends emerging?
I don't see anything changing. People still love live music and Blues
is such a popular style. It is great to see the younger age group in the
bar keeping things going and I think this will continue.
The new Sunday jam is in response to the popularity of the Monday
night one... Does this reflect a general increase in interest in blues?
Kevin: The Sunday Blues Jam is down to demand. The waiting
times on Monday can get very long with no repeat chance, so we are trying
to give everyone a go. We have always believed in the Jam being a chance
for everyone to be able to get up and play and it's our most popular week
What's in the future?
Kevin: At this stage our aim is to keep the Blues Bar
as popular as ever. It would be very difficult to expand, what with finding the right premises,
the rent in London being astronomical, and the financial risk involved. I would love to organise a major Blues festival, and have been working
on this in Spain, but as yet to no avail. I did mention holding one in London to Ken Livingston but he did not think it would be popular enough to invest in it.
Aint Nothing But...
20 Kingly Street, Soho, W1B 5PZ
Tel: 020 7287 0514
Full details of all their gigs are of course regularly on our pages, and
you can also find more information, including band profiles at www.aintnothinbut.co.uk