Having started life as a club night before solidifying with bricks and mortal into a beloved bar and live venue in the heart of London's West End, The Social on Little Portland Street is celebrating its 15th birthday this year. Still run by the original team who open the doors back in 1999 – Heavenly Recordings and The Breakfast Group – this institution hosts bands, DJs and barflies alike and is set to mark its anniversary with a special party on 17 October. Wishing it many happy returns Social regular Huw Stephens - the Radio 1 DJ hosts a monthly night at the venue with the next taking place on 14 October, see below - has written Q this guest column wishing one of world's best music bars many happy returns.
We've all dreamt of it: opening up a venue, bar, cafe. Doing it, though, and seeing it become one of the most legendary and established of its kind, is another matter. That's why it's great to celebrate The Social, Little Portland Street, London, on its 15th year of existence. On my first visits to London I saw Super Furry Animals play there, on the tiny downstairs stage at the literally underground venue. Later, I saw Bon Iver play to a packed room, everyone in awe, sweating buckets.
When I went to look for a venue to start my own monthly live music night, it was the obvious choice: Small and intimate, easy to get to and not too far from Radio 1 so I could run to do my show after the gig! Ok the parking is a nightmare and the look on some bands faces when they see the size of the stage is something to behold ("oh it really is that small!"). There's also the sheer panic when someone tries to open the fire escape thinking it's the door, which makes staging a night there a a monthly quandary, but honestly it's worth it! Although don't get me started on people asking where the bathrooms are! In case you're wondering, it's the wall at the far end of the bar...
At my own nights I've seen everyone from Alt J to Alan Titmash play to fans, all with the backdrop of the history of this incredible place. The montage on the bottom of the stairs says it all: Manic Street Preachers, Bobby Gillespie, Chemical Brothers, Saint Etienne, Beth Orton, Doves, Annie Nightingale, Magic Numbers, et al gives a glimpse to how it all started. And Heavenly Recordings continues to thrive with excellent bands like Temples, Stealing Sheep, Toy, Kid Wave and H Hawkline all carrying on that legacy. And it's a legacy of love, I reckon. The team, Jeff, Danny, Carl and Robin, are among the most enthusiastic, hard working, visionary label folk I know and that comes across in where they spend much of their time.
They clearly know a thing or two about running a bar too. You'll often find them and their customers in there the bar listening to reggae, hip hop and soul through the coolest jukebox in the world. You'll find them meeting people upstairs, watching bands play downstairs, cementing relationships and making a difference. Long live The Social! Huw Stephens @huwstephens
The Huw Stephens' night returns to The Social on 14 October featuring Afrikan Boy, Houdini Dax, Trwbador and a special guest who will be announced soon. The Social's 15th Birthday Party kicks off at 7pm on 17 October. Entry to both events is free, though you'll need to RSVP to get on the list for the latter. For full details and much more head to Thesocial.com.