How To Survive The Notting Hill Carnival
Britain's biggest street party is coming to town this Bank Holiday weekend. The festivities kick off on Sunday August 30, and carry on for two solid days of wild living, carnival costumes and the best food this side of anywhere. Are you ready for it? (Hint: if you're not, don't worry. Just read this guide).
Notting Hill Carnival is the main event, sure - but it's what happens in the build-up to Sunday and Monday that makes the party so special. Play your cards right on Friday and Saturday, and you'll already have two massive nights under your belt by the time the first kettle drums begin to play.
If old skool is your flava, check out The Nest in Dalston, where Wookie and the Heartless Crew will be cranking up the beats to kick off the weekend. Finsbury Park's Silver Bullet plays host to Earl Gateshead and Stereochemist. And for a total Carnival wind-up, look no further than Gin and Juice at Proud Camden. The crew are swapping out their usual fare for tinnies of Red Stripe and a head-wrecking setlist. Expect dancehall and reggae aplenty, and more bass in your face. Oh, and they've got a hot tub too.
It wouldn't be a London stag do without a visit to the Horse and Groom in Shoreditch. When you're not spotting hipsters in Storm Trooper outfits, or wondering whether the building you just walked past is a 1950s beard design salon or someone's front room, you could be giving up the love at Boombox. Featuring none other than Portishead's Andy Smith, Boombox goes heavy on the house, mixes in a fat chunk of disco boogie, and - for this weekend - drops an awful lot of reggae. Vinyl only, people. This is Shoreditch, after all.
On pre-Carnival Saturday, an early start is practically the law. Get your hands in the air from 2pm at the Loft Studios in Kensal Green, where party promoters Troupe are hosting the biggest Carnival block party, like, evs. And this really is a block party. Of all the legendary spinners out in force on Bank Holiday weekend, none command more respect than Grandmaster Flash himself. Expect full on b-boy and b-girl battles as the living legend does his thang.
Fancy catching a slice of Carnival history in full effect? Look no further than the Kentish Town Forum, where dancehall operator Jah Shaka will be showing everyone else how it's done. Jah Shaka is the Afrika Bambaataa of the UK soundsystem scene, and he absolutely rocks.
More Notting Hill history is in evidence over at the Big Chill House, in newly regenerated St Pancras. The big man on the bill isn't even ex-Massive Attack spinner Daddy G, though he's there too - no, the name you really want to see is Don Letts. Give some respect to the man who singlehandedly aligned Caribbean culture with the punk uprising, and don't forget to try some jerk chicken from the terrace barbecue. Rum will also be in play.
So you've danced your way around Notting Hill, you've stopped at every one of the Carnival's 38 static soundsystems, and you've drunk a rum drink, a lager drink, and another rum drink. The sun's going down, and you don't want to go home. Where to next?
The Electric Ballroom in Camden Town is top of the list for party animals who want a bit of everything. Mungo's Hi-Fi is in full swing for three hours of badass fun, and there are zillions of other ace names on the list. Oh, and there's a special guest slated to make an appearance (no, I don't know who it is).
XOYO in Shoreditch is also turning up the volume, this time courtesy of party monsters Your Mum's House. Cue terrible jokes about where you went on the Sunday night of your stag do in London ('your mum's house, it was loud and dirty'), plus a ton of bass-heavy fun.
For the authentic Carnival after-party vibe, try The Edge Snooker Club in Bruce Grove. You'll be shaken and stirred by Jah Shaka's very own son, the Young Warrior, as he brings his own soundsystem online. Barbecued yumminess is delivered from the kitchen, and you even get a free whistle. Woot.
Make it through to Monday still standing, and you'll want to be close to a train station when the good times finally finish. Try the Scala, King's Cross's longstanding alternative venue of choice, were the Faded crew will be putting on a big finish. Don't be surprised to find yourself dancing with a Northern Soul girl at 3am while Shorty Bless bangs out some old skool hop hop. It's that kind of night.
I held back from mentioning Hot Wuk earlier. These boys and girls will also be opening Carnival on Saturday with their mobile truck-based soundsystem (in a club, no less), but for this post I wanted to save the best til last. This daytime Monday freakshow is the ultimate in post-Carnival insanity, but you'll have to seek out tickets to get in. The location is top secret - all I can tell you is that it's in a yard very close to the Carnival parade route. And that the biggest soca, bashment and dancehall selectors from the weekend will be there to provide the sounds.
Party on, dudes.