If April is the cruellest month, then perhaps March is the most hopeful. The first flowers bravely show their faces and Londoners can even venture out of their Netflix-and-soup hibernation once in a while. What better way to welcome spring than capitalising on London’s explosive music scene? We’ve got the lowdown on the best musical events across the city this month.
Even artists deserve a winter break, but homegrown and international musicians are out in full force for concerts in March. First on the block is London’s fresh grime queen Lady Leshurr, probably the only musician who went viral in 2016 by instructing listeners to brush their teeth. The MC will be delivering her fiery combination of singing and rap to a hyped audience at Heaven on Friday 3rd March. If that sounds a little too high-energy for your work-weary feet, respected US fusionists Thievery Corporation are set to play at the Roundhouse on Sunday 5th, folding everything from reggae and jazz to Indian classical into their downtempo electronic sound.
It’s not just the alternative acts getting a look in this month. The Weeknd, one of the biggest names in contemporary R&B, will be playing a grand arena show at the O2 on Tuesday 7th. The Canadian singer inhabits the dark side of pop, weaving together narratives of debauchery and distrust with his silky falsetto. This show will be one of the first chances to hear material from his upcoming third album Starboy. Later local heroes The xx, whose third album I See You is one of 2017’s finest so far, will set up residence in the O2 Academy Brixton for seven shows from March 8th to 15th, meaning even the slowest to get tickets can’t miss them. If you’re more interested in emerging UK talent, you can hardly do better than London singer Sampha, who finally released his heartbreaking debut album Process last month after collaborations with the likes of SBTRKT, Solange and Kanye West. He’ll be performing a one-off show at the Roundhouse on Wednesday 29th.
Maybe pop’s not so much your bag, and you’re looking for something a little more offbeat. We live in an increasingly connected world, and it’s easy to hear music from all over the planet without leaving the city. There’s no better jumping-off point than Paul Simon’s classic album Graceland, which introduced a generation of Westerners to the joys of South African township music. To mark thirty years since the album’s release, London African Gospel Choir will be reimagining the album in its entirety for four special dates at Camden’s Jazz Café.
For globe-trotting grooves at the Jazz Café in a more modern mould, French beatmaker Onra should satisfy all comers. The producer received acclaim for his Chinoiseries albums, which chopped old East Asian records into brawny hip hop instrumentals. He’ll be celebrating the third part of the series with a show on Sunday 19th. For something a little more meditative, Rizwan-Muazzam Group will be performing Qawwali music at the Barbican on Monday 27th. Qawwali is a devotional form of music common to Sufism, a mystical branch of Islam. You don’t have to be religious to sink deep into these hypnotic drum and vocal performances, which seek to reach a state of ecstasy through repetition.
That’s not all at the Barbican. The cultural institution has a program stuffed with interesting musical events this month – and some of them aren’t even concerts. On Saturday 18th, the cinema will be screening Barry Jenkin’s Moonlight, an Oscar-baiting exploration of black identity and sexuality. The score will be performed live by the LSO, with music ranging from southern rap to chamber music. A few days later things get stranger, as Pulp’s Jarvis Cocker and Chilly Gonzales invite audiences to Room 29, a show situated somewhere between a play, a concert and a ghost story. The show takes Los Angeles’ infamous Chateau Marmont hotel for inspiration, where some of rock’n’roll’s greatest heroes wrote their biggest songs and performed their greatest publicity stunts. At Room 29, Cocker and Gonzales will bring those stories back to life using music, theatrics and clips from classic Hollywood films.
Even if the sun does start to show its face in March, we’ll probably still be in for a few cold days. There’s no better remedy for the chill than a good dance, and there are an embarrassment of great club nights lined up across the month. If we had to pick a highlight, the obvious choice would be The Hydra coming up on Saturday 4th at Canada Waters’ Printworks, London’s new 5000-capacity club. The event lines up some of underground dance music’s biggest names, including Joy Orbison, Gold Panda, Floating Points and electronic star Caribou under his Daphni alias. If you can’t make that one then go for Oval Space on Friday 31st, which has lined up an enviable roster of cutting-edge selectors including electro don DJ Stingray, Hamburg’s Helena Hauff and homegrown talent Jane Fitz.
We’ll leave you with one last suggestion (and it might well be the most exciting). The Tate Britain might not be anyone’s first port of call for music, but they’ve got something very special lined up to celebrate their new David Hockney exhibition. The Tate have teamed up with Festival No. 6 for a veritable culture explosion on March 6th – the party will feature music from indie boys Blossoms and Charlotte Church, alongside poetry from the esteemed John Cooper Clarke and a DJ set from UK dance legend Greg Wilson. With all this going on, there’s no excuse to sit at home and complain of boredom – make the most of living in one of the world’s most vital music scenes.