Situated in a plum location on the banks of the River Thames, with glorious views of Southbank, the London Eye, and the Oxo Tower, is a fourth floor bar that is no secret. It’s not a members’ club. It’s not a posh, velvet-roped lounge bar. It is the King’s College London Student Union nightclub called Tutu’s.
It has been quite some time since I’ve stepped foot in a student union and my expectations were admittedly mixed. I had tickets to see Vampire Weekend perform staples for the young 20-something crowd from their self-titled album that debuted in 2008 and new songs from their forthcoming album Contra. It had been almost four months since they were last in London, as one of a handful of acts supporting Blur in Hyde Park, and a year minus 10 days since I last saw them playing three sold out gigs at the Forum in Kentish Town. The gig at Tutu’s would be small and far more intimate. Just last week, VW were playing the Legendary Horseshoe Tavern in my hometown of Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The Horseshoe is tiny at a capacity of 350 people. KCLSU, at just less than double that size, was packed tighter than a London Underground carriage at rush hour. 600 sweaty, bouncy kids jumped wildly to the songs they recognised and were a bit more restrained and appreciative to the new and unfamiliar ones. The concert was short, lasting an hour and finishing at 10pm (enough time to squeeze in study group? No, I don’t think so.)
They opened with White Sky, a song from the new album that was a regular feature in their setlist from last year’s concert tour. Oxford Comma, Campus, Blake’s Got a New Face, Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa, I Stand Corrected, Mansford Roof, and A-Punk were all well-received with their upbeat rhythms and sing-along sections. The set was peppered with a couple of new songs, ska and tribal-beat influenced tunes characterising VW’s style and appeal. They closed with Horchata, their recently released single, and the rousing vampire-escaping Walcott.
Jeremy Warmsley’s Acres, Acres (minus 1 band member!) supported Vampire Weekend and opened the show. Their sound seemed to be a collaboration of many different and familiar styles – chord progressions reminiscent of Franz Ferdinand’s Dark of the Matinée, tempo changes and ho-down guitar paying homage to folk alternative favourites. What could have been the worst part of their set, but instead was the best display of musicianship and professionalism, was the piano keyboard failure during their last song. The sound cut as the Jeremy’s piano chord sequence crescendoed. They tried again, consulting on stage as to which section to pick it up from, only for the sound to cut in exactly the same place. The bassist and drum continued to a roar from the crowd. Jeremy raised his hands in defeat, picked up his guitar and finished the song with emotion and drive, possibly fueld by the frustration of technology. With this, the band demonstrated maturity and pragmatism – the show must go on – and they ended to a massive cheer and hollar from the audience.
But I digress. This is a blog about buildings, spaces, and environments not music, although I will sneak in the random gig review whilst writing about music venues of note. To find a music venue at upper floors is a rarity. And to have one with a spectacular view of the south bank of the Thames in Central London is even more unusual. Tutu’s, named after Desmond Tutu, is located in the Macadam Building on Surrey Street. It is an interesting, welcoming space and whilst I had many memorable evenings at the student pubs and clubs when I was at university, none was as appealing as this. While there is something somewhat grown-up about sitting on a seat by the window, the colourful light displays of Royal Festival Hall and the Southbank Centre and the bright pink hues around the London Eye behind us, I feel it contributes greatly to the experience of student life and to the community of the university. It is a pleasant, communal place to meet and socialise. It was much nicer than some of the unkempt dives in London that suffer from neglect, poor management, and lack of maintenance. I would love to be a student at King’s College London and for Tutu’s to be my local pub.
Update: I had some problems with the Gallery previously. I’ve figured out the error and have now posted some photos of the band members.