Just off Brick Lane, tucked away in the courtyard of the old Truman Brewery, stands a sanctuary for music lovers and anyone who think it’s still worthwhile spending a few pounds on a CD or record, whether it be indie, reggae, electronica, jazz or punk. Rough Trade East opened in 2007 and is one of Rough Trade’s two record shops in London, dedicated to turning the act of buying music into a memorable experience.
Although the store attracts music fans from around the world, my impression is that Rough Trade East might not be getting the attention it deserves from the local community.
Rough Trade is a well-established independent record label which has been in business since 1978, and has signed bands amongst which we find the likes of The Smiths and The Libertines. Although starting out as an important player in the post-punk movement, more recently they have been signing up-and-coming bands of various genres. The shop features a vast selection of old and new albums in CD format as well as a large stock of vinyl LPs, which have recently been making a comeback.
Whilst the prices of exclusive pre-releases, limited edition LPs and signed albums might not exactly be “student friendly”, Rough Trade East offers a series of perks appealing not only to music connoisseurs but to the wider public. The shop hosts free in-store gigs by emerging bands, as well as interviews and signings with influential personalities (most recently Peter Hook, and The Gentle Author, writer of the acclaimed Spitalfields Life), and other events such as workshops open to all ages. One of Rough Trade’s next evening workshops, on January 23rd, invites you to build your own electronic synth for £35, which includes materials and the help of an expert sound engineer – no experience necessary.
If that’s not enough to pique your interest, at the entrance to the shop is a stylish little café, serving a variety of teas and snacks, all reasonably priced, as well as showcasing work by local artists. Beyond the café, before losing yourself amidst the isles of records and CDs, you’ll find yourself in a bookshop. Aside from music-related books, Rough Trade East has a fair selection of books on art, poetry, cinema, London and DIY. Like many places in London, Rough Trade East is not “just a shop”. It is also a café, a music venue, an art gallery, and a bookshop… a place where buying music becomes an experience.
My personal favourite peculiarity about the record shop is the little descriptive tabs that accompany the band names on the CD racks – sometimes witty, but always honest. This might not be the basis on which you choose to explore new bands and discover new sounds, but it’s certainly entertaining to read what the staff has to say about your favourite music.
To read about upcoming events at Rough Trade East: http://www.roughtrade.com/site/instore.lasso