Our small home, tucked away near where the Astoria once stood (the legendary theatre and music venue which was demolished in 2009), has hosted intimate gigs performed by the world’s most famous musicians over the last thirty-two years.
The building itself dates back to 1976, with the downstairs space (what we now call ’The Borderline’) beginning its history as an impromptu venue before gradually evolving into a permanent fixture in 1985 – the birth of ‘Break For The Border’. The building as a whole became a central hub in Soho for a place to grab a Mexican-inspired bite to eat upstairs as the basement room tapped in on London’s live music scene.
In its opening years, The Borderline gradually gathered attention as a reputable venue for emerging Rock, Americana, Blues & Country music. A week prior to the release of their debut smash-hit single I Don’t Want A Lover, Texas performed in the basement (10.01.89). Blondie’s Debbie Harry performed several shows in the venue later than year, and The La’s paid a visit for two shows on 28.10.89 & 29.10.89.
Arguably the decade in which The Borderline truly cemented itself as the most exciting underground music venue in London, the 1990s saw the alternative Brit-Pop boom as Blur made an appearance on 08.01.90 on the cusp of their first record deal as well as The Lightning Seeds (17.09.94) and the more psychedelic-Rock sounds of Kula Shaker (31.08.95).
As Alternative Rock began to celebrate broad mainstream success, pioneers R.E.M made a visit two days after the release of Out Of Time (they were later to re-visit the venue in 2016 to discuss the album’s 21st anniversary). Other highlights include The Verve (30.01.92), ZZ Top (08.12.93), Counting Crows (05.04.94), Feeder (06.07.95) and Squeeze (16.05.96). Artists soon began to travel to The Borderline from all corners of the globe, as Crowded Rock made the journey over from Australia in ’91. The venue was also picked by Spinal Tap as the home of their reunion tour after an eight-year hiatus (07.05.92), and hosted one of the first shows Stereophonics performed in under their current name (11.03.96). As the decade drew to a close, Muse performed at The Borderline shortly before the release of debut album Showbiz (18.08.99).
The 90s also saw the prolific singer-songwriters PJ Harvey (MBE) (22.10.91), Sheryl Crow (25.02.94), Jeff Buckley (15.03.94) and Belle & Sebastian (11.11.96) headline The Borderline towards the beginning of their respective careers.
With the new millennia came a new wave of artists heading for The Borderline as the Indie/Alternative scene began to take centre stage. The likes of Bloc Party (08.06.03), Razorlight (22.09.03), The Cribs (02.07.04), The Fray (06.12.06), The Wombats (15.06.07) and Mumford & Sons (24.08.08) all performed at the venue during this time.
In addition to the array of bands playing at the venue, The Borderline also hosted solo artists Ryan Adams (17.11.00), Frank Turner (13.02.07) and Amy Winehouse (23.09.03) in this period.
In more recent years, The Borderline has continued to host some of the biggest rising stars on its humble stage, with The 1975 kick-starting their career here in February 2013, Scouting For Girls performing at the height of their career (16.07.13) and Catfish & The Bottlemen performing ahead of the release of debut album The Balcony (24.02.14) and The Hoosiers (21.10.15). In 2016 the venue was bought from MAMA by DHP Family (festival curators, national tour promoters and the name behind legendary venues such as Rock City and Thekla Bristol).
Today The Borderline continues to showcase old favourites and cutting edge new artists such as Tash Sultana (15.9.16) and Plini (19.3.17) with a bustling live music and club venue. The upstairs room which originally served food is now the famous G A Y venue. Following The Borderline’s temporary closure at the beginning of 2017 for an extensive refurbishment, The Borderline enters its next chapter when it re-opens mid-March 2017 with an upgraded sound system, re-vamped décor and expanded drinks menu.
Oasis filmed their video for ‘Cigarettes and Alcohol’, and the lists of names adorning the stairs on the way down reads like a who’s who of the best artists of the last decade, including REM, Razorlight and The Libertines.