Party Earth Review From sake to saxophones to surly young songsters bellowing off-key renditions of 18th-century Lutheran hymns, Cafe OTO offers a one-of-a-kind experience for Dalston scenesters who might otherwise spend their evening grooving... ... read full review
18–22 Ashwin Street
London E8 3DL
London Overground: Dalston Junction, Dalston Kingsland
020 7923 1231
Café: M–F 9:30am–5:30pm, Sa–Su 10:30am–5:30pm
Bar: daily 5:30pm–midnight or 8pm–midnight on concert days
Dalston, London –
From sake to saxophones to surly young songsters bellowing off-key renditions of 18th-century Lutheran hymns, Cafe OTO offers a one-of-a-kind experience for Dalston scenesters who might otherwise spend their evening grooving to the hum of their refrigerators.
An open and airy bohemian café by day, at night scruffy locals and slack-jawed tourists move away from the bakery counter and toward the rear of the venue, where a small stage with a projection screen backdrop plays host to a variety of performers who defy mainstream norms.
Taking its name from a Japanese word that can imply either noise or sound, it is often unclear which of the two meanings applies to the live acts here. Past performers have included Japanese improvisational musicians, minimalist songster Scout Niblett, and modern classical performers Dolphins Into the Future, who play cassette tape remixes that sound like dolphins – really futuristic dolphins who have done a lot of drugs.
These musical goings-on are taken quite seriously by the bespectacled and bearded patrons who sit around the stage drinking pints of locally brewed ale and tapping their toes in “time” to the swishing sounds, buzzes, and hisses generated by DJs of underground acclaim.
There’s a bona fide café here, too, a space where Japanese hipsters and Dalston artists can while away their days sipping gourmet coffee, noshing on homemade cookies, and writing avant-garde lyrics on their iMacs.
But café niceties aside, twenty-somethings aren’t lining up by the dozen outside Cafe OTO for the non-psychedelic brownies – they’re coming to listen to the likes of Tony Conrad mimic the sounds of an air conditioner instead.
Beatniks in thick-rimmed glasses, poetry lovers, new age hippies, stylish Japanese kids, East London hipsters, musicians, poets, artists, 20s.
Live music almost every night, jukebox otherwise. Free Wi-Fi. Check listings for schedule of events.
Cakes, cookies, Japanese snacks, and chocolate served daily all day.
Cover charge £5–£12; advance purchase tickets often available. Bar snacks £1–£3.50. Beer £2–£4.50, wine £3.50, coffee £1.50–£2.50.
Casual: skinny jeans, ironic or political logo t-shirts, handmade dresses, anything vintage, big knitwear, glasses.
Any night with live music.
Arcola Theatre (24 Ashwin Street) offers a program of socially progressive plays, as well as a café, gallery, and bar area in the foyer.