If you’re anywhere between the ages of 28 and 40, chances are you spent a disproportionately large amount of time in your youth rifling through army surplus stores and dusty old vintage shops trying to find the perfect red British army jacket to emulate The Libertines’ iconic look from ‘Up The Bracket’. The band had everything post-Britpop rock’n’roll required at the time: attitude, wall-to-wall bangers and pretty public substance use. Not to mention a rocky relationship with the press and, later, the world’s coolest supermodel dating the lead singer. I’ve gone out with at least three boys in bands just so I could try and pretend I was the Kate Moss to their Pete Doherty.
When NME asked me if I wanted to go and review The Albion Rooms – the Margate hotel they bought in 2016 as ‘band HQ’ and which finally opened this September – I screamed “Yes!” and dug into my wardrobe to see what I still had from 2007 to wear. Then when they said there was a comedy gig on I weedled my way into that, too. Don’t worry: I’m a stand-up comic, I didn’t just want to humiliate myself in front of my musical heroes – I’ll leave the other NME staffers to that.
The Libertines’ love affair with Margate has been well-publicised, and not just because of that fucking massive full English breakfast Pete wolfed down in 2018. When NME first had a poke around the hotel last month, Carl Barat said that the hotel was a “physical embodiment of the band”, given that they now live across three countries. It might seem an odd move for a rock’n’roll band to open a B&B, but actually, maybe, it’s really cool? They’re keen to show off that there’s more than just beds to sleep in here – there’s a bar, a recording studio and a hidden door to a soon-to-be-built secret bar (but you didn’t hear that from me).
Margate is (sometimes reluctantly) known as Shoreditch-on-Sea on account of the burgeoning art and music scene and influx of Londoners seeking a quick escape. But it’s proper British seaside too: seagulls the size of dogs, vintage shops, old school cafes (pronounced caffs) and arcades as well as vintage theme park Dreamland and the Turner Contemporary gallery. I did a gig at their perfect tiny theatre (The Tom Thumb) last year and instantly fell in love with the place. I didn’t see a Pret the whole time.
The Albion Rooms stands out against the rest of the terraced houses it’s lodged between on account of being painted completely black and with a red neon sign. Inside the decor is typically rock’n’roll, but who knows how many tins of black paint they had to get through to do the whole thing. Anarchic, colourful art adorns the walls and the red carpets only add to the feeling that you’re in a goth’s wet dream.
We’re given The Loft to stay in,