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New lease of life for live music

John Robb on the city's ever-expanding gig circuit

Published on February 18th 2010.


New lease of life for live music

Just when you were getting sick of the endless doom and gloom tales of the death of the music industry, Manchester bucks the trend in a spectacular style.

If some cynics are muttering about the likes of the Factory club being out of touch, then they are missing the point. The new club is trying to achieve the trick of reflecting a proud history and staying on the cutting edge.

The last six months has seen a sudden burst of activity on the live front with the opening of three new venues: the renovated Band on the Wall, the massive Sound Control, and the much trumpeted Factory club. It's boom time for the Manchester live scene.

Other British conurbations have their toilet venue, their on-the-way-up or on-the-way-down band venue, and a big arena. Manchester has this and all the points in between with 20 or so venues dotted around the city, supporting a huge gig-going population.

Mani at Factory

London doesn’t come close in this venue glut. It’s like the Premier League being stuffed full of north west clubs – the action seems to be slowly moving up here piece by piece.

The Northern and Southern Quarters both boast a plethora of stages. The Northern Quarter is home to the long-standing Night and Day, Jay Taylor’s well run Ruby Lounge, and Danny McNamara’s busy Moho, as well as Band on the Wall.

The Southern Quarter has perhaps the busiest venues in the UK – the Manchester Academies, plus the timeless Ritz, the two newbies of Sound Control and the Factory, and many people’s favourite gig destination, the Deaf Institute.

Most cities are lucky to have one hip area to mooch around in but we’ve got two, and some nights it’s quite magical out there. The amount of youthful energy and electric street action is astounding – the whole city is a fleshy catwalk with a great soundtrack. Despite the endless glut of hideous steel and chrome bars playing the arse end of dance music at full volume to a room full of people zombified by the decibel avalanche, there is a confusion of gigs on offer. It takes some smart planning and a tightly typed iPhone schedule to catch all the action.

If some cynics are muttering about the likes of the Factory club being out of touch, then they are missing the point. The new club is trying to achieve the trick of reflecting a proud history and staying on the cutting edge – good luck to them.

Of course it will be interesting to see what these new clubs turn into. If there is one hard and fast rule in club promotion, it’s that no matter what you plan for, the audience will deliver something quite different. Look at the Hacienda, constructed as an arty venue and converted by ‘da kidz’ into a sweat-soaked den of acid house lunacy.

What Sound Control and Factory will eventually morph into is part of the excitement. It’s only with the venerable Band on the Wall that you can guess the future; its decades-old tradition of leftfield music looks set to continue.

Let’s celebrate this variety of venues across the city. It breaks up the niches and in-crowds and spreads the creative spaces far and wide, giving more opportunity to the city's seething talent. And that can only be a good thing.

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djkFebruary 19th 2010.

I must point out that 'the arse end of dance music' can only refer to the sort of chart hyped twaddle the is played in city centre meat markets such as vodka revolution or some of the dives in the Printworks.

The term 'dance- music' is , after all, a catch all term referring to any genre of music geared towards the dance-floor and predominantly electronic in nature. This encompasses many very different styles and genres in their own right.

The sort of cheesy chart dance and r n' b that is played in these places for instance differs greatly from say intelligent or minimal techno, which again is very different from breaks or house or, genre du jour- dubstep. All of which are catered for in varying degrees at the venues mentioned and others around the city who host a number of top quality underground clubnights.

'Dance music' therefore is not synonymous with the sort of 'hideous steel and chrome bars' referred to in the article but is also represented at many top class venues and forms a large part of the diverse and culturally rich music scene of the city. For this reason it should be championed alongside the more palatable live music scene.

''Reach for the lasers.....safe as f***''

snFebruary 22nd 2010.

" Look at the Hacienda, constructed as an arty venue and converted by ‘da kidz’ into a sweat-soaked den of acid house lunacy."

that's a very fair point, hadn't thought of it like that.

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