Talk about Manchester’s music scene, and what comes up? The Smiths, The Hacienda, Tony Wilson and, yes, Bez. It’s easy to get a bit stuck in the past, endlessly wheeling out the greats of yonder year – but the city is still a great place to watch new and innovative music. Promoters like Hey! Manchester and Now Wave are shaking things up, as is music festival Sounds From the Other City, and bands and musicians like Jane Weaver, Everything Everything and Josephine. Fantastic venues like our top five below are behind it all – so here’s a guide to where to watch the best live music in the city.
Here are our picks
In a Grade-II listed, neo-Gothic former Deaf and Dumb Institute you’ll find one of the city’s best loved music venues across three floors, complete with two bars and a kitchen. The Deaf Institute’s dome-shaped music hall upstairs, complete with tiered seating and a giant mirror ball, has hosted scores of critically acclaimed acts, and is a focal point for the city’s musicians and promoters.
Under the railway tracks on Whitworth Street West, this bar, kitchen and music venue boasts both a specialist Gin Bar upstairs, and a super sound system in the 700 capacity performance space – which, unusually, has a stage backed by old valve and amp cases from the old BBC basement on Oxford Road. Rad.
Home to the Hallé and the BBC Philharmonic orchestras, the Bridgewater Hall attracts some of the biggest names in classical music. Purpose-built to the tune of £42m, the hall was designed around its acoustic needs; it floats on 280 earthquake-proof isolation springs that mute all external noise, perfect for shielding around 250 performances a year from the trams outside.
A former Methodist chapel, the Albert Hall reopened as a music venue and bar in 2014, after exploration of its long-forgotten upper floors revealed a 2000-seat hall and stunning stained glass windows. Manchester’s most atmospheric venue has hosted the likes of First Aid Kit, Beirut and Maxine Peake as part of Manchester International Festival 2013. Downstairs is cook haus, bakery, bier palace and wunderbar Albert’s Schloss.
It was the place with the funny name hanging on up there in the city’s Northern badlands. Edgy, hard, grotty, a bit studenty. Some people are bound to say the new Band on The Wall – which opened in 2009 – isn’t the same and inevitably there will be those ready to bitch about slick transformations somehow robbing cherished old venues of their soul. They’re entitled to their nostalgia trips, but we’re excited about having another place to see good live music in this town. Long may it rock.