Go See This contributor Dan Lovatt has scoured the city and put together a list of Manchester’s finest live music venues for us to enjoy. It’s clear to see that we’re spoilt for choice in the city!
If you are a sucker for an intimate gig (which I am), as well as a cheeky draft lager, then look no further than Soup Kitchen. The venue is located five minutes from Piccadilly Gardens, tucked away on Spear Street, meaning that it is usually overlooked by the footfall as a trusty place to watch wonderful music. But I assure you, if you take the trip, you will be eternally grateful. The venue primarily hosts bands, and does so brilliantly with acoustics that churn out a loud, raw sound. However, it does not shy away from night life either, with DJ’s from all across Britain making the trip to perform at this Greater Manchester gem.
This is the most up and coming venue of the shortlist. I have only visited this magnificent venue twice and I can say confidently that you will be as dazzled by the surroundings as you will the music experience. The venue is split into two large rooms, separated by a catacomb-esque passageway at the back. It’s easy to get lost in the bright lights, but if you do manage to find the stage (right hand side room), then you’ll be completely blown away by the sheer power of the speakers. And there is plenty of room to boogie! God bless the sound technicians. I would recommend this to everybody.
The Deaf Institute, situated on Oxford Road, in idiom terms is the ‘Jack of all Trades, Master of None.’ But don’t let the none persuade you from investigating further. Deaf institute not only hosts live music, it is also a respectable restaurant, club venue and a laidback bar. Deaf institute makes this list on different accolades. Not as a juggernaut hotspot for live music, but a venue that you could spend an entire day in. The venue is three floors, with the gigs held on the top floor. So, whilst waiting for the music to start, you could tuck in to some divine halloumi fries. Stick around afterwards, and you can bask in the eccentric brilliance of the Horse Meat Disco club night. What a way to spend a weekend.
O2 Ritz Manchester
This venue needs no introduction. I have been here more times than I can count and, since moving to Manchester in 2016, I have joined the thousands of people across the city who flock their every weekend. Situated on Whitworth Street, the Ritz attracts some of the larger forces in music such as: Mike Skinner, Artic Monkeys, R.E.M and, at the dawn of its existence, a little four-piece known as The Beatles. What I adore about the Ritz is its consistency to deliver an untouched, heavenly sound with every band/performer that plays. I honestly think this venue is as close to the pre-recorded sound that you can get. If you are looking to catch one of the more famed names in music, then I can assure you that the Ritz is worth the three street-long queue.
This is the distinctive venue on the list. Now, you may not find any live bands here, but this rebranded abandoned factory tucked away in Salford plays host to the rising stars on the hip-hop, grime and bassline scene. With the imminent closure of Antwerp Mansion, there is no other contest for Hidden in regard to its three-story open plan complex, kitted out main stage and a rather large second stage on the ground floor. Hidden has a humble reputation and has managed to rake in ravers and party-enthusiasts on talent alone. With grime storming into the mainstream over the past decade, Hidden is undoubtedly the hotspot to witness the rising stars blow the roof off. The venue is pretty cheap too, which is always a bonus.
The Night & Day Café
Another intimate venue creeps its way onto the list and rightfully so! The Night & Day Café is a bar by trade, but in recent years has attracted indie starlets such as The Wytches, Cabbage and even a young Kasabian. Although the audience may be packed into a narrow, quite restrictive space, prepare to be blown away by the might of the electric guitar and the crisp edge of the microphones. Another venue that employs exceptionally talented sound technicians. Night & Day Café is the epitome of making the most of what they have. Take your eye away from the performance and you can cast your glance on countless cool and visually pleasing wall art. As a side note, if you happen to take pleasure in a particularly vibrant toilet, then I suggest you spend a penny or two here.
Owned by former One Night Only lead singer George Craig, Jimmy’s is an all-round slick place to explore and somewhat of an indie-hipster haven. Jimmy’s not only hosts small local bands, it also hosts open mic nights for bidding artists and spoken word poetry events. The stage can be found downstairs, in a dimly lit, maroon coloured room that looks like a setting from Twin Peaks. I think the facilities cater more to acoustic artists to capture the soul of the music, but great vibes guaranteed whatever the occasion may be.
Manchester Academy 2
The only way I can describe Academy 2 is a student union on steroids. The venue is one of three Academy venues that all neighbour each other and, whilst Oxford Road has copious musical establishments to visit, Academy 2 has a tendency to be overlooked in favour of its compatriots. As I walked into the performance area to watch the exquisite King Krule, I was blown away by the vast space tucked away up the stairs, like the Tardis but less sci-fi and more low-fi. I would especially recommend this venue to anyone interested in seeing a more orchestral or brass band performance, because the sound of a saxophone or violin filling the air is almost as tantalisingly as the scent of chips from across the street.
Title image: Soup Kitchen
Lower image: The Deaf Institute