The Night & Day Café, like so many Manchester venues, is trading on the city’s rich heritage
Recently, the men’s—but definitely not lad’s—publication Shortlist decided to feature Manchester. Taking a rare look north of Watford, they described how Manchester was the best place in the UK to be a man. Apparently up here in the North, “Tinder swipers on a budget can enjoy £3 (on average) pints,” making it perfect for the male looking to mate.
Putting the most obviously problematic aspects of this to one side, I had another bone to pick with Shortlist. They featured the Night & Day Café as one of Manchester’s cultural highlights.
“Later, I’ll witness a gang of middle-aged dudes turn out some Stone Roses-esque tunes in the Northern Quarter’s Night & Day Café, for the princely sum of £3 a head,” wrote Londoner Sam Rowe. Rowe’s assessment paints an ugly picture of culture in the North, but it’s one that is frighteningly true of so much of Manchester’s cultural pride. It is also one embodied to some extent by a venue like the Night & Day.
It could be argued perhaps that this is unfair. It is still an establishment that champions new music, putting on weekly local showcases for new bands on the rise. That said, the last time I visited a local showcase, having paid more than £3 for a drink, I was treated to a band of men in masks and robes, playing AC/DC-esque rock. Not the Stone Roses—in fact far from it—but also not the cutting edge of new music. While the show was entertaining, there was a sense that the venue was trading on its heritage.
The sound wasn’t great; the stage was poorly-lit and the majority of the crowd were there for a drink and seemed inconvenienced by the band playing.
This problem isn’t confined to new-music nights. A trip back there to review 1960s-influenced mod band The Moons, was met with the same problems, albeit with a bigger crowd of fans. The sound was too poor to make out individual instruments, and the darkly-lit stage felt tucked away in the corner.
Again, the points that I’m making may be slightly unfair, given that they can be, and have been, levelled at many of the venues in Manchester by young music fans. Similarly, the Night & Day Café has had to throw off noise complaints from neighbours perturbed by the notion that a 25-year-old music venue might continue to make noise regardless of them living nearby. That said, a sense that the city somewhat trades on its heritage isn’t uncommon, but for many the Night & Day Café most obviously embodies this.
Mythological rememberings of when Arctic Monkeys sold the place out, coupled with Johnny Marr shooting a music video there, all combine to create a strong sense of nostalgia. That is not necessarily a bad thing, but it’s certainly not what you would expect from a venue known for being a go-to venue for the next big thing.
Upcoming gigs from The Hoosiers and The Ordinary Boys point towards a venue that will outlast most. What they don’t point towards, though, is a venue still massaging the pulsating heart of Manchester’s new music scene.