Despite being probably the city centre’s most bohemian area, there was a notable dearth of great live venues in the Northern Quarter until recently, with the likes of the Night and Day and Dry Bar standing as rusting relics from a bygone era, hosting fewer and fewer exciting bands as years went by. Soup Kitchen is one of a number of NQ spots aiming to change this, and its basement space has been graced by Japandroids, Kindness and Post War Years so far this year, with performances from Egyptian Hip Hop, Errors and Iceage in the pipeline.
Located close to Chapel Street, a road which effectively draws a border between Manchester and Salford, Islington Mill – an actual former cotton spinning mill – has become one of the city’s premier art spaces, comprising a number of art studios and a club space, opened in 2005. Since then, the venue has hosted an impressive array of up and coming artists from around the world, including Beach House, Fucked Up and Wu Lyf, as well as regular events as obscure as theatre gym, life drawing and yoga sessions.
Matt & Phred’s
There aren’t many images, musically speaking, that conjure up quite the same level of romance and nostalgia as that of the smoky backstreet jazz club, and whilst the government might have put paid to one of those adjectives, the others live on at Matt & Phred’s. Boasting a consistently stellar weekly lineup of jazz, blues and soul, Matt and Phred’s serves as the beating heart of Manchester’s thriving jazz community, as evidenced by its central role during the city’s annual jazz festival each July.
Opened in 2007, the Deaf Institute is one of a number of bars run by the good folks at Trof, and has steadily built a reputation as Manchester’s best small venue. Occupying an actual former institute for the deaf and dumb, Deaf comprises two stages; a smaller basement for more intimate performances, and the main music hall upstairs, complete with delightfully strange decor and a giant disco ball. The raised stage and seating area give it a clear advantage over most of its contemporaries, as do the wonderful burgers and cocktails available in the cafe bar. Deaf’s gig calendar is dominated by up-and-coming indie, many under the banner of the city’s finest promoters, Now Wave, who have put on shows from The xx, Best Coast and SBTRKT here in the past. There’s an abundance of club nights, too, with Gold Teeth, Up the Racket and Juicy all hosting packed events on a regular basis – the latter’s monthly hip hop specials are already a matter of local legend.
First opened in 1995 and seen as an ‘antidote’ to the superclub culture surrounding the Hacienda, South was a concerted effort to bring Manchester’s club scene into more intimate and less threatening environments following the gang-related downfall of the legendary Factory nightspot. Reopening in early 2011 after a major refurbishment, South has a number of established nights, from the indie rock focus of Remake Remodel and Clint Boon’s Saturday Night to house/techno night Basement Sessions. The venue also plays host to the ever-more-popular Murkage night, featuring a signature blend of dubstep and hip hop.
Tucked away off Oxford Road on the corner of Charles and Princess Street, Joshua Brooks is a pub by day, with a nicely balanced selection of real ales and foreign beers on tap and by bottle. By night, the basement becomes one of the most popular club spaces in Manchester, most notably playing weekly host to the packed Juicy hip hop night every Wednesday, as well as Tuesday night’s pop-rock based Moustache parties. The space also hosts live music on occasion, fucntioning perfectly as an intimate venue.