Freshers, take note, for I am about to impart unto you some of the most useful tips for the start of your new lives in Manchester. Picture Oxford Road as a mighty river – stick with it, it will soon make sense. It flows chaotically past the University of Manchester, Manchester Metropolitan, multiple halls of residence, and then morphs into Wilmslow Road, before spluttering into the student ghettoes of Fallowfield and beyond. Many buses filled with whey-protein-pumped morons line the banks of this river; advertising nights out in the whirlpools that are The Bop and 5th Avenue, whirlpools that will drain both your wallet and your soul. But young freshers, there are many smaller, cooler, less frequented tributaries and streams. Streams that are waiting to be sailed down, and yes, this guide will be your metaphorical canoe, paddle and GPS app, all in one. I told you the metaphor would be good.
Now imagine your first night out in Manchester. This might even be your first night-out in a place that’s not your home town. You can head to the Printworks to find out for yourself that it is rubbish, or you can determine that the Printworks is rubbish without going there, in order to save time. Instead, while it may be turning into a yuppie paradise, The Northern Quarter still remains the focal point for most of the best nights you’ll find this side of the Pennines. Just five minutes walk from Piccadilly Gardens, the Northern Quarter is filled with bars and clubs offering quality live music and even at the club nights the music remains a cut above the rest. For fans of live music, The Roadhouse, The Ruby Lounge, Matt & Phreds (groovy jazz bar), Moho Live, Soup Kitchen, Gullivers, and the Night & Day café all offer an antidote to the DJ’s who are paid to do nothing more than press play on the latest Carly Rae Jepsen track. While Revolver, a successful 60s club night which takes over The Roadhouse every Monday, deserves at least one visit during your first year.
The Castle Hotel, Oldham Street, offers the best of both worlds: the cramped and bustling atmosphere of a local pub (they sell an ale called ‘Old Tom’ which is so strong they can only sell it in half pints!) as well as an intimate venue that often hosts great local musicians. Meanwhile, sitting on the fringe of the Northern Quarter, Band on the Wall puts on some fantastic live bands, as well as regularly hosting the tea-loving, Manchester resident and music pioneer, Mr. Scruff; and Craig Charles’ ever-popular ‘Funk and Soul Club’ night – which will be in Manchester on September 28th.
Moving away from the city centre, with an atmosphere that manages to find a balance between the horrific mass of Barbour jacket-clad students called Bippy and Spliffy on the one hand, and the strangely appealing feel of an ever so slightly mangy student pub on the other; The Ram manages, despite its Fallowfield location, to be an enjoyable place to visit. Used by many as a watering hole before a larger night out, The Ram & Shackle is bedecked with granny décor, namely crumbling chairs and peeling wallpaper. A question of taste for sure, but it certainly provides first week icebreakers such as “Isn’t this chair mad?” Yes, I’ve had some slow nights there. But the best thing about this pub is that it offers bands that are free to see. Although the quality does suffer somewhat/entirely, it provides students with the perfect night of sitting on a manky chair whilst delivering a vitriolic critique of an out of tune student band from afar.
“But I don’t want to go where all the other students go!” I hear you cry. Well here’s a tip: The Islington Mill, actually located in Salford, but only a 10-minute walk from the city centre, offers exhibitions, film showings, galleries and great bands. The staff are friendly and one never gets the sense that this is a moneymaking enterprise. I saw the brilliant band ‘F**** Up’ here, a hardcore punk band who got the moshing crowd to chant “safety first!” after a crowd surfer almost broke through an electrical pipe. Albeit a tad out of the way, it is definitely a lesser-known highlight.
A club that will be hard to avoid will be The Deaf Institute; a fantastic venue that was indeed a former institute for the deaf. Cool café in the daytime, hip club when the sun goes down. I guess the only negative point that one could draw upon is that it can get busy, really busy, especially on established events like hip-hop night Gold Teeth. What I can also recommend is to sit upon the raised seating in the main dance floor, a perfect spot to observe from above the wonderful and sometimes tragic dance of the students.
So there you have it, my top tips for some great nights out in Manchester. You’ve never had it so easy. I do sincerely hope that as many of you will avoid the multitude of ‘whirlpools’ that this city has to offer. But hang on: I don’t want all you freshers to spoil my evenings! Just don’t go when I do. I’m the guy scowling behind a pint glass.
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