Dave Haslam has been part of the Manchester music scene for more than 25 years. Famous for DJing over 450 times at the legendary Hacienda during its heyday, he’s also the author of a book on Manchester’s radical and musical history, Manchester, England: The Story of the Pop Cult City. We quizzed him about the best Manchester music venues and the city’s thriving club scene.
Nowadays, Manchester has more venues, especially for live music. They’re better run, with better DJs and there are a lot more bands than at the end of the eighties. You’re never more than half a mile away from something interesting happening. It could just be in a little bar, such as Fuel in Withington. Their upstairs room holds just 50 people but that doesn’t stop them from putting on great things: live music, poetry or spoken word events.
How would you describe Manchester’s personality?
Manchester’s the sort of city where people feel empowered and encouraged to do stuff. It’s got a “˜can do’ attitude – whether that’s starting a club night, a magazine, or opening a new venue. It’s a supportive and enthusiastic city for all sorts of cultural activities.
If you could sum up Manchester with one record, what would it be?
There is a Light that Never Goes Out by the Smiths. It’s a great record. It’s quirky, and although the Smiths were a very Mancunian band, they have fans all over the world. It couldn’t have been made anywhere but Manchester, but makes sense everywhere.
What about new music? Who do you rate? And how do you find music?
Right now, I think the best band around is Everything Everything. They’re a great live band. In the old days, I would spend 3 or 4 hours a week in a record shop. Now I spend the same amount of time per day online just following my instincts, visiting favourite websites, producers or record labels.
What’s your insider tip for a great Manchester night out?
Smaller venues tend to have more life and energy to them than bigger venues; you feel part of a scene, a sense of community. Band on the Wall has that feeling, and I’d also recommend Gorilla. It’s a great, well run venue with a nice bar and a good strong sound system in the back room.
How about outside of the city centre?
I’d recommend venturing to suburbs such as West Didsbury or Chorlton for a flavour of neighbourhood Manchester. They both have some great independently owned bars and businesses. You might end up wanting to move there! I like Folk on Burton Road. You can start the morning with a coffee, have a nice lunch, then treat yourself to a couple of beers and before you know where you are, it’ll be 9 o clock and the DJ has turned up with a box of vinyl. For food, I’d recommend The Rose Garden, also on Burton Road. It’s a great neighbourhood restaurant, with a really high standard of food.
Written by Ruth Rosselson
Where do you go to catch great live music in Manchester? Tell us your favourite venues below.