Manchester, UK was dubbed Mad-chester in the 1990’s at the peak of the indie and rave scene that was encapsulated by a particular haircut, baggy trousers and the Hacienda club. Although Manchester is still in touch with that legacy and such haircuts can still be spotted, it actually offers a lot more variety of live music. White boy bands, sometimes with a female lead singer may still be prevalent statistically but there is so much more going on too for the more experimentally minded music listeners and gig- goers looking for creative music and independent music that may be a bit different.
Experimental, independent and creative music can be found in the more elite venues as well as the smaller under the radar spots. High class venues such as Bridgewater Hall and Lowry Theatre host all sorts of contemporary classical and independent pop acts. And it does not always have to cost an arm and a leg. The Bridgwater Hall have free lunchtime concerts in their foyer which still has better acoustics than many venues in the city. And at RNCM (Royal Northern College of Music) you can often find a free concert by students experimenting beyond their more traditional repertoire.
Of course the Apollo has some great bands and artists stopping by on their national tours such as the experimental and popular female solo artist Bjork, and Bristolian trip-hop bands Massive Attack and Portishead. And even at the Opera House Antony and the Johnson’s have played while female solo artist Joanna Newsom delivered a sublime performance at the Palace Theatre. The newly refurbished Band on the Wall provides gigs in Manchester playing host to many more international acts too such as Fela Kuti and Kid Creole and the Coconuts while also being home to a regular monthly night by local Mancunian wonky funk maestro Mr Scruff. With it’s brand new sound system and lush new grand piano, the sound quality feels fresh and new too.
More modest venues include the sadly now closing Green Room which has been a hub of experimental theatre, creative music and spoken word for over 20 years in the city. Apart from that we have Kraak Gallery and the Coffee Pot putting on interesting events, performances and gigs in Manchester’s Northern Quarter. And Fuel Bar and Cafe in Withington often has local talents making independent music as well as touring independent acts. The monthly improvisation night called “The Noise Upstairs” is experimental music in action with an open mic approach to musical improvisational performance by some of those present. Night and Day cafe, more renown for gigs in Manchester, sometimes have a more experimental band or artist passing through too.
Like any large city, there are many gems to be discovered by just exploring and asking people for recommendations when you are in town. I hope some of these suggestions may be of use.