Let music live forever: best independent music venues in Manchester
Mancunians, the proud creators of the worker bee, have birthed just a couple musical geniuses in their time. You know, Oasis, The Smiths, The Stone Roses… And who can forget Gazza Barlow?
No biggie an’ all. In a city that’s full of musical heritage, it only seems fitting to pay homage to the stages that the likes of baby-faced Liam and Noel (whilst friends) would have graced in years gone by. And in the UK’s soon to be second biggest city, it’s quite easy to tentatively venture to the most mainstream sites, and accidentally skip out some of the city’s hidden gems. And you wouldn’t want to do that. So, with that, here’s your pick of the best independent music venues in Manchester:
The Albert Hall
No, not the London one. We said independent for a reason. And I bet it’s not often you have a bev and a dance in a church. Indie indeed- as I said. Ethereal and celestial (two rather impressive adjectives in one go, thank you) this Grade II-listed former Wesleyan Chapel was literally hidden in the concrete jungle of Manchester for 40 years, until venue team Trof decided to resurrect (Jesus joke) the chapel in 2013. This time around, it’s slightly less holy. A critically-acclaimed music hall, everyone from the likes of Laura Marling to Sam Smith has got their sing on to a bunch of drunkards in this chapel. And Mancunian cocktail and food favourite, Albert’s Schloss, is now open beneath the former church, satiating showgoers’ food and drink needs.
Equally harking back to previous decades, this quirky music venue is literally shaped like a WWII bunker, burrowed away underneath the railway arches on Whitworth Street West. A tunnel-like space that sounds like a claustrophobia sufferer's worst nightmare, the stage and club offers an all-embracing programme of gig and club nights that’s definitely hard to miss, even if you don’t like enclosed spaces. Also run by the team at Trof, they know how to keep the customers happy: just as with the Albert Hall, Gorilla provides its own bar and kitchen. Serving up Insta-ready brunches, alongside an extensive gin parlour, it’s maybe a tad easy to see why Gorilla scooped the gong for CityLife Live Music Venue of the Year.
The Deaf Institute
It seems Manchester has a habit of renovating slightly unusual places into music venues- and The Deaf Institute is no exception. If the name hasn’t given the game away, this building was built in 1878 as an actual institute for deaf adults, before standing derelict for a good few years. But low and behold, here popped along our favourites, Trof, and they renovated the venue in 2008- it now holds a prime position on the Mancunian gig circuit. Located a stone’s throw from Manchester Metropolitan University’s campus, it’s a definite regular with students looking for some decent live music. And, for fear of being a one-trick pony, Trof has worked their magic and yet again ensured that music isn’t The Deaf Institute’s only forte. Clamber up the steps to the first floor, and you’ll find yourself in the ballroom, hosting live gigs, comedy and club nights. The rest of the three-storey building treats you to three bars, a kitchen and a roof terrace.
Practically a homage to Mancunian talent, this temporary concert space has billed massive home bird acts such as Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds, Johnny Marr and The Charlatans. As a waterside terrace, it’s a rather beaut venue.
Band on the Wall
If you want a venue with musical history, and not just a history that consists of religion or deaf people, then Band on the Wall is your venue. A music venue since the 1930’s, it’s stooped in Mancunian history. Central to the Mancunian punk scene of the late 1970’s, it played host to the early performances of iconic bands such as The Fall, The Buzzcocks and Joy Division. 2009 saw the start of a new era for the venue, after a £4m, five-year refurbishment. Flash forward to 2017, and it remains a hugely prestigious venue, showcasing all kinds of music. Ever felt the need to visit a jazz club after LaLa Land came into our lives? Me too. Regular jazz nights at Band on the Wall should satiate your needs. Add to the mix showcases of world music, giving a stage to up-and-coming local talent, and cult club nights such as Craig Charles’ Funk and Soul Club, and you’ve got maybe a few reasons to head down to this place.
If the edgy-sounding name doesn’t give anything away, and if the Northern Quarter address doesn’t give you an idea of this venue, then the instant indie, just-about-music vibes of this place make it pretty clear what the Soup Kitchen is all about. Don your fishnet tights and checked shirt, because you’re going to need some edge to you to fit in here. The multi-purpose canteen, bar and club has it all goin’ on. The basement gig space comprises of an eclectic mixtape of bands, solo musicians, DJs and producers, both local and international, gigging away every evening. The ground floor kitchen and bar also doubles up as a mini-venue, hosting regular DJ sets. Don’t for a second admit you know anything that’s in the charts in this place.
If you’re a fan of The Stone Roses, try not to sob with happiness and nostalgia at this vital information. Sound Control used to be an instrument repairs shop and is instrumental (literally) to The Stone Roses’ success. Reni joined the band after reading an advert the rest of the band had placed in the music shop’s window. How adorbs. Since 2010, the newly-renovated music venue has been a firm favourite with Mancunians alike. With a 500-capacity basement club, a 450-capacity live music room and a more intimate bar area, your evening is sorted.
Night and Day
Home to the up-and-coming music scene, this tiny Northern Quarter music venue has let some very unassuming characters grace the stage, that have then gone on to become absolute legends in their own right. Arctic Monkeys, Elbow, Johnny Marr and Mumford and Sons all played here since it opened in 1991. Bet you’re annoyed you weren’t keeping up with Alex Turner in his MySpace days and instead had to pay £200 to see Arctic Monkeys at Reading in a crowd of sweaty people once the world realised who this band was.
The King’s Arms
A pub with a twist, this venue is owned by The Beautiful South and The Housemartins musician Paul Heaton. Don’t be fooled by the bar, as there is a whole lot more to the King’s Arms than first meets the eye. There’s a theatre, artists’ studios and a stage to give local Mancunians the chance to perform. Eclectic, we know.
It’s not every day you get to see James Bay dressed as a dead Spice Girl performing onstage. But at the Victoria Warehouse, you get to see all this and more. Last year, James Bay joined Years & Years at a Halloween scare-fest in this venue and the Warehouse is, of course, also home to the Warehouse Project, alongside food and drink festivals and live club nights.
Oh Manchester, you offer a lot.