Manchester sets the bar very high.
About three months ago I went to Manchester for a week. It was the only place where live music was starting to be played regularly coming out of lockdown. There were a couple of places in Europe that were starting to buzz but in the UK, Manchester was the only place.I hadn’t been to Manchester before despite it being the home of some of my biggest influences. The Smiths , Joy Division, The Stone Roses, New Order etc . That whole era is still of huge fascination and inspiration to me. As normal for a new city I just booked a central hotel room and spent 7 days playing the open mics. These nights are always a great litmus test for the health of city musically, especially for singer songwriter. When I was in a band inbetween gigs you didn’t really have this way of keeping warm as a performer and playing almost everynight for a week in a new fresh city is about as close as you’ll get to being on tour without any of the hassle. And you almost get to play to as many different people. Furthermore it sets a great foundation for getting more substantial gigs. By the third visit to a city you should have built a small following and should be able to get paid gigs. The quality of live performance in Manchester was very high. There were always one or two acts that just blew it out the park. The stand out performance of the week for me was a folk Tim Buckley style singer songwriter called Jon Coley , well worth checking out . He had everyone spellbound with pure soul , no trickery. Personally I hadn’t played live for a long time but I felt at home immediately. The crowd is very welcoming of new faces and non Mancunians and they are obvious music lovers. It was a great play to air new material , they get it.
Not having been in this type of maelstrom since the pandemic I was definitely much more aware of how much I drank in times past. Playing four five times a week, it mounts up. By the end of this week my body was in a state of disgust towards alcohol , literally saying to me ‘Why oh why are you drinking this poison?’ . That level of revulsion has never happened to me before . The fact that i was there as an outsider and at times didn‘t have the normal social group as a distraction and reward system maybe brought this into higher clarity. Other stand out things in Manchester is just how revered music is . Here you have real status as a musician. It is definitely a musicians city. It reminded me a little like some places in Ireland. You can understand why this eco system in the 70’s and 80’s didn’t need London to carve it own way. A lot of it was started in the 60’s and it just followed and burgeoned with its natural momentum. The scale and weight of the Victorian architecture reflects this tradition of self assuredness and independent spirit. Flanked to the left by Liverpool and Sheffield to the right within easy reach can‘t hurt either. Near enough to be of help to each other but far enough to have obvious distinct cultural identities. Anyway a must visit and see for singer songwriters. Especially now with all the added cost of foreign travel. I would list all the nights to play but I can’t be arsed. Its easy to research and half the fun.