Music and Manchester
21st February 2020
To properly understand Manchester’s love affair with music you need to delve into its history and identity. Manchester is home to ground-breaking discoveries, inventions and movements. From the industrial revolution and the first computer to the suffragette movement. And this city isn’t set to slow down.
There is a light that never goes out
Manchester has never been afraid to do things differently. In fact, it revels in it. The city invests time in beating to its own drum and has a rebellious soul at the heart of all things it put its mind to.
100 years ago, Manchester sent the industrial revolution into the world and became a beacon for a new era. The city was then hit hard by post-industrial times, falling a bit limp like a half risen cake. Manchester went inwards and hibernated for a few decades, but its music scene was still rumbling in the background. In the middle of its slumber, the Arndale bomb in the late 90s sparked government investment in the city. It was the trigger Manchester needed to switch its light back on, to look out and tell the world it was open for business. And it wasn’t long until Manchester started to make waves again, this time in the tech industry, becoming one of Europe’s leading digital hubs.
20 years on, Manchester is still going through warp speed change. Gleaming glass giants are now towering over the red bricks of old and with it, oodles of international investment is flooding into the Northern giant. This light-speed metamorphosis and shiny new Manchester has a lot of die-hard Mancunians worried about what it could be doing to its gritty and no holds barred music scene.
But it doesn’t seem to be affecting the outpouring of music this city is so accustomed to. In 2016, Manchester was crowned the best city for live music in the UK and has been topping similar lists ever since. In fact, the city has the most live music per head even compared to London, with 87 gigs per 1,000 people every year, and that figure is set to grow. The city also has an array of venues and festivals for its stellar acts. Manchester Arena, 02 Apollo and the Academy tend to attract world-famous stars, where more independent venues such as the Soup Kitchen, Night & Day, Gorilla, Matt & Phreds, The Deaf Insitute and Band on the Wall will remain the places where upcoming and emerging acts go to play.
Then there are its pubs of old. In Manchester, it’s totally normal to go past any pub and hear quality live music streaming out of its swinging doors, or to stumble on a free event with a class act playing while you sip on your pint. And Manchester’s underground scene is still as strong as ever.
You’re twisting my melon
Manchester’s love for messing with the status quo is intrinsically linked to its rich music heritage. The city has given the world reams of talent including Oasis, Joy Division, The Smiths, Elbow, Happy Mondays and the Courteeners, to name just a few.
Manchester has long been celebrated as one of the homes for indie music in the UK but it is also most famously the birthplace of Madchester. In the heyday of the Hacienda, Manchester became one of the global centres for dance and electronic music. What Madchester did differently was that it blended alternative rock with acid house, streaming out its own blend of electric.
And this need to shake things up didn’t stop in the 90s. More recently, Manchester yet again became the centre for a growing music genre, this time for neo soul and hip-hop blends. Children of Zeus are the embodiment of the blossoming music scene, and bands such as Layfullstop and The Mouse Outfit are adding their mark to the growing movement. Even the more traditional Mancunian indie rock scene has been upcycled, with the likes of Shotty Horroh using Oasis as a big influence in his rap album ‘Salt of the Earth’.
In the end, Manchester might be changing, but its music scene will always burn bright because it’s deeply ingrained into its DNA. And as the city’s skyline changes and its new buildings try to touch the sky, its music scene will keep Mancunians connected to the city’s roots while also pumping new and exciting music on to its revolutionary streets.
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