Monday, 31 August 2015

Prospective Mondays

If you're anything like me, you've just woken up and are trying to piece together your bank holiday Sunday night out. Unlike me, you can't remember because you're hammered. I was sober and I'm still having to look through pictures and whatever I jotted on MS Onenote on the Lumia.

New Northern Quarter bar Pen and Pencil has opened on Hilton St. Great little arts-and-crafts-themed joint playing chilled house. Well worth a look. We had one in here and then moved on to nearby Kosmonaut, which translates as “Russian astronaut”. The small bar has what I guess is a Soviet theme- leather seats like those on old buses, painted and bare brickwork, white tiles. It's one of the few places in the city still playing house music. Although visually it's not what I would have imagined I'd like, the atmosphere was great and the clientele were good people.

We then moved on to Lola Lo on Deansgate locks, which I don't mind, but I think is getting a bit samey. The fire alarm going off emptied it out at the end, and the rain killed the attendance to begin with. Top night with the lads though. More of those to come thanks to meeting them through Meetup.

And on the subject of Meetup, what happens this week? Fancy a free Brazilian dance lesson in the city? Check out International Party People. Stand-up comedy for the self-confessed Socially Awkward? Or perhaps you want to join Manchester Social Group to go to the Spanish festival Festejar

If you like a rummage, how about a car boot sale in Middleton? They're always good for cheap books etc.

I'll be joining Creative Party People on Friday for drinks with filmmakers, graphic designers and writers. If you're a creative type, come join us on Friday at Dukes 92 in Castlefield. Creative talk, ideas, collaborations, but mostly getting pissed. Which is a good enough reason for anyone to meet up. Get involved!

Further events in the city are detailed on the Manchester Evening News' What's On guide, which is always worth a look. Let me know if there's more.

Sunday, 30 August 2015

A few dodgy claims to fame this week...

It seems I share a dislike of author Jonathan Franzen with another author, that of Belle De Jour, Dr Brooke Magnanti.

National DAB news station LBC discussed people getting motivational diet coaches on the NHS to combat obesity. I reminded the presenter, who I guess must have been Iain Dale, that bad diet kills more than smoking, car accidents and drugs, and that what we're currently doing isn't working.

I'm for some reason watching this year's Celebrity Big Brother on Channel 5. In the house is Natasha Hamilton of Atomic Kitten fame. I glass collected at Atomic Kitten's after party in Manchester's The Living Room in 2004. They were all a bit cliquey and didn't say much to the staff.

Also in the house is retired porn star Jenna Jameson. Back in 2011 Jenna tweeted that she was stuck on page 3 of mobile phone video game Angry Birds. I replied with “Not like you to be stuck on page 3. (Does anyone outside the UK get this joke?)” She seemed to get it.

So. Bank holiday Sunday. One more night out tonight- nothing solid planned but I will be out causing mayhem...

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Sweet Female Attitude @ Static

Remember Garage hit Flowers by Sweet Female Attitude?

Leanne Brown, a singer from the group, performed in Manchester House music club Static last Saturday. I set up a Meetup event and welcomed everyone along. We started in nearby bar Slug and Lettuce (nice, free WiFi) and the four of us went over to the club not long after.

It was a strangely quiet night considering it was a Saturday and it's a nice club with a good act on. Last time I went it was rammed, with a tough door policy. This time there were people in the queue who I'm sure would never have got in this time last year. No WiFi or even reception for texts once inside.

The music was superb: it was like a Sunday morning on Radio 1 back in 2000. Hours of back to back garage. A real nostalgia trip for aging clubbers like myself. More than a handful of these tracks appear in this mix.

Pictures from the night are on Static's Facebook album.

After 1am Leanne performed her set. Great entertainment. I always find it enjoyable to find people who were a part of my younger days in some way, and the garage hour in Ashton's Love Shack was the highlight of my nights out when I was 18. Sweet Female Attitude's hit Flowers was a staple track during those times.

The music did get a little heavy and obscure towards the end, but on the whole it was a brilliant event that deserved to be more popular than it was. This could be down to the music's target audience all being old and having babies, and hanging up their clubbing gear. Lightweights. Top night though.

Monday, 24 August 2015

Prospective Mondays

Opportunities await this week. Tapas on Deansgate on Wednesday and meet new friends? 

After Work Drinks out in Salford Quays on Thursday night if you're hard core?

If you're not, a smartphone quiz out in Altricham? 

These are just three events in three different meetup groups. There's plenty more. On Saturday you might find me in Epernay, a fancy cocktail bar near Great Northern Warehouse in Manchester. I've never been before but a friend is having a birthday night out there. Epernay is on a list of places I've been meaning to check out, a list I'll probably upload later.

Tweet me if you want your event here for free.

Sunday, 23 August 2015

Save Manchester TV and Media Production Meetup

If you work in TV, or you're trying to, you'd do well to check out this Meetup group. It's a group for people to meet, discuss careers, share advice and collaborate on projects. It's highly valuable for people trying to get into the competitive field of Media. There's just one problem: the organiser has left the group and a new one is required.

The Meetup admins sent me an automatic email with this warning:

Your Organizer, amadeus hellequin, just stepped down without nominating a replacement.
Without an Organizer, Manchester TV & Media Production Meet Up. will shut down on September 1, 2015.

Step up to become this Meetup Group's Organizer and you can guide its future direction!
Other members can help you. Ask them to suggest Meetups or even nominate a few to help as Assistant Organizers.”

In the discussion section Hannah Suckley has stated she's considering taking on the role and would be looking for people to assist. If you're interested, (or perhaps you want to compete for the position?) drop her a line.

Friday, 21 August 2015

Thoughts on 8 Mile

From the director of the highly suspenseful
50s crime drama, LA Confidential
a modern-day musical, revival of the genre,
A hip-hop tale with vitality and timbre
There's only 8 stories for any storyteller
Here, under the umbrella of “Cinderella”,
The lifetime dream finally come true
Recognition of unrecognised virtue
Overcoming obstacles apparent in their lives
Goodness triumphant after being despised
You might think that sounds like a film that I've seen
It was called “The Rap Rocky” by Empire magazine
As much as I'm a member of the Eminem fandom
And although I admire the works of Curtis Hanson
The 8 Mile movie that no doubt you've seen
It can't be denied was let down by routine
Sorry to the cast and crew, not gonna let 'em off,
but seriously, what was the point of Cheddar Bob?
And seriously, you were surprised by the cops
chasing you down after you'd fired the paintball shots
Splattering paint all over their car,
so you hide, leaving them wondering where the hell you are?

After beginning and middle, you know what must follow
The conclusion of the riddle landed just hollow
Rabbit feels his car plant days are through,
but the audience feels only de ja vu
Rabbit must progress himself to a higher mission
and to prove he's the best this requires nihilism
He knows that he has skill, there's nothing missing in his voice
He's broken through the rap scene of Michigan's Detroit
To win the contest of the slickest lyricist
He must show best there's no-oone as ill as this
He slags himself off in a selfless way
and takes away the argument, there's nothing left to say
It's the self-berating theme became so popular
Here are some films with that feel I've got for ya
Fight Club and Old School had the same vibe, oh,
The same can be said for American Psycho
His nihilistic style became a success
And Mekhi Phifer gave him the contest
But to get to his goal he must stay as the best
A broke-ass rapper on the cusp of greatness
So he turns down the opportunity to co-host
and chases his own goals that he's hoping for most
And there the film ends, Rabbit winning and mighty,
In a Michigan club in the middle of the nineties
He's hungry for fame, career on track
Aside from the fact he doesn't have a contract
So the film concludes with that one disparity
So I guess like in Rocky there's a similarity
in that when the titles roll and the film ends
he still hasn't achieved goals, received dividends.

My main critique and my attack on the story
is that basically all it is is “the rap Rocky”
As described by Empire and many other critics
Curtis Hanson held the fuse, and Eminem lit it
Although I enjoyed, a suggestion if I may
If the production had been made in an entirely different way
If the film had been made as a traditional musical
The press would have found it more critically reviewable
Finally I dedicate these video lyrics
To those involved who aren't around to hear it
My heartfelt condolences to the families collectively
of Brittany Murphy and Proof respectively.

Thursday, 20 August 2015

#tbt Swimming with Barclay James Harvest

Ever heard of Barclay James Harvest? The rock group were formed in my hometown of Oldham in the seventies. They apparently didn't make many waves in the UK but they were HUGE in Europe.

My dad has just told me this anecdote:

Back in the 80's I used to go to swimmer improver classes every Tuesday at Saddleworth Pool with (BJH guitarist) John Lees and his wife Alwin. We were all reasonably good swimmers- we just wanted to get better. We used to go to the pub and to Indian restaurants.

Another couple went on holiday with them to Germany. In Oldham nobody knows them, but when they go to Europe they'd be in the hypermarket and the other shoppers would be nudging each other, nodding in their direction.”

The Wikipedia page for BJH's album Gone to Earth (1977) details an interesting rumour about the track, “Poor Man's Moody Blues”. 

Poor Man's Moody Blues was written after a journalist angered the band by referring to Barclay James Harvest as a poor man's Moody Blues. Shortly after, guitarist John Lees wrote a song that reminded him of the Moody Blues song Nights in White Satin, and decided to use the journalist's phrase as the song title.”

What the page doesn't explain is that the critic had allegedly been working to a deadline and eventually admitted that he hadn't actually listened to the album. Can anyone confirm / deny?

Some years after the height of their fame, the group performed a coming-home concert in nearby town Holmfirth. My dad tells that the sound wasn't properly engineered. Allegedly, John was “thoroughly pissed off.”

In about 1992 Dad, being the legend he is, managed to get me the autographs of band members John Lees, Stuart “Wooly” Wolstenholme and Mel Pritchard. You can't see this from the scan but there's definite ink and pen indentation on the postcard. John is the only living member of the original group.

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

10 Things to Do Before I'm 34

Shit. Gettin' old. And still don't know what the fuck. Well. What should I do this year, I wonder...

  1. I STILL need to do something with this screenplay I've been sat on for a decade now.
  2. Get MORE confident. I'm so close to how I want to be. I'm not leaning back with this.
  3. Write something that helps people and that allows much more people to notice this blog. I've just hit 500K this week. Doubling my hits in the next 12 months is ambitious, but attainable with the right access to unique, engaging content.
  4. Cut down on social media.
  5. Travel. I may have found some people who are up for this.
  6. Learn shorthand.
  7. Get a new car. This clapped out Micra is killing my street cred.
  8. Have a relationship.
  9. Get my abs back.
  10. Get more of a grip on the memory issues that blight my life. I'm making huge steps with this through dealing with the NHS and doing research online, and of course going out and practicing what I'm learning. More improvements to come.

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Chocolate Fail

I tried to give up chocolate for a month. My plan was to only eat chocolate in the form of drinking chocolate, purely for insomnia-combating purposes. In its place: fruit and cereal bars. However, it's been July and August, and my birthday was at the end of July. There's been a lot of chocolate selection boxes and chocolate cake flying around, and some of it inadvertently ended up in my mouth, and subsequently my stomach. I failed hard. Having said that, I think I've still cut down. My mum came back from a few weeks holiday saying I looked “chunky”: she was obviously referring to the traps and pecs as I've made a few improvements at the gym and she's not the only one to have noticed.

So there.

Anyway. In the last month I've been trying to keep fit and beat PBs at the gym.

15th July – 15th August

Cable crunch with metal handle (weight 15) – 15 more reps to total
Cable crunch with rope handle (weight 15) – 10 more reps to total
Leg press – 2 more notches
Horizontal dumbbell fly- 1 weight up. First improvement made on this movement since January.

I'm going to try this project again. I'm going to have to wait until I've eaten everything that everyone gave me for my birthday first though. I'll try and space it out.

Monday, 17 August 2015

Prospective Mondays

It's gonna get a little bit adult in this post, so get ready.

Erotica festival Sexhibition comes to town Friday and lasts all weekend. It's this week's go-to place for “live music, DJ sets, burlesque, cabaret, and performance art”. You know it's your thing. Stop pretending. I honestly don't recognise many names of guests or organisations being a part of it, but maybe you're more of a pervert than I am and you do. Which is no bad thing. Contains everything from pole dancing classes to BDSM for beginners. Event tickets start from a fiver.

If you're into you're Sci-fi and Fantasy, maybe the Big Geek Quiz is your thing. Head down to movie-themed Bar 21 on Tuesday night, 8pm.

Manchester Social Group's organiser Ann Marie has a birthday on the horizon and you're invited! We're starting in The Botanist, Friday 8pm. Don't forget to RSVP through the Meetup page.

I have something special for you Saturday night. Remember Flowers, by Sweet Female Attitude?

The group are playing in Static this Saturday. The Groovebox event looks like it's going to be a sellout. If you fancy joining me, I've put an event up on Manchester Social Group here. There are still a few tickets available here-  get on it! Smart attire people!

Tweet me if you want your event here- it's free!

Thursday, 13 August 2015

A Year Ago I Set Some Plans.

I set myself a deadline of a year to get through these ten things

  1. I have successfully stopped saying “well, yeah”.
  2. I haven't done much with my feature screenplay. I have sped up my typing, though, which was what I wanted to do to make dabbling with the script a lot easier.
  3. In the last year, I have traveled a little. I've been to Newcastle and Albufeira, but you need people to travel with and everyone's broke. So it's a start.
  4. I've done a ton of work on my stomach, cutting out fatty food, boxing, gym, extra cardio... I can tell I'm certainly fitter as I can get through the cardiotone class without gassing, and my chest is a lot wider than it was, but the abs still aren't showing. Cutting out chocolate is going to work though.
  5. I've written a few things that I think might be helping people, mostly to do with the Meetup  site. I'm trying to encourage people to get out and meet new friends and stay social, something that's vital to a healthy mind. More to the point, it's fun.
  6. I'm still not famous, and neither is my writing. Another 6 months. Just watch.
  7. I've made a bit of confidence progress here and there. Getting somewhere. More work to be done though.
  8. I tried to cut down on social media, as a few people have advised me to. It's backfired, though, and I'm using it more. But at least Meetup is for getting involved with groups in person, rather than for staring at a feed of people you haven't seen in years, and desperately trying to impress them.
  9. It occurs to me a year later that 9 is the same as 7.
  10. I've not done too bad with sleeping, after using the advice from the sleep wellbeing course. See here and here.

Further plans to follow.

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

35 Greater Manchester Places I Refuse to Go to

I like my Manchester nightlife, as you've probably noticed unless this is your first visit to the site. I've written a lot about the places to which I give my seal of approval. But what about the places I won't go to? And why won't I go there? And more to the point, if we have the same taste, which places should you avoid like chlamydia?

1) Yorkshire St

The whole of Oldham's bar strip can do one. I haven't been in years. The place is populated by crazed neo-nazi sociopaths, stalkers, weirdos and people who clearly haven't set foot out of their own borough since last August's trip to Benedorm. Thankfully the bar strip has been dying a death since the Panorama documentary aired in '09, exposing the town's horrendous problems with alcohol and violence.

2) Walkabout

Every branch of this Australasian franchise is the same- dodgy mainstream spirits, overpriced, sticky floors, tacky décor, shite pop music that should have been kept in landfill since 2007, gold-chain-wearing roid-heads desperate to prove themselves and women who think they're Christina Aguliera (but more resemble The Fat Slags from the Viz comic). Manchester's Quay St branch may be larger than most, but it's no exception.

3) Jilly's Rockworld

Me and rock music do not mix. I like some of the songs, but the venue as a whole is as far from “my thing” as you can get.

4) 5th Avenue

Similar to the above only on a smaller scale- indie music leaves me cold. Bland clientele with minimal female talent. Floor like a swamp.

5) 42nd Street

Another indie venue of similar appearance and sound. In fact, in about 2007 I went to meet some people in 5th Ave but forgot where it was and strayed into 42nd without even thinking. It was only when I saw the 42nd emblems on the walls that the penny dropped and I realised I had to trek across town to meet my mates in an equally depressing hellhole.

6) Revolucion De Cuba

I went here on the opening night and received more than my fill of Daddy Yankee, Pitbull and J-Lo. Slow bar service. It's drinks menu is mostly rum-based, so as a whisky drinker I wasn't bowled over. Yawn. Crowded, slow service. Also, I got stalked by some twins who go here a lot.

7) Stalyvegas

The bar centre of Stalybridge used to be decent when nightclub Rififi was open and playing house and dance music. After a while it slipped into the realm of mainstream, and with it came the roided up 18-year-olds desparate to prove themselves, which resulted in the original clientele sacking it off and shelling out for Manchester instead. The club died a death and surrounding bars soon followed suit.

8) Mojo

Small cramped indie venue out near Quay Street. Sorry, but when Spinningfields' The Avenue is right next door, there's really no reason for me to have a “down and dirty” night.

9) Walrus
Not an easy one to explain- it's not badly designed, quite smart, has a decent clientele with a handful of good looking women- even the music's pretty good with 00's era RnB and a bit of house thrown in. But it's also very cramped, and the Yellow Submarine theme of the design is a bit too gimmicky for repeated visits.

10) Venus

The amount of times I've had problems with this Blackfriars Rd venue is ridiculous. Their nights are “regulars only”, so you have to be turned down a few times before the doormen recognise you and give you a chance. It's like getting into Project Mayhem in Fight Club, only instead of a dilapidated building it's a swanky but soulless rectangular box playing house music. It's populated largely by stuck-up dolly birds and steroid abusers desperate to prove that they aren't just pretty boys (which is subjective to begin with). It's a shame because I have met a few decent people there, and the DJs are superb.

11) The Gay Village

Yes. The entirety of the Gay Village is off limits for me for a number of reasons.

First, the narrow streets are a perfect prowling ground for pickpockets, of which there are many in Manchester. Watch out for people trying to salsa dance with you- they're after your phones, and they are surprisingly good at it. Second, the music in the Village is dire, even by cheesy standards. It's another level. If Revolucion De Cuba is Wensleydale, AXM is pure Gorgonzola. It's off the chart horrendous. Third, straight guys like me get HOUNDED in the village. We get lots of unwanted attention, on a level that we don't get anywhere else, and it leaves me feeling like I've got to watch my back at every moment. Fourth, The Village includes Canal Street, an area of canal water. It's right next to a load of bars in which people get drunk. And people do drown in those canals. It's never been a good idea to have the two factors so close together, but in recent years this has been a particular hazard- a number of bodies were pulled out of the canals in Manchester Centre. Canal Street has been a popular drinking area for decades, but these deaths have only occurred in recent years. Fifth- many suspect the deceased- all men- were murdered. I believe it's possible.

12) Vina Karaoke

This Portland Street dive is largely full of drunk people who think they can sing, but cannot. You'll be waiting a long time if you want to join the karaoke queue- at least an hour on a Saturday night. Crowded and plain (aside from the fluorescent seats that change colour like a bad acid trip). Some drunk chav offered me a free bump of cocaine in the toilets. I politely declined.

13) Ashton-Under Lyne

I used to drink here every Thursday night back in 2000-2001. It was a weekly ritual in college, and I did it basically to fit in. The bars were dull and the music was shit, apart from an hour of garage and R'n'B in Loveshack (appropriately known as Shit Shack). The men outnumbered the women 2:1 and the females you came across were rarely good-looking (there was the odd exception, before my contacts there kick off). There were never enough taxis, even on a Thursday, so you ended up risking being punched by a chav in the cab queue outside the market.

14) Oxford Road

I used to live just off Oxford Rd in Manchester's student area. The stretch of the street caters to students who only want alcohol- no conversation, no particular style of music other than cheese, no range of visual style, just dull box-like rooms with a bar in it playing Two Princes and Chesney Hawkes numerous times a night. Enough to put you off going to uni and getting into debt in the first place.

15) Royton

A small town on the outskirts of Oldham, Royton caters to people who have a particular desire to either drive souped-up Golfs around town mouthing off at people, or to throw bottles at said drivers.

16) Chadderton

A very deprived area of Oldham with high racial tension and low cleanliness. If you really want a suicidal night, check out The Cartoon, a pub for teenagers with steroid rage (and the acne to match), who kick off with their own girlfriends and punch the fruit machines.

17) Saddleworth

Scenic with plenty of greenery, if you like that kind of thing, but it still has its fair share of knobheads. Uppermill can frequently be rough. Miles from anywhere metropolitan. A nightmare to get in and out of when it snows. Some of the smaller villages like Delph and Dobcross are impossible to find without a satnav. Like the Gay Village, Uppermill has a load of drinking establishments right next to an un-cordoned canal. (It's never the wisest idea, but side issue: why don't people fall into the canals in Saddleworth? Why only the Gay Village?)

18) Thaikun

This clunky-looking Spinningfields-located Thai restaurant serves unimpressive food on rough, uncomfortable seating.

19) Rochdale

If stripy-jumpered hooligans swilling Stella while trying it on with women wearing 7 pairs of earrings is your thing, look no further. One horrific but admittedly unsurprising incident in Rochdale's nightlife history was when Lee Anthony Bradley purposefully drove a stolen car straight into one of the bars.

20) The Moon Under The Water

The biggest pub in Manchester is also one of the chavviest. Terribly-dressed clientele, shit pop music, dull drinks and... well, it's a Wetherspoons. They're all the same.

21) Hula

Tikki “dive bar” in the Northern Quarter. The name says it all- it's a dive. Built like a shack, cramped, adourned with thousands of photographs like the home of a crazed detective trying to solve too many mysteries at once. I'm not a rum fan, so the drinks I don't find particularly exciting.

22) Liars Club

Another Tikki bar on Back Bridge Street off Deansgate. As far as I'm concerned it's indistinguishable from the above.

23) The Ritz

I used to like the Wednesday Love Train nights back in my student days, but that now the club has been “refurbished” at the cost of £2 million the 70's-themed disco-fest has been cut from the roster. The club looks no different after the apparent makeover. I went more recently on a Saturday. Music was too heavy. I like my house music, but it was all a bit tech-y for my tastes. Also, the male-to-female ratio included no fit women in the noticeably cock-heavy crowd.

24) Wave Bar

It occurs to me writing this that the whole of Portland Street needs a makeover. Or maybe not- the people I've met there have usually been trouble, and the bars are a dump anyway. Keep them there.

25) Rogue bar

Next door to Wave. Similar clientele, worse décor.

26) Baby Blue

I'm not in the habit of frequenting lap dancing clubs, but the one time I went to this one was when EVERYWHERE was dead on a Friday night about 4 years ago. Rough venue, average-looking dancers, mostly drunk and coked up girls who can't dance and would still be overpriced even if it smartened up.

27) Waxy O'Connor's

I tend to stay away from the Printworks as a general rule of thumb, but this particular Irish bar's wooden décor and cramped multi-storey layout makes me feel like a hobbit that never left the shire.

28) Lock 91

Cramped, low-roofed public house opposite Deansgate Locks. Just felt very claustrophobic to me. But, I was there for a very busy event.

29) Temple Bar

Although this is an Oxford Rd bar, I felt it necessary to list this separate to number 14) as the majority of the street caters for students, but not this bar. Close to the St Peter's Square where the road changes its name to Peter St, The Temple is a bar that was converted from public toilets some years ago. Great if you like cramped awkward settings, no fire exits, leather-clad sweaty bikers and women that could easily beat you up.

30) The Ducie

Very old and run-down pub out near the CIS buildings beyond the Northern Quarter. I only ever went there because some strange guy I was mates with liked to go to get hammered and perform terrible karaoke. You still see the roughest clientele in the city sat on the benches outside on a Saturday evening, arguing about which tracksuit is best to go out in or how to score crack the cheapest. Or whatever.

31) Satan's Hollow

Rock venue on Princess St. Could have sworn I went here when I was 18 and hated it, but that was 15 years ago. I'm looking through the pictures right now. I don't recognise it, but I'm sure as shit not going.

32) Bella Italia

There's a branch of this chain Italian restaurant in Piccadilly Gardens. I went twice in around 2000 / 2001: the first time 2 of us got food poisoning, the second time the girl who did the first time ordered what I'm sure was the same dish and got food poisoning again.

33) Corbieres

Described as a “wine cavern” on Google, this hidden-away watering hole is designed to look like it's carved out of a giant rock on Half Moon St near the Royal Exchange. A concave-roofed affair blasting indie music on a juke box, the claustrophobic bar- not unlike the cantina from Star Wars, but without the puppets- has astoundingly-good reviews on Google. By people who like that kind of thing.

34) Crazy Pedros
Another dive bar that looks as if it'll fall down next week. Not far from Liars and Mojo, if you want a suicidal night out.

35) The Ruby Lounge

Rock venue in the Northern Quarter. I had a mate in a punk band who was “singing” there. I felt very out of place. Shame, because its former incarnation- Ohm- was a cool house music club. (But then, there were a handful of arseholes then too.)

So if you're a person after my own heart, male or female, you might not enjoy these places. So where might you enjoy instead? Well, stay tuned for further posts and you'll get plenty of ideas...

Monday, 10 August 2015

Prospective Mondays

I've spotted a few interesting opportunities across the city and on social media this week. They aren't all occurring in the next seven days, however opportunities may pass you by if you don't book tickets fast.

The annual Manchester Literature Festival will take place in October and their events guide is out now. Can't say much of it catches my eye, but it might yours.

US novelist and author of The Corrections, Jonathan Franzen, is in Manchester Saturday 3rd October at a Waterstones event. I tried reading The Corrections recently and couldn't get into it for the life of me, but he's certainly popular. Tickets will go fast. I've already met him, so I'll give it a miss.

Thanks for reading my blog. I've now made it to 500,000 hits. It's only taken, what, nearly 8 years? Well. I have plans to give you juicy info that you can't get anywhere else, so the next half million shouldn't take anywhere near as long to get. But more importantly, I'm enjoying blogging now more than I ever have. Alongside that, I'm more confident than I've ever been, and will continue to build on that.

Sunday, 9 August 2015

Gypsies of Boheima at Matt and Phred's Jazz Club

I'm not normally a Jazz fan, but seeing as Manchester Jazz Festival 2015 is in full swing (pun?) and seeing as a friend suggested it, I dived into local jazz hub Matt & Phred's to see Gypsies of Bohemia on Thursday night. I know this is a cliché, but I didn't expect to enjoy it- I just wanted to see what jazz was about.

I queued for 50 minutes to get in, but it was surprisingly comfortable once we'd made it in: a calm atmosphere with mint fragrance and 20-something hipsters with out-of-control facial hair filling the floor. On the stage: a singer, a pianist, a bassist and a drummer entertained the crowd with surprising skill. They weren't some bunch of old schoolmates fresh out of a dad's garage. Each member knew their instruments well- the singer included- and had obviously spent years perfecting their craft. As I entered, I didn't recognise the song that was playing until the melody started to emerge- a cover of something from my youth, or maybe my 20s. It was fast, and manically-played, and it took a moment from it to dawn on me I was listening to Britney Spears' Toxic done on a bass, guitars and a piano.

The group quickly rolled back the clock, and treated us to a medley of nineties and naughties hits done in a jazz-stylee, blended seamlessly aside from a few breaks for water and- presumably- so the pianist could rest his lightning-speed fingers. Jesus Christ. I've never seen anything like it.

The singer- not looking a long way off Jesus Christ with his beard and robe- displayed surprising range, going from a brilliant rendition of Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince's Boom! Shake the Room through to nailing Kate Bush's Wuthering Heights. Even the Prodigy's No Good Start The Dance appeared, mixed into other songs in part, with the musicians transitioning between tracks in perfect harmony.

I'd been meaning to try Matt and Phreds for about a decade, when I was getting ready to finish uni and making plans for what I could do once I got a steady wage. Hmm. Well, I got there eventually, and I loved it. Each track came with a penny-drop moment when you realise what you're listening to, which in itself was funny and unexpected. I'd never been to a jazz club before but I suppose the dim lighting and woodwork suits the music and relaxed mood.

Absurdly enjoyable. Keep your eyes peeled for the Gypsies of Bohemia. I went to the gig- which I think might actually be my first gig- with someone I met through Meetup, through the After Works Drinks group. There was going to be a few of us but, hey, it was a weeknight. This shows that, for making new friends and seeing more of the city, Meetup is working.

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Hacienda at Albert Hall

The Hacienda: a legendary nightclub and concert venue on Whitworth Street, Manchester. It closed in 1997 while I was still in school, for financial reasons, but I'd heard about it's dominance on the Manchester club scene for many years: Kiss 102 would report on their nights and would advertise upcoming clubbing events there. I never got a chance to experience a Hacienda night, but this weekend I came about as close as you could get.

Hacienda was a tribute night held Saturday 1st August at Manchester's Albert Hall on Peter St, just a few streets away from the club's original location.

Albert Hall, a former church until nightclub chain Brannigans bought the basement in the 90s, has been open in its current form for a couple of years. Brannigans closed in 2011, and the venue reopened under its original name in 2014. The church itself has been renovated into a unique clubbing experience, and one that perfectly suits a tribute night for The Hacienda.

You'd think a club like this would be popular with Manchester's aging ravers, of which there must be quite a few in the city. The night was more popular, however, with late teens and early twenties, so my group of thirty-somethings were the ones who felt old. Having said that, the DJs chosen for the night were residents at the original club. They've still got it, and throughout the night the DJs- appearing in an ascending order of probable familiarity- steadily transgressed the music from piano house through to hard dance and techno.

The DJ booth at The Albert Hall is iconically placed symmetrically in front of the church's huge organ, an iconic set-piece for the club's decor. (And obviously, a fully functioning musical instrument in its heyday, that has wisely been left in place by he club's designers. The promoters for the Hacienda night took skillful advantage of this and projected onto each individual organ pipe, creating and eclectic and mesmerizing animated background. On the woodwork the black-and-yellow hazard stripes nodded to the design of the original club.

Original Hacienda DJ and producer of The M People, Mike Pickering warmed up as the club started to fill. (Pickering is now A&R for The Ting Tings and Calvin Harris, among others.) After 5 hours of dancing in a church- eventually to heavy electronica- we found the music to become a little more familiar. The penultimate track, a housed-up version of Jackson 5's Can You Feel It, punctuated the end of the night with a second or two of silence- from the speakers, at least. Danny Tenaglia handed over to Francois K, who continued the house music. He finished his set with a remix of Candy Staton's You've Got the Love, over which an image of the now-deceased Hacienda owner Tony Wilson looked down over all of us, before the lights came up and security began ushering us out onto the street.

There won't be a night like that for quite a while.

Monday, 3 August 2015

Prospective Mondays

Tickets for Blackpool Comic Con are on sale now! I've got mine. It isn't until the 12th September but the tickets are flying out already. In attendance will be Michael Madsen (Mr Blonde from Reservoir Dogs) and Nancy Allen (Officer Lewis from Robocop)! I am ALL over it. If you fancy getting involved and have no-one to go with, I've put an event up on Manchester Social Group.

New trendy bar Suburbia has launched and Manchester Social Group want to invite you! At the time of writing, the meetup page is not full.

Anyone remember Carolynne Poole, from Fame Academy and the X Factor? No, me neither. But anyway, her birthday party is at swanky celeb haunt Club Liv this Saturday. You might see me there.