Many proud Mancunians love to make the claim that the city is the prime music hotspot of the UK. Normally this could be dismissed as idle bragging but, for once, the locals may have a point. From a vibrant and well-documented history to a modern scene that sees a city with more bands than ever, this story feels like it’s gaining pace.
The modern Manchester is an ever-evolving city crammed full of nightlife that defies the weather with endless bars, cafes and restaurants and, more importantly, more venues than pretty much any other city in the UK. With nearly forty places to play in the city centre alone, Manchester has become a musician’s paradise, showcasing an endless whirl of overlapping styles from electronic to avant-indie, lad rock to folk. Even in a city of this size (which is easy to get around compared to London) it’s become near-impossible to keep up with the avalanche of musical culture. This non-stop flow of activity makes Manchester perfect for young musicians – there’s loads to see and loads of like-minded people to share it with.
It helps that Manchester is a thriving tech and media city, with the BBC’s massive new headquarters in Salford broadcasting many of the UK’s key music shows and an array of local websites, magazines and bloggers scrambling to cover everything.
Manchester has a remarkable music history. The Northern Soul scene started here in the 60s, and the dance culture that’s so key to the city came out of the coffee shops and clubs of the decade, evolving into acid house and the Hacienda two decades later. For bands it was after punk that things really took off, with the Sex Pistols gigs in 1976 sparking an intense local scene: Manchester quickly became the first city outside London to have its own proper punk movement, with The Buzzcocks becoming one of its key bands – and a key influence on Joy Division and Tony Wilson’s Factory Records. By the 80s Manchester was the hippest music city in the UK, pulsing to the lyrical smarts of The Smiths, New Order’s meshing of electro with post punk, and The Fall‘s idiosyncratic releases – by the close of the decade it was partying like a working class San Francisco, as ‘Madchester’ exploded with the Stones Roses and The Happy Mondays.
That scene may have died down but the bands kept coming, from Oasis outselling the Beatles to the slow-burn success of Elbow and the teeming buzz around Delphic and Everything Everything. Today’s Manchester boasts a complex scene of local bands, drawing influence from throughout the city’s history – blurring genres and meshing sounds but always sounding fascinating.
This is a city centred around innovation and innovative music culture. Vibrant and thrilling, multi-cultural and noisy, Manchester might not be the easiest on the eye but it throbs with energy, ambition and character. And what a soundtrack it has.