Manchester can rightly claim to be the centre of the world’s live music scene. Not only does it boast some of the most beautiful and busiest venues on record, it has the history to match.
From the infamous “Judas!” heckle during Bob Dylan’s electric tour in 1966, and the Sex Pistols gig that spawned The Smiths, Joy Division and Factory Records, Manchester gig-goers are anything but passive.
It’s a rare live act who doesn’t play Manchester on a UK tour and there are countless venues to choose from, whether they want to play to 20 people or 20,000.
Here’s our guide to the best gig spaces in the city.
As elegant outside as it is inside, the Bridgewater Hall is the jewel in the city’s live music crown. It opened just a few months after the 1996 IRA bombing that shook the city and came to symbolise a new, modern Manchester. Largely used for classical music, it features one of the largest instruments to ever be installed in the UK, the jaw-dropping pipe organ which dominates the entire auditorium. As you’d expect from a building that cost over £40m to build, the acoustics are an audiophile’s dream.
Lower Mosley Street, Manchester M2 3WS, 0161 907 9000 – www.bridgewater-hall.co.uk
The Deaf Institute
The Deaf Institute
Probably the finest small-to-mid-level venue in the city , The Deaf Institute has become the first port-of-call for a host of world-class acts visiting Manchester. With tiered seating and rococo design, the Music Hall works perfectly for everyone from low-key solo artists to raucous hip hop shows. And let’s not forget the stand-out feature: the biggest disco ball in town. Once seen never forgotten.
135 Grosvenor Street, Manchester M1 7HE, 0161 276 9350 – www.thedeafinstitute.co.uk
It might not the prettiest venue on this list, but hey, looks aren’t everything and as far as arena venues go, this is the daddy of them all. Demonstrating the city’s complete lack of humility, it was built as part of the ill-fated bid to host the 2000 Olympics, but shrugging off that minor setback went on to be named the year’s “Busiest Arena Venue In The World” no less than five times since it opened. Madison Square what?
Victoria Station, Hunts Bank, Manchester M3 1AR, 0161 950 5000 – www.manchester-arena.com
The Eagle Inn
A five minute walk from the city centre turns up a true gem, The Eagle Inn. Helping the locals get tipsy since the mid-19th century, these days it hosts intimate gigs booked by leading local promoters such as Hey Manchester and Now Wave. And no, you’ve not over-indulged on locally-brewed ale, that really is a fireplace halfway up the wall – the ceiling was removed to make for a bigger and better-sounding room.
19 Collier Street, Greengate, Salford M3 7DW, 0161 819 5002 – www.facebook.com/eagleinnsalford
A perfect example of old meets new, The Castle is a classic old-school pub given a facelift without losing any of the charm. In the main bar, local wheeler-dealers rub shoulders with moustachioed bohemians, while the back room features one of the most beloved small live spaces in the city, regularly hosting cutting edge bands performing to packed-out crowds.
66 Oldham Street, Manchester M4 1LE, 0161 237 9485 – thecastlehotel.info
The Star & Garter
Buried deep in the red light district, The Star & Garter is the go-to venue to catch the noisiest and scuzziest bands passing through the city. Resembling a haunted house on the outside and embracing a fiercely independent mindset inside, it’s a must for any live act who wants to step off the beaten path. No surprise that the thriving UK punk scene have deemed it their spiritual home in the North.
18-20 Fairfield Street, Manchester M1 2QF, 0161 273 6726 – www.facebook.com/StarAndGarterManchester
O2 Apollo Manchester
o2 Apollo Manchester
Dating back to the 1930s, the Apollo has a traditional music hall feel, crammed with art deco design features and an atmosphere rich with eighty years of performance history. Thick velvet curtains frame the huge stage, making this a venue best appreciated in the upper tier, with the plush seating giving a striking view of the action.
Stockport Road, Ardwick Green, Manchester M12 6AP, 0161 273 6921 – www.o2apollomanchester.co.uk
If you’ve opted for suburban living, then Dulcimer in Chorlton is your one-stop shop. It’s the hub of independent live music in South Manchester, proving popular with up-and-coming bands and punters alike. As you’d expect from a venue named after a 17th century instrument developed in the Appalachian mountains it’s particularly popular with the local folk music contingent. Start choosing that craft beer now.
567 Wilbraham Road, Manchester M21 0AE, 0161 860 6444 – dulcimer-bar.co.uk
The newest kid on the block, the Albert Hall actually dates from 1910, when it served as the city’s Methodist Central Hall. This Wesleyan chapel lay dormant for over 40 years, before being resurrected by the Trof chain in 2013 and converted into one of Manchester’s most stunning live music venues.
27 Peter Street, Manchester M2 5QR, 0844 858 8521 – www.alberthallmanchester.com
Another house of worship makes the list, proving that in Manchester, music is the new religion. The difference here is that Manchester Cathedral is still active, making for a more heightened atmosphere than anywhere else in the city. Live gigs are sporadic but tailored to suit the venue. Don’t expect to see Dumpy’s Rusty Nuts headlining any time soon.
Victoria Street, Manchester M3 1SX, 0161 833 2220 – www.manchestercathedral.org
Main image: Manchester Arena
More Manchester tips:
Share this on Twitter: