Manchester, the 3rd largest city in the UK, has a huge musical history, and in recent decades has produced some of the UK’s most iconic brands, including Oasis, The Smiths, The Stone Roses, Take That, and The Chemical Brothers. Manchester also has a wide selection of live venues. Want to go see Radio 6’s Craig Charles perform live? Why not head down to the Gullivers, or to the historic Albert Hall, claimed to be one of the most atmospheric music venues in the UK.
Discover the city’s musical heritage while exploring its gig venues, bars and concert halls.
Out of all the live music venues in Manchester, this is surely one of the most multi-faceted. Serving as a bar, restaurant, club space and live music venue, Gorilla offers something for everyone – no matter the time of day. Located under the railway tracks around the corner from Oxford Road train station, Gorilla is part of the Trof empire that dominates the city’s music scene (the Albert Hall being the largest venue in the repertoire). The cavernous room echoes the shape of the arch located above, providing a medium-sized space that caters to music acts that have outgrown smaller venues but aren’t quite ready for arenas. The venue has hosted a number of big names since it opened in 2012 including the likes of Everything Everything, James Blake and Frank Turner.
One of Manchester’s most breathtaking and atmospheric venues, the Grade II-listed former Wesleyan Chapel lay hidden in the heart of Manchester for 40 years until it reopened its doors to the public as the multipurpose venue we all know and love today. Stained glass windows and old organ pipes provide a backdrop for live gigs by the likes of Hot Chip and Franz Ferdinand and for private hire events such as weddings and conferences. Resurrected by Trof – the team behind Gorilla and the Deaf Institute – it is now home to a calendar of live music and club nights that have featured everyone from Laura Marling and Sam Smith to one-off Warehouse Project shows. Bavarian beer hall and restaurant, Albert’s Schloss, is now open beneath it, catering for the pre and post-show crowds along with the rest of the city’s revelers.
The Castle Hotel
This historic Northern Quarter pub has been part of the city’s music scene since gig-goers began using it as a stopping off point on their way to Band on the Wall. From the street, The Castle Hotel may look like your average boozer but venture past the bar into the back room and you’ll discover one of the most intimate venues in Manchester. It’s also famed for hosting a now legendary John Peel interview with Joy Division singer Ian Curtis in 1979. After a brief closure in 2008, it was brought back to life by former Coronation Street star Rupert Hill and his friend Jonny Booth. You’re just as likely to stumble across a local folk night with everyone sitting on the floor and fairy-lights strung above the stage as you are to discover a tightly packed crowd jumping around to guitar music.
Another Northern Quarter live music venue with a long history, Gulliver’s has a story that dates back to 1865. Located on Oldham Street, Gulliver has existed under a number of different names over the years until it was bought in the 1970s and reincarnated into its current form. Alongside a busy bar, Gulliver’s also boasts not just one, but two live music spaces. The upstairs ballroom is the larger of the two, with a 100 person capacity, whereas the 40 seater downstairs lounge is perfect for intimate gigs. Gulliver’s has a reputation for supporting the grassroots artistic community, with a number of well-known artists getting their first big break within its walls.
The waterside terrace has hosted performances from some of Manchester’s biggest acts, including Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds, Johnny Marr, and The Charlatans as the home of the annual Summer In The City festival. The temporary concert space has also set the stage for events including Bjork’s 2015 Manchester International Festival performance and the former Dpercussion music festival. Remember that?
Night and Day Café
Where tomorrow’s stars come to play, this intimate Northern Quarter music venue offers plenty of opportunities to say you saw them first. This hip district is jam-packed with bars and clubs. Entertaining music fans since 1991, Night and Day Café has welcomed big-name musicians to its stage, including The Smiths’ guitarist and local hero Johnny Marr. Regular evenings showcase up-and-coming Mancunian bands.
Another Northern Quarter venue, Soup Kitchen sits on the corner of Stevenson Square, tempting in passers-by to its upstairs bar and canteen. However, it’s downstairs in the somewhat dingy basement that lively, packed out gigs are commonplace. This is the place to discover the latest hyped band with the promoters having a keen eye for spotting the next big thing. It’s cold, grimy and the concrete floor will make your feet ache – but you’ll forget all of that when you’re dancing around and enjoying the music.
The Warehouse Project
Running since 2006, The Warehouse Project is a series of club nights running for only three months of the year, between September and New Year’s Day. House and techno fans bag tickets early for The Warehouse Project. One of the most unique aspects of the project is its tendency to line up internationally renowned DJs alongside lower-profile acts, and as such, manages to place itself at the forefront of the city’s dance music scene. In addition to this, however, the Warehouse Project is also amongst Manchester’s favorite live music venues for musicians, having played host to acts like The prodigy, Foals and Basement Jaxx. During the off-season, the Warehouse project presents a variety of live gigs across Manchester to tide fans over until September.