On the Lack of Open Kebab Shops at 5am Sunday Morning
The city of Manchester has started to boast about how it is becoming a twenty-four hour city, that it hasn't quiet managed it yet was all too obvious as I emerged from talking with some friends after watching a bunch of bands in a south Manchester bar. The shock of expecting to be heading home in the pitch black but actually finding yourself walking back though the crisp morning air gradually faded into amusement at the situation, but not before I noticed the lack of disreputable eating establishments open at this hour.
I got home and turned off the already bleeping alarm, and here I realised that Manchester had not yet gathered what it meant to be 24 hours. Sure most of the pubs and bars, even in the student hole 3 miles outside the city centre that is Fallowfield, are open extended hours, mostly closing at 2 every night, but at the same time the council are planning on stopping fast foot outlets from opening after 11pm without a costly licence.
Anyway, the reason I was in need of a unhealthy sustenance that early in the morning is that I was watching the 1st anniversary of regular live music in Bruins Bar in Fallowfield.
In my 6 years of living up in the rainy city, one of the most prominent retail sites in the area has changed names more times than minuscule purple pop-funk wizards. Sited on the crossroads that seem to mark the centre of the world for thousands of students and young professionals, nothing seems to have made much of a go becoming a success. I remember a rotisserie that was seemingly always deserted, and there was a bar called Bamboo that was famous only for its Buy One Pay For Two campaign on cocktails. Bruins is the latest attempt to succeed in that site.
Over the past year, more and more live music has come into the bar, there have been a few successes which I hope to talk about one day in more detail, and also it has brought in a more varied clientele.
To my knowledge, until recently there were few open mic opportunities in South Manchester, especially for people are trying to tap into the student market. What Bruins provided as a first step was an chance to play infront of a fairly big audience, without the snobbery of a songwriters only night, but also not falling into a mancs play Wonderwall (badly) session. The event which I was watching was one where some of the people had made their name in the 'Kick Out The Jams' open mic nights before going onto bigger things. Notably these are also people who still play open mic nights at Bruins.
Headlining the Saturday night was the soon to be legendary Nuclear Nick Ainsworth who, in a year, has progressed from fat ginger kid who hangs around with the guy that looks like Jesus to supporting Ewan Dando and being the big thing on the Manchester Anti-Folk (whatever that is!) scene. Anybody who can get 15 people dancing by playing an autoharp has to be applauded.
Among the other acts of the weekend was Andrew 'Blind Boy' Butler, one of the best blues harmonica players I've seen. Playing a brand of 1920s style blues he is another act that has done well out of the mix of styles that has come out of this little bar.
Don't begin to think that it is all about a bohemian musical outlook, and trying to do the unusual; another of the regular Bruins acts that played was Indie act Clinton Avenue, who after getting over being touted as Gary Neville's favourite indie band are actually quite a decent listen.
Over the weekend bands such as Blue Rufus and David Kay and the Defendants (David Kay is a man who has to be watched to be believed, a great performer) gave some quality rocking moments. I feel I am rapidly running out of words, and I could use many to describe Mr Stephen J Sarson who's guitar seems to get though more G-Strings than Peter Stringfellow, the former singer for the seminal Pink Fluffy Cloud Machine, currently leading Frank Is Dead and bassing in Narcissus. He started off the weekend in style, and to be frank (not the dead one) set a tone for a weekend of quality music.
It is heartening to see, however Bruins seems to be the only place in the area that is interested in showing live music to a decent sized audience regularly. Most pubs preferring to get them in, booze them up and stick a DJ in the corner. Just having a place to show off your songs to strangers once in a while in a familiar surrounding allows many people the confidence to take their songs and music somewhere better.
Is this where the story ends? One of the problems with having a bar in a student area is that while you have a captive audience in term time, come the holidays, the area is effectively a ghost town, and ghosts don't buy drinks. Many bars have gone bust or shut up shop over the long university summer holidays and the signs are that Bruins may follow suit. As this weekend has proved, Bruins has given a lot of talented people a break and just as it is being established, it may be over.
Hopefully there is a happy ending to this story, and next week I hope to talk more about the free music in Manchester.
Love peace and blues