Bored of London's Queer Club Scene? Manchester's is Wild and Wonderful
Head further north, and the queer scene is a melting pot of wonder.
Hey kids, wanna know how the media in the UK works? Here's a rule of thumb: if something is not happening in London, it's not happening. If a music scene doesn't have an outlet or any representation within the capital, then it obviously must not be happening anywhere in the country. Everywhere outside London is filled with behind-the-times bumpkins, who are desperate to emulate the forward fashions and tastes of swinging London.
Well fuck that noise. Right now, regional scenes are the healthiest they have ever been in the UK. In a way, you could even thank London for it - by ignoring what is going on around the country, these scenes have had a chance to flourish.
I live and work in Manchester. Before I moved here, I lived and worked in Glasgow. Both cities have incredible live music and clubbing scenes - gay and straight, DIY and commercial. I'd like to tell you about some of the awesome shit that is going on in Manchester right now, particularly on the queer scene.
THE HOUSE OF SUAREZ BALL, AND THE VOGUE BRAWL
In a recent THUMP piece about London's awesome, emerging queer scene, I was shocked to find out that the equally awesome Sink The Pink are starting up the capital's first regular drag and vogue ball. Shocked, because there have been annual balls going on in the north west of England since 2010.
Liverpool's House Of Suarez Ball started in 2010, and this year held its first function in Manchester, at the Contact Theatre. As the UK's premiere vogue-off the Suarez Ball in Manchester was a huge success, and it will be moving to a much bigger venue next year. Coming up for it's fourth year now, the homegrown Vogue Brawl is at the other end of the spectrum. A punk rock take on drag and house balls, the Brawl has been running since 2011 and was the kick start of "Manchester's Drag Explosion".
CHA CHA BOUDOIR, TRANARCHY, MOTHER'S RUIN, POP CURIOUS AND BOLLOX (PHEW)
Speaking of drag, Manchester is on fire right now. Always a city with a lively drag scene, Manchester boasts some of the country's best drag artists and performers. From polished and seasoned older professionals, to a new wave of ambitious youngsters, spurred on by the runaway success of RuPaul's Drag Race amongst gay and straight audiences, and the aforementioned clubs.
Each of these clubs have a very different aesthetic. From the flawless, competitive performances of Cha Cha Boudoir to the, um, anarchy of Tranarchy (the collective behind Vogue Brawl); from the candy pop party of Pop Curious to the alternative cool of Bollox; and to the mother of them all, queer cabaret Mother's Ruin. Each of these nights is hosted by drag queens and have a large drag attendance.
Of course, it might seem obvious that a city with a Gay Village will have clubs hosted by drag queens, but it's worth pointing out that none of these events are in the Gay Village.
ILL, 2 KOI KARP AND GUTS FOR GARTERS
Although not definitive by any stretch, this is the vanguard of Manchester's DIY noise scene. Both ILL and 2 Koi Karp were born form the remains of the all-female noise collective Womb, and both bands represent the two sides of Womb that made it such a success.
2 Koi Karp are live noise experimentalists, who like to reach into the dressing up box and create props for the live shows, while ILL are the angry-but-fun, girl-punk band of your dreams. Guts For Garters is a relatively new night at Manchester's legendary Star & Garter venue, dedicated to showcasing the best in the city's live, noisy weirdo scene (like Now Wash Your Hands, Kurt Dirt, Trianglecuts and Aldous Xanderer, who were joined onstage by Conan Mocassin), while downstairs at the alternative karaoke bar, you'll find Divine David belting out Led Zeppelin classics.
KURT DIRT, NEEDLE FACTORY AND SYD 31
On the outskirts of queerdom, the hinterlands of industrial where the venn diagram crosses over into "flouro rave", Manchester has a really banging scene that I can't quite put a name on. "Candy goth"? "Happy gloom"? Fuck knows, but then that's the great thing about Manchester - it doesn't have to have a name.
Imagine Ministry jamming with Scooter, and you get some kind of malformed idea. Punks in make-up banging keyboards to make synth-thrash. Kurt Dirt is the daddy of this scene. He's been touting his wares for a few years now, with the Skinny Puppy-does-Italo sound of Needle Factory coming up the rear, while relative new comer Syd 31 has taken this non-scene by storm with his Aqua-plays-The Misfits style. Look out for releases on the Analogue Trash label.
GNOD, FAT OUT FEST AND ISLINGTON MILL
Over the canal in Salford, you'll find the hidden gem in Manchester's music scene crown: the converted industrial space that boasts a venue, gallery, offices, art studios and a 24 hour license, Islington Mill. As one of the city's best kept secrets, Islington Mill seems to be finally coming into its own after a hugely successful Sounds From The Other City tenth anniversary festival, the upcoming Fat Out Fest featuring Melt Banana and Cut Hands, and the Mill's resident psychedelic noiseniks Gnod.
Gnod shows are intense - really intense. Seriously, the last time I saw them I had to leave the room, nearly bleeding from my eyes and ears. Islington Mill may be off the beaten clubbing path but then again, the best things in life shouldn't be offered up to you on a plate. Putting the extra effort in to finding and nourishing local and underground scenes is pretty essential in this age of instant information. Trust me, the rewards are worth it.
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Image credits in order of appearance:
1, 2 and 3: Lee Baxter
4: Craig Parker
5: Sam Golanski
6, 7 and 8: Lee Baxter
9: Syd 31
10: Pedro Vila
11: Adam Reid