Culture, Entertainment, Manchester, Music

Freshers Venue Guide: Manchester’s best live music hotspots and independent venues

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Featured image: Kiah-Azriel Freer
By Tom Cooper

As one of the most thriving cultural epicentres of the UK, Manchester has got a lot to take in. It’s easy to be overwhelmed – with so much on offer, where do you even start? Fear not. We’re here with a shortlist of some of the best live music hotspots and independent venues in town.


Since its opening in 1991, Night & Day Café has been a hub of grassroots music in the city. The venue has seen a number of successful bands play there back in their early days, giving it a reputation as the place to see the next big thing. After some recent troubles with the council over noise complaints, many artists have spoken out in its defence, including Elbow and The Charlatans.


This NYC-styled dive bar is a masterclass in shambolic-cool. Big Hands is kitted out with a chaotic mish-mash of kitsch decorations, giving it an authentic bohemian atmosphere. Sample one of their trendy beers and pick a tune on the old-fashioned jukebox before heading up to the famous roof terrace. 


Here’s one you’ve probably slipped past already; it’s hard not to notice The Temple‘s alluring entrance poking out to the surface of Oxford Road. Follow those steps and you’ll find a truly unique spot. This subterranean bar actually used to be a public toilet, but don’t worry – it certainly doesn’t stink anymore. Expect cool tunes and punk vibes.


This is the authentic, beating heart of Manchester’s nightclub scene. Hidden away in an old Salford industrial estate, overlooked by Strangeways, this former warehouse is a truly underground gem. It’s the kind of place that gave garage music its name. Garage isn’t all that’s on offer during The White Hotel‘s all-night raves though. Get down to experience the very best in electronic music from across the spectrum.


Fans of retro gaming look no further; NQ64 is packed with arcade classics like Time Crisis, Guitar Hero and Dance Dance Revolution. You can even get powered up on novelty-themed cocktails like the Kong Island Ice Tea and the Power Star Martini. Just try not to lose at the games too quickly.


This former auction house now exclusively deals in flogging good times. YES is spread across four floors and is home to dance rooms catering to all musical tastes, whether it be indie sleaze or glittery pop. Also on offer: live music and tasty pizza. Yes!


If you fancy something a bit different on your night out, the wittily-named Dog Bowl is a good place to start. Open till late, you can enjoy a bit of healthy competition on one of its many bowling lanes. Plus (if you get there before 9pm) you can grab some alley-side snacks to enjoy as you watch your mates get another one in the gutter.


Tucked away in the Northern Quarter, Matt and Phread’s smoky underground basement lounge has some of the best live jazz, blues, and soul performances around. You can even get on stage yourself to perform with the full live backing of the impressive house band – you’ll be a professional crooner in no time.


Stationed just across from campus, this music venue gets its ironic name from the building’s past as a medical institute. Now reborn as an exciting hub of live indie music – featuring acts such as Be Your Own Pet – this is certainly one to check out. Don’t forget The Deaf Institute‘s carefully curated club nights either where you can expect to see everything from post-punk to glitzy 80s pop.

FAC 251

Formerly the headquarters of the legendary Factory Records, the venue was reborn as a nightclub under the guidance of New Order’s Peter Hook back in 2010. Each of FAC 251‘s three floors comes with its very own DJ and its own select genre-focus. Expect helpings of R’n’B, indie, and tech.


One of Manchester’s premiere dance spots. Specialising in all things garage, house, and disco, Hidden is one of the city’s worst-kept secrets. If you’re doing anything for Freshers this year, make sure to head down to their Freshers Festival night, a staple among students.

Manchester is an amazing city and no single list could truly attempt to capture all of the interesting things it has to offer, no matter how extensive it might be. This is simply a starter course. If you’re ever bored, just wander around and see where you end up. You never know what you might find. Happy hunting!

About the author / 


aAh! Magazine is Manchester Metropolitan University's arts and culture magazine.

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