Saturday 6th September
I'm getting ready to meet up with Jackson who I met a few days earlier while in the street in Fallowfield. I actually know him from a couple of years ago when I was going out to Didsbury every week. We happened to visit the same places and kept seeing each other around, and it turned out we had some common interests at the time – such as business, and some 80's and 90's music. He was a computer guy who had all the latest on how to promote a website, get publicity online, and so on. Despite this he rarely had much money because it was always spent on leisure activities – he'd often run out of money, then get back to work again. Only lately he'd been taking out more loans from the bank which have now run up to £10,000. Not that big a deal for him since he can always work again. But now his ebay business has too much competition, the bank has stopped his account, so he's going to get a job in search engine optimisation to pay back the loans. Except it's not that easy what with the media are calling the credit crunch. So at the moment he is earning £100 a week working 3 days for a friends' business. Which is enough to pay the rent, food, and going out.
At 7:45pm I'm ready. I've got to set off at 8pm to be sure of a parking space in the city centre, then I'll walk over to St. Peter's Square to meet Jackson. From there we'll go to Tiger Tiger. I turn on my mobile phone which I just got last week, there's a message sent at 7:10pm. It says ‘I'm really sorry but I can't make it tonight. I'm not well from going out last night. I know it sounds like an excuse but it's not.' In other words he had too much to drink last night and doesn't feel up to it, and probably leaving it until 7:10pm hoping he'd feel better. I delete the text and his number off my phone.
So I'm not going out, what would you do if someone cancelled less than an hour before setting off? If you arrange again they might do it again, why bother when you can meet with people who always turn up. Then I realise he was always reliable in the past and this could be a one off. Anyway, I could have met up with someone else instead but at 8pm it's too late to arrange anything. I go sit in the lounge.
I haven't been to Manchester city centre at night for over a year, so I was looking forward to it. Lately I've been going out occasionally to places in the suburbs like Sale. Also meeting up for coffee with friends or going round to a friends' house every now and again. It's what happens when people get careers. But I'm determined to start going out to the city again with all it's attractions and entertainments.
At 9pm I decide to go to a rock club on the south side of the city – it's easy to get to and the music used to be good there. I'll have a few drinks and chat to some people there. I set off at 9:30pm, driving along the dual carriageway, turn at the brewery, then down Oxford Road and park near the BBC studios. I put my jacket and umbrella in the boot since it's not raining, lock the car, and notice a Mercedes parked behind – good to have other nice cars parked nearby. It means less chance of mine being vandalised or stolen.
9:50pm. I'm walking down Oxford Road, it's too early to go to the club which only opens at 10pm. So I carry on towards the city centre to check out some bars. One that used to be called Zumebar, now called Odder – looks good, nice mix of people, social place, I'll come back in future.
Next is Font, a big queue, no point queueing when there are so many other venues and I end up in Grand Central. Grand Central is a rock bar, it's ok, but I don't buy drinks since the music isn't so good. Atmosphere is ok though. There are pool tables, rockers wearing lots of black etc. It's a bit like one of those bars in American films. I leave after 5 minutes.
Ok, so now I'm walking towards St. Peter's square without a real plan. I'll just check out some of the venues and find the best ones for the future. I'm getting lots of smiles from the ladies I pass on the street, in particular a rocker wearing lots of black and a biker jacket. This is despite the fact I'm wearing smart trousers, shoes, and a shirt.
I bought the shirt from Burton about a year ago. It's dark grey and well fitted with nice detail of pockets and buttons. It was during the time when Burton had a phase of making an excellent range of fitted shirts that generally are well made and look good on people who work out. At the moment Burton is all bohemian and crumpled look, but I still check the store in the Arndale for new ranges and they have some good stuff.
I feel a thousand times better now because I'm out in the city and it's so much better than staying in tonight. It's a big step to say ‘I'll go out on my own' but if you can overcome that, it makes a huge improvement to your lifestyle. So if you're ever in on a Saturday and want to go out but no-one to meet up with, go out on your own, even if it's for an hour. It's no big deal.
As I walk past central library and the tram lines, the atmosphere of the city is changing, the energy of everyone looking forward to a night out. Some going to restaurants, some going to bars and clubs. Every metrolink tram that arrives and people stream in different directions to their favourite venues. On Peter Street on my right is Bedlam, booming bass so loud you can't even hear the music. Some scallies are shouting in the street at each other as they walk along the pavement. Then Brannigans is on the right, they always wanted passport ID so I never went in there. Bar 38 is on my left.
Bar 38 is a place I went in the days when we went to Castlefield a lot – it was during summertime when we'd sit outside on the patio area until 11pm, then go inside and there'd be a nightclub scene later on. I also used to go out here with an air hostess I was going out with a few years ago.
As I'm going past Bar 38 someone is approaching and saying something to me – it's someone I know, it's Alex K (he has the same first name as me).
Alex K: "Hi, how's it going?"
Me: "Ok, I'm checking out some venues."
Alex K: "Are you out on your own?"
Me: "Yes, Jackson was meant to be coming out but cancelled at the last minute."
Alex K: "Jackson is still around? I thought you weren't meeting up with him anymore."
Me: "I wasn't, but we saw each other in Fallowfield the other day and arranged to go out."
Alex K: "Where are you going now?"
Me: "I'll go to the rock club later, it used to have good music."
Alex K: "You should come with us. It's a friend of a lady I know from acting class's birthday. It's better to go out with someone you know."
Me: "Where are you going?"
Alex K: "Relish, it's just over there. I've got to phone them and find out where they are first."
Me: "What's Relish like?"
Alex K: "It's ok, R and B but there's a balcony area as well. It's good."
Me: "Ok, I'll come along for an hour or so."
Alex K: "Great."
So we're back going past the library. His phone is ringing and beeping as we walk across the city arranging to meet the ladies who are in a bar over on Portland Street. Everyone around us is also texting and phoning as they walk down the street, trying to find groups of friends who can't arrange a time and a place and stick to it. I walk through St. Peter's Square and there's a guy on my left saying into his phone "Where are you? Ok" and 2 people on my right walking while texting on phones.
I don't have a mobile phone with me, it's at home. The only reason I got one is because when I meet someone new, a lot of people's phones are always on answerphone, also many don't pick up their answerphone messages. So by texting these people it saves spending £10 on phone calls and 20 minutes leaving messages on answerphones. With friends I used to meet up with like Alex K, and a few others I know, it's different. We don't have answerphones on all the time, we have each others landline numbers, and when we meet, always turn up on time. I haven't been on a night out with Alex K for a year and a half. We used to meet up every week but I went into sales, he was in the import export business but changed to acting, and we had different schedules and ended up with our own groups.
We arrive at a bar on Portland Street. Alex K makes phone calls finding where they are in the venue, finally we meet three ladies and a guy. They're at the bar ordering drinks.
The guy: "Hi, how's it going?"
Me: "Hi, this is a good venue."
Alex K: "Alex, this is Jerry, he works in a nearby club."
Jerry: "What do you do?"
Me: "I've written a book, it's for students to make the most of university."
Jerry: "Sounds good. How's the book doing?"
Me: "It's ok, I only just got it into some bookshops so we'll see."
Alex K says to the ladies: "This is my friend Alex."
We all go downstairs into the basement, it's a cocktail lounge type set-out. While I'm talking to Alex K two guys standin nearby are looking at us and checking out the ladies we're with so I say
Me: "Do I know you?"
Them: "We thought we recognised you."
Me: "What's your name?"
Them: "Mark, James."
Me: "No, I don't know you. Anyway, are you having a good night?"
Them: "Yes thanks. We thought you were someone else. It's you guys have that Hollywood look about you."
Maybe it's just we're having a good time, so naturally others are picking up on our vibe and want to join in. It's good.
Jerry, the guy in the group we've met up with happens to work at the Direktors Club which is nearby. We leave this bar (Tribeca), go to the club, we get free entry, free drinks, and good seats. We are all chatting and having a good time. Then one of the ladies we're with whose birthday it is starts saying to Alex K.
Lady 1: "I invited 2 guys and 6 girlfriends out tonight. All 6 friends cancelled, including my best friend."
Lady 2: "You nearly didn't go out, but we persuaded you to come with us."
Lady 1: "Yeah. I called it off but she persuaded me."
Me: "Are you sisters?" I ask since they look like they are.
Lady 2: "Two of us have the same mum, and two of us have the same dad. But we all get on."
Me: "That's good."
Alex K: "Yeah."
We stay here an hour then go to the foyer ready to leave and wait for one of the ladies to say bye to someone she knows who works at the bar. Another one of the ladies we're with puts her hand on my shoulder and generally like they do when they're attracted to someone. I smile and show interest but play it cool as I want to get to know her better since I only just met her. It reminds me of that song on the radio with the lyrics where the guy sings "Promising the world to a brand new girl I don't even know yet, next thing I know she's wearing my Rolex." They're all aspiring actresses.
The Direktors club is meant to be a strip club but no strippers approached us, which suited us anyway. It's more like a trendy bar.
We leave the club, we had a good time, and set off to Relish, it's where everyone was meant to go in the first place. It's turning out to be a good night.
On the way over to Relish a lady we're passing in the street looks at me a certain way, she's with two other friends. It's a split second decision to take the opportunity since we're walking the opposite way. I say hi – since it's always the guy who has to say something – but in this case she made the approach by showing interest, which was subtle but I noticed. So we stop, they turn around as they've just walked past us, and stand facing us. It's me and my friend Alex K standing opposite her and her 2 friends. The three ladies and Jerry in our group go over to the library and leave me and Alex K with these 3.
Me: "I'll read your palm and tell you what kind of person you are."
Friend 1: "That's a good routine." and she laughs.
I hold her hand.
Me: "Ok, that's your heart line. It says that you take a common sense approach to your love life. You aren't totally into the idealisation or put people on a pedestal, but you're not selfish either."
Her: "That's brilliant. Wow."
Friend 1: "Can you read mine too?"
Me: "Ok, that's interesting, you're the same as your friend."
Friend 1: "Oh right!"
Her: "Where are you from?"
Her: "I'm from Didsbury."
K: "Me too, whereabouts?"
It turns out Alex K lives just around the corner from her.
Her: "We're going to canal street, you should come along."
She's now put her arm around me.
Me: "No thanks, we're going to Relish. We can meet up in future though."
We've planned to go to Relish and I don't want to go to canal street. She's with her two friends anyway.
Me: "What's your number?"
We swap numbers and carry on our conversation.
Then a homeless guy comes over. I assume he's probably been approaching people and hustling for money all night. Anyway, he starts saying:
Homeless person: "Where's my brown paper bag?"
Me: "What are you on about?"
Homeless person: "I saw you steal it."
Alex K: "You've got the wrong person."
Homeless person: "It's got my living in it. I saw you steal it from a telephone box."
Homeless person: "Don't lie to me. I saw you take it."
Me: "See you later."
This is so random, I ignore him and continue the conversation with the group.
Homeless: "I'll have to sort you out if you don't give me my bag."
Me: "Whatever". Me and the lady laugh and I continue to ignore him.
Then Alex K says – this is quite smart – "Hey, you got the wrong guy, look, the guy you want is over there" and points down Oxford Road. Then I go along with it and say "Yeah, he's over there." and the homeless person walks off in that direction. By now her and her 2 friends as well as Alex K are laughing.
We say bye and go our separate ways. The homeless person comes back and starts threatening us again, we're walking off now and he mumbles "There are too many CCTV cameras so I don't want to do anything or I'll end up in prison." Then we're walking away from St. Peter's Square towards Relish.
There's a queue outside Relish, we're back with the original group, we join the queue and they have a debate:
Lady 1: "I don't want to stay in Relish all night."
Lady 2: "No, we'll stay in here for half an hour, then go to a club."
Lady 1: "There's no point paying £6 to go in for half an hour."
Jerry: "She's right, we might as well go somewhere else."
Lady 1: "Where? M-two?"
Jerry: "Who wants to go to M-two, and who wants to go in here?"
Jerry: "Ok, we'll go to M-two."
We've got VIP entry because it's Alex K's friends' birthday. We queue up, the ladies and Jerry get in, but the doormen stop me and Alex K. As we were the last in the queue the rest of the group have gone in expecting we'll follow.
Doorman: "We can't let you in."
Alex K: "Why not?"
Doorman: "Your clothes are too dark."
Alex K: "How can they be too dark?"
Doorman: "It's the CCTV cameras, they won't pick you up properly."
Alex K: "That's not true." And we start to walk in.
The doorman tries to stop us and another doorman comes over.
Alex K: "What's your problem. Why are you letting that guy in? He's wearing trainers and a T-shirt."
Alex K is wearing a dark blue Boss shirt, trousers and shoes. I'm wearing a dark grey shirt, trousers and shoes. We're the smartest people here. Then the doorman says:
Doorman: "Our dress code is snazzy and eccentric, we're looking for a particular style."
Alex K: "On the website it says the dress code is smart."
We leave the club queueing area and stand outside the Midland Hotel. Alex K tells me how on the website it says the dress code is smart, but M-two is run by amateurs. What's happened is they've changed the dress code and not announced it on the website or leaflets. They're going for a club kids type of style, which is why they're letting guys with necklaces and bracelets in.
Alex K: "Ok, where will we go now?"
Me: "The rock club?"
Alex K: "Ok."
M-two which was previously called Infinity, and before that Royales, has a history of bad door policy. I remember once it got so bad some Salford lads came back with a sawn off shotgun, rushed the doormen, and ran inside the club and fired shots in the air.
As the ladies and Jerry had already been let in, they phoned Alex K asking where we were.
Alex K on the phone: "Hi, the doormen won't let us in."
Them on the phone: "We realised that must have happened. We feel bad leaving you, should we come outside?"
Alex K on the phone: "No, it's ok, you stay in and have a good night. I'll see you next week."
Them on the phone: "Ok, you have a good night too."
He finishes the call.
Me: "We're better off, we got on with them but they're party girls. We want to meet people we can be friends with. Anyway, I don't know if they would have really come out of the club."
Alex K: "They probably would but then where would we have gone. There aren't many other clubs. And they've all paid to get in."
To be fair by now I wasn't bothered about M-two. It's not that good a club.
We walk along Oxford Road. The rock club is called Jilly's. We're outside queueing up for a minute, I get ID'd at the door but manage to persuade the polite doorman that I am over 18 or I wouldn't have a student-graduate card or credit card.
For the benefit of those new to the city. Jillys, which used to be called Rock World in the 80's and 90's, was the club to go to for everything rock and goth. Every weekend it was like a fancy dress party with people wearing black, some painting their faces white, and pretending to be rockers – most taking it light hearted fun – but there were also some Goths who took it seriously. The sound system was and still is very good, the speakers allow you to hear the full tone of the music without too much treble or bass. Another great thing about it was the music wasn't too loud – so you could go by the bar and pool tables and have conversations – as if in a pub, and when you wanted to dance there was a big dancefloor in the main room.
There were two other rooms where the theme was repeated – dancefloor, bar, publike area with seats. There was also another small room which I never really went into. This is what gave the place an edge over many other venues – 4 rooms to choose from which is like 4 venues in one place.
So it wasn't just for Goths and rockers – for us it was a place to go with friends, listen to classic hits and soft rock, or if some preferred a bit of heavy metal, and some nights there was an alternative room.
We go through a side entrance because the main entrance is being refurbished. We get inside. The place is a dive, nothing like it used to be. And the DJ isn't very good either, so we leave.
Today Jillys is a shambles, the upholstery on the seats are torn, in some areas the seating has been removed completely and people sit on the hard boards left over. The music is so loud it's lost the pub feel around the pool tables, and the venue can't handle the volume so the sound is distorting. There's about 2 goths, the majority of people are dressed messy, not goth or smart casual. There are lots of hoodlums and some songs the DJ's are playing is dance music. Speaking to a few people in the place it turns out the quality of music and type of people you get varies from week to week quite a lot. Some nights it's lucky and goes well. But don't go to the all nighter – about 2am lots of drunkards and winos pour in from the other clubs to drink until 6am.
Venues in the city go through phases, some become popular, some become less popular, it depends on who runs them. Many clubbers don't realise the effort club owners, organisers, and promoters go to, to make the place a popular and enjoyable night for all. In future someone will probably take over Jillys and refurbish it, and sort it out. Maybe they'll turn it into a different club. So it's not a big deal. But I wonder where all the rockers go now.
We go to another venue which is really nice – Kro Bar in Piccadilly Gardens. We stay a few hours and have a good time.
Me: "This is a good venue. We'll have to come back here in future."
K: "It is good. Probably the best place we've been to all night."
Me: "The layout is well designed, and it's classy. The people are a better crowd, and the music's just right."
K: "True. The crowd is a lot better here."
Me: "It's the kind of place you could visit regularly and get to know people."
Despite all the goings on tonight it has been good night out. We've been to some new places, met a few people along the way, and had a really good conversation because we haven't seen each other in a while.
We leave Kro Bar and go to where Alex K parked his car. Well, it's not his, he borrows it, don't ask me how he manages this but he's always driving it. It's a brand new Honda Jazz Sport in metallic blue. It's a cool car because of the bodykit and how it drives and fits easily in city centre spaces. He takes off his leather jacket, which he tells me he just bought a few weeks ago while on holiday in Turkey, and puts it on the back seat. We get into the car, start the engine and set off down Deansgate.
So now we're driving around the city centre, there are guys in modified cars parked on double yellow lines with music playing out of their open windows. There are women, lots of women carrying shoes and walking in bare feet along city streets, on the way home from nightclubs. Also, groups of people stand outside the few eating places open in the city centre.
Alex K suggests going to the casino. Why the casino? I don't like casinos or gambling of any kind. The reason – if you've ever been unlucky enough to go to a casino what you'll see is – lots of very unhappy people becoming even more unhappy. Drunk people gambling – they haven't got a clue. Having not been inside a casino for ages, how bad they are doesn't really cross my mind until we get inside. There's a lot of people losing a lot of money. We go over to the lounge and bar, away from the gambling area. It's like a normal bar here. We order free sandwiches and get free coffee and soft drinks. The service is good, the food and drinks are good as long as you make the right choices – the no-name cola isn't recommended!
K: "You get the free stuff, but it makes you worse, so you're better off not having the free stuff at all!" says Alex K joking and referring to a glass of no-name cola he just left on the side. We laugh.
We leave the casino, go for a walk around for 15 minutes. It's nice outside, the weather is warm. Then we go to the car.
K: "Where's your car parked?"
Me: "Oxford Road."
We drive to my car and stop. Alex K takes some chewing gum out of the glove compartment of his car.
Alex K: "Do you want some chewing gum?"
Me: "Ok, thanks."
He accidentally tips out lots into my hand.
Me: "You've given too many."
Alex K: "Have one for the road."
We laugh at his american action hero impression.
I get out of the car and say
Me: "See you later."
K: "See you round."
I close the door, Alex K drives off into the distance. I unlock my car, get in, start the engine and drive out of the city.
Overall it's been a good night. We had free drinks, free entry to a club, and free food. There was hassle from one venue, but it's no big deal, things turned out ok and we found Kro Bar. The few hours we were in Kro Bar were most enjoyable. The Direktors Club was good because of the comfortable seating and quality deoor. Also, we've seen many different venues, met some people, and enjoyed the entertainments in the city.
Summary and venue reviews: Saturday 6th September
Click here for Season 1 Index
Medium busy. Clientele: groups of friends. Decor: 6/10. Music: indie, pop, rock.
Odder Bar Manchester
Medium busy. Clientele: trendy, smart casual. Decor: 7/10. Music: Pop, R&B. Notes: A comfortable place to be with friends.
Tribeca Bar Manchester
Not very busy. Clientele: smart. Decor: 7/10. Music: Pop. Notes: a strip club that doubles as a trendy bar.
Notes: The door staff follow a different door policy to what is on the website and promotional literature. Badly organised door policy.
Very busy. Clientele: very casual. Decor: 2/10. Music: rock, punk, alternative.
Jilly's Nightclub Manchester
Kro Bar Picadilly Gardens
Medium busy. Clientele: smart casual or smart. Decor: 6/10. Music: indie, pop. Notes: A quality venue to go with friends. Has a nice outdoor seating area. Polite bar staff.
Kro Bar Piccadilly Gardens
Medium busy. Clientele: Gamblers and students. Decor: 6/10.