When going to a gig in Manchester, why visit a larger venue like the O2 Apollo or Ritz when hundreds of smaller, alternative gems exist?

Band on the Wall

Credit: Beth Rochester

Band on the Wall is perhaps the most diverse venue of the bunch. Situated in the famous Northern Quarter in a retired cinema, the Arts Council England-funded space welcomes a variety of music acts.

The prestigious Dot to Dot festival returned to Band on the Wall in May before its dates in Bristol and Nottingham, and the calendar is further surrounded by hundreds of unique acts throughout the year.

As well as live music, the venue offers alternative entertainment. Quarterly cabaret and club night A Queer Revue! brings together new and established acts for an anything-goes performance.

The event boasts Manchester’s “explosive creative response to LGBT solidarity” in the form of an all night long celebration until the early hours. Contrastingly, two-tone royalty The Selecter return to the venue in October, following phenomenal demand and a sold out show earlier in the year.

Band on the Wall offers bronze, silver, gold and platinum memberships. They provide benefits ranging from 20% discounts on tickets, to lifelong free entry and permanent dedication physically etched into the fabric of the building.

Prices vary from £30 to £2,000, with something for every music advocate. Check out the full packages and prices here.

Soup Kitchen

The venue transforms from trendy eatery to busy venue from AM to PM. Credit: Beth Rochester

This award-winning music venue and canteen embodies the culture of the Northern Quarter, serving up the freshest food and music. Throughout the year, the cross-section of local and international bands means something new is always happening in the hipster’s paradise.

Not to worry though – wiry beards and shabby loafers are not compulsory in this establishment – just a keen interest in anything from indie bands to prestigious DJs.

Soup Kitchen’s varied menu is a cornucopia of local produce, and with gluten-free and vegan options cropping up increasingly. The staff are all food and music enthusiasts too, so it’s difficult to find a reason not to visit this gem.

New craft ales are introduced all the time and the venue stocks a range of Fairtrade teas and coffees, so the canteen is a winner for a quick pit stop before a gig.

If you’re after your fill of music and looking for something a little different, check out the comedy events, club nights and art exhibitions hosted by the Soup Kitchen here.

The Deaf Institute

A club night in full swing. Credit: The Deaf Institute

June is a great month at The Deaf Institute for alternative music. Ever heard of Melt Banana or (Spunge)? Us neither, but we now feel like we should have.

This venue is always packed with little-known but exceedingly cool bands and equally sub-zero people. The venue is open “until late”, which everyone knows is code for “we won’t kick you out until you’re done here”. That’s a plus point already.

Open Mic Monday is a much-adored event at The Deaf Institute, crammed in next to DJ nights, jam sessions and the famous quiz.

Carnivores shouldn’t wince at the predominantly vegan menu, as their pop-up burger joint won’t disappoint. Celebrating diversity is something The Deaf Institute does brilliantly, as it’s situated in the heart of the University of Manchester campus.

Don’t be dissuaded from visiting though – the three-floor, three-bar venue is a melting pot of all different types of people, students and young professionals alike.

Bar supervisor Ruven Sivyer said the venue welcomes a range of people, not just regulars: “We’re always attracting different crowds, so for example – if we’ve got an Americana band on, it may be a slightly older audience, but an electronic outfit may bring in younger people.

“Our atmosphere is special because of the old, historical building we’re based in. Our bar staff are well-versed in cocktail making as well, and we’ll make a customer any drink they ask for. We do everything we can to cater to a variety of people.”

Deaf Institute 2.jpg
From ornate surroundings to dark and noisy… Credit: The Deaf Institute

Craft beers and cask ales from around the globe are frequent at The Deaf Institute, alongside a soundtrack of surf, garage and hip-hop.

See what’s on and the venue’s original Spotify playlist here.

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