Manchester

The Maple State

A couple of years ago, a band I like called The Cape Race (ex-‘The Honeymoon Suite’) were talking about their influences online. They mentioned a band called The Maple State who were a Manchester band who had since broken up. I had a listen to what songs I could find of theirs online and was hooked. They made some really amazing music and it’s a shame that they had to break up!

I know nothing about the band other than that they are from Manchester. They seem to be like this mysterious legend that Manchester bands pay their respects to when starting up.

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A Life Full Of Oasis!

Firstly, I know how stereotypical it is for a guy who grew up in Manchester in the 90’s to like Oasis. I get it. It’s not news that many people from Manchester like that band, nor will it ever be surprising to hear a Manc mention them or request that the DJ play ‘Don’t Look Back In Anger’ at the end of a club night. That being said, the band has, for better or for worse, had a massive effect on my life that I’m only now coming to realise. I’m not just talking about buying all of their albums (which I did) or having that long-ish unkempt hair cut that so many Manchester kids had/have (which I do), I’m talking about realising that this band’s music has been present throughout my life. It’s a good job I like the band, because otherwise the past 24 years would have been a nightmare!

Not the prettiest band ever...

Not the prettiest band ever…

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On MMU, The ‘Backup Choice’ University

Manchester Metropolitan University is one of two universities in the city of Manchester. As the other is an older, longer established red brick university, MMU is often seen as the lesser of the two institutions, having been formed from the old Manchester Polytechnic. Having studied at both Durham University (a traditional red-brick uni, similar to Manchester University) as well as Man Met, I feel as though I am in a better position than most to determine whether MMU deserves to be seen as second best to Manchester University.

The obvious difference between Durham-style uni and MMU-style is the amount of responsibility that lies on the lecturers and staff in making sure students attend each lecture. This was apparent from my first day at Durham – If you missed a class, it was a big deal and you had better have a good reason for it. If you missed a few classes, the uni would send a letter of concern to your parents. It was a very school-like atmosphere, which most people were OK with, probably because most people came straight from public schools, rather than going to a college after secondary school, like me.

MMU took a different approach. The impression that I got from MMU in my first year was ‘If you don’t show up, it’s your own fault’. The lecturers wouldn’t offer help outside of lecturers to any student who didn’t regularly show up. I thought this was very fair and a much more grown up way of managing attendance. It meant that the students who cared about being at uni would attend the lectures so that they could get the support they needed if they were stuck. This is obviously reflected in the grades – the ones who care and applied themselves got good grades, and the ones who never showed up were weeded out. I appreciated this method much more because I felt as though I was being treated as an adult, rather than a schoolchild.

The next difference I observed between the two styles of uni is the equipment on offer. Having taken a Computer Science course, the availability of up-to-date technology was very important. To my surprise, the equipment I was given access to at MMU was, for the most part, all brand new. I think their Computer Rooms had been recently refurbished (in 2009). They ad brand new Macs and/or PCs on each desk and I don’t remember having many issues with particular machines. One thing that stands out to me about Durham was the lack of decent computers. All lectures were in old fashioned rooms and portacabins and the computer labs were old and the technology was out of date. Perhaps the university funding was more heavily focused on sports and creative subject than Computer Science? I don’t know, but it wasn’t good enough. I do know that Manchester Uni does in fact have a good CompSci department, as it is actually a very ‘science-focused’ uni.

My favourite thing about MMU though was that it was just less intense. Going to Durham was seen as a privellage and people try really hard to get in to that uni each year, and it’s understandable – a degree from Durham often looks better than the same degree from MMU to employers. The thing that people, me included, don’t realise is that it’s just an extension of school. Yes, you move away from home, but you can’t get a job because of the number of required study hours and you there’s nothing to do in the town anyway and the teachers treat you like kids… It’s just not that great. Whereas at MMU, if you have the maturity to motivate yourself to go to lectures and to do the work, you will enjoy it much much more.

And hey, I ended up getting a first at MMU and managed to get one of the best jobs I could have hoped for in the field I studied in.

In short, MMU is good, don’t just see it as a backup choice.

On HMV Ritz, Manchester

I recently went to HMV Ritz for the first time, to see a gig (The Blackout). The venue itself is pretty good – no matter where you stand you can get a god view of the stage – although I do have some issues with the place. Firstly, it still has the damp sticky carpets of the chavy ‘Ritz’ club that it once was. Why a club ever chose to keep the carpets in the first place is a mystery to me. It’s not like anyone is admiring the vintage design on the carpet, mainly because the amount of vodka redbull that has been spilled on it over the years has turned it into a thin, darkened layer around the edges of the dancefloor.

Another strange design choice is the decision to keep tables and chairs in THE MIDDLE OF THE DANCEFLOOR. Well, pretty much. In front of the speakers and stage at least. I mean, come on. They get in the way! Obviously! I can’t believe this needs pointing out! Anyone who walks in there before a gig would instantly think to themselves “They’re gonna move those tables before the band starts, right?” Nope.

But by FAR the worst thing about the place is the absolutely horrendous drinks prices. Horrible prices. Disgusting prices. Prices that are even higher than the prices of drinks in The Hilton or The Palace Hotel. Basically, you’re looking at close to £5 for any beer, bottled or draught (warm, flat draught, that is). I can’t believe they have gotten away with those prices for so long already. Even Manchester Academy hasn’t got drinks prices that high, an that’s notorious for not having cheap drinks! It’s just ridiculous.

They can’t even blame the need for high prices on the recent Administration of the HMV store chain because this particular venue is no longer owned by HMV – It was bought out by a separate company before the company even went bust!

I now find myself in a position where I am less likely to choose to go to a gig at this venue because of problems that I have experienced with it. I know I don’t need alcohol to have a good time, but I really like to have a couple of drinks at a gig and the fact that I would need to take out a bank loan to do that at HMV Ritz means it’s not the place for me.

On Rock Clubs In Manchester

I’ve been going to rock clubs in Manchester since before I was legally old enough to go out in Manchester. They have been great places of freedom for me, where I can hear the music I like whilst ‘dancing’ and drinking with friends. There hasn’t been many rock clubs in Manchester but I think I’ve been to most of them. They have usually been cheap, dirty, small and awesome but never have a long lifespan. Most have shut down or moved, leaving Mcr with just a couple of venues today.

The first rock club (and probably the first club) that I went to was Rock Kitchen on Oxford Road. Rock Kitchen was in MMU Student Union and was very cheap. At one point it was 99p for a Carlsberg and, whilst it was barely drinkable, at those prices you just can’t complain! There was 2 main rooms – one metal room (that I pretty much stayed out of, being a fragile pop-punk lover) and the ‘main’ room which was just a big open space that had smoke machines and a projector that played images from old cartoons and movies throughout the night. You could request tracks by queuing up at the DJ booth and scribbling a band name and track on a scrap of paper. There are so many songs that I heard there for the first time. The one I remember most vividly is that Disturbed song (ooo-AHAHAHAHA!). At one point the club was incredibly popular – you had to queue in the rain outside to get in – but it gradually fell out of favour as people actually became 18 and were able to get into ‘proper’ clubs. It tried to revamp itself a couple of times by adding a third ‘room’ where the bar was that just played indie music, but this seemed to put the die-hard rockers off more and the club eventually shut down, with the space now being occupied soleely by the Union bar. Such a shame!

I was never really a fan of Jilly’s. Maybe because I only went twice. It felt like a community that you had to be part of and I remember feeling like a kid on his first day of school when entering the place. Played some good music though, and I know that many people lament the closing-down of this place a lot. Maybe if I’d have spent more time there I would have loved it and would miss it more! Good place though. Plus, pool tables.

Pop Bubble Rock was one of my favourites. PBR was a pop-punk and hardcore-focused night that was held above The Phoenix pub on oxford road, which has now also closed down. It’s since moved to Sound Control, I think, but I’ve not yet been since it’s moved. But i hope it still plays Say Anything, The Wonder Years and The Starting Line!

Rock Box was a short-lived rock venue situated just past canal street, near Cruz (sp?). A great little place with awesome music that just seemed to close down after a year and not return.

Satans Hollow is a second home to many rock fans in Manchester. But I suppose, being now the longest-running rock venue in the city, many people are now bored of it. I like to go back every now and again, to remind myself how good it was when I was experiencing the place for my first time when I was in college. And when I do go back, I absolutely love it! But i couldn’t go all the time any more, it hasn’t actually changed as a club since i first started going and, whilst it’s admirable that it hasn’t bowed to the more popular genres of indie and pop, it can get a bit stale. Still, great venue that I enjoy going back to. Even if they have hiked up the prices recently! Scallywags.

Grizzly is a new-ish rock night held at The Zoo (new The Pub…) that plays some good tunes. I remember the first time I went here. Me and Gary walked into the place and they were playing Brand New – Seventy Times Seven and we both looked at each other as if to say “This is the kind of place we have been waiting for!”. We also had a minor revelation that night that drinking lemonade between rounds means you don’t get too drunk. Science.

So now there is just Satans (old), Grizzly (only on Thursdays, I think), Jabez Clegg (if they even do a rock night any more?) and PBR (also once a week) left in Mcr. I need more places! Let me know if you knwo of any other rock night in the city, I’m eager to try some new places out! :)