Late in 2015 I received a mysterious text message suggesting I ask for a week off work in early January, very hush hush ask no questions it might be a Christmas present related type thing but we need to be in Manchester on a Tuesday night. Given I am never one ruin a present if I can help it, tickets were booked no-questions-asked and it was only on Christmas morning I found out my absurdly perfect girl had bought me tickets to see one of my favourite musicians, Angel Haze, live. In Manchester.
The day we travelled to Manchester we woke to the news of David Bowie’s death. The coach radio played tribute the entire journey north. I remembered standing in the rain in 2004, in tears, grateful to see him live.
We rocked up to Manchester after 3pm. The evening was closing in and everyone sounded like they were from Coronation Street.
We were staying in the Northern Quarter – the gentrified hipster heart of Manchester – and I loved it. Our hotel was uh-mazing. Called the Abel Heywood, it was extremely inexpensive, a 5 minute walk from the gig, extremely comfortable, and above a delightful pub. I mean, honestly, what more can you ask for?
My cure for coach-induced malaise is either alcohol or the gym. We got a pint at the pub beneath the hotel and they asked us if we minded that they were playing all David Bowie. No, we did not mind at all.
We had one day and one day only to explore Manchester properly so we made the absolute most of it. We saw the beautiful town hall (the bees symbolise how the city is a hive of activity. To which I point out that bees are being wiped out?) and the John Rylands library where I spent a lot longer than I would have expected entranced by stories about saving Victorian architecture around the UK and how in the early 20th century they were going to demolish much of the buildings around Westminster to create the kind of horrendous concrete blocks that so much of London is unfortunately heir to.
We got in touch with the city’s union past at the Peoples’ Museum which, well. It was well done but heavy handed. Not much in the way of nuance.
After a traditionally mancunian lunch of pho, we spent the afternoon at an art gallery. What we thought was a tiny gallery that might take an hour eventually closed around us and we hadn’t even made it all the way through.
Band in the Wall is a small venue but perfectly formed. We missed the opening act but we made our way to a mezzanine level and I have never been so happy to be 5”1 in my life – there was a beam stretching right the way out the front of the mezzanine and I think the gap beneath it was 5”4? Enough for me to be only person short enough to fit under it comfortably so I was front and centre and no one no one was in my way. I’ve never seen a show so well in my life.
It was an astounding show too – Angel Haze was outstanding, playing every song I adore from Back to the Woods & also brought back Werking Girls (the first I ever heard) and just generally was on fire and I am a ghost now.