A Student Guide to Clubbing in the Northwest

Dodge the traffic light parties, consult our guide to some of the best nightlife in the UK and tunnel deep into Liverpool and Manchester's club scenes

Feature by John Thorp | 11 Sep 2015

For the seasoned residents and clubbers across Liverpool and Manchester, freshers week offers all manner of amusement, from clubs tempting loan-loaded students with ironic live PAs from ageing TV stars of yore, to Fresh Prince themed throwback parties. But, weeks later, when the surplus foam has dried up and the last complimentary 7” pizza vouchers have been redeemed, the Northwest maintains its insatiable gravitation towards the dancefloor. As such, here’s The Skinny’s guide to clubbing in 2015. You’re welcome.

The Big Stuff

To briefly run with the idea that The Warehouse Project is an actual project, then by this stage – a decade into its industry-redefining reign as one of the most influential club nights in the world – somebody really should have signed it off. Students from around the North flock to this mega rave, now back in its true and comparatively intimate home beneath Manchester’s Piccadilly Station. This year’s lineup is, as usual, a roll call of the biggest names in contemporary electronic music, from Seth Troxler to Hudson Mohawke and even the return of New Order. Such is the circuit that many of the names playing already sold out nights will likely grace Liverpool too, with established forces such as Circus and its little brother, Chibuku, yet to release their respective lineups for the season. There’s also HAUS, a large new warehouse space in the Baltic Triangle that promises further hijinks in strobes and smoke.

The Indie Stuff

With arms outstretched and a weak plastic pint of lager and/or piss in each hand, Manchester and Liverpool’s indie and psychedelia spirit guides continue to attract and embrace the student masses. The Smiths, The Beatles, Oasis, The Stone Roses and even The La's are still omnipresent on the jukeboxes of bars across the region. But while nostalgia’s heart still beats strong, there are options for those juggling broader musical tastes with an inherent desire to air-guitar on the stickiest of floors. In Liverpool, Liquidation at Heebie Jeebies runs frequent specials that delve into the back catalogues of both classic and contemporary bands such as The Rolling Stones and Arcade Fire, with its regulars as into the B-sides as the hits. In Manchester, Mondays at Soup Kitchen play host to Remake Remodel, where the DJs spin a history of glam, punk and psych, ranging from T-Rex to Tame Impala. A great opportunity to stand in the smoking area and argue with some bloke whether or not the latter overdo it with the synths these days.

The Midweek Stuff

While dance music seems to have an iron grip on both cities every weekend, leaving regular clubbers with convoluted and usually unsuccessful plans to pace themselves, the weeknights are traditionally, refreshingly less 4/4. Of course, the cities' large student populace hardly lets the notion of the working week kill the atmosphere, as is continually proven at the likes of Juicy, every Wednesday at Manchester’s Joshua Brooks. The cheap and very cheerful hip-hop celebration packs them in like clockwork, measuring its success with a wave of inevitable rip-offs trying their luck every year. The Juicy empire also holds fort at Liverpool’s Shipping Forecast on Thursdays, each and every week during term time. You’ll also find The Krazyhouse on Wood Street, which mixes very cheap drinks with throwback rock and pop, and, for better or worse, is something of a campus rite of passage (along with the city’s all-conquering Medication student night).

The Gay Stuff

Manchester’s Canal Street attracts thousands of partygoers to its wealth of bars and clubs each weekend, but when the underused Legends closed in 2012, the city lost one of its most important venues for alternative gay clubbing. Fortunately, one of its main crews, Homoelectric, moved their anything-goes operation to Rusholme's Antwerp Mansion, where they continue to host the likes of Maurice Fulton and Prosumer on the regular. Cult night Bollox and rising rave Hot Space are also worth looking out for. Liverpool has an equally strong gay scene centred around the Stanley Street area, and while it might not be as adventurous musically, its drinking spots, such as The Lisbon, are just as friendly and lively. And then there’s Garlands, still one of the biggest gay clubs in the country, which always attracts a diverse and energetic crowd letting loose to its trademark funky house.

The ‘Out There’ Stuff

With electronic music in such a healthy state right now, you might be surprised how quickly some of your favourite ‘underground’ artists get swallowed up by ambitious agents and bookers. Still, pioneering spirits in both cities are always keen to push things forward. Liverpool’s Deep Hedonia collective skirt the fringes of both outsider art and music, pushing rave boundaries with provocative artists such as Samuel Kerridge and Lee Gamble in tow. Otherwise, promoters Less Effect have in recent years invited the likes of Objekt and Addison Groove to push their hefty RC1 soundsystem to its limits. In Manchester, those out for a truly mind expanding and occasionally challenging evening will undoubtedly find themselves sweating it out at Islington Mill, especially if you make it to one of their Gesamtkunstwerk parties, a disorienting noise rave described as ‘so underground, it’s basically a corpse.’ Not for the faint hearted.

The New Stuff

Both Liverpool and Manchester are in something of an awkward spot now in terms of venues and, as they say, ‘spaces,’ with many investors and entrepreneurs understandably wanting a cut of the bar take that's quenching the city’s endless thirst, but few seemingly wanting to bite the bullet when it comes to nailing anything down. The rawness of secret warehouse parties is undeniably appealing, but do you really want to be wandering around at night with your iPhone out, trying to find a disused cotton mill where the old office bathroom is still littered with hammers and bits of mesh? Hidden, a new 500-capacity venue north of Victoria Station in Manchester, hopes to offer something fresh and consistent when it opens in September.

The Underground Stuff

Known for its gritty aesthetic, scene-melding parties such as meandyou., Meat Free and Swing Ting, and its friendly but no-nonsense door staff, Soup Kitchen’s 200-capacity cellar has quietly earned a reputation as one of the most vital underground clubs in the country. In the past 12 months the likes of Leon Vynehall, Daniel Avery and Joy Orbison have all swung by. It’s Abandon Silence, meanwhile, who have the house and techno underground on lock in Liverpool, throwing parties at the likes of The Kazimier and its bizarro mini-venue, ‘Rat Alley.’ Four Tet, Motor City Drum Ensemble and Midland are all regulars. For literal underground stuff, keep eyes peeled for delightfully grotty raves in the city’s abandoned Williamson Tunnels.

For interviews with DJs and your monthly clubbing highlights: theskinny.co.uk/clubs