by James Wilkes
For years, The Roadhouse has played host to some of Manchester’s most remarkable clubnights, alongside gigs by bands who would go on to dominate much bigger stages. But come June this year, The Roadhouse will close its doors for good. James Wilkes remembers the good times.
I’m gutted that the Roadhouse is closing. It’s yet another small venue to fall victim to modern times, and a true Manchester institution at that.
I first went to the Roadhouse in December 2006, shortly after moving to Manchester for University. It wasn’t a pretty venue by any means, but the sound was good, and the beer was more reasonably priced than most venues. It had played host to many legendary bands – honestly, look at the list on their website – and Elbow even used to work there before they could make a living off their music. That night I saw The Duke Spirit supported by Red Vinyl Fur. They were the first of many bands I would see there, and I ended up going to the Roadhouse very regularly over the next three years.
But then came the recession. Everyone’s purse strings tightened, and live music took a hit as people suddenly had less money to spare. Also, as new venues opened across Manchester, bands and promoters suddenly had more options for putting on gigs. Inevitably, The Roadhouse lost a lot of its lustre. Still, at that point it had a number of club nights that kept it going, including my personal favourite, Underachievers Please Try Harder, which set up shop there in 2011. It was this night that made me a regular of the Roadhouse once more.
I haven’t been back to the Roadhouse since Underachievers came to an end in 2013. To be honest, the listings always seemed a bit bare whenever I looked at them, even when it came to club nights. Nonetheless, it’s undeniably sad that The Roadhouse will soon be no more. I’m going to endeavour to go to some of the final events, so that I can see the place off in style.
In the meantime, here’s a list of my top 10 Manchester Roadhouse gigs, along with some rubbish photos:
10: The Duke Spirit with Red Vinyl Fur (Dec 2006)
I can still vividly remember my first ever gig at the Roadhouse. I only found out about it on the day of the gig, and at that point The Duke Spirit hadn’t toured the UK for over a year, so I pretty much sprinted all the way from my student halls to the venue. That night, The Duke Spirit premiered tracks from their second album, and it was a raucous display of garage rock power. I still have the setlist for this one somewhere.
9: Underachievers Please Try Harder’s First Night, With Evans the Death and Let’s Buy Happiness (Sept 2011)
For many reasons, the inaugural Underachievers was a very special night, but particularly memorable were the live bands. Evans the Death were very impressive with their youthful noisy rock, whilst Let’s Buy Happiness were quite frankly stunning.
8: Shearwater with Air Cav (Sept 2008)
I went to this gig primarily because local act Air Cav were supporting. Whilst they were as enjoyable as always, Shearwater were outstanding. Their folk infused indie was excellent, and they performed a beautiful cover of Talk Talk’s The Rainbow.
7: The Electric Soft Parade with Actress Hands, Chris TT (April 2007)
This show was took place in weeks before The Electric Soft Parade released their third album, which was their first in four years. They took hold of The Roadhouse with their skilful indie pop and their silly crowd banter. I felt as though every song in their set had the potential to be a hit. They should have been massive.
6: The Northwestern with Gold Panda (June 2009)
The Northwestern featured former members of Hope of the States and played a life-affirming strain of indie rock. This show was on their first tour – it might even have been their first ever show – and it was a solid hour of ridiculous fun.
5: We Were Promised Jetpacks with Lost Knives (Nov 2009)
Four Scotsmen took to the stage at The Roadhouse. An hour later they walked offstage, covered in sweat and having blown the crowd away. One of the most energetic and passionate performances I’ve even seen.
4: Underachievers Please Try Harder 5th Birthday with Patterns (Apr 2013)
Patterns were regular performers at Underachievers and were thus the perfect choice for a celebratory night like this. Their hazy shoegaze sound created a truly joyous atmosphere that only a venue as small and intimate as The Roadhouse could provide.
3: The Longcut with Victories at Sea (Feb 2012)
This was the first Longcut gig for about three years, and was one of the most packed nights I’ve ever seen at any venue. The place was rammed with people bouncing around to The Longcut’s funky rhythms, and the walls were dripping with sweat. In a good way.
2: Last Ever Underachievers Please Try Harder with Ghost Outfit (Apr 2013)
This was a very emotional night, and at the time of writing, I haven’t since returned to The Roadhouse. I’m hoping this won’t remain the case. Ghost Outfit were the ideal band to see the night out. Their loud distortion sent the crowd into frenzy, creating a buzz that only ended when the bouncers started escorting the remaining punters out at three in the morning.
1: Oceansize Anniversary Gigs (Oct 2008)
I’m kind of cheating here as the Oceansize anniversary shows took place across three days. But for everyone involved and for all who attended, it felt like one long and beautiful night. Oceansize performed in full the three albums they had released at that point, and were joined by the sludge metal of Manatees, the doom folk of Rose Kemp, the prog rock of Amplifier, and, most incredibly, an acoustic Biffy Clyro set that had somehow been kept secret. Even their manager had publicly stated that the band would still be in Iceland following a festival appearance and wouldn’t be able to make it.
Over three emotional nights friendships were formed, drink was consumed, and about 200 people bonded over their love for one band. It’s thanks to these nights that I’ll always remember The Roadhouse. Simply put, it was a place where people could gather, and where music could work its magic.
By day, James Wilkes is a sort of scientist. By night, he plays bass for the pop group The Wall Market Racketeers. Why not pay a visit to their Bandcamp page?
Header image by Flickr user Graham C99.