A Review of the Manchester Venues: Part 1 – The Intimate Venues

Sound Control – New Wakefield Street


I have only attended one gig here so far and that was Nina Nesbitt last month on 24th April 2012. The history of this venue is exciting (for me anyway). I knew Sound Control when it was a music shop and my friends and I would go in and ‘play’ the guitars and the drums. When I discovered that it was being relaunched into a venue/club I was intrigued to see the transformation.

Nina played her set on the ground floor, which is the perfect size for a cosy, intimate gig. The stage itself was quite low and as I was standing towards the back of the gathered crowd, I did struggle to see Nina. I would therefore advise that you get near the front if you attend a gig at this venue (or stand behind some not-quite-so-tall people). The music and acoustics sounded great here. My only criticism is that the bar closed what felt to be a bit early, but that’s just me.

The Deaf Institute – Grosvenor Street


There’s such character and soul in this venue, which adds to the Manchester gig experience. It also makes for fantastic acoustics. It has 3 floors and is beautifully decorated throughout (not that has much to do with the music but I feel it adds to the overall experience). Again, I have only attended one gig at this venue and that was Kate Walsh on 27th September 2009 (see the photo below). She played on the top floor and it was perfect for an intimate gig. It did have seating, but the seats were fixed and were right at the back of the room. My Mum and I therefore found a comfortable spot on the floor right near the stage and we were happy here. I am attending another gig here next month so I can see if it has changed much.

Kate Walsh playing The Deaf Institute

Band on the Wall – Swan Street, The Northern Quarter


I experienced the genius David Ford twice at this venue; once on 21st December 2009 and again on 26th April 2011. Recently renovated, the venue has retained its original charm whilst feeling clean and modern. The iconic face of Band on the Wall has been revamped, adding neon light and clean, sharp lines (as seen in the photo above), which connotes the growth of a new era of music in Manchester.

The venue is deceptively large, whilst still retaining an intimate feel for the smaller gig experience. As well as the main floor, the venue also boasts a balcony area which is perfect for ensuring a good view of the stage if you don’t want to be in amongst the crowds. The bar staff have always been friendly and helpful, which is always a good thing. Overall, one of my favourite gig venues.

Academy 3 – Oxford Road

University of Manchester’s Student Union

Set deep within the heart of the University of Manchester’s Student Union, Academy 3 is a must-have gig experience. The gigs that I have attended here are Aqualung in 2007 and Idlewild in 2010; both fantastic gigs. The intimacy that this venue offers cannot be described but has to experienced. Upon seeing Aqualung here in 2007, my brother and I managed to stand at the front of the audience and we were actually leaning with our elbows on the stage, gazing up at front-man Matt Hales in awe and admiration.

The set list for Aqualung gig: 10th April 2007

The emotions that were felt by Matt when he was singing washed over us; so much so that although the gig was 5 years ago, the experience has stuck with me. Isn’t this the ultimate goal of the intimate gig experience? This is the gig whereby I fell in love with the singer/songwriter support act Kate Walsh and I believe that the intimacy this venue offers was involved heavily in this.

Due to the venue being set within the heart of the student community, deep within the Student Union, it can be slightly intimidating trying to find Academy 3. However, it is definitely worth it if you enjoy your intimate gig experiences.

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