I Am Kloot – and I Am Not Hard Rock
IT WAS A SURPRISINGLY short set – or shortened set.
He almost bites and scratches at the microphone with his mouth as he sings ‘To The Brink’. It feels more like protest than dark-humoured serenade. Two songs in – you just knew something was up.
Last night saw Hard Rock Café in Manchester host one of the city’s most well-loved singer-songwriters, Johnny Bramwell aka lead vocalist of I Am Kloot.
Bramwell said he was only going to play “about 4 songs” and made no secret to the just-under-200 crowd that he wasn’t getting paid for the gig.
To diffuse the tension he made some cracking stage gags between songs about the venue: “What are those guitars doing behind cases?” he said, whilst staring straight at Sting’s ostentatiously cream-coloured bass on the wall.
So the fans didn’t seem to mind at first – they got in for free, too.
Bramwell’s performance was fantastic nonetheless. He sang with his inimitable, disenchanted allure: raspy vocals, honest, witty and very Mancunian. One more beer and there were even shades of Nick Drake on ‘Northern Skies’ from latest album, Sky at Night.
Every song was met with rapturous applause – at least the audience knew it was about time Bramwell got recognized for the truly talented musician he is.
Though, finally, he quit the façade and announced: “I think putting me on at one of these things is pretty redundant. See ya,” he said, before heading to the side for a bevy.
In contrast to his walk-off, he was very sweet afterwards, happy to chat to fans after the gig. I ask him what inspired him behind 2001 hit Morning Rain and he said: “It’s about being kicked out of my flat!
“Well, that was the starting point of the song,” he says, and unfolds a little smile.
Fresh from the release of his new album Northern Skies, I Am Kloot played an intimate gig on behalf of Absolute Radio.
//written for Manchester Gossip, checkout http://www.manchestergossip.com/janemcconnell
UNCOVERED: Withington, MCR
WITHINGTON IS the cute village three miles south of the city centre, also known as “posh Fallowfield” and the village where you could end up if you fall asleep on the Magic Bus on the way home.
The name of the village has Saxon origins: ‘Withy-ton’ , meaning ‘marshy town’ suggests the place may have been a bit of a bog at one point, so it’s amazing what nine-hundred years can do to a place as it is now a hearty 11,000-people-strong village with a rich Victorian architectural heritage.
The village is incredibly chilled compared to the bustle and excitement of Fallowfield, almost a world away from the kebabs and OP and Gaffs. It is an interestingly traditional suburb where most people rent their homes from private landlords. There is a plethora of charity shops and discount stores if you’re thrifty consumer (given the recession, student loans and that ‘orrible word you will come to know as rent, dear fresher; hand-me-downs from Cancer Research UK on Wilmslow Road are just the ticket) and there’s plenty to scour.
For the outsider looking in, there does not seem to be many students here as the houses are either old Victorian terraces or semi-detached family homes. But don’t be fooled. According to Manchester City Council, 35% of Withington population are 20-24 year olds, which means fat pickings if you’re on the dating scene…or just want to make a ton of new friends.
Speaking of friends, the ones you’re likely to make here are those who are probably vegetarian or vegan, like nothing better than a bit of Manchester folk music and take pride in the fact that the oldest cinema in Manchester is just down the road – The Scala – although it’s now closed and serves as an enigmatic landmark.
Another Withy landmark is Fuel café, the notable vegetarian hangout for all cool students and cool ex-students who choose to take up residence in the area. Serving mint hot chocolates (which are amazing and you must drink one), delicious pitta bread sandwiches and full veggie breakfasts for under a fiver, it’s worth an extra 20 pennies’ worth of bus fare to get some healthy grub to ease the morning-after. But be warned: Saturday mornings are incredibly busy here. You’ll soon discover why.
The Edwardian buildings in the centre of the village are protected – ah, that’s how they stay so elegant – and sprawl out into the residential areas and past the tiny yet chic Withington Library.
If you can drag yourself away from Fallowfield and the city centre scenes for drinks and giggles, then try out the three-lions pub crawl. It’s quite tame in comparison to a Printworks night out but that means less ladies in over-tight dresses throwing up everywhere. So, to drink with the lions you start out at The White Lion on Burton Road, a giant pub which curves around the corner and has a well in the basement (some say it’s full of Saxon beer, others say this is ridiculous trollope). If you’re brave enough, go for a non-lion pub in between the three. So next would be Wilmslow road favourites The Turnpike, then The Red Lion before trundling into the heart of Withington to The Cotton Tree and finishing off at The Golden Lion opposite Christies’ Hospital. By the way, if you do get into banter with proper Withington folk, you’ll find that many of them either work at this cancer-specialist hospital (at which the University of Manchester has its own research unit) or at the airport. You can learn a lot on a Withington pub crawl.
For some fresh air the beat the hangover, head for the hills. Although Fallowfield has Platt Fields, Withington’s green spaces are just as extensive with Fog Lane park and its seven tennis courts, the tiny Kingswood Park and the hidden haven of the Marie Louise Gardens, a conservation area lovingly preserved to retain its wildlife and wildflowers. The Gardens are full of squirrels so if you do stumble across the tiny park – people bafflingly make the mistake of believing the grounds to be private as they are that beautiful – then bring a bag of monkey nuts. On a balmy summer’s evening you might even spot some yoga-bunnies here stretching out in the grass. // published in Uncovered, Manchester’s student Freshers guide 2009
MANCHESTER CITY GUIDE: PROPECTS.AC.UK
Bars and clubs
There are over 500 bars in the city centre with new ones popping up in the suburbs seemingly every month. Drink prices up north are all relatively reasonable but being a student shields you away from the reality of alcohol prices beyond the Oxford Road corridor. A double whiskey and coke will typically set you back a mere £2.50, with pints just below £2 in the students’ unions at both the University of Manchester and Manchester Metropolitan. The coolest bar in town would be Odd on Thomas Street, a winner of the Manchester Food and Drink Festival. The Deaf Institute on Grosvenor Street is a fail-safe for a decent night out and for cheap drinks, head to Scubar 2 on Chester Street or Crunch 2 on Canal Street.
Splurging that loan is a constant temptation. By the time you’ve got through the Arndale Centre on Market Street, you’re confronted with Selfridges and the Triangle Shopping centre in Exchange Square which trails out towards Victoria station and Cheetham Hill. Drive west and there’s The Trafford Centre – the UK’s first shopping centre specifically based on the American ‘mall’ design.
Opposite this side of the city are the independent boutiques. To tourists, Northern Quarter is “near Afflecks Palace, innit?” when it is locally known as Ancoats, the artful part of the city. Here, you’ll find the quirkiest stores and cafés like Junk, Oklahoma, and Cup which stock everything needed by bohemians: Mr Scruff’s tea, clothes from the 1920s and canvases.
The Lowry Outlet Mall serves well when the purse strings are a bit tight. Located in neighbouring city and (real) home of The Smiths, Salford, it’s an easy tram ride away for cut-price designer gear.
The service is excellent, the tapas is as exquisite as any in Barcelona and you may spot a WAG pretending to eat pan con tomate.
Manchester caters very well for vegetarians. Fuel Cafe in Withington is the haven for the morning-after breakfast. Their pitta bread sarnies are delicious and cost about a fiver.
For a more sophisticated dining experience, La Tasca in Deansgate comes highly recommended. The service is excellent, the tapas is as exquisite as any in Barcelona and you may spot a WAG pretending to eat pan con tomate.
After a long night out, Abdul’s (Oxford Road) is the one-stop takeaway for all your £3ish kebab-based needs. If you’re after some pub grub look no further than The Ram and Shackle on Wilmslow Road for the most beautiful pies known to student-kind.
Manchester is home to a plethora of music venues where legends from across the genres have all graced the stages.
The MEN Arena is the big one – a space big enough to stage any hallowed homecoming of Oasis. Other top acts like Lily Allen and Doves are happy to perform in the newly-refurbished Academy. Academy 2, Academy 3 and Club Academy inside the University of Manchester Students’ Union building host the more intimate gigs and unsigned nights.
Manchester’s diverse theatre scene means that culture vultures get to choose between the Royal Exchange in the city centre, Quay Street’s Opera House, and the Contact theatre on Oxford Road for experimental shows.
Manchester has a rich art collection. There’s the traditional Manchester Art Gallery and Whitworth Art Gallery. The contemporary exhibitions from visiting artists are at the glass-plated Urbis in Cathedral Gardens and for L.S. Lowry – yep, head to the Lowry Centre on Salford Quays.
Fallowfield is Manchester’s student mecca. The old town terraces are filled from floors to rafters with undergraduates; as are the bars and kebab shops. The biggest halls are located here – Owens Park and Oak House, belonging to the University of Manchester – and are teeming with excitable freshers. Not an idyll for the study-conscious types, but the area is certainly a vibrant one where boredom is unheard of. A good room in a decent Fallowfield home (a bit less mould in the bathroom, a nice landlord) will set you back, on average, about £68 week including bills. Halls prices (University-owned and private) range from £75 to £110 per week.
Victoria Park is the leafy suburb leading off Upper Brook Street and the main hospitals in Manchester. The houses are huge, the trees are plentiful and there’s plenty of space at most student homes to park the car. Withington is even tinier and the students here tend to have cards or annual bus passes to get around.
Top 3 places to see
Canal Street in the summer during Manchester Pride
Chill Factore: an indoor skiing centre
Manchester United Football Club, Old Trafford
Greater Manchester is one of the most diverse cities in the UK, which means it is easy to make friends from across the globe. Everything and everyone is catered for – which maybe why most people here are so relaxed. As the great Ian Brown once said, “Manchester’s got everything except a beach.”