It hurts more when it’s close to home. When lives are lost in faraway parts of the world, people on social media ask why we pay less attention to those tragedies than ones which happen nearby. And they’re right, of course, a human life is a human life, those who are close to us are not more valuable than any other. But the fact remains, whether it’s fair and just or not, that it hurts more when it’s close to home, when we can imagine it happening to us.
Manchester is not my home now, but it was for over a decade, from age 18. It is the place where I found my closest friends, some of whom live there still. It is the place that took a shy, miserable teenager, and showed him how joyful life could be. There was no better city to be a young music lover. My life in Manchester revolved around concerts, record shops and nightclubs, at venues from the tiny Star and Garter to, inevitably, the Manchester Arena.
It’s always good to hear a song about a place that you know. It must happen an awful lot if you happen to live in Paris, New York or California. Probably less so if you live in Salford. Although I never lived in Salford myself, my decade-plus in Manchester meant I got to know the area a little.
Back in the 1980s when The Smiths were posing in front of Salford Lads Club, a song about the area probably would have been pretty bleak. But, Mazes ‘Salford’ is a burst of dual-vocalled, fuzz-guitared energy, as if Sonic Youth came from the North West of England. Mazes are not very new, being three albums down the line by now, but they’re new to me. If the rest of their catalogue is as good as ‘Salford’ I’ll be paying more attention in future. Enjoy!
Bjork is one of my all time favourite artists. I’ve been listening to her since ‘Debut’ was released over twenty years ago, and there hasn’t been a single album I’ve not enjoyed. I can’t think of another artist who I’ve appreciated so much for so long. So getting the chance to see her first European show since the release of her latest album ‘Vulnicura’ was very exciting.
The show took place at the Castlefield Bowl as part of the Manchester International Festival. I’d lived in Manchester for over a decade, but hadn’t been back for a couple of years, so even before the start of the gig I was full of memories, walking past old haunts, noting how my former home city had changed. Feeling slightly melancholy at being away from my wife and daughter and back in my past.
The venue is a kind of outdoor ampitheatre, and it was a perfect sunny summers evening (the usual Manchester storms having passed earlier in the day), and we settled ourselves on the slope overlooking the stage, trying not to slide down the steep, damp grass banks. I had to give up and go stand in the end, which meant a worse view, but better sound quality, a trade-off worth making I think.