The Null Device
Your Humble Narrator spent the past weekend in Manchester, visiting friends, catching the Architecture In Helsinki gig there, and seeing some of the sights.
Manchester appears to have an interesting stencil/paste-up art scene. There's even one artist whose thing seems to be gluing his canvases to walls/doorways, with "NOT FOR SALE" stickers underneath them (where, in a gallery, the price would go):
Apparently there's also a big electro-pop scene happening, continuing the Mancunian tradition of combining guitar-rock and dance electronics. There didn't seem to be anything of that sort happening on Saturday night though.
I did, however, see the Haçienda; or, rather, the Haçienda Apartments, a set of yuppie lifestyle apartments built on the site of FAC51, the famous club owned by Factory Records and New Order. Disappointingly, there did not seem to be a blue plaque anywhere on the building saying anything like "ON THIS SITE, THE FIRST DOSE OF ECSTASY IN BRITAIN WAS TAKEN (OR SO TONY WILSON WOULD HAVE YOU BELIEVE)"; the only testament to the site's significance is its name, stripped of concept and reduced to another couture marketing buzzword. (And it doesn't even look unusual, unlike North London's Visage apartments, which are apparently modelled on Steve Strange's hairstyle.)
There is one remaining venue connected with New Order in Manchester: the Dry Bar on Oldham St. Though forget about it; it's not remotely interesting. The interior looks like a suburban pub (or, to the Australians in the audience, like a RSL club), and apparently it's full of lagered-up chavs on most nights.
There is a lot else to see around the Oldham St. part of Manchester (which is sort of like Byres Road, Glasgow, or a more grungy Brunswick St., Melbourne). The ubiquitous sticker/paste-up art, for one. The shopping's quite good, especially for records (because it's not London, second-hand CD shops tend to have more interesting selections at more reasonable prices). I ended up taking back as many CDs as I could fit in my backpack (roughly 15).
Affleck's Palace is interesting enough, but, one gets the feeling that it's nowhere near what it used to be. Nowadays it contains mostly teen-rebellion paraphernalia of the same kind seen in Camden Market. The various retro shops nearby (including the Pop Boutique, which is more impressive than their London outpost) have, alongside the usual selection of jackets and jeans, quite a few 8-bit computers and vintage video game units. (One shop had a working Amstrad CPC464 on display next to the 1970s shirts and fondue sets.)