Music fans enjoyed a sell-out showcase of local talent at the Koffee Pot last Sunday, thanks to the new events company Platform 54.
The ‘Cuppa’ event took place in a small café in Stevenson Square, where dozens of fans were given raffle tickets to purchase free coffee and cake to watch the three acts – Mike Garry, Heath Common and the Thin Man, and Danny Mahon.
Director Ella Byford was pleased her first Platform 54 event was a huge success.
“It came about because I’m quite a grandma when I go to gigs. I want to sit down, have a cup of tea, and enjoy the music, basically,” she said.
“I used to work at a place called Stockport Plaza, and it was there where I began testing this idea of playing on the whole Northern tradition of having a cuppa with the music. So I put an event on there called ‘Voice of the City’, which had John Cooper Clarke as a headline act, and that was very successful.
“After that I did an event called Hit the North, which was in the café at the Plaza, where people come in and have free pie and peas. So I decided to start a company of running events like this.”
After Cuppa was introduced by celebrated Mancunian poet Mike Garry, the crowded Northern Quarter cafe hushed down for the first music act, Heath Common and the Thin Man.
The predominately Yorkshire-based six-piece outfit includes Steve Priest, the Oldham keyboard player from the Jerzey Street Band.
Heavily influenced by the 1980s New York ‘Art Rock’ scene and the Beat generation, their songs are often ethereal yet urban in tone – especially ‘Angel in New York’, which invokes early, bluesy Tom Waits before he went madder.
It’s not all US-centric though: the chorus for ‘Manchester Summertime’ is written to elevate the Piccadilly 109 bus route to the mythological heights of Route 66 and Chuck Berry’s ‘Promised Land’.
When asked about the commonalities between New York and Manchester, Heath Common said: “They might as well be the same city. They both have the same vibe.”
The band was followed by the more visceral Danny Mahon, whose solo acoustic set was rambunctious enough to get the crowd singing along to his memorable and song lyrics like 'I think Pimp My Ride is where it’s at/Cos I’m a twat'.
Mahon’s brand of folk-punk contains references to the occasional beauty of the Salford skyline, council estate romance, and other distinctly Northern themes. Danny Mahon told MM that he writes the songs based on real people, some of whom he knew at school, and it makes the songs more ‘real’.
The success of the afternoon showed that the Manchester music scene is still going strong, despite the Happy Mondays and Stone Roses reunion tours and the emergence of a Peter Hook-less New Order this year suggesting otherwise.
“I don’t think that’s a problem, to be honest,” said Ms Byford, referring to the prominence of older Manchester bands.
“I mean I went to see the Fall in Frankfest and they’ve been round for years. But to me, they’re just as current as any other band coming through. They kept that edge because they are Mancunian and Northern, which I think is a special thing. So I don’t think it’s a stale situation – I mean, some bands can be over-egging it, Boyzone for example, I can see how that is a bit naff. But I think that for bands to be carrying on and doing well, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. That’s absolutely fine.”
She added: “I think that for me, Manchester is the best city in the world, really.
“I think there’s always a scene, whenever people are aware of or not. So I think as long as you always have people like Koffee Pot, people wanting to do things, then you’re always going to have those buzzing scenes.”
Danny Mahon recommended the Janice Graham Band and the Tapestry as two local acts not getting enough publicity.
Platform 54 also publishes Lost in the Supermarket, an A4 fanzine folded into different sections, and is named Ms Byford’s favourite song.
She said: “I thought of branching Platform 54 out to things like my zine. So I started doing that, just as a thing to go alongside the acts and the events, put them in the zine, and give the zine out at the events. It gives it a kind of longevity then.
“So there are several different strands for it, really. But that’s kind of the background to Platform 54 and how each bit came together.”
It is expected that there will be another Platform 54-organised event in June or July.