As well as having three bank holiday weekends to enjoy, May also has a healthy calendar of gigs. Taking place across the city’s coveted collection of music venues, from dimly lit, sticky carpeted boozers to former garages in Salford, there are artists representing a wide range of genres making their way to the city that, cliche or not, never seems to sleep.
There’s the pioneering ska tones of The Selecter, 80-year-old Roy Ayers at the Ritz and controversial Northern Irish rap from Kneecap making its way to Gorilla. This month also brings a number of parties and events taking advantage of those bank hols, so watch out for another round-up of where to head to across May’s generous number of extended weekends.
Read on for our round-up of the best gigs and club nights in Manchester this May.
Gnod at The White Hotel
Tuesday 2 May
Manchester-based rockers Gnod are known for their unconventional approach to music. Taking influence from the acid house sounds of Madchester, psychedelic rock, 80s electronica and post punk, the band’s live performance is just as diverse. Combining immersive installations and audience participation at Salford’s White Hotel, this isn’t one to miss.
The Selecter at Band On The Wall
Wednesday 3 May
Ska legends The Selecter first burst onto the revolutionary two tone scene in the late 70s. Fronted by vocalist Pauline Black, who’s often credited as being the queen of the movement, the band is still touring almost 50 years later. With hits including Too Much Pressure and On My Radio behind them, there’ll be plenty of skanking to be done at Band On The Wall this May.
R-Fest Summer 2023 at Retro Bar
Wednesday 3 - Sunday 7 May
Retro Bar’s annual R-Fest is a huge celebration of Manchester’s local indie talent. Taking place at the bar on Sackville Street across five days, there’ll be performances from homegrown rising stars spanning indie, rock, pop, electronic and more. Hosted in collaboration with Manchester promoters Dusty Pop, the event aims to shed a light on some of the city’s hottest talent.
Tapeworms at SOUP
Thursday 4 May
French three-piece Tapeworms are made up of vocalist and keyboardist Margot Magnière and brothers Theo and Eliott Poyer. The band creates DIY bedroom electronic music inspired by Japanese culture and shoegazey guitars. The end product? Evocative modern day synth pop.
Skee Mask at The White Hotel
Friday 5 May
German producer and DJ Skee Mask is most well known for his electronic soundscapes rooted in old school techno. Starting his music career in various rock bands in his hometown, it wasn’t until 2010 that he taught himself to navigate a synthesiser. Since then, he has released five albums and DJed at various clubs and festivals across the world with electro-house and techno dominating his sets.
Sidewinder Oldskool Summer Festival at Bowler’s Exhibition Centre
Saturday 6 May
If 12 hours of old school garage, bassline, funky house and hip-hop transports you straight back to the care-free days of drinking in a field wearing your beloved pair of Air Max, then Sidewinder is for you. Headlined this year by Dizzee Rascal, the legendary grime artist will be joined by Manchester’s own Sweet Female Attitude, Ms Dynamite, Tom Zannetti, Artful Dodger, MC Melody and loads more. This one is likely to sell out, so bassline junkies grab your tickets while you still can.
Mestizo at Band On The Wall
Saturday 6 May
British-Colombian ensemble Mestizo are a 15-piece band that connected through the music of their cultures. Founded by Steam Down’s Ahnansé and Mambo Negro Records’ Daniel Michel, their self titled debut album is set to be released on 5 May. The show at Band On The Wall the following day will be a huge party packed full Colombian folk, London jazz and timeless hip-hop from their energetic first record.
Hugh Cornwell at Academy 3
Saturday 6 May
Frontman of seminal post-punk band The Stranglers, Hugh Cornwell has had an admirable career as the man behind some of the genre's most influential tracks. From Golden Brown to Strange Little Girl, The Stranglers pioneered the new wave movement, and Cornwell’s live sets are an ode to the band's dystopian discography complete with rattling bass, pipe organs and his unmistakable poetry. He’ll also be performing his latest solo release, Moments of Madness.
Die Verlierer at Gullivers
Sunday 7 May
Berlin-based rockers Die Verlierer’s rough punk aesthetic transports listeners back to the underground clubs of 70's Germany. Making their Manchester debut at Gullivers, they’ll feel right at home as the dulcet tones of pioneering Northern bands including The Fall and Joy Division are emulated by the five-piece. Just one listen to the band’s self-titled 2022 release and you’re in a sweaty Berlin bar, covered in beer being clambered on by crowd surfers.
Vacations at Gorilla
Monday 8 May
Landing in the UK from Newcastle, Australia this May, Vacations are a band reinventing guitar music. When the band was formed, they were tasked with making tracks without guitar and have now built their sound on instruments including the ukulele, kalimba and karimba. Not entirely devoid of the instrument, but far enough, the end product is toe-tapping 60s influenced fuzzy pop rock.
Roisin Murphy at Albert Hall
Wednesday 10 May
One of the UK’s biggest disco stars, Roisin Murphy is hitting Albert Hall in May as part of the venue’s 10th anniversary celebrations. From being the voice behind Bring It Back, a track guaranteed to instantly fill a dance floor, to new work on the defiant Roisin Machine, the performer will once again bring her exuberant show to the city. Complete with costume changes and challenging stunts, there's never a dull moment with Roisin.
JW Francis at Night & Day Cafe
Thursday 11 May
To commemorate 2023’s Dream House, JW Francis is heading to Night & Day Cafe for a night of his lo-fi New York bedroom beats. The animated American pop star was born in Oklahoma, raised in Paris and now resides in the bustling neon streets of New York, which have very much influenced his sound. His newest album has an overriding theme of love, but is as far from Celine Dion as they come.
Kneecap at Gorilla
Thursday 11 May
Kneecap are one of the most controversial Irish acts. Formed back in 2018, the band have been banned by RTE and condemned by the DUP, Ireland’s biggest conservative political party. Could be worse, eh? Predominantly covering political issues brimming out of Northern Ireland, the band are explosive yet hilarious and have even been compared to early Eminem.
Roy Ayers at O2 Ritz
Thursday 11 May
82-year-old Roy Ayers, the man behind the beautiful 70s hit Everybody Loves The Sunshine isn’t quite finished yet. Back in Manchester on his final ever tour, when most 80-year-olds would be sitting at home napping over episodes of Emmerdale, the musician and soul legend is performing at The Ritz this May. Still an unbelievable vibraphonist, Ayers’ set is a celebration of his expansive songwriting career, one that has gone on to influence further hip-hop and soul artists across the world.
Enumclaw at YES
Friday 12 May
Hailing from Washington, Enumclaw have only been playing their instruments a mere two years. Despite their short time on-stage, this hasn’t stopped them from rising to the top of Seattle’s grunge scene, which birthed many an influential band including Nirvana and Pearl Jam. Their music is poppy and catchy yet dark and personal, never far from a chugging scuzzy bass riff.
G33 and Matty Chiabi at The Old Abbey Taphouse
Saturday 13 May
Starting off summer right, The Old Abbey Taphouse is hosting an all-day rave complete with home cooked food. Headlined by G33 and Matty Chiabi from Girls Don’t Sync, the party kicks off at 4pm with jerk boxes, curried goat, kebabs, dumplings and more served up for a hearty pre, during, and post-party snack. The line-up is complete by local selectors Hanz, Brink, Franco, Shadev and JT Kobie.
Freya Beer & The Empty Page at Gullivers
Saturday 13 May
Fitting right in to the Roadhouse Bar of David Lynch’s dystopian Twin Peaks town, Freya Beer’s dark bass heavy rock is heading to Gullivers this May. With support from Manchester-based punk duo, The Empty Page - whose anxious, angular songs cover everything from domestic drudgery to discos to the fear of impending nuclear war - the gig will celebrate feminine, cathartic songwriting in one of the Northern Quarter’s best boozers.
Brutus Gold’s Love Train at Canvas
Sunday 14 May
Brutus Gold’s Blackpool-influenced Love Train is returning to Manchester for a non-stop cheesy disco complete with wigs, tacky shirts and porn star moustaches. Taking over Canvas this May, the Love Train is a celebration of disco hits, where outrageous costumes and dance offs are more than encouraged. Get ready to Do The Hustle and Dance Dance Dance all night long.
808 State at Ramona
Wednesday 17 May
If you lived in Manchester during the early 90s, 808 State are probably a band you’re very familiar with. One of the most popular products of the acid house scene, the four lads formed in the city in the late 80s after a chance encounter in Eastern Bloc. Their dreamlike track Pacific State defined an era of wide-eyed ravers and further influenced the work of huge artists in the techno, electro and house genres. This is an intimate, free gig in Ancoats.
Chip at Canvas
Thursday 18 May
UK rap legend, Chip aka Chipmunk was one of the biggest names on the UK scene back in the late noughties. Now on the road again after the release of newest single Don't Try It, he'll be hitting Canvas with support from Manchester's own Just Banco. Honing in on his grime roots, Don't Try It is hard-hitting and sees Chip doing what he does best.
Horse Meat Disco at Joshua Brooks
Friday 19 May
One of disco’s finest DJ collectives, Horse Meat Disco bring the nostalgic dance floors of 1970’s New York to venues across the globe. Landing in Manchester once again for a huge party at Joshua Brooks, the four glitter clad pals are a force to be reckoned with on-stage, setting the bar from the start for the future of queer clubbing. Expect everything from Jocelyn Brown classics to other uplifting underground house and disco hits.
Jon Dasilva at Islington Mill
Saturday 20 May
Hacienda royalty in an old Salford Mill? Surely there’s no better way to spend a Saturday night? Jon Dasilva was a former resident of Manchester’s party den and is now regarded as one of the most influential figures in the UK acid house scene. Still gripping dance floors across the globe, the DJ heads to Islington Mill to mark the opening of the venue’s new backroom, that's made for “boogie beats”.
FREAK Queer Rave at The Progress Centre
Saturday 20 May
Taking place at Manchester's newest open-air party destination, The Progress Centre the highly-anticipated queer rave FREAK has announced an all-day party this May, followed by an after-dance at The Loft running until 5am. With 15 hours of LGBTQIA+ talents to be showcased, FREAK will see an incredible line-up, featuring Job Jobse, Angel D’Lite, Jaye Ward and more. There'll also be a Vogue workshop during the afternoon from one of the most talented and experienced Vogue performers in the North West.
Meltchester at Projekts Skatepark
Saturday 20 May
Manchester label Sour Grapes have taken over Projekts skatepark behind Piccadilly Station for a string of shows this year. Meltchester marks their May gig, a garage punk and psych all-day festival headlined by a string of global acts. Expect performances from; Acid Dad, Deja Vega, Avalanche Party, Bee Bee Sea, Chemtrails, Mister Strange and more yet to be announced acts.
Bully at YES
Monday 22 May
Grungey indie rock is what Minnesota’s Bully is all about. Formed back in 2014 on the bones of their debut self-titled EP, the band have now built an impressive discography of three records perfectly portraying the cherished indie pop genre. Bully will be supported by Manchester’s Vice Vera, a PJ Harvey-esque darkly punk artist.
Avalon Emerson & The Charm at YES
Tuesday 23 May
Often found posing outside the gates of Berlin’s Berghain, Avalon Emerson is a DJ that carries her audience to every hidden corner of dance music. Making her way to YES this May, surprisingly on a school night, she’ll bring newest project Avalon Emerson & The Charm - a step into the indie genre for the electronic giant.
The Tiger Lillies at HOME
Friday 26 May
The Day of the Dead is one of Mexico’s largest festivals, and The Tiger Lillies have risen directly from those colourful streets. Fronted by a corrido singer, this new, full-length performance follows the band as they return from the dead to haunt their killer through striking visuals and alternative cabaret music.
The Undisclosed at Off The Square
Friday 26 May
If you’re ready to take your bedroom production from home to the live stage, Off The Square’s new The Undisclosed event opens up the space to up and coming artists. Focusing mainly on hip hop and R&B, the evening will showcase some of Manchester’s newest talent across a six-hour exploration. A third of ticket sales are reserved for music venues, artists manager, brands and record labels to attend in the hope that artists can secure future work.
Hot 8 Brass Band at Albert Hall
Saturday 27 May
Presented by Band On The Wall and Manchester Jazz Festival, Hot 8 Brass Band are honouring the passing of their co-founder Bennie Pete with this performance at Albert Hall. Making their way spectacularly through a range of genres over the years, including; jazz, hip-hop, funk and rap, the band first began as a community group performing at parades and funerals in their hometown. Twenty years later, the band is still travelling the world playing original funk-led songs to sell-out audiences.
Romare at The Blues Kitchen
Sunday 28 May
Named after American collage artist Romare Bearden, Romare has carried the artistic practice over to his own music. Known for piecing together multiple elements of various genres through both his own music and his DJ sets, the performer heads to Manchester’s Blues Kitchen alongside our homegrown Hidden Spheres for a huge bank holiday bash at the end of May.
Midge Ure at Albert Hall
Sunday 28 May
The former frontman of Ultravox, Midge Ure is behind some of the biggest new wave tracks that dominated the 80s. Vienna, Fade to Grey and Dancing With Tears In My Eyes are just some of Midge’s mastery and now, you’ll find him touring his career highlights with new show ‘Voice and Visions’. Fans will be treated to his pioneering synth led tracks from over the years, transporting them back to music’s most experimental decade.
The Lemon Twigs at New Century
Wednesday 31 May
Brothers Brian and Michael D’Addario are the long limbed duo behind The Lemon Twigs. Hailing from the golden beaches of New York’s Long Island, the band create transcendent pop rock that’s been praised by everyone from Iggy Pop to Elton John, Ciliian Murphy and the Red Hot Chilli Peppers’ Flea. Channeling 70s fashion, riffs and hair-dos, The Lemon Twigs are a zesty take on prog rock.