The Northern Quarter, Manchester, hosts arguably some of the best live music venues the city has to offer. Who needs the big stars and the big stages in the 02 when you can be up close and personal to artists equally as talented, in a room small enough that you can actually see them?

I personally love the intimacy you have with an artist in a small venue, where they are free enough to improvise and connect with their audience. If you agree, Matt and Phreds is the venue. Not only is the club super laid-back in their approach to their crowds, but they also open their stage up to some of the most dynamic music coming out of Manchester and from all over the globe.

Friday Night was the night that Ray Harris, the talented keyboardist from Glasgow, who has opened up for the Godfather and legend James Brown, graced the stage with his northern wit and fusion band.

His music is a genius blend of dance-floor jazz and Latin vibes with a touch of funk and soul. Very popular in the north, there was no surprise to see the venue was packed. The dimly lit room, loud laughter, and the mix of women in stilettos and cocktail dresses alongside others in flip-flops, jeans and white tees describes the mix and blend of the Matt and Phreds atmosphere.

Unless you want to stand up, the best thing to do is to book a table upon your arrival, which has to be done at least a week in advance, dependent on the artist. When you do, you are escorted by their polite and accommodating staff to a reserved table where you are assigned your own waitress who will serve you throughout the night.

When the music starts the atmosphere changes and people become quiet, and suddenly the tables of men dressed in top hats and waistcoats become fixated on the stage. As I joined in the swaying and nodding of heads around me, the incredible sounds of the guitar, bass and percussion filled the club, and after the first intermission and a couple of glasses, people started to dance.

Before you knew it, the space around the stage and tables were filled with a now-dancing audience. The crowd stood up and clapped after each song and the vibe was electric.

After countless times of coming to this venue, I would recommend you pay it a visit, with a friend, with a date or for after-work drinks.

Jelisa Hanley

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