Manchester's Star & Garter: An Anti-Hipster Oasis

It might smell a bit pissy and be lacking in printed loo roll, but the music is ace, the beer cold and the doormen aren't thuggish twats...
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It might smell a bit pissy and be lacking in printed loo roll, but the music is ace, the beer cold and the doormen aren't thuggish twats...

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With the lights and commotion of Piccadilly train station to the side of me, I take one last look at the drunken students piling into taxis with instructions to take them to Manchester’s hipster village, The Northern Quarter. Now don’t get me wrong, I like a night out in The NQ, there’s some decent bars, but to be honest most of the time it’s full of knobs; furthermore, is it really too much to ask to go out and actually not have to worry about the clientele? I want to go somewhere with good music; I want to go somewhere where it doesn’t matter if I’m dressed up to the nines or wearing my Dad’s old t-shirt from the 90’s (with bean juice down the front); I want a place that doesn’t stink of that dreadful try-hard pretense – honestly, I’d really rather it smelt slightly pissy. So, where can I go? Easy. The Star and Garter, Manchester. It’s pure genius. Let me tell you a few reasons why…

Okay, firstly, if you can’t get over the fact that you will most probably have to deal, in one way or another, with a prostitute along your path, then this isn’t the place for you. Now I don’t have a great deal of experience with prostitutes myself but I can tell you this; as far as prostitutes go, these ones seem totally harmless. A little suggestion of course, maybe they’ll try and bum a cigarette too, but nothing aggressive. Either way, dealing with the odd harmless prostitute is a small price to pay for the wonder that is The Star. If you follow The Star and Garter on Twitter and Facebook, you’ll often find that there’s a password that gets you in cheap to their Smile disco on a Saturday. And this is where the fun begins. The password will be a humorous quote, most probably from a TV comedy series. There’s no use having your mate recite the code for you though, part of the experience is making a fool out of yourself from the very beginning. Leave your inhibitions at the door; and let your hair down. Believe me, refusing to recite it will just make you look like a stuck up ponce. Throw all your enthusiasm and a funny voice into it and you may even get a giggle out the doormen. Reason 1 for going to the Star and Garter – the doormen and staff are absolute quality. No pushing of authority, no trainer policy nonsense – instead warm, laid back, genuinely funny characters (funny ha-ha, not funny odd).

Smile is definitely my night of choice at The Star. Music you’re likely to hear? Pulp, TV on the Radio, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Battles, David Bowie; mainly indie shiz, but gooooood indie shiz. No Scouting For Girls or Courteeners here (although I’m pretty sure a member of the Courteeners was once here, and repeatedly tried to get me to accept his offer of backstage tickets… no thanks mate, I’d prefer to watch the girl in the corner go outside and hurl). The music doesn’t try to be cool; and it doesn’t waste its time on heartless drizzle. Believe me, the DJ’s are more likely to play your request of Hall & Oates, Chris Isaac or The Police than Coldplay. Reason 2 for going to the Star and Garter – they place great music.  You may not always know what you’re dancing to, but trust me, it’ll be good.

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An impressive part of The Star is its marriage of club and pub. Pub downstairs, club –up. It’s the perfect compromise for a group of mates who, one half want to sit, chat and drink the night away; and then the other half who want to drink, sweat and boogie. Music from upstairs is pumped downstairs, but at a ‘speak over-able’ volume, so you’ll never miss your dance floor anthem if you do need to make a mad dash upstairs to unleash your imitable moves.  Those of you who do prefer the pub vibes can relax and enjoy what downstairs at The Star has to offer... the standard pool table, yes… WAIT, IT GET’S BETTER… a Miss Pac-man arcade game… no? Well this’ll do it for you: The best Pin-ball machine I have ever played on in my life?! Star loves its retro gaming, which is why once a month it holds a retro gaming night. Sega’s, N64’s, THE WORKS! Reason 3 for going to the Star and Garter – gaming.

Mid-week at The Star the venue is home to a myriad of live music acts. It’s a superb, intimate setting in which to check out a new band. Occasionally, depending which night you’re there, you get both club night AND live music. What a treat! In the winter, you may just be lucky enough to sit and enjoy the live music whilst the venue’s flickering and comforting REAL FIRE warms your cockles too. Not only does Star and Garter provide a stage for up and coming musicians in their strife for fame and fortune – it also welcomes those already famous. Reason 4 for going to the Star and Garter – celeb spying!So far, various Courteeners members (actually scrap that, that’s nothing exciting, as discussed earlier); Theo Hutchcraft from Hurts, actress Chloe Sevigney, no nonsense Ray Winstone, Matt Horne, Hot Chip, various members of The Brian Jonestown Massacre… and I’ve even heard rumors of Salford’s own, Mr Mark E Smith; though that could very well be rumors. I don’t know; perhaps ask the bouncers?

I guess what I really want to say about The Star and Garter is that it lacks a pretentiousness that most bars and clubs don’t. There’s no fuss – which to be honest, is exactly what I want from a night out. I want to drink. I want to dance. I don’t want to be stared at; I don’t want trouble. Star and Garter is comforting. You’re always welcomed with a smile. And there’s something strangely ‘trendy’ about their dated décor. I myself, have a particular love for the emboss, floral wallpaper. Though I will end with this: Star is not a hipster club… it simply tries to be nothing other than its lovely self. Make 2013 a good one and be sure to check out The Star and Garter, Manchester. Their cocktails are named after James songs. Need I say any more?