Review – The Hacienda lives on : In the theatre of dreams with Danny Tenaglia and Francois K

The Hacienda has always had a magical quality about it. You know the story behind the club, and the crazy times their regulars had. Pretty much everyone over the age of 35 has a special Hacienda story here in Manchester, in fact I was talking to a Pharmacist I work with only the other day about the club and she looks likes the least likely person to have even stepped inside a club, let alone know the DJs by name! Thats the kind of history a special club in a city obsessed by music has on its inhabitants; its infectious, and rightly so.

I’d never been able to visit the club in its hey day. A number of factors came into play – I was a little too young at the time, my friends and I were not that into the dance scene, and frankly, it was a long drive north in the first place… so I never had the opportunity. One of my few regrets in life. Then the club closed its doors for good, and the iconic venue was redeveloped into a block of flats. But even though the club had gone, it wasn’t forgotten, and in recent years the original team have put on a few one off shows. This is about one of those times,; My first taste of the Hacienda apple.

The day started mundanely. I’d woken early and could get back off to sleep, so I decided to check my Facebook feed and see what was happening in the world. The rest of the morning was spent working on Decoded stuff, some new projects in the studio and trying to avoid eating too much as I had a birthday dinner later that afternoon. I took the time to familiarise myself with the headliners music again. I haven’t really heard anything Danny Tenaglia has done since returning from retirement, so I put the Boiler Room set on he did from his loft in Brooklyn, suffice to say, he still knows how to rock a crowd! Francois K I saw recently in Manchester – bizarrely in the club that used to be Factory records offices. I kinda hoped he’d play a little more techno this time.

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So 3pm rolled round and I prepared myself for a long day and a longer night.. then I missed the train into town, which was a great start! I arrived at the Great Northern, a warehouse complex in the well to do area of Deansgate in central Manchester to meet the birthday boy – Leon and his girlfriend Hannah. The venue for this sumptuous meal was Almost Famous, and if you’ve never been imagine the best burger place you know and times it by a thousand! (Even Wendys if you live in the States!) Its awesome. We had an upstairs room ourselves and were joined by a horde of Leons mates from over the years. Ex housemates, work colleagues, clubbing pals, all of whom had great stories to embarrass poor Leon all night, not that he minded that much!

After a few hours, I had to leave to meet up with another group of friends who I was going to be spending the evening with. Unfortunately the Hacienda night was the same night as another well respected Manchester brand – Majefa, celebrating their 8th birthday. Leon and the gang were headed there and I was a little sad I wasn’t able to go.

Now, I mentioned my crazy Canadian pal Jenny before, I’m sure. She’s one of those people that can absolutely make a pretty good party, AMAZING. Her laugh and her energy is infectious, theres never a dull moment with Jenny around! Joining us tonight are her best mates from Canada (who now live in London) Steve and Alejandra, local lad and dance music walking encyclopaedia Alan, his friend Joanne, who it turned out has the maddest sense of humour of anyone I’ve ever met – more on that later, and the rather quieter, but no less interesting Rachel. After a few beers and a good catch up, we hit the town. First up, I had to meet up with a third group of mates to collect my ticket. Jenny and the gang headed on in while I stayed with them; we’d see each other inside. Jason and Chris were the chaps I’d spent a brilliant night with watching Leftfield with recently. Chris’s wife Nicola had stayed home that time, but was out now and raring to go.

Theres a buzz about Manchester on a big night out and everyone can feel it in the air. Talk to anyone outside of the city, and they’ll tell you Manchester has a bit of an edge to it; its a bit wild and unpredictable, but the more time I spend here, the more I feel very welcomed by the locals. The crowd for this event were a little older than a normal clubbing crowd, and reminded me of my own youth and the first times I ever went clubbing in the big city (Bristol in the 90s was pretty wild itself). Glamour pusses and gangsters, first timers and seasoned veterans all queued with visible excitement for a clubbing institution the likes of which have rarely been replicated. Everyone was on the same page – togetherness, and having a great night out; no moody kids bumping into you to start fights, no bouncers being overly rough or rude, no door pickers flouncing along the queue making snap fashion decisions and ending your night prematurely. Everything was set up for a brilliant time, apart from the insistence of the Albert Hall management team to have everyone in to the club by 10.30 pm and the security having to use sniffer dogs and frisk everyone. It took an eternity, and there was only one entrance. My one and only gripe.

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As it happens, the security guy for the bar next door knew the head bouncer, and had a word – I need to stress I didn’t mention I was press or anything, he was just a really cool guy who did a favour for a stranger. So we jumped the considerably long line and got straight in. Coats off and drinks in hand, we headed into the main auditorium. Mike Pickering was in full flow, and laying down a serious groove with mixture of older cuts and club classics, a theme which spanned the whole night. I didn’t go in the second room where Justin Robertson was playing because it was a VIP only party, which was a shame, and one I hadn’t been aware of beforehand.

Anyway, the main room was the place to be and as crowd swelled and the place filled to capacity Mr Pickering raised his game accordingly. Older patrons wistfully smiled at memories long ago, and the the general atmosphere was of great times lost in the mists of time. As Danny Tenaglia took to the stage at around 11.30pm the main room was full to capacity but the vibe remained friendly and upbeat. Now, I’ve seen DT a few times in a few different places, but what stays constant is his love of DJing and his utter doggedness for finding tunes no-one else plays. As was the theme for the night his set was peppered with the odd classic; nothing too obvious, and frankly, some before my time, but stand out cuts by Robert Owens and Nikita Warren had the crowd singing along. He also dropped a few of his own re-edits – Inner City – Good Life, Jackson 5 – Can You Feel It? and a mash up of the Him_Self_Her and Show B mixes of Jaap Ligtharts brilliant track, I Know Change. I must also mention Annette – Dream 17. A new one to me, but a stone cold classic nonetheless. (Thanks Alan!)

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The pace didn’t let up with Francios K taking control in the small hours. Upping the energy and playing almost exclusively techno, he managed to capture the room perfectly with a deep chugging acidic late night druggy vibe; Hard floor’s epic acid journey – Acperience 1 finding favour with everyone in particular. Francois is another DJ I’ve been fortunate to see in a variety of places, but this for me was by far his best set, and reminded me of his Masterpiece CD (partly recorded in Manchester) from 2008. I think he finished with Candi Staton – You Got The Love, but to be fair, things got kinda wild by 3am, so my memory is pretty hazy. What I do remember about that time, is my new friend Joanne asking random people for their ‘best worst fake laugh’ in the smoking corner. That was hilarious! People just don’t do mad shit like that any more, and I guess thats our fault as older clubbers for allowing things to become so sterile. Club nights like Hacienda are essential in maintaining that old school vibe and connection with the music: essential because it shows that fame and notoriety are just a byproduct, and the real glory is being on the dance floor, hearing your favourite tune and hugging your best friends in a room full of smiles and joy.

Roll on the next one…

Photos : Steve Mack