Friday Night and Saturday Morning in Madchester’s The Hangout
LTW recently featured the ‘lost’ Manchester club The Hangout – well the club held a reunion…
Author, academic and Punk & Post-Punk editor Dr Philip Kiszely went to the Isadora’s/Hangout reunion last Friday (16th Dec 2011)
This is what he made of it all”Â¦
I must confess to a slight case of the jitters a day or two prior to The Hangout reunion. I’d been so looking forward to it all, you see, so eager to renew old acquaintance and re-connect with my Mad-ches-torrr! past, that I felt the much-vaunted (locally, at least) get-together would struggle to meet the level of expectation I and others had built up for it. I had my heart set on enjoying myself just like I used to at the original Hangout all those twenty years ago, and I wanted my fellow dancers to do the same, but there was a little part of me that was frightened we wouldn’t really know how anymore.
There ”â I’ve said it.
Maybe we should all go to lunch, I found myself thinking in moments of doubt, so we can get down to the real business of talking about their children, my work, his divorce, she loving her husband all the more richly and deeply after all these years (Please, God, spare us that kind of abomination!) and all our bloody in-laws. And so it was, then, that I’d somehow managed to half-convince myself I’d come out the other side of the new Hangout experience a bitter and disappointed man. This was on the Wednesday afternoon before Friday’s reunion, by the way, and I’d been given ample time to reflect on it all courtesy of Northern Trains, whose stalled rolling stock had me stranded somewhere on the outskirts of Wakefield for the best part of an hour.
But of course my misgivings turned out to be groundless. On the night itself I spent at least four hours on the packed dance floor, believe it or not. Having said that, I did take the odd breather every once in a while to survey the scene ”â Desmond Morris-style ”â clocking faces, interaction, body language, and all the rest of it. I’d glance over at DJ Dave Booth on occasion, too, and the man’s face was a picture. Grinning, he was, continuously and furiously throughout. We all were, though; that was the amazing and lovely thing.
It was”Â¦ Well, it was beautiful. And I for one was proud to be a part of it.
The night was always going to be superb, I’ve since decided, but twenty years is a long time, so you can’t really blame me for harbouring a secret reservation or two. A sometime combination of terrible, marvellous and mundane things must happen to everybody during two decades of life, surely, no matter who you are or which path you choose to follow. And they all take their toll in their own little ways. What I’m trying to say, I suppose, is this: you change, for Christ’s sake ”â you’re bound to ”â just as the world around you becomes a different place. So the plain fact of the matter is I didn’t really know what to expect when I walked through the door of the Hangout at 11:17pm on Friday December 16th 2011.Moreover, I wasn’t at all sure I understood exactly what had passed between us all when I staggered out of the place, some six hours later, into Saturday’s chilly dawn drizzle. I’ve thought about it since, though, and I might just have the answer.
I should probably start by saying that, as well as the music, the original Hangout club was about Manchester itself as much as it was about anything else. I’ve said elsewhere that I consider myself privileged to have lived in the city during the heady days of its Madchester era, and I still hold that to be true. And here’s another thing: Manchester will always be home for me, if I’m being honest, even as I’ve now spent longer than I care to remember exiled across the Pennines in Yorkshire. But don’t get me wrong ”â my obvious affection for the place isn’t the kind of wide-eyed adoration that is, to all intents and purposes, utterly meaningless. Manchester has knocked me about a good deal over the years, I don’t mind telling you. So much so, in fact, that there was a time, not so long ago in the overall scheme of things, when my love affair with it soured completely and I just had to up and leave.
I was brooding on this rather dismal aspect of my personal history as I stepped from the train at Piccadilly Station on the last Tuesday in November. There were no delays on this occasion, but I was en route to meet Dave Booth for a cup of coffee and a chat about the imminent Hangout reunion, so I was in a reflective frame of mind, anyway. Dave had provided the soundtrack to my clubbing years, but I’d not set eyes on the guy for at least a decade and a half. And, frankly, I hadn’t the foggiest idea what he might be like as a person. This kind of encounter can be tricky, believe me, and it always puts me in mind of an experience I had three or four years ago, in which I travelled a fair distance to interview someone who shall remain nameless.
I took an instant dislike to the person in question. Loathed him at a glance, in fact, and I felt sure that deeper acquaintance would only see the feeling blossom into genuine hatred. (Not that I’m one to make snap judgements, you understand!)
With Dave, though, I’m delighted to say the opposite was the case.
We took to each other immediately, and we talked and talked and talked. And of course I missed my damn train home. There was a pay-off, though ”â Dave was all set to go and meet fellow Hangout creators Gino Brandolani, Paul Clements and Derek Goodwin, and he invited me to join him. So the two of us schlepped across town to a pub, where I greeted the other three and we all drank a beer or two. Then we piled ”Ëround the corner to make a preliminary check on the venue for the reunion.
I was an interloper, really, but they made me feel a legitimate part of the whole enterprise. It’s fanciful, I know, but what struck me then, and it’s occurred to me several times since, was that they functioned as a family ”â Gino was the patriarch, the others were brothers. And I, slipping into role as I invariably do, found myself automatically assuming the persona I’d adopted on the scene all those years previously ”â I was the precocious kid again. Later, as I made my way home, I was well pleased with everything ”â the reunion was definitely on, and thanks to the generosity of Gino, Dave, Paul and Derek, I’d been welcomed back into the Manchester fold. But it was that personal warmth, ironically enough, that eventually turned my mind to the thoughts which had preoccupied it as I left the train at Piccadilly to meet Dave earlier in the day.
It was one terrible night, late in June 2004, and it brought everything to a head between me and my beloved Manchester. I was making my way home at about 11 o clock, after having been out with my friend Ben. We’d had food in some place or other in Withington ”â I forget which one now ”â but the main purpose of our evening together was to route a 10-mile run we’d promised ourselves for the following morning. After taking leave of Ben, I saw that it was wet but warm outside, so I decided it might be nice to walk in the rain. The streets were deserted, and I was engrossed in a phone call, when ”â yes, you’ve guessed it ”â all of a sudden I found myself surrounded.
They were masked, and there were six of them. They beat me to the ground before carrying me into Platt Fields, where they took my phone and about ten pounds and change. They beat me some more, these noble warriors, and somewhere in the middle of their little drill they stabbed me twice. It changed my life in a flash.
I can’t remember now precisely when I finally put this grisly episode to bed and closed the door on it once and for all, but suffice to say it was a good while back. One thing I am crystal-clear on, though, is this: there are few greater affronts to one’s dignity than a stab wound to the arse. (The other one was in the back, incidentally ”â relatively shallow, thank God, and missing any vital organs.) After having any number of Casualty and Police personnel contemplate my behind, I then spent the next couple of days in recovery. Picture me, if you will, sat in state on a hard chair, my poorly cheek hanging off the edge for comfort. And as word of my plight reached family and friends, I began to graciously receive a stream of visitors. I was kitted out for this ritual in a pair of specially doctored boxer shorts (accommodating hole neatly fashioned in left buttock) and an outsized t-shirt. (Well, modesty, you know”Â¦) ”ËHow’s your arse, Phil?’ my callers would enquire, all seriousness and concern. What a question.
There was no question in my mind; however, that staying in Manchester could be any kind of option for me ”â not after what had happened. So I moved to leafy Harrogate, of all places. (I was even half-considering Regency Cheltenham at one point ”â I was all for the quiet life at the time ”â with blue rinse and The Daily Mail as optional extras.) And while I’d often travel over from North Yorkshire to meet friends in West Didsbury or Chorlton, I rarely, if ever, ventured into Manchester city centre of an evening. So the Hangout reunion was something of a return in more ways than one. Yes, I’d put the trauma of that bloody good hiding behind me, but I’d since shied away from anything that was more than a peripheral involvement in the city’s cultural life ”â don’t ask me why.
The Hangout Reunion has changed all that, though, for some reason I’m not entirely sure of. In all honesty, participation in the resurrection of this Madchester/60s retro institution has meant more to me than just being brought back into the fold; it’s been about properly connecting again to a city and its people that were, for all my gushing talk in interviews and articles, all but lost to me. Gino, Dave, Paul, Derek ”â Thanks.
Walking in that place on Friday was a home-coming, with everyone greeting each other like prodigals. And in a sense, that’s exactly what we all were. We’d all scattered and done our own thing, for better or worse, but we’d all gravitated back to source. Back to commune with those legendary people and those equally legendary nights out, I guess. And I’ll tell you something else: the roots I’m talking about here are much deeper than you might suppose. In fact, the whole affair has left us, as a group of people, with a pretty little conundrum, really. Pleasant enough, in its way ”â don’t get me wrong ”âbut it’s something that certainly needs resolving. Before I conclude with a word or two about that, though, I must just mention a couple of other things, or I’ll lose the thread completely.
This little club meant a lot to a good few people, mainly because it was the hub of an incredible scene. That scene is now long gone, of course, but its essence lingers on because, just as it was important then, so it resonates now. One endless fascination of reunion in general, I’ve found, is the discovery of how people from the past inhabit their lives today ”â who’s successful, who’s chugging along harmlessly, who’s fallen by the wayside. Do they fit the roles they’ve cast for themselves? Or has something gone amiss somewhere? But none of that really mattered in Friday night’s context, curiously enough. By implication, connection with the club, the scene, the people ”â whatever ”â made you part of some kind of pop culture elite, one of a chosen few.
So, fellow revellers, if you’ve never done anything really special in your life, never managed anything most people would consider significant by way of achievement, who gives a shit? You were there on Friday, and that makes you pretty fucking special in my book. (My! But we old rock ”Ën’ rollers wear our hearts on our sleeves. Don’t we just, though!)
Our reunion brought people together again in spectacular fashion, but I don’t think for one moment this kind of endeavour is unique. My guess is that seasoned clubbers the length and breadth of the country are doing much the same thing in their own home towns ”â always assuming, of course, they have their version of Gino to look after them all and make it happen. Theirs might not all be as glamorous as our Madchester scene ”â though they’d argue till the death, of course, that it was miles better! – nor may their club be as legendary as the Hangout. But, really, who cares if it was or it wasn’t? The important thing is that a generation of people ”â I’d say they are mostly on the older side of thirty-five ”â has found the opportunity, mainly through social networking, to get together and carry on where they left off all those years ago. And why the hell shouldn’t they? This new kind of cultural phenomena isn’t about recreating the past as much as it’s about galvanising particular communities, on treasured and shared terms, for closer interaction in the future. And that brings me back ”â rather neatly, I think ”â to the aforementioned little conundrum.
Where do we Hangout-ers go from here? Should there be more nights, different kinds of events? While I managed to re-connect with my long lost friend Andrew on Friday, there was someone else there with whom I never properly got chance to speak. I wanted to ”â very much so ”â but didn’t really know how. And I didn’t want to push it. D’you know what? I bet there were quite a few people there that night who experienced a similar kind of reticence, shyness ”â call it what you will. The next day I walked around Manchester elated, exhausted, and just a little bit emotional. The night had passed, and I wanted to do it again. We need more reunions, I think, for the very simple reason I’ve already stated ”â it’s not about the past; it’s about the future, and what that may bring.