Unless you have been to Atherton, a small town about 10 miles from Manchester city centre, you may not have heard of The Snug, an independent coffee shop tucked just off the main High Street.
After their recent ‘Snug Live’ event, that soon may be about to change.
With a courtyard garden, a mishmash of furniture styles, music-themed pictures (many of which have been painted by customers), an obvious love of Vic and Bob and staff with as much character as the place itself, it’s easy to see why it is repeatedly described in reviews as ‘eclectic‘, ‘quirky‘ and ‘welcoming‘. Arriving just after the opening time of 3 pm, the sun was (briefly) still out, people were steadily arriving and the DJ was spinning some absolute belters.
The first of the live acts to kick it all off was singer/songwriter/guitarist/master of all things musical, James Holt. Watching James perform in front of a welsh dresser stacked with photo frames and knickknacks was almost like your Nana had invited him around her house to play. In fact I’m convinced this is the way forward now. If I don’t see at least one china ornament at the next gig I go to, I’m going to be disappointed.
Already receiving praise from the likes of Brian Eno, Holt wooed everyone with his own folk vibe, clearly inspired by the likes of The Beatles and Jeff Buckley. Letting us all in on a trade secret of alternating song tempos to keep everyone’s attention, the Bolton based musician had no danger whatsoever of losing the room, with cries of “one more song!” every time it looked like he was about to finish.
Next up was ‘Minor Blues’. I must admit I knew nothing about this local group, although casting my doddery mind back to guitar and chord progression lessons I figured the clue was in the name. The blues is always a brave genre to choose because unlike some other styles you can’t wing it. You either have it or you don’t. Thankfully they had it. The instruments were tight and the singer’s voice was phenomenal. I don’t think I was the only one gobsmacked when these deep rumbling vocals first came from his mouth. Saying their thanks and goodbyes it soon became apparent the crowd was not going to let the band go before they had several more encores out of them. Given ticket prices were a very reasonable £8, they were certainly getting their money’s worth and why not.
The third act to take to the floor was ‘The Pagans S.O.H’. Now if you ever read my reviews (and to be fair even my mum doesn’t pretend she does) you may remember I raved about them at Birmingham Academy earlier in the year. They were loud and exciting, fusing elements of hip-hop, funk, reggae, metal and punk. The Snug is quite an intimate venue and this was an acoustic set so I was intrigued to see if they could still pull it off with only three band members and none of the roaring, gnarly instruments.
It turns out that even unplugged these Black Country boys are a force to be reckoned with, generating enough energy to power a small island – useful to know post Brexit perhaps. I’m not quite sure the good folk of Atherton knew what had hit them, but judging by their little happy faces and bouncing bodies (a recurring theme from the last time I saw them) I’d say they were well and truly Paganised. This band really is one to look out for.
Headliners of the night were indie/rock four-piece ‘Our Fold’, also performing a more stripped back set than they usually would. Engaging and dead funny, they had the room captivated as they belted out some cracking tunes including their new one ‘Don’t you Want a Lover?’ recently championed by 6 Musics Steve Lamacq. It’s a good job there were no strict set times because I honestly think the crowd would have barricaded the doors to stop them leaving, they were enjoying themselves so much. Ending the evening with two James classics ‘Laid’ and ‘She’s a Star’, these Bolton lads really could do no wrong.
I’ve been lucky enough to go to many ace gigs over the years but there was something a little bit special about ‘The Snug Live’. It’s rare to see so many people of different ages, watching different styles of music and just embracing the whole atmosphere. The venue, staff and probably the huge array of gins played a big part for me too. It’s not often you get to watch some amazing bands whilst eating homemade cake from a floral plate. Nana gigs, it’s the future.
The Snug is located 67a Market St, Atherton, Manchester M46 0DA Thesnugatherton.com
James Holt will be playing at Dulcimer Manchester 21st September
The Pagans will be playing at The Castle, Manchester 31st August