A bouncing guide to Manchester with Swing Ting
Spend 24 hours buzzing round the Rainy City with Ruben, Balraj and Joey B.
What is the city but the people? Life has been on ice, but fear not, the end is in sight! Pubs are open and city spirit is back – just in time for the Great British Summer. THE FACE has teamed up with Beefeater, a gin which has encapsulated city culture since it began in London back in 1820. We’ll be finding and meeting the people breathing life into their cities, the contrasting mix of characters converging to celebrate and keep the city’s independent venues and drinking destinations alive – in spirit at least – until we meet again.
It’s been a while since we heard the sweet sound of “third Saturday of the month”, “front left, by the speakers” or “basement rave”. But life is officially back on and we’ve got some serious catching up to do. So where to go for your First Night Back? Well, nobody does basement rave like Manchester. And nobody does Manchester rave like the Swing Ting crew.
Ruben Platt, Balraj Samrai, Joey B, Fox & Sharda recently joined by LZ, Tarzsa, Meme Gold & Thai-Chi Rosè are the masterminds behind the anything- and everyone-goes, soundsystem-vibes party that has been going strong since winter 2008. Like all that is great in Mancunia, from the small and central 200-capacity Soup Kitchen, they’ve created a non-pretentious hub where tribes unite in sweaty harmony. This dance floor is as intergenerational as a wedding disco.
Like carnival-in-micro, the music policy is at-once broad and hyper-specific. A track is either Swing Ting or it’s not. If dubplate dancehall is their bedrock then the sounds that orbit it take in everything from Afro bashment to road-rap, UK funky to reggaeton, garage to dembow, soca and beyond. They all share an unmistakable bounce. And they all sound strangely at-home in the Rainy City.
Like their sounds, the Swing Ting family is sprawling but tight; taking in local legends like Jon K and Il Bosco; New Yorkers Dre Skull and Jubilee; and Kingston’s Equiknoxx crew, who have released on the Swing Ting label. The connection sits right – their cities share a spirit if not a climate. “I love the no bullshit warmth you get from Mancunians,” says Joey B. “It really makes the place.”
Manchester refuses to be pigeonholed. It is a city of workers, high-brows and ravers. Unpretentious but shamelessly peacocky and the local pride is irreverent and real. “There’s a genuineness that I feel from the people and place,” says Balraj. “We have a big history of resistance and musical excellence.”
Here, Swing Ting share their Manchester…
Manchester is not the type of city that takes gentrification lying down. Kim’s Kitchen is a community space conceived, built and manned by bona fide locals. Their intention is to create an austerity-busting home for the Hulme community. Their responsibly-sourced fry up is a fan favourite and “Cheesey well good chips [smiley face]” are £4 a plate. The Swing Ting crew head here for post-party grease and debriefs. The Kim’s Kitchen team are chomping at the bit to get started on events now that lockdown has lifted.
Sitting pretty under Mancunian Way, this 30-unit space plays home to a bevy of the city’s independent hustlers. Come for lunch from one of an assortment of edible options, from tapas to cheesecake; and stay for the sneaker shops, vintage warrens and DJ studios. Never one to be behind with the times, the space boasts a nano-brewery, nail bar and handbag cleaning boutique all under one urban flyover.
This pregame spot for the Swing Ting crew is the stuff of Manchester legend. Which tells you everything you need to know about the Manc mentality. Hidden behind a frosted facade in a residential part of Ladybarn and flanked by a halal butchers and a chicken shop, this is unassuming. Inside is a vegan Indian lauded country-wide for its dal makhani, ringan tameta and kathal lazeez. You can thank Swing Ting for the tip-off when you see them in there.
The Gas Lamp
Cos Mancs love a basement. This is an undersung gem in the heart of town where locals can escape the franchise boozers and sink gin martinis whilst putting the world to rights. Tiny, no-bookings and not a small plate in sight, this is a timeless drinking den for those that know. Swing Ting’s Ruben might come to regret sharing his secret spot.
Band on the Wall
In a city of icons, this gig spot holds its own. If the former cinema’s walls could speak, they’d be a little tipsy But they’d also have some amazing tales to tell. The go-to spot for leftfield acts who come to town, before Covid hit those walls, could be found dripping with sweat and excitement any day of the week.
Home to Swing Ting for over 10 years, this small rave spot is one of few in the city centre that can genuinely claim to bring the turn-up. Manchester invented the “one red light and a smoke machine” approach to parties and SOUP makes a strong case for its timeless appeal. A family vibe to the venue means that promoters stick around. Alongside the Swing Ting crew, Kiss Me Again, Banana Hill, Limbo Radio and CULT all boast loyal and boisterous crowds