5th August 2017
Tonight I am at The Tiger Lounge to see Mark Reeder and the band, Modern Family Unit.
However tonight is a sad occasion as well, as it’s the last ever gig at this iconic, underground bar/venue.The Tiger Lounge has had many names during its history, it was the club that was owned by George Best and Mike Summerbee, the two football icons of the 60s and 70s here in Manchester.The classic picture of George Best pouring champagne over a pyramid of glasses was taken there.That alone in my eyes means it should have a blue plaque outside and never be touched by the greedy developers.
Manchester has a problem at the moment-too many venues are closing down.The reason for these closures is multifaceted: a combination of soaring rent prices and local business rates, disproportionately tough licensing scrutiny, and greedy property developers with no regard for the cultural value of the institutions their developments are destroying. People move to Manchester for many reasons, but one of them I always hear is the culture, the friendly welcome, and of course, the live music. Millions are made off massive shows at places like the Manchester Arena, but if grassroots venues aren’t preserved, there won’t be any acts to play these big gigs-or the small ones. In fact, without small venues it’s difficult to envisage a sustained and successful future for British music at all.
It isn’t just about the artists either. These venues provide jobs for hundreds of thousands of people, from bar staff, managers and doormen, to promoters and sound technicians. To snatch away the livelihoods of so many for the benefit of some bourgeois group of property developers is a disgrace at a time when unemployment and poverty levels are so high.
With all this spinning around my head I sit down at the back of the venue and soak in the atmosphere, and without realising Mark Reeder has started his set- it’s his new album, ‘Mauerstadt’, being played out in full.
I have never been a huge fan of electronic music,or should I say, didn’t think I was, then reliased over the years I have loved tracks by Björk, Massive Attack, Moby, The Chemical Brothers, Kraftwerk, Daft Punk and Depèche Mode, just to name a few. Within minutes I am totally hooked; it helps as the music is blasting out of the PA system and you are feeling the bass in the pit of your belly. The album is a mix of Mark’s own work and remixes that he is so well-known for, and on the album you hear Queen of Hearts, Ekkoes, Maja Pierro and KVB, as well as remixes of local artists such as, Modern Family Unit, New Order, and Inspiral Carpets. The music sweeps you away to Berlin, and this iconic basement setting is ideal. Mark said to me that during the late 70s, ”In Manchester, people made music so they could escape Manchester. They’d try to make a hit record so they could move to London or something. Anything to get away, to get out of your council house. Whereas in Berlin, for people from West Germany, they’d already made that flight. So there was no commercial pressure. You just expressed yourself and did what you wanted. You didn’t have to conform to anything.”
I would recommend anyone, no matter your musical tastes to buy this album The past, the present, and the future is all rolled into one wonderful sound experience .
Modern Family Unit start the night with just three people on stage plus a laptop. The drummer has no mics on his kit, and I find out quickly he doesn’t need them-I am blown away with the uncompromising force, and a fluid, natural feel that emanates from this monster behind the kit. John Bonham playing electronic music-I am already confused and loving it.
Within a couple of songs a 5 foot 7 inch rabbit appears accompanied by two gas mask wearing orange suited gimps/escapees. I am more confused and loving it more.
With political overtones throughout the set, which are hard hitting and motivating, just like the music, I am on a trip of Alice in Wonderland proportions.
Modern Family unit are mesmerising to watch for many reasons, but that doesn’t take away from the quality of the songs, and these songs, like most decent bands, are best heard live. There are some videos of the band’s work online, but they do not in any way convey what this band is truly like live. It’s hard to compare, but imagine Depèche Mode with big iron balls crossed with Talking Heads with Manchester attitude, then we are somewhere down that road. As the rabbit has now shod its skin and revealed itself as a female burlesque-style woman, we reach the end of the set. This was a night filled with musical and visual emotion-a night I will not forget for myriad reasons.
As one door closes with the last live gig at this wonderful venue, another door opens for the artists who played here tonight-Modern Family Unit must play live more often, and I would recommend you go see them. Perhaps fitting they should play Berlin.
As I scuttle off into the night to find that late night bus home, I am already planning to email MFU insisting they need me onboard playing bass for them, as it seems I have found my electronic home.