Sunday, 1 July 2012

Matt and Phreds Speakeasy

You can't live in Mancland and not know of Matt and Phreds. Their reputation is huge and they've been around, well, for as long as I can remember. 

The Lazy River Jazz Band
I have lots of fond memories of late nights turning into early mornings with the final stop in Matt and Phreds for something funky, quirky or just plain fun. I don't think I'm alone in that.

This Friday, they held a Speakeasy night, with the Lazy River Jazz Band providing the music and Jazz Swing Dance showing off their slick dance moves. This was an excuse for a vintage style dress and heels, and some music with swing - if you're a fan of the series Boardwalk Empire, I need say no more.

Meeting my friend Emma, we headed into the Northern Quarter on Friday, bypassing our usual venues for once, heading straight to Matt and Phreds. It's always as I remember it, slightly dark (though the smoking ban has gotten rid of the smoky atmosphere), candles on your table, deep reds on the walls and the scuffed dancefloor testament to the desire of a music fan to not just watch and listen, but get up and move.

Geoff Billington
We were lucky to get a seat close to the front, good view of the stage and just in time to catch Jazz Swing Dance in full flow, not only looking dapper, but showing off their fancy footwork with the Charleston. Spotting a card on the table while we ordered our drinks, I noted that they're offering Charlestonercise classes. I'd certainly not had enough to drink to hit the floor immediately and show off my lack of talent - not yet anyway.

As we were early for the main event, we treated ourselves to something to eat, for once foregoing the legendary pizza (seriously if you haven't heard of them, where have you been?) and aiming for the chef's special; the dancers having worked up an appetite for us. We were not disappointed, chicken, rice and peas hitting the spot perfectly.

Ron Blanco and partner Jacqui Madden
show us how it's done
We watched the gentlemen of the Lazy River Jazz Band set up, Geoff  Billington on Trumpet and Cornet, John Pennington on Clarinet and Alto Sax, Roy Billington on Banjo and Guitar, and John McCormick  on Bass.

They performed some of my absolute favourite tracks - Aint Misbehavin' being one of the well known songs,  also the Berlin classic I'm Putting All my Eggs in One Basket and through to the lesser known Uncle Joe's Mint Balls - definitely a northern thing (which as a northern lass makes me very proud).

As ever with jazz classics, it's a mix of music you know, music you didn't know you knew and to your ears, brand new sounds. Feet were tapping, hands were clapping and as well as the Jazz Swing Dance group encouraging people onto the floor to learn the Charleston, some fans of Lindy Hop, showed their skills on the floor, to the envy of many.

Everyone was happy to get up and dance towards
the end of the night
All too soon, the evening began to wind down, with the band bringing us towards the close with a track they were happy to tell us they played at Wigan Beer Festival (to which they haven't yet been asked back), When the Saints go Marching in. With this, the floor filled with dancers, the skilled to the less so, and when they played You are my Sunshine, it became positively 

I almost look like I know what I'm doing...

It was, all in all, a damned fine evening. I understand Matt and Phreds are curious to know whether they should hold another Speakeasy event. I do hope they do. I want the excuse to buy a new outfit. And maybe next time I'll have learned some Lindy or the Charleston... Maybe.

With extra thanks to Emma for acting as photographer for the evening :o)


  1. This looks amazing! Think I'll definitely have to check it out next time it's on, if there's a next time?