On the rare occasions when I’m not playing the card game Shithead and I fancy a stroll out into the vulgar world of fun, the place I like to frequent chat, drink, smoke rollie fags and dance is the converted textile building-cum-club called Kraak. Don’t be fooled by hip high handwritten whiteboard with the word KRAAK and an arrow underneath pointing to a brick alley behind the Police Museum of Stevenson Square that this is a double-bluff public crack den, it is of course Manchester’s most authentic city centre hangout for people who’ve fallen through the cracks of society. It took its name from the Dutch word to crack something open. In a city succumbing to regenerationitis where the Cornerhouse is moving to become a multiplex on the newly unveiled First Street opposite the Hacienda apartments, club owners Jayne Compton and Dom O’Grady keep the lone flag flying across the city for D-I-Y independent unbranded good times.
In the last two years avant-garde hungry audiences have made their way down the crack in the alley, up the stairs and through the doors into the two hundred capacity main space to see the likes of JD Samson’s band MEN, Demdike Stare, Mark Fell, DJ Boogie Blind, David Hoyle, Womb and regular Filmonik screenings to name but the tip of the iceberg. The space has also become a staple for local and national cool-hunters to launch their albums and magazines, plus individual hedonists celebrate birthdays while the more adventurous of the city’s organizations encourage staff to let their hair down longer and wilder in its anything goes late curfew atmosphere.
Jayne showed me the up and coming gigs on her iPhone Google calendar and said, ‘We’re pretty much booked every Thursday, Friday and Saturday for the next few months.’ She reeled off a few names, ‘There’s Wet Play presents Magic Touch, Jan Krueger, Manatees and Wode, Black Bee Soul Club, MCR Scenewipe, Richard Youngs and Dylan Carlson.’ She added that the venue’s draw to both artist and audience has made the place a creative hub and art scene.
She’s right of course, artists are the lifeblood to any event space and so are the piss-artists who watch them. And Kraak likes to treat them in equal measure. The cheap honed-down choice of drinks in a stand-alone fridge that wouldn’t look out of place in a house is ideal for the addled mind. A round of five black sambucas costs between 8 and 13ish quid depending on who serves you. I’d recommend you ask for The Doctor for the former price or muso-extraordinaire Magic Arm, who’s second album Images Rolling is about to be released, for the latter. Or is it the other way round? Either way the staff’s friendly uber-laid back chatty devil-may-care service style is endemic to the place. The latest addition to the team is a state-of-the-art blue Kentucky mop and bucket with detachable ringer so different mop heads can be attached a la Wurzel Gummage depending on which part of the club is being cleaned. ‘Toilets are the pulse of any club so they’ve got to be regularly cleaned with the right tool for the job,’ added Jayne.
*Please Drink Reprehensibly*
Nikki Wordsmith flumps around the city in a big wooly hat looking for people and places and things to write about.