homoelectric is manchester’s bespoke misfit paradise

Twenty years into its heritage, Manchester’s Homoelectric is enjoying a pleasing renaissance inside a three-storey Salford warehouse. Of course it is.

by Paul Flynn; photos by Lauren Jo Kelly
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09 November 2017, 3:21am

This article originally appeared on i-D UK.

Eighteen months ago Gina Breeze was attentively whiling her way through a day shift at the Apple Store in Manchester's Trafford Centre, when a familiar looking face appeared with his knackered Macbook. After the cursory reboot, she was speaking to her manager Dan in the staffroom when he said, "You know who that was, don't you?" She couldn't quite put a name to the face. So Dan filled in the blanks.

Luke Unabomber is the detonator of all that is explosive about the modern Mancunian nightclub experience. In 1995 he began the Electric Chair in the decrepit old Roadhouse, mopping up the margins that had tired of the superannuated disco dollies and gangsters then souring the city's acid house dreams. Three years later he added Homoelectric to his folio, the clubs' gay cousin, which came with its own witty fanzine and a pleasing habit of finishing each night of its earliest incarnation with a rousingly narcotic rendition of Soft Cell's Say Hello, Wave Goodbye. Last year Luke helped to furnish the old Manchester crew with The Refuge, a hotel bar and restaurant at the Principal, in the old Palace Assurance building on Oxford Road. It's a spot that has delightfully upended the night-time proclivities of a twin demographic, those that were there to witness the birth of Factory Records' Dry Bar (RIP) and those that weren't born at the time.

"Luke's a legend," summarizes Gina in three short and self-explanatory words. For Gina, 31, who arrived in Manchester five years previously from her hometown of Barnsley, it was the Homoelectric button that really cemented Luke's infamy (Gina married her girlfriend last year in Vegas). So she had a quick go at her boss, deriding him for not introducing her to a proper king of the northern night. A couple of emails later, Gina passed her SoundCloud mixes on. A month later and she was booked as a third resident for Homoelectric. Luke's laptop, she says, is now in fine fettle. Win-win.

"Homoelectric is Manchester's bespoke misfit paradise. There's a lot of them about. Leather daddies and trans belles, scallies and naïfs, those who saw the good old days and those sick of hearing about them. They all come to conjoin as one. "

Almost twenty years into its heritage, Homoelectric is currently enjoying a particularly pleasing renaissance. "It's just fucking brilliant," explains the third cog in its resident's wheel. Gina Breeze is part of the triumvirate of deck wizards that make the club feel and look like home. Her more seasoned alumni are Jamie Bull, voted by the people as DJ of the Year in the Manchester Evening News annual poll twice running, and Will Tramp, recent star of the city's celebratory nightlife documentary, Manchester Keeps On Dancing. Guests who have come to spin at Homoelectric in 2017 include Prosumer ("almost uncomfortably rammed") and Nicky Siano. "I mean, I know what Studio 54 is," says Gina, "but I'm learning a lot from Luke. For him, getting Nicky to play the night really was a bit of a religious experience.'

Homoelectric is Manchester's bespoke misfit paradise. There's a lot of them -- misfits, that is -- about. Leather daddies and trans belles, scallies and naïfs, those who saw the good old days and those sick of hearing about them. They all come to conjoin as one. "What's particularly good about the club is that it's a mix of the old and the new," Gina points out. "We get proper interesting characters at Homoelectric. You get a lot of people coming up and saying 'You just don't get crowds like this in London.' They always say it feels more like Berlin. You don't get people coming to the night because they think it's cool to be seen there. It is an actual alternative."

When it began in 1998, the club felt like it sat at a purposeful antithesis to the commercialisation of Canal Street, which in the space of ten years had ascended from a couple of ropey old boozers to the city's foremost nightlife destination, for better and for worse. Homoelectric's first and formative home was Legends, the labyrinthine space tucked below Piccadilly Station with a chippy, cab firm and Monroe's -- Manchester's only Marilyn-themed showbar, a delightfully waxed 60s relic, replete with £35 a night B&B upstairs -- sitting on the same block. Legends was the site of the old Northern Soul powerhouse, The Twisted Wheel. It had Manchester's dancing feet etched into its floors. The good folk of Homoelectric gamely carried on the tradition.

When Legends was shut down by developers a couple of years back and turned into a hotel which looks like it's been curated from the recesses of Terry Christian's imagination, they upped sticks first to the Antwerp Mansions in Rusholme, and have found their fitting new home at Hidden, the bold and battered three-storey Salford warehouse from which Nicky Siano and the Homoelectric resident musketeers bass reverberations can carry all the way to the inmates of Strangeways. "It feels illegal," says Gina, "but isn't. I think that's the beauty of Hidden."

"If you're going to get messy, you want to do it somewhere messy."

Homoelectric's current annus mirabilis, in which 2000 willing night-people regularly pack into the venue, has been facilitated by following the young Mancunian's club journey out of the gloss of the city centre and into somewhere a little more alien and a lot more grimey. "If you're going to get messy," notes Gina, "you want to do it somewhere messy."

Gina's fairytale travails into the promise of the night get bigger and better. From that fateful first meeting with Luke Unambomber at her day job, Gina Breeze has added a new string to her bow, recording music from the studio in her bedroom. After being introduced to another pivotal dancefloor Luke (Solomon), by her fairy godfather Luke (Unabomber), she currently has a blistering house EP released on Solomon's Classic label. "He's opened so many doors for me," she says of her accidental mentor. "But that's what happens at Homoelectric. I know it's nearly 20 years old. But it still feels exactly like family."

The first Homoelectric of 2018 will take place at Hidden on 27 January.