For anyone who has spent time clubbing in Manchester, the club night Tangled has achieved almost mythic proportions. For 21 years, the fusion between trance and break-beat has been packing them in.
So what made Tangled different from all the other club nights that seem to last as long as the flyer? I used to be a regular fixture at The Phoenix on Oxford Road even though my student days were far behind me. It wasn’t just the break-beat, then a new dance genre, it was the atmosphere. There were no poncy pretentions.
Northern Soul met up with Steve Thorpe, the man who presided over the upstairs breaks room for many years before he and Tangled founders Phil Morse and Terry Pointon took Tangled into the city centre. “I’d rather have 300 people there for the music than 600 because it’s cool. That’s what makes it.”
But every success story has to have its end and the Tangled crew have decided to call time. Thorpe explains: “We wanted to end on a high. Also 21 is a great number to go out on.”
It was way back in 1993 when Morse and Pointon, friends from university, couldn’t find any nights to suit their tastes and took matters into their own hands. The first Tangled was held at the Dominion Hotel on Princess Street until taking over at The Boardwalk from Hacienda stalwart, Dave Haslam.
Tragedy struck early on and someone was hospitalised for ten weeks after a fight at the Boardwalk. “We thought there would be no more Tangled,” says Thorpe. “But we were approached by The Phoenix.”
The venue proved successful and Thorpe taking control of the upstairs with a new, unheard of sound meant Tangled appealed across the board. “We rode the crest of the breaks wave.” But wasn’t it a strange mix, hard trance and the funky electronic breaks?
“There were definitely two tribes,” says Thorpe. “Most clubs compliment each other with the different rooms but you either liked upstairs or downstairs. Groups of friends would split and not see each other all night.”
The Phoenix was never a glamorous location. “Some of the big name DJs wouldn’t come because it was reported it was like the inside of a pub,” laughs Thorpe.
The family spirit, however, was infectious. This was largely due to another wave that Tangled rode, that of the internet. “There was no Facebook then, so [on the site] you could see photos from the night before and talk to each other on the forum then meet up. Because it was weekly it became your local. You just don’t get that anymore. By being consistent we could create anthems that played week after week.”
In 2006 the night moved from The Phoenix and struggled to find a home for some time, trying venues such as The Attic and Music Box before Sound Control on New Wakefield Street opened. Tangled would never be the weekly night it had been for a host of reasons: Morse had moved to Spain, Thorpe had started his own breaks night, Lowdown, and the recession had hit. People just couldn’t afford to go out every week.
So after the final party in September, what does the future hold for Thorpe?
He will be concentrating on his breaks night Lowdown, winner of three Breakspoll awards. “I want to get more varied acts like James Lavelle, mix it up a bit.” Lowdown is also at Sound Control with scene stalwarts playing in the Loft and the Lowdown Academy downstairs where up and coming DJs get their first taste of playing to big crowds.
“It is hard for small clubs,” says Thorpe. “Big clubs have big nights booking 20 DJs with people just going to be there.”
Thorpe has put together a glossy coffee table book to commerate the special times people shared at Tangled, full of photos, flyer art, clubber memories and news articles.
And of course there is one more Tangled night to prepare for. Does he know the last song yet? He gives a wry smile. “I have an idea but I might need to change it up a bit.”
To buy tickets for the last ever Tangled, follow this link: http://skdl.it/Sv9unB
To order the book, click here: http://www.blurb.co.uk/b/2883812-tangled-standard-paper-and-digital-version