Mark Morriss

Mark Morriss


“You wanna keep your change down your socks on this road. And your notes up your…”

Mark Morriss seems to have Stockport Road all worked out during his two-night residency at Levenshulme’s Fred’s Ale House. He should know the score by now, this being his third two-night stint at the pub in the last year and a half.

A sign went up for a “real ale house, coffee shop and art gallery” in my neighbourhood in late 2014. It stood amid a sea of mundane takeaways and uninspiring phone and car shops, making my hipster-in-denial side wonder if it was too good to be true.

Sadly, when I was offered a freeze-dried Nescafe on my first visit and a look at its framed photos of pies and Manchester pop stars, I knew it wasn’t meant to be. Fred’s didn’t quite live up its progressive banner and quickly became a newer copy of its sister pubs on the same road in terms of its crowd, décor, listings and general atmosphere.

However, two-and-a-bit years on, there may be hope for Fred’s yet. It seems to be trying to respond to the varied needs of the incredibly diverse Levenshulme, breaking away from the ‘all-things-local’ mentality and thinking outside of the box. It currently hosts a popular Malaysian food popup and the odd interesting performer or art exhibition that’s worth venturing out for.

Looking at Mark Morriss’ connection with the venue, it seems like a weird fit. The London-based singer-songwriter and former Bluetones frontman keeps returning to a neighbourhood bar in South Manchester.

But once he’s on stage, Morriss is at ease in Fred’s, his sharp wit and comebacks keeping the mix of Levvy locals and general 90s nostalgia hunters in not-so-quiet adoration.

With lots of interaction and distractions, it’s fair to say tonight’s set is all over the place, but nobody cares and it works. Barely a song goes by without someone abandoning their empty glass on the stage, topping Morriss’ drink up or sending him off on a long-winded tangent. But it’s a welcome deviation to attend a gig in Manchester where the performer connects with his crowd to this extent.

When Morriss does focus, he makes performing look deceptively easy. A seasoned musician with both a solo and Bluetones back-catalogue, he has almost too much material to draw upon.

Encouragingly for a Britpop-era artist, there’s strong support for his newer songs, including one inspired by not wanting to be on holiday at Stonehenge. This sits well alongside classics such as ‘If’ and the particularly well-executed ‘Sleazy Bed Track’.

Mark Morriss is a firm member of the 90s canon, an unarguably talented singer-songwriter and has his audience thoroughly charmed. This is what allows him to pull off such a lively, informal Friday night set – that and the modest £9 ticket fee of course.

It’s certainly worth the trip to Levvy to catch him at his next double-bill at Fred’s, which feels as though it will probably be in a couple of weeks’ time.

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