Clubs: Concrete Jungle: Everyone who's anyone is going to Manchester for the In The City Festival. Jessica Aitkenhead laces up her dancing shoes

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An urban Glastonbury is what they're calling this year's In The City, Manchester's annual music jamboree. Five days of live gigs and cooler-than- thou club nights threaten to engulf the city, as the international music industry descends for some self-promotion, self-reflection and self-abandon. For true mud-and-tent devotees, it may be a touch sanitised. For the rest of us, Glastonbury without the field sounds well worth investigating.

Now in its third year, In The City should offer something for all but the truly tone-deaf. Dance label of the moment, Positive Records, is hosting a party on Saturday night at Manchester's latest addition to clubland, Sankey's Soap. Dave Lambert features in the DJ line- up, and a PA from Reel to Real sets the seal on a guaranteed arms-in-the-air affair.

Those of a more hardcore persuasion should opt for Megadog 10 at the Academy, while Manchester's new gay record label, Out On Vinyl, are laying on a party at Paradise Factory. The PA comes from darling of the Manchester gay scene, T:Empo, and if the night comes anywhere close to last year's Paradise offering it shouldn't be missed. The Glastonbury camp has met its match.

Sunday night sees the official opening party at the Hacienda, with Drum Club and System 7 upping the tempo. Not to be outdone, Home plays host to the UMM tour, featuring DJs Claudia Cocculuto and Alex Natale and PAs Alex Party III and Blast. Italian house at its silliest, one can only hope.

In The Jungle (Sankey's Soap) on Monday pays homage to recent Jungle fever with a line-up including UK Appache and DJ Tippa Irie. But if only for big-name overkill, Tuesday's Deconstruction Records party (Academy) must surely be this year's winner.

DJs include Sasha, Danny Rampling, Mike Pickering, Justin Robertson, Paul Bleasedale . . . enough said. And with PAs from The Grid and Republica, not even the venue - little more than a whacking big hall - can detract from the night's claim to seriously hip club credentials.

Those who remain resolutely unimpressed by state-of-the-art dance technology should rest assured, however, for In The City also manages to be a good old-fashioned rock-and-roll affair. This is no surprise, given that the man behind it is Tony Wilson, he of Factory Records fame and self-styled arbiter of all things musical. 'The whole reason for the health of music in Manchester is that there's never been a sharp distinction between dance and rock. We create a hothouse here where people can hang out, remember why they love this business and have the time of their lives.' Right on, Tone.

The guitar is alive and well and in good hands here, with bands like Ride (Academy, Monday night) and Cranes (Hop and Grape, Sunday). Less traditional but still very much live are Sheep On Drugs (Boardwalk, Wednesday) and MC Buzz B, offering poetry with music (Isobar, Sunday). Big Country head the line-up in the Acousticity marquee.

No music festival would be complete without its teenage hopefuls, though, and In The City is no exception. Seventy- two unsigned bands have been selected to play free gigs. Oasis, we are hastily informed, played as an unsigned band in 1993, so maybe you'll hear the next, er, Oasis . . . Failing that, introducing yourself as an A&R man is always highly entertaining.

'In The City', Manchester, 17-21 Sept. Info: 061-839 3930

(Photograph omitted)