When the Hacienda closed, the scene was declared dead. But you just can't keep Manc clubbers down, says Tony Naylor
"You can't live on good bars and clubs," Shaun Ryder once declared. In Manchester, you can have a good try. The Hacienda may be dead, but reports of Manchester's clubbing demise are greatly exaggerated.

The closure of the Hacienda felt, in reality, like someone finally switching off the life-support of a terminally ill friend. The effect has been to clear the way for the sudden appearance of small venues, sprouting up across the city. Ironically, many are promoted by ex-students lured to Manchester by the Hacienda's one-time maverick sense of adventure.

Manchester's sentimental affection for house music has finally been laid to rest. New club nights are happily spinning drum 'n' bass, hip-hop, jazz, future funk and beats, carefully side-stepping the dumbing-down effect of most "eclectic" clubs. Others are twisting clubbing into new shapes, with the addition of live musicians. Clubbers are relishing the challenge. "In Manchester people are more willing to let their hair down," reasons club host Luke Una Bomber. "They can be into quality music, but basically if you try to act cool you just get ignored."

The recent media frenzy around big beat and speed garage has been virtually ignored in Manchester. Loath to have its tastes dictated by London, Manchester has turned inwards in search of talent. "It's being the young brother - you always want to do better," says Steve Smith, promoter of Eardrum. "Manchester has got its own culture, its own way of looking - even women wear kagoules up here," says Luke Una Bomber. Manchester promoters and DJs are also beginning to re-write clubland's code of conduct by collaborating with one another: Northern Pressure - a national tour by DJs from Bugged Out, Black Eye, Electric Chair and Robodisco - is currently crossing Britain.

Essentially, the creative heart of Manchester, which attracts oddballs from satellite towns and the colleges alike, is still very small. This village atmosphere generates a crucial interchange of ideas, musical influences and money between apparently disparate creative types. Many work in office spaces in Beehive Mill, New Mount Street and Ducie House and automatically migrate to certain venues.

This was one of the factors that persuaded John Burgess and Paul Benney to stay in Manchester, after university, to launch Jockey Slut magazine and the club Bugged Out: "It sounds like a bit of a cliche now, but people do bounce ideas off each other and we found that atmosphere very creative."

The launch of the Northern Quarter Network website - a showcase for creative industries based around Oldham Street, from Arc clothing to hip house label Paper Recordings - is a glimpse of Manchester's future. The dark satanic mills are now cafe-bars and clubs.

Manchester's finest

Ear Drum at Kaleida, Oldham Street, every Saturday, pounds 5: DJs Chubby Grooves, Mark One, Mr Scruff, Andy Votel and musicians James "Mad Drums" Ford and bassist Sneaky, re-moulding, embellishing and transforming your favourite hip-hop and drum 'n' bass tunes. "You have to experiment to find the way ahead, and Manchester's a great place for experimenting," counsels Mr Mad Drums.

Bugged Out at Sankey's Soap, Jersey Street, every Friday, pounds 7: Recently voted Best Small Club at the SAS/Muzik Magazine Awards. Don't be deceived, Bugged Out only just made the weight (less than 1,000 capacity). Not as locally biased as most, Bugged Out is a showcase for visiting techno, deep house, drum 'n' bass and big beat luminaries, such as Derrick Carter, Joey Beltram, Laurent Garnier etc. This is complex music enjoyed by simple raving folk who'll happily share their water/fags with you. "I'd like to see it as an extension of what Mike Pickering was doing with Nude [legendary Hacienda night]," explains John Burgess. "It was always cutting- edge music and a totally up-for-it crowd."

Spellbound at Band On the Wall, Swan Street, last Friday of every month, pounds 5: If Ear Drum encourages a considered, symbiotic relationship between DJs and musicians, Spellbound pits them against one another in a fight to the death. DJs Inki, Shadraq and Chris Jam lay down drum 'n' bass beats, which horn players, bassists, drummers, vocalists and the mesmerising MC Segun then transform, in seconds, into near chaos. DJs and musicians turn acrobatically on one another, con- stantly trying to force the sound down new channels. "It's like a war on stage," muses DJ Inki, "that's how we look at it. You're fighting for your life all the time."

The Electric Chair at The Roadhouse, Newton Street, last Saturday of each month, pounds 6: "Other cities have proved that they're just as viable, in many ways," says Luke Una Bomber, "but, particularly in clublife, when things rock here, they do so with an unmatched intensity." As anyone who's ever been to The Electric Chair can testify. Hosted by The Una Bombers, Luke and Justin, it takes ecleticism into new realms of perversity. Talking Heads, obscure electro, drum 'n' bass and loopy house are somehow worked into the best party soundtrack ever. Expect: sweat, flugel horns and drunken abandon.