Our Guide to Manchester Psych Fest ’23

This weekend, four and a half thousand music fans will roam the music venues around Oxford Road as Manchester Psych Fest celebrates its 10th anniversary with its bigegst-ever line-up.

Like all good festivals, the schedule has unavoidable clashes, and tough decisions must be made. There is no wrong way to enjoy the day, these are just our recommendations for what to see at this year’s Manchester Psych Fest.

Circle Square returns as the festival hub and is transformed into Cactus Square for the occasion. There’s loads to do here throughout the day, including screen printing workshops, street food, and meet & greets with some of the festival’s top acts at North Taproom – all soundtracked by a curated line-up of local DJs. We recommend getting here early, picking up your wristband, and having a tasty breakfast or lunch. There are plenty of places for scran around Cactus Square, but you could also hop next door to Hatch, where, from 10am, you can tuck into their new breakfast menu. 8th Day Café has excellent fresh food choices and is the ideal spot to stock up on snacks. University Green is just a short walk away, and there are some good options there, including the excellent Bold Street Coffee.

If you need a little bit more warming up, Yoga with Skye starts at Cactus Square at 11am. So, we have our wristbands, we’re well fed and loosened up. It’s time for some music. Led by the brilliant Lia Metcalfe, The Mysterines knock-out belting indie anthems for fun and are the ideal choice for Psych Fest’s traditional no-clash opener at 1pm at The Ritz. It will be packed for this one, so get there with plenty of time and try to travel as lightly as possible. Venues in Manchester allow only one small “A4-sized” bag per person. Anything bigger than that won’t get in.

At this point, every decision you make is a bit of Sophie’s choice, so we recommend studying the line-up beforehand and planning. We’ll be ducking out before The Mysterines set ends and heading to Albert Hall for Sorry. Before a quick one-two back to The Ritz for Jeffery Lewis and back to Albert Hall for The Lovely Eggs.

Four bands down and several thousand steps up, we’ve done more than enough to justify a quick refreshment break, probably at one of Temple, Pev or Briton’s – the choice is very much queue and weather dependent. There are plenty of excellent places to drink around Oxford Road, but If you keep your drinks breaks purely Psych Fest, you’ll be rewarded with the festival’s new fringe programme at select bars around The Corridor.

Events at Sandbar start at 3pm with a Tropica Cacti Terrarium workshop before talks on The Origins, History & Future of Psychedelics by Darren Le Baron and From The Stage to The Picket Line – Revolutionary Spirit in the 21st Century by Grace Allport. Sandbar is one of our favourite pubs, and it’s worth knowing that they serve up the kind of pizza which people would enthusiastically queue for in Ancoats. At Lass O’Gowrie, they’re showing psychedelic films throughout the day, including Dig, the classic 2004 documentary which chronicles the love-hate relationship of The Dandy Wahorls and Psych Fest headliners, The Brian Jonestown Massacre. Over at Yes, alongside gigs in The Pink Room and Basement, they have DJs playing for twelve hours from 4pm and a UK festival exclusive screening of King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard’s immersive tour chronicle, Chunky Shrapnel. The roof terrace at Yes is also an excellent spot for a breather.

It would be very tempting to return to The Albert Hall for Allah-Las, but we’re going to mix it up and catch Dublin rockers, The Pillow Queens at The Union. The venue will be familiar to Man Met and Manchester Punk Fest alumni, for first-timers, it’s the Man Met Student’s Union on Higher Cambridge St.

Now is probably a good time to grab some dinner before a frantic evening of tough decisions, walking, more walking and loads and loads of brilliant live music. Again, there are plenty of food choices at Hatch, which is just a short walk away from The Union, or back at Cactus Square where you can find some of the finest local street food purveyors, including The Holy Mountain Kitchen, Seitan’s Kebabs, Hello Oriental and Little Bao Boy. If you fancy more of a sit-down dinner, we can easily recommend the likes of Bundobust, The Refuge, Zouk or Wood. Just make sure you book ahead of time.

We’ll probably return to Cactus Square and debate whether to go to Bodega at The Ritz or Los Bitchos at Albert Hall. This will be the start of many arguments between friends as, from this point on, The Best Manchester Psych Fest Line-up Ever™ goes into interstellar overdrive. We will definitely be seeing KOKOKO! at Manchester Academy and you can’t walk that far up Oxford Road without fighting for a spot on Big Hands roof garden. Those lucky enough to have King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard tickets may even wait it out here until their midnight show at The Academy.

It’s also hard not to recommend sitting in The Albert Hall for a few hours with the brilliant Snail Mail making way for festival headliners/psychedelic rock royalty The Brian Jonestown Massacre. Then again, that would mean missing The Murder Capital at The Ritz. We’ve also not been to Canvas yet, a brilliant modern music space at Circle Square headlined by Bdrmm, a band whose first two records are amongst our favourites in the last couple of years. There’s also the amazing TVAM and Hamish Hawk at The Union, Crocodiles at the Oxford Road Corridor stage at Deaf Institute with an entire stage in the main bar programmed by Sour Grapes, and, the truly psychedelic Dumbo Gets Mad in The Pink Room.

Does this guide suddenly feel like a bit of a cop-out? Even we don’t know which sacrifices to make. Just remember, there are thousands of fellow festival-goers exploring the same line-up, so If one gig is at capacity, you know there is plenty on to see elsewhere.

After the headliner crunch, decisions get slightly easier as Ezra Furman takes to the stage for the closing show at The Ritz. The American singer-songwriter and 6 Music DJ recently announced a planned hiatus from touring, meaning it might be a while before we can see her in concert again.

After that, it’s over to Canvas, where we’ll enjoy Stealing Sheep‘s 16-bit beats and Acid Child on the decks upstairs before one last band. We’ll make the short walk to Yes for Nightbus, who close out the festival. Fresh from a Bluedot show where they, briefly, took festival-goers’ minds off the mud by being every bit as good live as their debut EP hinted, the Manchester trio has a bit of a next-big-thing vibe to them and is well worth losing sleep over.

Brunch

HATCH Manchester
Hatch

Hatch is Manchester’s pop-up retail, food and drink destination on Oxford Road with something for just about everyone. It is a place to shop, eat and drink, 7 days a week at over 30 independent traders.

Exterior of The Eighth Day Shop & Cafe
The 8th Day Shop & Cafe

You can stop by on your lunch for a quick takeaway sandwich or burrito to take back to your desk or enjoy across the road in All Saints Park, or you stay longer and pick from a menu of mains in their downstairs cafe.

Drinks

Interior shot of Temple Bar in Mancheter
The Temple

Originally called The Temple of Convenience owing to its former life as a public toilet block, this is a tiny bar with some of the finest bathroom graffiti in town.

Peveril of The Peak Pub Oxford Road Corridor Manchester
Peveril Of The Peak

Peveril Of The Peak is Manchester’s most iconic pub adorned with the sorts of bottle green, yellow and brown Victorian tiles that are a reclamation yard’s dream.

The Briton’s Protection

An iconic pub with an impressive whiskey list running into the hundreds. A welcoming atmosphere and a sprawling beer garden.

An image of a sign outside Sandbar on the Oxford Road Corridor
Sandbar

Sandbar, just off Oxford Road in Manchester, is a well-loved watering hole, with a great selection of ales and some eccentric seating.

External shot of The Lass O' Gowrie pub in the sunshine
The Lass O’ Gowrie

Take a seat by the river at The Lass O’ Gowrie and watch the world go by in this refined and ancient watering hole.

Exterior of YES music venue in Manchester
YES

Four floors of YES with something for everyone – including a rooftop bar, two live music spaces, a club space, DJs and extensive coffee, street food and bar selection.

Dinner

Hello Oriental - Rice Paper Pho
Hello Oriental

Hello Oriental is an exciting food experience based in Circle Square with every possible variation on Asian Fusion cuisine in one place.

North Taproom Circle Square
North Taproom

North Taproom serves up everything from small-batch craft ale to high-end cocktails alongside a well-designed menu of Asian street food.

A glass of beer at Bundobust Brewery
Bundobust Brewery

Bundobust Brewery in the St James Building on Oxford Street is the latest, and arguably the best addition to the ever-growing Bundobust chain.

The Refuge

The Refuge, at the Kimpton Clocktower Hotel, is a luxurious, modern restaurant, housed in a magnificent, Alfred Waterhouse designed, Victorian brick and terracotta building offers 10,000 sq ft of drinking and dining for everyone and anyone with the instruction “Come As You Are”.

Photo of an Indian dish from zouk tea bar and grill
Zouk Tea Bar and Grill

Zouk Tea Bar and Grill is a modern, exciting restaurant, serving up some of the very best Indian-Pakistani cuisine in Manchester.

A dish from WOOD Manchester
WOOD Manchester

WOOD Manchester offers one of the city’s best fine dining experiences, from the locally-loved winner of 2015 MasterChef winner Simon Wood.

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People laughing on University Green one of the many parks and green spaces on Oxford Road
Green Spaces

Oxford Road Corridor has a number of historic parks and contemporary green spaces to enjoy.

Food and Drink on Oxford Road

The food and drink in Manchester is some of the best in the UK with many of the finest offerings found here on the Oxford Road Corridor.

View of Circle Square from the pavilion at Symphony Park
Circle Square

Circle Square is an exciting multi-million pound, mixed-use neighbourhood, created on the site of the former BBC building on Oxford Road.

Back of Engels statue at First Street Manchester
First Street

First Street is a vibrant neighbourhood between Oxford Road and Deansgate, it is home to a number of businesses and is a popular spot for food, drink and culture.

HATCH Manchester
Hatch

Hatch is Manchester’s pop-up retail, food and drink destination on Oxford Road with something for just about everyone. It is a place to shop, eat and drink, 7 days a week at over 30 independent traders.

Where to stay

The lobby of Kimpton Clocktower Hotel in Manchester's Oxford Road Corridor
Kimpton Clocktower Hotel

Kimpton Clocktower Hotel offers an unforgettable stay on Oxford Road Corridor in one of Manchester’s most iconic buildings.

Midland Hotel Lobby Manchester Oxford Road Corridr
The Midland Hotel

The Midland Hotel is one of the most famous places to stay in Manchester, and one of Oxford Road Corridor’s most lavishly decorated hotels.

Image of the chandelier at Holiday Inn Express Oxford Road
Holiday Inn Express

The Holiday Inn Express on Oxford Road is a centrally located hotel that offers visitors great value for money.