You'll know John Hall. If you're the type of person who likes to talk while the band are on, he'll have cast you a disbelieving stare across the room. If you're a real dickhead, like one man in Rawtenstall at a Liam Frost gig, I might have stood between the two of you at some point. If you love live music videos on You Tube, you'll have seen his wonderful Manc Music channel of films of songs recorded across Manchester's music venues, you'll probably be in one of them as he loves to show the audience reaction. If you've ever sat in the secret garden at the back of the Castle or the Rose And Monkey you'll definitely have met him. There isn't a bigger champion of new music in Manchester than John Hall. Many people might claim that title, bollocks that it is, as their own. But there's no I in John Hall, just a love of music, an extravagant flounce, a wicked laugh, a bag of pills and the biggest heart.
John isn't going to be with us much longer. I won't expand on that. But on Sunday night 1,000 or so people poured into the Ritz, many taking their first tentative steps back into the weird world we live in because it's for John. It was about music, but most importantly about love, community, people coming together and indulging in a shared passion. Many of us know the others through John, because of John - the heart and soul of our local scene. Every one of these bands that played, and the dozens more that would have dropped everything to be here, owe him the hugest debt of gratitude, not that he would accept any such recompense or acclaim.
Back down in the basement there's hardly room to move as a packed room welcomes Dirty Laces to the stage to continue their journey out of the city's Oasis-inspired crowd towards a huge psychedelic-inspired sound, no more so in evidence on their final song You that takes up about half of their half-hour set, twisting, turning, stopping and then heading off in a new direction. Charlie's voice sounds richer, more expressive than ever as he's grown into the front man role whilst his band go from strength to strength completing a remarkable transformation and development of one of the city's most interesting young bands.
Peter Hook performing a set of Joy Division classics is perhaps the most fitting way of closing the night. Anyone who knows John will have heard his stories of seeing Joy Division many times in their short too brief existence. Like John, Hooky clearly doesn't give a fuck about dividing opinions on himself - recalling his first time in the Ritz with Jimmy Savile spinning the discs and making a quip about him being there again tonight.
The set - No Love Lost, Digital, Isolation, Disorder, She's Lost Control, Shadowplay, Novelty, Warsaw, Atmosphere, Dead Souls, Twenty Four Hours, Transmission, Love Will Tear Us Apart and Ceremony - reads like a roll call of songs that have defined everything in Manchester since. Love Will Tear Us Apart is of course one of the greatest songs ever written, and Atmosphere runs it close, acknowledged by young and old taking them from Hooky and making it our own. Whilst the market for tribute bands is polluting our musical landscape right now, there's more than place for this - a celebration of the music rather than trying to recreate a time and place that you simply can't because music is created in the moment, like life is lived in it.
There's a beautiful moment mid-set where Hooky dedicates John's favourite song Novelty to him and the crowd chant his name. It's an understated yet perfect tribute, like so much of what has gone before it on the day.
As the final bars of Ceremony echo around the hall, everyone says their goodbyes and heads off into the night at the end of a bittersweet day. There's the celebration of being able to do this again, the communal gathering of love for one man but at the same time the realisation of why we're here. With the day raising over £10,000 for the charity The John Hall Stage that is being set up to support the very same young musicians that played across the stages today and the next wave of them, a remarkable unique man will be leaving the same indelible stamp across the music scene of Manchester than he will on the hearts and minds of anyone who's had the immense fortune to be able to call him a friend. Love you John.