Operations Director Andre Mannini talks about his life living and loving music and explains why he has created the ultimate combination of food, theatre and music in M Victoria St for our NYE Extravaganza!
I picked up an electric bass at the age of 18 and it was love at first sight (or first touch rather).
For the 5 years following that, I dedicated myself to music and very little else in life. I studied jazz in a music school in Tuscany and met some like-minded new friends with whom I would spend most of my time. Things evolved and from a small practicing band we become a still perfectly unknown but determined one.
We played a few concerts in public at small festivals and competitions but sadly the fame was not to come for us, nonetheless the countless hour practicing together were themselves, if not a delight (I remember my bleeding fingers on a few occasions), one of the most soul-satisfying experiences I can recall.
In 2009 I sold my business – a small bar in the Tuscan countryside – and fled Italy in search of opportunities, destination Dublin.
There I continued to practice and met an aspiring singer/songwriter named Darragh Murphy (now a successful freelance journalist).
We started playing his songs and a few blues and jazz standards in my bedroom in Wexford Street in Dublin, much the annoyance of my flatmates, mostly for fun but once again the creative juices were flowing and we started going around town finding all places where you could play for free; Dublin was the best place to be with every other pub having open mic night where everybody who could hold an instrument was allowed to get on the stage and play. The crowd would always be very laid back and incredibly supportive, never judgemental or discouraging. Quintessentially Irish, but I learned this only later.
We even did some ‘busking’ once but that was too much for me, I felt like I was begging and I left half way through the session.
We were the weirdest duo: guitar, voice and electric bass playing classics from the Beatles and Rolling Stones to The Doors, some very basic blues and jazz and the melancholic creations of Darragh himself. Truly odd.
Somehow, between practicing and of pints Guinness, we grew from a duo to a four-strong band, guitarist Simon Clarkson and drummer Anthony Hendrick were in!
Again, more long nights of practice and we started playing quite well together. Our career peaked when we called ourselves The Black Sheep (in an explosion of originality) and somehow managed to attract an invitation to play for money in a gastro pub of which sadly I forgot the name. We realised on site that the guy who run the pub didn’t want us, but another group who had been around for much longer, you guessed it they were also called The Black Sheep.
Anyhow – that concert I will remember forever, we had an audience of about 100 people, a few friends strategically placed made sure that there the clapping and cheering was consistent and at the end of the night we left with compliments and €400 to share.
After one whole exciting and eventful year in the Irish capital barely doing any work, I run out of savings and decided to move to London.
The idea was to try and get into a good music school and ‘give it a go for real’, so to speak.
However, survival had to be the top priority and I found a job in the hospitality sector, this being the only skillset other than music I had.
In London, it quickly grew into a second passion and before I knew it I was enjoying a career. The bass started to accumulate some dust in between practicing sessions and I channelled all my passion and creativity into work.
Music is something that never leaves you I think, the years of practicing and listening and perfecting technique and creative output shaped me and were integral in making me what I am now.
To this day music is my happy oasis, if I happen to travel at rush hour in the tube I love putting on my earphones and play some cool Jazz, right in the middle of the most stressful city in the world, suited and booted, in my very own happy place with Brubeck and Davies in my ears.
I think music has a lot to give to the hospitality industry, I love going to bars and restaurants that play good music and even better if they have live music.
Especially today that ordering a take away meal is so easy and the quality of it so respectable, I believe music or entertainment in general could be something that answers the question ‘Why should one still go out?’.
One still goes out because one does not only want to feed oneself, otherwise a grim sandwich at home watching Netflix would do.
The experience, the hospitality, being among the fellow diners, the buzz, seeing someone you know, feeling taken care of and the feeling of being someone special somewhere special (not to be forgotten an opportunity to look glam on social medias!), that’s why we still go out.
I still quite often visit places with live music but I tend to stay away from the big and famous – like Ronnie Scott’s for example. They are institutions but tend to be expensive and too selective. I like the casual places; my favourite is probably Le Quecum bar and although I can’t visit as often as I can this place is a hidden gem fully inspired and dedicated to Gipsy jazz and the legendary figure of Django Reinhardt.
A few years ago, I stopped playing altogether and I haven’t touched the bass since, but instead I grew more and more interested in fusing the two worlds that co-lived in my head. The enjoyment of a fine meal or a tremendous cocktail paired with some live entertainment – this, in my head, is the ultimate experience.
And of course, all of this has been done before – but I believe that in London, reviving live entertainment and music could be something that in turn refreshes and energises the industry and attracts trade.
At M we have live music quite often, we have done a successful series of Jazz Sundays with Matthew Vankan and we don’t miss any opportunity to have some sort of live entertainment, from our dogs cat walk accompanied by some swing standards through Bastille Day to Burns night (yes we had a piper), any day that has something to it requires the appropriate notes!
The latest of our musical and entertainment ventures is a Masquerade/Cabaret ball that we host every couple of months. It has been a great success and now we are ready to offer it on steroids for New Years eve in M Victoria Street.
It will be a gentle assault to the senses, a long and decadent night with rivers of Champagne, fine food from our executive chef Michael Reid and the best cabaret/burlesque artists and singers you can think of.
After party until ridiculously late in the secret Den with the artists themselves of course.