“I got a summer job, saved up some money and bought some decks, had some flyers printed and hired out a venue for one night. I didn’t think anyone would come. It sold out. That’s where it all started.”
This weekend independent Manchester club night, Pop Bubble Rock! turns ten years old. For the past decade, they’ve been holding club nights up and down the country, playing the best (and cheesiest) in pop, rock, pop-punk, hip-hop and beyond. For owner and DJ Ben Hiard, it’s been an eventful decade. “PBR came about because I quite simply wanted to organise a club night which played the music friends and I wanted to hear, in an atmosphere that we’d enjoy. I loved pop-punk and punk rock, but I also loved hip-hop and had and still have an unashamedly massive love of pop music,” says Ben when asked about the origins of PBR. “There was nowhere that played that mix and even the alternative places were just playing it safe with the obvious hits. The alternative scene then, and unfortunately still to this day, was quite cliquey and judgmental which bothered me because the music was anti that.”
Having developed a following in Manchester, PBR has ventured around the country, visiting Nottingham, Cardiff, Bristol, London, Newcastle, Sheffield and Swansea along the way. However, it’s their home that continues to be PBR’s focus. “We used to have regular nights in other cities but now we treat events outside of Manchester as pop-ups and we find that more fun,” says Ben.
On their adventures to other cities, Ben explained “we used to have regular nights in other cities but now we treat events outside of Manchester as pop-ups and we find that more fun”
Although there are dozens of similar club nights to PBR, their success and longevity comes down to keeping true their origins and being unique, paving the way for others. “We’ve played pop-punk before it was cool, when it was cool, when it wasn’t cool and it seems to be cool again. When you chop and change just to keep up with trends, I think people see through it,” says Ben. Nevertheless, PBR and Hiard have always been on the pulse of new music, and their crowd trust them to deliver a reliable mix of future hits and unforgettable classics.
“We’ve always been proud of the pop and hip-hop we play as much as the pop-punk so it’s always fun to listen out for the next big thing as well as playing the classics. One of the things I’m proud about is that we’ve always pushed unsigned bands and played them at our nights. To me, a catchy tune is a catchy tune, regardless of how many YouTube views the video has! I think our crowd love that we play stuff they haven’t heard as well as their favourites.”
Beyond the party atmosphere on offer, there is a charitable conscious at PBR’s core. From the start, it has supported numerous causes. The first event served as an all-day fundraiser for Everyman, a male cancer charity that Hiard supported following a testicular cancer scare when he was 20. Since then, PBR has supported Manchester Dogs’ Home, which led to Hiard’s pug, Jeff, being featured on special ‘Pop Bubble Pug’ shirts. More recently, they have set up a initiative to help organise taxi shares. “Manchester is a very safe place but unfortunately bad things can happen and with new students moving to city it can be a bit overwhelming. We want to help make people’s trip home as safe as the night is fun.”
While on a professional level, PBR has open new opportunities for Hiard including his current role as a lecturer at BIMM’s (British and Irish Modern Music Institute) Manchester campus, where he teaches future club and event promoters. “Before I got asked to join BIMM formally, I was invited in as a guest speaker a couple of times to talk about my experiences. I spent most of the time telling people about things I’d got wrong. There’s no ego with PBR and I think that’s important advice for anyone wanting to start their own night. Do something because you care about it. Things will go wrong but you have to persevere.”
As they reach a substantial milestone with a 10th birthday party at Manchester’s Joshua Brooks this Saturday, Hiard explains there is no particular plan for the future of PBR; there was no plan ten years ago and there’s none now. We’re just going to keep on throwing parties!“
Pop Bubble Rock!’s 10th Birthday Party takes place at Joshua Brooks, Manchester on Saturday October 1st.
Pop Bubble Rock! links: Facebook
Words by Sêan Reid (@SeanReid86)