Some live shows are truly special. Not just in the moment. But for weeks, months, years, and decades afterwards. They’re destined to play out on a loop forever.
Stone Roses at Spike Island. Sex Pistols at Lesser Free Trade Hall. Oasis at Knebworth. Hacienda House Party on United We Stream. These live performances are still talked about and always will be. Not just because of who was on stage. But because during these shows – everything came together at exactly the right moment.
Behind the curtain of every great gig, there’s a team of people who’ve found a way to set the stage perfectly so that the magic could happen. And there’s one of those remarkable groups operating in Manchester right now: Neuron.
Starting out as a passion project for half a dozen DJs and musicians who just wanted to make memorable shows by pooling their resources, Neuron has expanded into a dream team of sound, lighting and video techs providing services that range from event production (including sound, lighting, staging) and management (set design, streaming) to installations (digital signage, home cinemas, AV integration).
Specialists across the board in show production, Neuron rose up from the local underground scene back in 2010 – and the collective has since morphed into one of the leading AV solutions providers in the entire North West.
Every year, they’ve gotten bigger. And after 10 years serving the city, Neuron’s portfolio now reads like a Who’s Who of Manchester’s big-name venues.
The brand has kitted out bars/restaurants such as One Eight Six and The Jane Eyre; setting the stage for club nights at Hidden and Yes; and did a little bit of everything for new venue The Blues Kitchen.
Neuron’s team have also provided sonic experiences for juggernaut festivals like Glastonbury, Outlook and Dimensions; as well as taking the lead on live streaming virtual occasions as big as Digital Diwali.
The company has provided the platform for conferences, education projects and corporate occasions, too – including the stunning grade-II listed Rosso restaurant.
Jonny Wharton – one of the founding members of Neuron and now head of Event Production – said that the brand’s success ultimately boils down to a strong bond and shared love for what they do.
“Neuron grew organically as a family,” he explains.
“It’s always been something we all actually care about rather than just a job. We care about the music and we care about the events.
“It’s a blessing for us, really.”
The events sector has taken a real wallop in recent times – and Neuron felt the blow just like everyone else. Indeed, the brand was predicated to enjoy its biggest year yet in 2020, but lockdowns scuppered what was all set to be a record-breaking business period.
Nonetheless, the Neuron team has stuck together – and so has the wider AV industry. Neuron actually worked alongside its competitors throughout the pandemic – swapping equipment and collaborating whenever it was clear one company could help the other.
Neuron also did its bit to support its friends with the ‘We Make Events’ campaign – marching through Manchester city centre over summer as part of a day of action demanding better treatment for the events world.
The company eagerly endorsed the ‘Light It In Red’ campaign (where culturally significant buildings lying dormant were illuminated to highlight their status) and also stepped up to provide solutions for socially-distanced gigs during COVID.
When events weren’t happening, Neuron also did whatever it could to provide care homes with the necessary equipment they might need.
“We’re not sit around and do nothing people. We had to do something,” Jonny explains.
“Of course it’s been tough. The events side of the business has seen a 90% drop. And we’re still fighting to recover that. But luckily we have the installation service where we service venues with AV kit.
“We were also a lucky recipient of the Cultural Recovery Fund – which has been a huge help.”
As restrictions came and went, and the performance industry tried to find a way to adapt to everything being so different, Neuron decided to become leaders.
The team threw itself head-first into the world of live streaming – mastering the art so their clients could put on immense high-quality productions even during a pandemic.
Neuron’s Trafford warehouse space was cleared and the team invested in building a brand new stage. It gave Neuron a means to turbocharge streaming and produce digital shows that gave viewers an experience as close to a live show as possible.
“[Mastering live streaming] allowed us to stay current in the community and produce virtual events that kept entertainment going,” Jonny explained.
“Also, when we were allowed, we opened our doors to artists and musicians, facilitating live music with a skeleton crew.”
Neuron took care of its own people, too, during the pandemic – putting aside a pot of money for staff to take training courses at home if they desired.
“So many event workers and freelancers were just sat at home not knowing what to do or when work was going to come back,” Jonny recalls.
“So, we thought we could help by paying for them to learn a new skill – which might be a positive thing to do.”
Whilst Neuron’s ‘best year yet’ has been put on ice, there’s intense optimism among the staff for the future of the business.
The company has secured a 10-year lease on its current home in Trafford Park – and there’s lots of work on the horizon now that COVID restrictions are due to be removed.
Experts are predicting a new Roaring Twenties at the rear end of the pandemic – with a period of “intense social interaction” expected over the next few years. And a smart bet would be that Neuron will be there behind the scenes – enabling many of these massive events to go ahead.
The brand is best-placed to serve the biggest chapter in recent history for promoters because it offers everything any venue could need.
Jonny states: “People are appreciative of one-stop shop in terms of events production. It’s not ideal to have to deal with three to four different suppliers. Dealing with one person makes things a lot easier
“Our original name had ‘pro audio’, but we dropped that as part of a rebrand to signify that we do offer a full range of services for events and venues. We wanted the brand to reflect growth and maturity.”
Alex Morgan, Director of Venues & Installations at Neuron, added: “We can provide solutions for music venues, clubs, bars, restaurants, hotels, schools and unis – it’s all bespoke.
“We’re a solutions-oriented company. Most people using this AV equipment aren’t techies – so we’re focused on making it easy.
“We’re also really easy and fun to work with. What we say is if you’re looking for something, just come down and have a chat.
“At the very least, we’ll have some useful ideas for you.”
Neuron understands the events world – because that’s exactly where it came from. The team was brought together by Manchester’s underground culture – and now they’re trying to help the industry bounce back; bigger and better than ever.
It’s been a dismal few months for live performances, there’s no doubt about it. But it does mean we’re sure to see some historic shows take place over the coming months: The comeback gigs that will be remembered forever as launching a new era.
And Neuron will be there. Setting the stage.