A total of five local prominent figures had the opportunity to explore England for a full week on September 22 to 29. They were invited as part of the #OMGB (Oh My Great Britain) program which is aimed to highlight the British culture.
One of the people who went there is stand-up comedian cum actor Soleh Solihun. Perhaps not many people knew that Soleh was once a music journalist, and great at it. When appearing as a comic, he almost always wears music t-shirt. So it’s not surprising if he used the opportunity of visiting three England cities—one of the countries in the world with the richest musical history—for music-themed travel.
The first stop is Manchester, the birthplace of acts such as The Smiths, The Stone Roses, Oasis, and The Chemical Brothers. With all the knowledge that he has gathered all his life as a music fan, Soleh has a certain sensitivity towards historic music-themed places. “We stayed at The Radisson Blu Edwardian Hotel. This building is used to be called Free Trade Hall, an entertainment venue. Not arbitrary, because there were a lot of concerts here that are regarded as crucial in the history of music,” explains Soleh on his blog.
Some of the historic moments that took place in Free Trade Hall are the first electric performance from Bob Dylan on May 17, 1966, and the first-ever Sex Pistols concert on June 4, 1976, that arguably kick-started the whole punk movement.
Music is something that can make Manchester rise up from adversity, as Soleh quoted from his tour guide. For as long as two centuries, this city can live on from cotton mills. When industrial convection went bankrupt, Manchester lost its identity. So when the music scene there thrives, and many bands got well-known around the world, Manchester has something to be proud of again.
One of the bands is The Smiths who have a place that’s glued to their existence: Salford Lads Club. Soleh took the time to go there. The Smiths had been photographed in front of the building for their seminal album The Queen is Dead. As a result, many The Smiths fans do the same thing when they visited Manchester.
Soleh also went to Northern Quarter which is filled with bars, cafés, boutiques, and record stores. “I had to dig deep into my wallet when I stopped by Picadilly Records. I found many of my favourite albums that I haven’t own and it’s actually cheaper there,” writes Soleh.
Soleh and the group moved from Manchester to Liverpool—the city that gave us The Beatles—by using a minibus. The first tourist attraction that they visited was related to music which is British Music Experience. This museum tells a lot about the history of British music, from the 1950’s to today. Soleh explains, “If you had a lot of time, this place gave you much knowledge about music. We’re given an audio player that can be selected based on the props in front of us. For example, when we arrived at The Rolling Stones section, we just select the information that we want, listen to the audio, while looking at the items on display in front of us.”
There’s also a museum about The Beatles named The Beatles Story. “If you want to know The Beatles’ history without reading the books, then going here is the perfect solution. Not only receiving information, we’ll also feel the experience as if going back in time because there are replicas of the objects or buildings told,” states Soleh.
According to Soleh, The Beatles Story experience is ideally followed by Magical Mystery Tour, a tour around Liverpool that takes us to places connected with The Beatles. Penny Lane, Strawberry Fields, and even the childhood home of the personnel are some of the destinations.
London is the last city that Soleh and the group visited. As a capital city, there must be plenty of interesting places to go to. But of course, Soleh’s main focus is music-related places.
When in Shoreditch that’s full of hip places, Soleh’s attention was fixed on a record store called Rough Trade East. They sell CD, vinyl, and other items related to music. “One of the money-scraping heavens on earth,” says Soleh. “If compared to the stores in Indonesia, the vinyl at Rough Trade East are quite cheap. And most importantly, the diversity of the collections is incredible.”
Soleh’s music travel ended with watching the Lion King musical. He states, “People said that going to London is not complete without watching a musical. And thank God, my visit to London is complete this time.”