Hi Ku is geared at genuine dance music lovers, and for their second birthday they were as excited as any of the revellers as in attendance. When you’ve got promoters who are that excited before the night even kicks off, then you’d be right to expect an absolute treat. They dragged us out to the northern outskirts of central Manchester, a move that added even more excitement in comparison to the standard host of club nights at Roadhouse, Joshua Brooks and all the other usual suspects.
Last entry was set at 1am, we were in the queue by around 12.50 and the atmosphere already seemed buoyant, the ticket collectors and the bouncers all seemed jovial. This kind of vibe is exactly what you need on a cold, blustery night in the depths of winter. By the time we got in I knew FunkinEven was already playing, so I made a quick effort to check out the Banana Hill DJ’s who were occupying the upstairs room from 12 – 2. On any night that finishes at 6am, a DJ set in the second room that is over by 2am, is always going to struggle to draw the crowds in. That being said, the Banana Hill boys put on a sterling show, drawing from their usual eclectic blend of styles. The most notable point being that everyone in this part of the club was always smiling, the mood was a lot lighter than downstairs and the DJ’s read this and responded beautifully with a warm and funky set. Banana Hill is a new night in Manchester that is definitely worth checking out if you haven’t yet.
Downstairs was a gritty dungeon of a room, sweat was literally dripping from the walls and FunkinEven had the crowd rocking as soon as we walked in. Nightly notable, the Hi Ku team had gone and hired out a Void sound system for the downstairs room, an absolute gem of a move. Thanks to FunkinEven’s talented display, the crowd embraced the sweaty euphoria and there really was no holding back. His set was as diverse as promised, he drew on melodic funky tones, hard techno beats and energetic hip hop, all within minutes of each other, managing to keep the crowd thoroughly engaged. After a particularly energetic and aggressive period of electronica, Chuck Robert’s booming vocals and those words ‘Let there be house’ came through the Void speakers, after which FunkinEven transitioned beautifully into a melodic tune that took us all back to the luscious warmth found in the work of early deep house pioneers such as Mr. Fingers himself. With this transition he shifted the atmosphere in the room instantly and it just displayed the kind of control he had over the crowd.
The variety in his set was there for sure, you were never quite sure what was going to happen and that kept the set very entertaining. I will say however, there were a few periods during which he didn’t really keep the energy up. His diversity keeps things interesting, but, it also needs to be accompanied by constant on point track selection. When he got it right, the energy and the buzz was quality, at certain times though, it felt like there might have been a little something missing.
Next up was Romare, by 2am the upstairs room had of course filled out and the venue was at full capacity. I started running between FunkinEven and Romare’s sets and after the first few trips I realized we were in for a belter from Romare, I actually ended up skipping the last bit of FunkinEven’s set to catch as much of Romare as I could. He delivered an ecstatic, joyous set that blended upbeat disco and house with his unusual, worldly musical interest to create a vibe upstairs that kept you glued to the dance floor and completely engaged with him for the whole set. The airy feeling he had going upstairs saw some of the finest shapes and biggest smiles in the club. The grittiness of the downstairs obviously has its appeal, but Romare’s more spirited and cheerful tune selection really was the highlight of the night for me. The track below is Romare the producer, something he truly excels at and something I’ve come across before. Romare as a DJ was a first for me on this night, and he has 100% gained another fan.
Romare’s set ended at 4 so we headed down to catch the last hour or so of Luke Vibert, I really like Hi Ku’s move to put him in the 3 – 5 slot, correctly gauging when people would be fully immersed into the night and giving this time over to their headliner. Luke Vibert is someone that Hi Ku were seriously excited about booking, and although I missed a solid chunk of his set, the last 45 minutes or so were full of unrelenting energy. It was an aggressive and affronting blend of electronic music that had the crowd jumping up and down, stomping their feet in complete reckless abandon. I’m really not a huge fan of the more aggressive blends of electronic music and for me his set was a bit of a non-event. I think this should give more credence to what he was doing though. He is an amazing producer and DJ and even for someone who isn’t a huge fan, it was so obvious how skilled he was, how much he loves doing what he does and most importantly, how much the majority of the crowd was utterly floored by the madness he was throwing out.
Next up was a duo who DJ’ed under the Dog Eat Dog moniker, as such I assume it was two of their residents but I did get the feeling that these two hadn’t DJ’ed together before. The mystery of their identities quickly became irrelevant however, as they soon lived up to the raucous name that Dog Eat Dog has developed for itself in Manchester’s club scene. Over the next hour the two boys delivered a rolling, unrelenting set of powerful techno that had the slimming crowd gleaning in delight and flashing those wide eyed bass faces with pride. In all fairness, the first ten minutes of their set caught people a little of guard and by 5am the crowd had understandably lost some of its fervor. Those of us who stayed were treated to a beautiful display of technical skill and quality track selection. Behind the decks they clearly loved it, dancing amongst themselves and engaging with the crowd before getting back to the business of dropping some exquisite techno. The gritty basement finally came into its own and the Void system delivered a body shaking experience. I do feel that techno is best appreciated in this kind of setting, so that undoubtedly contributed to the quality of the atmosphere, take nothing away from the Dog Eat Dog boys though, they delivered an absolute blinder of a set and rounded out a thoroughly enjoyable night in style.
Venue: No. 1 Primrose Street.