Where to start with The Warehouse Project? For the past 10years Manchester has witnessed the birth of one the country’s biggest dance music event institutions – barer of plaudits but also a fair amount of controversy. Regardless, it has become the focal point of Manchester’s clubbing scene and the driving force behind the big room rave culture that has developed in recent years.
Since its inception, WHP has darted from Boddington’s Brewery to Store Street to Victoria Warehouse and subsequently back to Store Street – described by many as its ‘spiritual home’. Last Saturday’s celebrations of 10 years in the business, alongside Manchester International Festival, presented punters with a new venue in Mayfield Depot – minutes from Store Street and a long-term target destination of Sacha Lord-Marchionne and Sam Kandel.
Upon entering the venue around 4:30pm it was very understandable why: immediately striking was the sheer enormity of the size of the main room. Mayfield outstrips Victoria in size and scale, but retains the industrial edge of Store Street. Further promising signs came from the strength of the soundsystem, coupled with huge stacks of lighting, no doubt hibernating until darkness fell upon the venue. Intentions of catching Mr. Ties led me to a vastly different but equally exciting Room 2. Lovers of the Store Streets main room will have widened their eyes at its similar appearance: long narrow red brick covered walls and trippy visuals intensified by dim lighting. The foundations for a great night had been beautifully laid out by WHP, now everything lay in the hands of the DJs.
Mr.Ties was the first to take over duties. He demonstrated his imperious skill on selection and mixing moving in out of soulful vocal edits, percussion heavy house and techno such his very own remix of Spencer Parker ‘Rights for men.’ Clearly enjoying himself, his enthusiasm and commitment to rawer, industrial techno in the last hour saw him transform the crowd from a timid 5pm static rabble into a 5am-esque fist pumping style frenzy.
Having seen Space Dimension Controller pull off perhaps the 15 most enjoyable minutes in Boiler Room history at Dekmantel last year, I was pretty content with turning my attention away from Room 2 towards DJ Koze in the main room. Showcasing a range of the more emotionally charged house, Koze played to the big room brilliantly, offering long, drawn-out buildups and low-end rhythms epitomised by his Moderat ‘Bad Kingdom‘ remix and the much talked about recent XTC release.
A brief interlude whilst Paranoid London’s Live setup was assembled created an opportunity for a breather, and upon return the duo, accompanied by the distinctive vocals of Mulato Pintado, were moving well through the motions dropping their own ‘Transmission 5’ and ‘Light Tunnel’ cuts from their brilliant album this year. Unfortunately, issues with the sound overcompensated for Pintado’s mic, effectively nullifiying the tracks whenever he contributed. When he was more restrained, the set was at its best and even became humorous when the duo began the build-up of their iconic ‘Paris Dub 1’ track only to troll the crowd and switch to a completely different bassline rhythm at the drop (not quite as bad as this though, but still).
This was one of those great nights where all acts were on form: Maurice Fulton turned up and played in typically ‘does-what-he-wants’ fashion, quickly switching from tune to tune – Mu ‘Paris Hilton’ to Thelma Houston ‘I’m here again’, all whilst still wearing his backpack. Joy O was solid and reassured playing suitably big room bangers, though I feel was slightly too entrenched in bleepy techy house/techno and lost momentum at points. Having said that some rawer selections did appear, Paul Johnson‘s ‘Ecstasy’ and Digital Domain ‘I need relief’ being the most notable. A calamitously timed smoking area break cost me half of Octave Ones Live set, and deep regret followed after bearing witness to the best half hour of the night filled with pummelling relentless techno. Midland in Room 2 once again impressed with his variety of selections – sifting through genres but maintaining the crowds’ interest throughout. My evening would end with Kyle Hall, who gratefully introduced a more soulful flavour to proceedings dropping the likes of Moodyman’s remix of Norma Jean Bell acting as a perfect wind-down to a hugely enjoyable day.
The enjoyment didn’t just stem from the music – significant improvements were evident in security and crowd respect – something which WHP have rightly drawn criticism for over the years. Whether perhaps it being due to the event being a daytime event, the security was much more relaxed. Nothing like the cramped, one way only chicken farm conditions of Victoria Warehouse were present here, nor overly intense and traumatic searches. Being charged £4 for a 330ml can of Rekorderling was a big wet flannel to the face however, but it was easy to overlook thanks to the general spectacle that was one of WHP’s finest events to date.
Leaving the event the immediate reflections of a great afternoon were undermined by the realisation of Mayfield Depots ephemeral tenure as a venue for The Warehouse Project. No doubt rivalling Store Street in magnificence, it is a massive shame that it will not be available for future events. Nevertheless the people behind WHP have shown repeatedly their ability to come up with the goods no matter the situation, so I’m sure whatever their plans for the upcoming 12 week winter stint they won’t disappoint.
– Calum Carey