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18th March 2015

Club: Zutekh presents Midland

Midland’s outstanding, genre-bending set proves you don’t need bells and whistles to have a good time

6th of March

Joshua Brooks


The events that resulted in Midland headlining a night at Joshua Brooks set an odd precedent for the event. Having originally been planned as a Transmission show including the notoriously flaky Ricardo Villalobos, as well as Magda and Jackmaster, Midland was originally a member of the supporting cast, but was thrown into the very centre of the spotlight by the changing of the venue. Luckily, though, he filled that position with absolute ease.

My preconceptions of the night were that it would be a scaled down version of the intended Transmission format. However, the focus was shifted from a visceral performance including lighting and visuals, to simply the artist on stage, delivering their offerings with the best quality sound possible, focusing the crowd’s attention on the music, resulting in sets that were controlled by their mood.

The night started with a strong performance from a Manchester legend in his own right, Krysko. Having been a member of the Manchester scene for the past 14 years, he was in the perfect place to prepare the crowd, with his signature brand of genre-bending mixing, filling the brick basement for the start of Midland.

Midland took his place behind the decks with no theatre or ceremony and immediately began to build on the solid foundations that Krysko had laid. He began by testing the specially hired Void sound system to its fullest with energetic, bass-rich openers that immediately got the crowd on board, their positive reaction to this evidently influencing the following 15-20 minutes of the set, which was awash with the heavy kicks and striking sounds of techno. Amongst this, Midland slipped in some of his own productions, notably ‘Trace’ which he blended into with a deceivingly massive kick. His track changes were rapid and kept the crowd guessing, but ultimately gave them what they wanted throughout the performance.

The set was by no means linear in any way however; Midland really lived up to his name, providing the perfect equilibrium of musical styles, taking the crowd in any direction effortlessly. This was abundantly appreciated as he moved seamlessly from the industrial, distorted sound of heavy techno which dominated the middle of his set, through an almost ambient synths set to a heavy bass line, to the upbeat melodies of funk and disco of the last half hour. If anyone ever doubts the presence of skill in DJing, watching Midland move from grinding techno to ‘I Wanna Dance With Somebody’ by Whitney Houston with ease, will crush those reservations.

The genre-defying nature of the set was reflected in the diversity of the crowd that attended. Midland commented: “I wasn’t expecting to be playing to such a young crowd, but it was great to see how musically adventurous they are… they went wild for a lot of the older stuff.” Referring to the disco-y ‘older stuff’, he played it for as long past the curfew as he could get away with, demonstrating his commitment to the crowd’s enjoyment. Discussing Manchester, he said that he really enjoyed being here, and that it was an awesome city in which to play. The quality of his set, and the reactions of the crowd, mean that he’s always welcome back.

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