I don’t think I quite realised the gravitas of what the infamous Warehouse Project (WHP) actually was until, having abandoned my phone’s Google Maps in favour of following the swathes of people heading towards Manchester’s Mayfield Depot, I found myself in line behind thousands of expensively-dressed people of a seemingly diverse age demographic, chattering excitedly and finishing off their cigs before heading into what was once a former railway depot.
As if that wasn’t enough of a reality check of just how big an event I’d let pass by me for the last couple of years I’ve lived here, upon entering the 10,000 capacity venue, I heard, rather than saw, the thumping atmosphere inside. It was only then I that we might have just accidentally walked into one of the biggest rave events of the year.
The steelwork pillars and exposed brickwork served as an exposé for gentrification, whilst the reinvigorated dilapidated space hosted a mass of wealthy people, the majority of whom had paid £50+ for a serotonin-induced sleepless night in a space which might have been otherwise used to house those whose only option was to sleep there. I’ll be the first to admit that later, when we were crushed amongst a crowd of hot sweaty bodies, the bass superseding the superstructure, the UK’s imminent heating crisis was not at the forefront of my mind.
The first port of call were the portaloos, which gave the venue a definitive summer festival vibe. Having used many a disgusting portaloo in my time, these were actually not at all bad. That being said, being told that our passes meant we had exclusive access to the VIP-area toilets was certainly a nice surprise.
Next we decided we probably needed a drink so sampled the Grey Goose vodka stocked behind the bar. Only one drink at a time though, leaving one hand free for us to spontaneously finger-gun the air in tandem with the other beneficiaries of austerity. Not quite the armed revolution I’d had in mind, but perhaps rather apt for the friend I was with who thought Karl Marx was a DnB DJ.
Weaving through people shouting down their iPhones trying to find their already-disappeared friends and towards the VIP concord area, I could feel the excitement of the evening ahead beginning to build. Whilst my friend bought us the first round of drinks, I stood almost in awe of the fact we’d just left a cool, summer evening and entered what felt like an exclusive underground festival.
Whilst we were on the raised platform, I tried to snap some photos from a cool vantage point. Unfortunately, the camera on my old iPhone didn’t do justice to the ravers of the world united by the captivating visuals and the red, blue, and green strobe lighting. Blink and you’d miss it… literally!
Venturing to explore what I can only imagine is the closest I’ll ever come to Berlin’s Berghain, given the techno music, industrial vaults, and the street food market next to Temperance Street (which meant you could literally spend hours there with everything you could need), I was eager to see what the other stages had to offer before catching Little Simz and Fred Again later on.
maybe DnB and Techno could be the opiate of the masses after all
We left the main concourse area, which as night club first impressions go was a pretty phenomenal entrance, and headed through to the Depot stage. We were stopped at one of the many bin points (another props to the event organisers by the way, Leeds Festival could take some notes) by a kind couple who asked to use our phones to take photos of us before wishing us a good night and sending us on our way. I will say this, the majority of people at WHP Repercussion did seem genuinely lovely – although I imagine intoxication probably had something to do with that.
Heading through to the main Depot stage, we snuck into the cave-like corner of the hall to catch some of Nightmares on Wax’s DJ set. Initially I’d been surprised was at WHP, objectively a rave event; his more docile tunes don’t exactly scream smushed up sweaty bodies. But the small-scale of his DJ set, tucked away in the more secluded Archive stage, made perfect sense as soon as we stepped into the golden glow of WHP’s most intimate stage and let the electronic sounds wash over us. Maybe my friend was onto something, maybe DnB and Techno could be the opiate of the masses after all.
By the time his set was over, we had just enough time to grab a few beers (at £20 for four cans…) and headed back to get a good spot at the Depot stage for Little Simz. Playing to a surprisingly friendly and non-rowdy crowd – one woman even offered us the rest of her beers – Little Simz built just enough suspense by walking onstage to the sound of the mounting battle drums and regal brass instruments of ‘Introvert’. Her magnificent entrance offered a stark contrast between her remarkably understated signature beanie-cargo pants combo (very WHP couture) and her elegant, minimalist stage set: her signed name in golden lights.
By this point I’m fairly sure the crowd was screaming, but that might have just been me out of pure excitement. Every time I see Little Simz perform, I am always blown away by how much she seems to entrance a whole audience simply by vibing to her own music and faultlessly rapping her heartfelt lyrics.
Although Warehouse Project crams a lot of acts onto a lot of stages at the same time, each artist performs for an hour, so attendees get a fair chance to see whoever they want. Again, credit to the event organisers; the whole thing seems extremely well run. That being said, as more people clicked that Little Simz was on, and that Fred Again and Folamour would be stood in her spot half an hour after her last song – which was of course ‘Venom’ – people began streaming through to where we were and the crowd became increasingly condensed (not unpleasantly mind you).
Not wanting to leave Depot completely but desperate to see Nia Archives, we headed back to the Archive stage (I see what they did there, where else was she going to be?) to catch ‘Forbidden Feelingz’ and ‘Sober’ (feeling slightly less of the latter by this point). This programming worked perfectly; Nia’s old skool jungle and soft electronic set provided the perfect interim between Little Simz’ lyrically exemplary Hip-Hop performance and Fred Again’s euphorically disorientating sound-bite set.
The hardest decision of the night was leaving Jamie XX’s set part way through to catch the rest of Detroit’s Jeff Mills, the absolutely packed cavernous vault room a further deterrent for us to force our way back towards the smoky, stroboscopic Concourse stage. On the upside, it did mean that when closing time came at 3am, we were amongst the first to be thrust, blinkingly, out onto Baring Street, leaving behind our techno-induced states of alienation, and regaining control of our own basic functions enough to be able to order an Uber home.
Warehouse Project runs events throughout the autumn, and you can buy tickets here.