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7th December 2023

The Hacienda Returns at The Warehouse Project: Merseyside nightlife reborn

The Warehouse Project recreates the quintessence of 80s and 90s dance culture, honouring the legacy of The Hacienda nightclub
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The Hacienda Returns at The Warehouse Project: Merseyside nightlife reborn
Credit: Molly Dodge-Taylor @ The Mancunion

The Hacienda is arguably the movement that put Manchester on the map musically, pioneering dance culture in the Northwest throughout the 80s and 90s. Heavily financed by record label Factory Records, the 2002 demolition of the original venue would be the final assertion that the music subculture that had once made Manchester a cultural hub had now died. Or so it was thought…

Almost 20 years after the final night of The Hacienda in 1997, the 2006 set up of The Warehouse Project (WHP) saw the revival of Manchester dance culture. Inspired by the legacy of The Hacienda and 90s acid house, The Warehouse Project is now an annual set of events, showcasing a multitude of genres and artists. Accrediting one of their biggest inspirations, The Hacienda WHP has become a regular event amidst the yearly line-ups.

Name plate of the now defunct Haçienda club.

Commencing on the first snowy day of the year, this year’s The Hacienda Returns was met with long queues despite the icy weather. The long wait was minimised by conversing with other queuers, anticipating upcoming acts, and chatting about Merseyside music history. Once the queue had passed, and, despite missing the guts of 808 State’s set, a night of potential was ahead.

The line-up was overflowing with Hacienda regulars, with the likes of Mike Pickering, David Morales, and Graeme Park recreating the sounds they filled the 90s with. As we entered Depot Mayfield, Greg Wilson’s electrofunk set played out across throngs of people. A Merseyside local and iconic Hacienda resident throughout the mid-80s, Wilson’s set was an accumulation of soul and funk influences encompassed in the 80s electronic music that was regular at The Hacienda’s ‘Nude’ night on Fridays. Arguably one of the most significant influences within the ‘re-edit’ movement in dance and DJ culture, his spot on the line-up was much deserved.

Greg Wilson was quickly followed by Manchester royalty and The Stone Roses frontman, Ian Brown. An already packed Depot ensured a busy crowd as Ian Brown walked out, lit from behind with a mottled blue background. His high cheekbones carved deep shadows against the lighting, as the 1999 track ‘Love Like A Fountain’ merged Stone Roses-esque indie rock with electronic synths.

Within the audience were those who experienced Madchester at its peak, of which Ian Brown was a staple influence throughout. As the 2019 release ‘First World Problems’ began, however, Brown seemingly lacked what other artists and DJs had to offer across the rest of the evening. As he swaggered across the stage, his words out of breath and out of tune, it was hard to appreciate his performance without the rose-tinted nostalgia of older attendees. Nonetheless, as the iconic strings of ‘F.E.A.R’ began, there is no doubt that Ian Brown’s impact on Manchester’s music culture is infinite, his presence being more valuable than his performance that night.

Credit: Molly Dodge-Taylor @ The Mancunion

The Archive is easily a standout part of the Depot Mayfield venue, with a hidden away annexe that opens to a narrow and packed crowd. It was here that K-Klass’s electro house embodied funky beats of the mid-90s. First meeting at a ‘Nude’ Friday during the 80s, K-Klass would eventually become a reoccurring staple of The Hacienda during the 90s. It is this cyclicality that made The Hacienda so special, not only preserving some of the most influential dance music artists at the time, but simultaneously birthing those who would carry the legacy of The Hacienda through to the 90s.

Returning to the Depot, Inner City had already begun, with Steffanie Christi’an already erupting the crowd into a sea of dance and movement. Formed by Kevin Saunderson, the pioneer of the Detroit techno movement in the 80s and 90s, Inner City are the amalgamation of Saunderson’s Detroit techno expertise and classic 90s house.

Christi’an’s energy was palpable, ensuring the talent of Dantiez Deandre Saunderson and Kevin Saunderson’s work was translated to the audience. Finishing the set with ‘Good Life’, the infamous 1989 track that The Guardian ranked number 1 on ‘The 20 greatest Detroit techno tracks’, Inner City’s performance was a standout.

Nothing, however, could compete with the following hour and a half we were soon to witness. Shuffling to the front of the Depot in anticipation for Leftfield, raucous cheers welcomed Neil Barnes and Paul Daley to the stage. As electronic music goes, Leftfield have a fluidity that transcends the conventional categorisation of dance music. Whether it be the use of a theremin on stage, or the shift from glitching lights to swirling backgrounds, there is nothing traditional about Leftfield’s approach to their art.

Any insert from 1995 album Leftism was met with abundant appreciation, only showcasing its relevancy in the progression of dance music throughout the 90s. The whole set seamlessly explored every corner of Leftfield’s discography, from the looming electronic synths and brief brass riffs of ‘Melt’, to recent experimentation with dub influences on This Is What We Do. Version Excursion. Unbounded by genre limitations, The Hacienda was and continues to be a celebration of dance music both locally and universally.

Taking a prolonged bow and soaking up the last cheers of the audience, we were left speechless. Whilst it may be difficult to wholly recreate the brilliance that was The Hacienda, to accumulate all of its admirers into one warehouse and supply such a plentiful and impressive line-up is a credit to WHP. With original attendees and newbies alike, the legacy of The Hacienda, in this pocket of the world, lives on.


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