Last weekend Warehouse Project launched their 12-week 2019 programme at Depot, a 10,000 capacity railway depot in central Manchester left abandoned in 1960. From Warehouse’s previous home on Store Street this venue change is a real step up for the brand and marks a real shift in the organisation’s ambition and confidence. With lineups this year featuring the likes of Aphex Twin, Underworld, Skepta, Disclosure, Four Tet, Jeff Mills, The Black Madonna, Bicep, Slowthai and Fatboy Slim, Warehouse’s Project’s status as one of the country’s most prolific club series is well and truly secured. But bigger is not always better and the challenge for Warehouse Project in this big move was always going to be, ‘how do they retain the sense of club community and Manchesterness they set out with in 2006 in this new gigantic venue?’
Opening in 1910, Depot, Mayfield was originally established as a functional railway station, aiding the overspill from Piccadilly Station. This huge space for the next 12 weeks will play host to three rooms of some of the world’s best electronic dance music: Concourse, an intimate room perhaps modelled on Fabric’s multi levelled dance floor which brings you close and personal to the DJ; Archive, an ode to Store Street, a space that identically matches Room One of Warehouse Project’s old home; and Depot, Warehouse Project’s new gigantic main room fitted with mind boggling visuals and a state-of-the-art soundsystem.
On opening night, Aphex Twin was supported by an all star lineup of his own curation comprising of international musical innovators such as 33EMYBW, Lee Gamble, Kyoka, and Rian Treanor. The supporting sets were all predictably boundary pushing and experimental from Acre’s dark pulsing tones to the dismembered hip-hop infused experiments of ZULI, collectively building a sense of restless energy across the venue. Although not billed as such you couldn’t help but feel there was only one main event that everyone was waiting for however and by the time Aphex Twin began, the sense of anticipation had reached fever pitch.
Aphex Twin’s set demonstrated why Richard David James has been such a leading figure in IDM for such a long time. It was 90 minutes of dark, at times hypnotic, at times relentless and continuously surprising music. His visuals included distorted images of faces from the crowd projected onto large screens warped by the famous Aphex smile. In such a magnificent space with such a pioneer behind the decks it was always going to be memorable and he didn’t disappoint.
The following night had a more commercial lineup including Disclosure, Maribou State, Prospa, and Annie Mac which in turn attracted a much younger, less music-head audience. This is by no means a criticism for where this night trailed in its innovation and ‘seriousness’ it more than made up for in its energy and down-right fun. Disclosure, with their plethora of chart topping dance anthems had the crowd electrified particularly in the latter half of their set where they brought out highlight tracks such as ‘Latch’ and ‘You and Me’ – and in one particularly special 90s throwback moment ‘Music Sounds Better With You’ by Stardust.
A less headline highlight from the night emerged from Depot’s Room 2, Concourse, in which Jayda G entertained the crowds with funky, afrobeat classics until the early hours followed by an intense closing set from Denis Sulta.
Undoubtedly a great start to Warehouse Project’s 2019 season in a new venue that certainly suits their ambitions for the epic and dramatic. Historically however Manchester has always wanted more from its clubbing experiences and is rarely dazzled for long by just expensive names and bright lights, and at these rather dizzying heights of production value, space and bookings one has to wonder where the Warehouse Project can go from here.
Words: Oscar Lister
Featured Images: Rob Jones, Gary Brown