Euphoria, and then some – WHP 20/10/12

So last Saturday christened my first night at Manchester Warehouse Project for the 2012 season, and I have some very good things to report back with. First, the lineup. Headlining the night were the mighty Armin van Buuren and Paul van Dyk, and playing alongside them W&W, Marcus Schultz, Arty, NO_ID, and Matt Everson. A must-attend event for all trance heads, this night was destined for a roller-coaster of relentless 4×4 bass-heavy euphoria. The night before Armin had been voted officially as the world’s no.1 DJ by DJ Mag for a record-breaking 5th time, and it’s easy to see why. Paul van Dyke, no less the artist, has enjoyed worldwide recognition as a highly talented musician, from doing productions and concerts with the Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra alongside the highly esteemed master Paavo Järvi – one of the greatest living conductors in the world, to winning Grammy awards for his productions and being the only DJ to hold a spot in the World’s Top 10 DJs since 1998 (DJ Mag).

As a quick overview I feel that the night got progressively better right up to the end. Understandably, a lot of the mainstream hits were dropped earlier on (Armin van Buuren – Drowning, Omnia & IRA – The Fusion, Orjan Nilsen – Between the Rays, and of course Above & Beyond – Sun & Moon) though despite this at about half-way through Armin’s set there was a definite turning point in terms of shifting to more tasteful riffs and less poppy vocals. My favourite sets were from Paul van Dyk and Marcus Schultz. PvD was just incredible, there was a nice flow and a solid track selection and I feel that the real climax of the night arrived when he came onto the decks. Marcus Schultz’s set was a nice dive into a deeper, techno-driven sound-world and was somewhat of a pleasant push from Arty’s set, who, though provided a nice dynamic to the night with the inclusion of looser and more varied track selections, still had the audacity to drop MGMT – Kids (really?).

Second, the venue. Overall opinion on the new venue for WHP is: excellent. To sum it up the space has a clean-cut industrial feel to it. It’s not grotty or particularly rough around the edges, but they have definitely succeeded in delivering that underground/’warehouse’ vibe to the place. The layout is simple and effective with plenty of bars dotted around. The beginning of the night was a nightmare, there were too many people, it took about 20 minutes to get anywhere, the bouncers were dismissive and unhelpful, and it seemed as if the place was full of idiots – maybe there’d be more room if they had dropped the attitude and left their egos at home. Having said this, as the night got going mostly everyone was on a good vibe (maybe it was the mandy, no?). The contrast between the rooms were well thought-out and provided some nice variation. Room 1 acting as a large arena-like stage, high ceiling, and a large expanse for the dance-floor, while room 2 acted as a more underground-like basement rave – dark, smoky, and strobes in full effect. Additionally, there seemed to be little if any ventilation. I don’t know whether this was down to funding/time constraints, or whether this was an active decision, but the air was thick with body odour and it got very, very sweaty in there. While it’s nice to have some sort of ventilation system, on the flip side I think that the heat contributes to the atmosphere; shouldn’t this be what a warehouse rave is about? Getting mashed with a load of other people in a room with crazy lights and dancing into oblivion? Possibly. Probably.
On a side note, there could have been more seating and the drinks were appallingly expensive. It wouldn’t be so much of an issue if the tickets weren’t so expensive; you’re looking at a budget that would easily rival an equivalent night out in London.

The visuals were pretty amazing too. The main room was backed with a large screen that covers the whole wall – basically a huge flat screen TV – and a circular lighting-rig adds to the madness (see picture). The lazers too, were impressive. It shouldn’t go amiss that the guys behind the production of not just the acts, but WHP generally, clearly put a lot of money and effort into the lighting and visuals; the sound is a given – Funktion One across the board. Generally the sound was on point, but at times clarity was lost, especially in the higher ranges (though I think my expectations will never feasibly be met after experiencing the sound-systems at Outlook Festival).

All in all a wicked night. I did expect a bit more from Armin van Buuren and felt that from what I saw of his set it was just a bit underwhelming. Having said this, it was still enjoyable, and as mentioned earlier, the final hours of the night escalated into something pretty incredible. If I could sum it up in one word, it would be: epic. It provided a nice contrast to some of the darker, more introverted drum & bass and house nights I’ve been to recently. For those of you that don’t know much about trance or have had little exposure to it, a good place to start is Armin’s A State of Trance podcast. There are over 500 episodes and there are some pretty good mixes out there. I will possibly do some artist profiles of some of my preferred trance artists in the future but for now, these will do:

Next up is WHP 9th November, and I can’t wait. Don’t sleep.