The great northern winter. As foliage decays to a vivid orange, life bursts from steamy dance-floors. It's glimmering center-piece, The Warehouse Project.
Arriving at 11pm, the two-roomed catacomb had already morphed into a writhing den of bodies with vibrant scarlet lasers flung beyond pillars and arches. London's junglist staple Shy FX guides a truly awe-inspiring mass of revelers into a frenzy over scattered cut-throat rhythms and enveloping stabs of bass. In another environment, a venue this full would only cause frustration and a worrying amount of sweat-sharing, though here the crowd simply congeals into one towering, hedonistic monster. Reading the crowd like a filthy novel, house-party staples erupt from the crisp speaker-sets. Dizzee's "Fix Up" set atop chopping percussion, "I Chase The Devil"'s timeless bounce invading every vocal chord, it's almost enough to help forget winter's boney old hands rapping at the doors.
Possibly the most anticipated act on the bill, American hip-hop powerhouse combo, Run The Jewels, burst forth. An act thats enjoyed incredible receptions this past year, not-least on the festival circuit. Bouncing onto stage amidst hectic swashes of filtered frequencies and a gleeful rendition of Queen's "We Are The Champions", its clear these two veterans have found new life in this project, their optimism digging its feet into your soul. Showmanship projected at full velocity, El-P pronounces his manifesto, "F**k selfie-sticks, f**k sneakers, its time to tear s**t up !". Rising waves of slicing beats, slashed in two by sharp, resonant American diction. Knife-edges over guillotine synths, all backed by white-noise flares and brilliant sonic landscaping. It’s the duo's perfectly produced beats that allow space for the power of their vocal deliveries. Deep, ominous kicks landing like black holes, sucking in life before regurgitating it back like a filthy student's plug-hole.
After a few hours in the belly of the beast, it's time to take a peek into room two, and who better to find comfortably nestled beneath the visual panic attack of strobes than WHP regular Wookie, an act now synonymous with the backrooms of this event. Popping bursts of light-hearted drum and bass bounce amongst the low, arched ceiling as wafting shades of metallic, oscillating synth lines slice the sweat and smoke. Dropping the classics like High Contrast's "If We Ever" and Kelis' "Millionaire" is sure to keep the masses eating straight out of your hands, and hearing a room of people nail Andre 3000's cheesy old diction in the latter can't fail to get you in the mood. Away from the high production values and big name bookings of room one, I've always held a sweet spot in my heart for WHP's smaller stages. Maybe it’s the intense lighting that encompasses your vision and neutralizes your senses, or maybe it’s the intimacy that’s shared in this smaller space, it just feels like home.
Back in room one Manchester's very own Levelz are gearing up, and if previous appearances are anything to go by this is going to be special. Rolling out of the smoke, the first hints of this act's growth in the past months comes in the form of a live backing band. Smooth, funk-laden bass and a full kit open up new space in the collective’s tracks, morphing rough-and-ready bangers into fully fledged musical progressions. With the precise control of Metrodome on the beats and Skittles and co firing on all cylinders, it can be forgiven that Chimpo couldn’t grace the stage. The brand new tracks showcased the professionalism these lads have gained, its nice to have watched them materialize from scrappy MC's in Manchester's underground club scene to professional musicians, able to comfortably hold their own alongside the veterans of their scene.