“This is not fast dubstep, this is drum and bass. This is not EDM, this is drum and bass.” This was the message MC Tonn Piper passionately relayed throughout The Warehouse Project last weekend during Andy C’s headline appearance. On a night celebrating twenty-five years of one of drum and bass’ pioneering labels – RAM Records, his resounding message reiterated that the genre is in a class of its own.
Back in 1992 at a time when drum and bass was an unknown entity to many, a teenage Andy C took the decision to create a label dedicated to driving the genre; a label with the music’s core values at heart and one that has been influential in developing the genre into the incomparable medium it is today. Starting out with a budget of £1,000, the label that began as a personal outlet for Andy C’s music has now evolved into an indestructible monster attracting attention from all corners of the world.
Whether it’s Andy C hosting six-hour sets paying homage to his roots or RAM hosting stage takeovers at every festival imaginable, the label is not only leading the way in drum and bass, it’s also at the forefront of dance music in general. From Wilkinson and Chase & Status selling out live shows across the world, to Noisia and Camo & Krooked breaking down musical barriers with their revolutionary soundscapes.
With this year marking the label’s 25th in the game, what better way to celebrate than to throw four gargantuan parties across the UK? One of those was rightly at Manchester’s WHP – a venue resembling Andy C’s northern home away from home for many years now. This year was different though. It was a complete celebration of everything RAM has to offer and featured nearly the entire label entourage.
Spread across three rooms was a headache-inducing selection of artists so vast it meant powerhouses like Camo & Krooked, who are a rare sight to see playing so early in a night, were responsible for warming up the crowd in anticipation of the headline acts. After blasting the crowd with their melody-driven Austrian funk, adrenaline was well and truly pumping for Sub Focus, with mosh pits questionably breaking out to tracks like “Afterglow” – a dramatic contrast to the heavenly and relaxing visuals of white fluffy clouds travelling across a blue sky behind the DJ.
As Wilkinson followed on main stage and Delta Heavy took the reigns of room two, over in room three something special was about to take place – a formidable three-hour b2b2b from three of RAM’s heaviest and most consistent producers – Loadstar, DC Breaks and Mind Vortex. It’s a venomous combination that first had heads turning after their ferocious performance at Rampage earlier this year, and it’s one that is set to blossom over coming months, with Loadstar revealing they have all been working on a project together.
However, before this mammoth performance could be witnessed, locating WHP’s room three presented a challenge in itself… With the venue boasting an intimate feel through its low ceilings, narrow rooms and compact crowds, it’s easy to forget the sprawling maze WHP is – one with the ability to leave the soberest feeling disorientated.
Unsuspectingly tucked away at the back of the venue in a space appearing to have been carved out of the surrounding bar area is room three – the most intimate feeling space of them all. With a crowd of no more than a few hundred and the DJs a mere couple of metres away, the three-way b2b drummed up a raucous atmosphere – particularly when Insideinfo’s unreleased remix of DC Breaks’ ‘Gambino’ dropped and sent the front row skankers into bass-induced euphoria as they desperately pleaded for a rewind.
One hour deep into the set and many were forced to tear themselves away in preparation for Andy C in the main room, who easily drew the largest and wildest crowd of the night. With an onslaught of exclusive dubplates and scintillating double drops, the mosh pits had now reached boiling point and were breaking out across the room like an infestation. This is the uncontrollable effect Andy C’s fierce mixes have on crowds, and is why he is the only drum and bass artist to feature on this year’s DJ Mag Top 100 DJs poll.
With every Andy C performance you expect to experience several things – from MC Tonn Piper chanting “When I say Andy, you say C”, to Andy C gracefully waving his vinyls in the air. But he surprised everyone at the end of his set when the lights suddenly illuminated the arched red brick ceiling and Oasis’ ‘Wonderwall’ began to play. Being in Manchester, it resulted in a passionately sung acapella by the crowd – a touchingly delicate moment that was cleverly followed by A.M.C’s stomping ‘Tap Ho’ remix as the set closer.
As the night drew to a close, the plethora of talent on offer continued right until the end. Room two played host to a nostalgic history session courtesy of one of jungle’s best-recognised pioneers, Randall, while the main room saw a salivating performance from Noisia, who brought their untouchably brilliant style of music to WHP for the first time. However, it was the finale from Rene LaVice, the man trusted to take over Friction’s Radio One show, which prompted the most energetic response. With a deadly blend of smooth vocals and thunderous basslines, he provided the perfect end to a night celebrating the strength and diversity of both RAM Records and the drum and bass scene in general.
Photos courtesy of The Warehouse Project