As if weekends in Manchester weren’t loud enough, on Friday they got turned up to eleven with the opening night of the Warehouse Project.
Many passersby would have quickly tutted at the sight of a loud stream of youths snaking from Store St, but they wouldn’t give them the credit they deserve. Walking past the queue, everyone was pumped to get inside, but they also called out each others choice of attire; with many repping brands and merch of acts past and present. Even those politely asked by security not to smoke in the queue were commendably courteous! Everyone was here to have a great time, with no intention of raucously ruining anyone’s night.
Once under the arches, WHP whacked the revellers with a wall of sound, light and sheer youthful exuberance. In another surprising moment of the night, Novelist had come on stage earlier than build and had set about wasting no time in going in hard. At 19, Novelist is one of the youngest on this year’s bill but he proved why is one of the biggest talents in the grime game with a supremely confident performance which had everyone going mad from beginning to end. I would love to have seen him on the same night as Skepta next week, but we can’t have everything in this life.
Like any great club night WHP kept the crowd bouncing between sets, and in a blink of an eye GoldLink arrived with his unique mix of hip-hop over heavy electronic beats. Showing off some slick moves when he let his DJ take control, this was a man out to enjoy himself as if he was part of the crowd. He brought out the first guest of the night in Bipolar Sunshine, rocking a retro AC Milan shirt, much to the joy of the crowd in the heart of this football mad city. This was the first time I’d seen GoldLink perform live, and it certainly won’t be the last as he more than lived up to the first half of his name (resists urge to throw in a Spandau Ballet pun.)
Another act I was seeing for the first time was Mura Masa. After producing one of the biggest hits of the summer in “What If I Go?” this multi-instrumentalist did not need such a mainstream pop hit to wow this crowd. With the boombing baselines of “Lotus Eater” and summery sprinklings of steel drums debut hit “Lovesick”, Mura Masa’s performance had it all; providing the perfect segway into the return of Jungle for their funk fuelled DJ set in Room 2.
But the night belonged to one act, the unstoppable M.I.A. She’s still something of a paradox as displayed by her eight security guards (yeah you read that right) ejecting every photographer out of the pit as they shepherded her onto stage, shrouded in a thin red veil. M.I.A. had not appeared at WHP for six years and wasted no time in showing Manchester what they’d been missing. A bold, cage-like stage shielded the view of her DJ and kept all the attention on the queen herself, although he regularly re-started proceedings in acknowledgement of the wild, passionate crowd — one reveller was afforded the honour of joining her on stage for most of the set to show off the moves that had caught her eye during the opening tracks.
With five albums under her belt, M.I.A. had a trove of tracks to delve into, but it was some of her latest material that set the room alight. A recent mashup of “Bring the Noize” and DJ Snake & Lil Jon’s “Turn Down for What” sent everyone understandably and unsurprisingly mad. As M.I.A. urged the crowd to “look up to the sky’ in a little nod to Queen as a quiet anticipation built up to “Paper Planes” which had everyone swaying along to the instrumentals before mimicking the sound of gunfire and opening tills on the chorus. “Bad Girls” always had to be the swan song and it produced another lease of life in the crowd, determined to live up to the lyrics “live fast, die young” which had M.I.A. smiling and bouncing along in admiration.
As the sweat drenched crowd closed the set with their own wall of sound, M.I.A. thanked them and declared her love for the city before being whisked out of sight by her rough and ready security who had no time for any selfie requests. With this most of the young guns poured out onto Store Street, the opening night of WHP 16 was a resounding success and, as predicted, set the bar incredibly high for the rest of the year.
Words by HQ