We’re standing in the middle of a rave-ready crowd: bodies dancing, droplets of warm beer falling to the ground, another club kid is stomping on a little finger. We couldn’t give a damn. With closed eyes, we feel the bassline vibrating through the ground into us as our hearts pound faster and faster. Music is the only drug we need. Especially if you’re witnessing one of the most exciting electronic duos ever that got a chance to bring their beats back to the place they’ve originated from, like The Chemical Brothers did last Friday at The Warehouse Project in Manchester.
A collaboration between two, long-running, iconic brands like North’s iconic event series, The Warehouse Projects and The Chemical Brothers, world-renowned big beat pioneers, always makes an interesting mix. Dying to experience the craziness directly, we deep-dived straight into it, from a small flat-turned-temporary office in London to Depot Mayfield, an industrial gigantic space in the heart of Manchester. The location makes much sense as The Warehouse Project has been pumping fresh energy and electrifying beats into the city’s veins since 2006, running seasonally each year, from September until New Year’s Day. Born out of boredom and burning desire for a space to host all the Northern techno-heads, The Warehouse Project has overtaken the electronic scene, offering the most exciting and eclectic homegrown and international acts, like Aphex Twin, The Prodigy, Deadmau5, De La Soul or Foals. You name it, they serve it.
This year’s been no exception, featuring, among many, Bicep, Jon Hopkins, DJ EZ, Jamie XX and finally The Chemical Brothers with support acts. Spread across three rooms, Depot, Concourse and Archive, there was a vast selection of styles to submerge yourself into from DJ Borings’ funk-infused techno-house, Berlin-based Mella Dee’s future-facing beats to HAAi’s easy-going experimentations. Though the (almost) show-stealer who put us in a techno-grooving trance was Blessed Madonna. A legendary American DJ, producer and one of the most sought-after beat-makers on the planet, once a high-school dropout embracing gender-nonconforming looks, she’s been making waves since the 90s, paving way for any out-of-the-box dance freaks to roam free behind, and in front, of the decks. Since the first second, when she took over the control centre, the crowd got sucked into her mix-matched, mellow meets soft mayhem, set. There was none of breaking your ribs open kind of heaviness but we got blessed with something more special, and probably harder-hitting. If that was a headline, we would not leave disappointed.
Luckily it didn’t come to that as straight after Tom Rowlands and Ed Simons aka The Chemical Brothers started their reigns and set up the mood for the next three hours of a big beat electronic throwback. It was like a catch-up of their so-far influences, most ear-pleasing tracks and crowd-satisfying groove. They’ve cruised through the DJ set smoothly, with somewhat sounding-new energy but underpinned with years of experience and teeth-grinding on the various world’s stages. Everyone took it as it was, like they’ve been welcoming a lost family member who’s coming back from another dimension but despite all the drama and innovations encountered on the escapade, staying true to who they were. Even though there was no sense of novelty as such, and the constantly dripping sounds were often a background to alcohol-boosted conversations, there’s nothing wrong with it. The duo has been intoxicating us with their mind-altering musical chemicals for over 20 years now so they know how we’d respond. And when they wanted it, the beats pierced through the noise, made us neck the drinks so the hands were free and tore even the most self-consumed lovers apart. They wield the power to force you to face your demons in a catatonic dance with yourself. The mass at Mayfield Depot must have felt that too. We definitely did.