Innervisions in Manchester

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  • The slogan with which the Warehouse Project announced this season—"Return to Store Street"—seemed loaded with a sense of expectation which, frankly, I did not share. When WHP first launched there was a novelty about partying in its huge, post-industrial spaces, but as it grew in popularity the crowd at Store Street changed, packed with people more interested in taking selfies than dancing hard. The move to Victoria Warehouse in 2012 both eased and exacerbated such problems. Last season, WHP felt like a mini festival. The lineups lured you back, but the whole palaver of being endlessly bumped and barged about in huge crowds felt like a chore. The first thing to report, then, is that on this Innervisions night the issues of queues and bottlenecks between rooms were significantly less onerous than they used to be at Store Street. A slightly different lay-out eems to have made the venue a far easier ride than I remember. Moreover, the crowd seemed both knowledgeable and respectful of one another. Gerd Janson played early in the main room, but I wasn't feeling it. '90s New York garage-house dominated his selections, all played in a rather frenzied, disjointed way. There was more fun to be had in the smaller, more spacious second room. Horse Meat Disco's effervescence (including an outing for some vintage Yellow Magic Orchestra) flowed smoothly into Prins Thomas's Scandi-analogue disco. His set sounded like an imaginary soundtrack to The Jetsons: a cartoon view of a space-age future, beamed forward from the 1970s. Back in the main room, Henrik Schwarz's live set was both brave and exhilarating. From vocal heavy, Fela Kuti-ish outbreaks of afro-house to the surging euphoria of his remix of Code 718's "Equinox," it was dramatic and constantly morphing. Midway through his performance he eased things down a bit, dropping the scuffed, piano-led version of his own "Jon," before closing with a live re-edit of Carl Craig’s version of "Take Words In Return." Schwarz trusted the crowd's intelligence and fostered a rare intimacy. It was special. In comparison, Âme's throbbing big room house, threaded with just enough detail to keep it interesting, sounded rather dull, while Recondite's live set seemed to suck the energy from, if not the room, then certainly my own personal reserves. Dixon's arrival could not have been more different. An extended, theatrical scene-setting was followed by a spine-tingling cascade of keyboards and, eventually, the first big drop, complete with a vocal and a powerful, driving bassline. But with the main dance floor now packed to the gills, I headed to Room Two for a typically brilliant set from Glasgow's finest tag-team, Optimo. I have seen JD Twitch and JG Wilkes play more radical and challenging sets, but even in relative crowd-pleasing mode, there is something about the sincerity with which they uproariously cut through the big records—"LFO," a Hindi version of "I Feel Love," Barnt's "Chappell," Minnie Riperton's "Loving You"—that is never less than exhilarating. After a final flurry of hands-in-the-air moments and shared smiles among the crowd, we were pitched-out into Manchester at just gone 5 AM. WHP has returned to Store Street, and on this evidence, I'd happily return too. Photo credit: Gemma Parker