Warehouse Project Manchester

Times change, but strong line-ups are always worth attention. Hence the hype around this ‘one last job’ for a bonafide northern English institution. Or at least one of 30 last jobs marking an end to The Warehouse Project at its spiritual home, Store Street.

A cavernous World War II air raid shelter-cum-carpark-cum-temporary party HQ beneath Manchester Piccadilly railway station, the mammoth club series has been here for most of its 12 years. If walls and stalagmite-riddled ceilings could talk few would match these for tales, with around one million tickets sold for the address to date.

Sweat-soaked pace-setters, overzealous first-timers and bedraggled should-know-better-by-now old-schoolers greeted us after passing through the venue’s backstreet entrance. Clearly, the early afternoon opening time, and midnight curfew, had done little to deter revellers from throwing themselves at this 10-hour marathon like extras from 28 Days Later.

Reassuringly, especially for those who flew in for the ticket, there was plenty worth losing yourself to. The curator of proceedings, Four Tet, went b2b with Ben UFO for the best part of five hours, easing-in early arrivals with beguiling atmospherics, turning to fuller and tougher tones as Room One’s crowd began to swell.

Later, Four Tet returned to close the same dancefloor solo. Shazam-defying tracks spanning tense, low-slung, deep and solid house through half-time DnB eruptions and percussive techno. Mathew Johnson’s trance-tinged 2010 cut, Marionette, dropped to a sea of moving shadows silhouetted in blue-hued spotlights.

The preceding slots – Anthony Naples and then Josey Rebelle – summarised the night’s overall musical direction. Enough heavy fours to satisfy militants, but more than an eye kept on hybrid sounds. This was an ethic that defined Courtesy in Room Two, who forged a path from alt-dubstep to bass-techno and full-blown rave via weapons like Otik’s tribal workout, Deep Red. Importantly, the vibe was UK enough to ensure Flava D’s garage selections didn’t sound out of place, with Indo’s timeless R U Sleeping demanding all hands on deck.

Ultimately, though, it’s often the regularly under-attended Room Three where The Warehouse Project’s most innovative moments happen. This date certainly bore out that loose rule. Manchester duo Space Afrika’s trippy, lush sonic waves seemed to emanate from every archway, ears and minds lost to tones invoking chill out areas of days gone by.

Another local, Hidden Spheres, threw detailed, global house into the mix, building an ideal bridge between the aforementioned cosmic odyssey and our pick for set of the lot: Liverpool’s rapidly rising Breakwave. Moving between cold wave rollers, muscular bangers and unifying bombs like Doc Daneeka’s breaks-meets-disco effort, Never Wanna Lose You, the dancers’ enthusiasm more than compensated for their small numbers.

Once the lights came up we couldn’t help but consider this a fitting end to one of the closing chapters in The Warehouse Project’s Store Street saga. After all, the venue will leave Manchester stronger than when it launched. The countless pop-up and permanent spaces opened in recent years have fuelled a resurgence of interesting soirees in the city, with the North’s talent pool the real driving force.