Fresh from a day at the races sipping screwdrivers in the sun, gazing at a sea of hats and cuties, while seeing my finances rapidly evaporate into the pocket of the bookie, I found myself ejected from a taxi onto the broken down streets surrounding Elston Town station. Foot hard on the accelerator, I left the chaos of Liverpool behind and headed into the night to chase the charms of Manchester. From the thunderous noises of the cotton machines to Factory Records, the dawn of house music, the Hacienda and more, Manchester's industrious heart has brought many an innovation. Fast forward 20 years and the relaunched venue Area 51 is attempting to wrestle the stranglehold of Sankeys on the city's legendary house music scene.
Eager to get back on it, I pulled a couple of bottles of dangerously potent pear cider from the glove box and left my car, cracking one open on an adjacent wall as I walked towards Whitworth Street to met some friends pre-club. I'd heard a few Chinese whispers pre-event of the clientele that used to frequent the club and had my reservations. Teenaged sailor girls being sick in the street on the approach didn't calm the fears. Still any night featuring the skills of Deepchild and Josh Wink is worth a look: For the past two years few producers have consistently released beats as inspiring as Deepchild. The Germans don't love this guy for nothing.
Once inside the venue my ears were soothed by the deep jacking beats being mixed up by the north eastern invasion of DJ's under the Future moniker. As the front bar slowly filled up, Sean Peacock and Jon Woodall proceeded to throw down one grooving beat after another, some Jamie Jones, a little Moon Harbour, the odd Dirty Bird selection. The screwdrivers flowed and an atmosphere of optimism enveloped the room, as hands were held high to a slew of scorching tracks. I sensed some madness lay ahead.
After a little smirking in the outside area, I returned to find the bar half empty. For a moment I was stunned, then realised the main room had opened. Like the mad hatter I stumbled down a rising corridor floor into a cavernous room. The sound was tight and pulsing—the right venue for dirty house music, somewhere to lose your mind. At that moment Birmingham duo Jack2 Front were providing the ideal soundtrack to do just that. I struggled with the idea of staying compus mentis. A little tambourine, a little hat, roll the tom drum, take it tribal just like that... the time seemed to pass in flash. Jack 2 Front were working the floor like pros—any higher and people would be dancing on the ceiling. And then, around 3 AM, Josh Wink entered the fray.
Working Traktor Scratch Pro and CD decks with an Allen & Heath 3D mixer, Wink proceeded to slow the groove down, building in more melody and eclecticism. There were plenty of great tunes, but it wasn't quite what these filth Mancunians wanted. It seemed many drifted away and Mr. Wink failed to spot the trend and alter his set. Wrong place, wrong time was my feeling. A slice of Radiohead and a strung-out breakbeat version of "Higher State of Consciousness" almost rescued it for me, but again it seemed to lack the low end thump that Jack2Front had so effectively applied earlier to excite the crowd.
It remained for Deepchild to take the controls of Area 51's main hanger at 5 AM, and re-apply the bass the crowd needed. Mixing intricate beats, dubs and glitches, he wove in a little bit of tech and a touch of machine soul, but always firmly on the groove. This guy DJ's as well as he produces. The hardcore element remaining clearly loved it.