As the UK braces itself for the fall-out from today’s general election results, we look back on one night last weekend, when 6,000 fans of British music gathered for an intense party in a vast warehouse, free from any kind of political noise.
In collaboration with Manchester’s own contemporary rave legends The Warehouse Project, we hosted our biggest Highsnobiety Soundsystem event to date, presenting a line-up that celebrates everything that young Britain can be optimistic about.
Alongside our music programming, we also launched Sweet Harmony Warehouse / Art Edit, an immersive exhibition on British rave culture that served to provide historical context on how UK youth have formed some of the most influential communities and cultural movements of the past 40 years.
Teaming up with Sweet Harmony Productions, who opened with their first show on UK Rave Culture at London’s famous Saatchi Gallery this summer, and size? (one of Britain’s most respected purveyors of footwear and apparel), the show took an inward look at the clubs and people at the heart of dance music communities.
Featuring photography from inside Manchester’s beloved Haçienda club, legendary venues in neighbouring cities (Liverpool, Leeds, and Salford), plus the landmark Stone Roses gig at Spike Island in 1990, the pop-up gallery was the first ever to be held in the vast Depot at Mayfield – a disused warehouse space that, as the new home of The Warehouse Project, now regularly welcomes new-school ravers in tens of thousands.
The exhibition pieces came in the form of three interactive installations. The first, Lotus (Inverted) by Conrad Shawcross, was an upturned Lotus Elite from 1980, suspended from the warehouse ceiling, spinning to the sounds of original music by British producer Mylo. Further inside the exhibition sat Baseline, an interactive sculpture by Matthew Wilkinson: two enormous subwoofer speakers facing one another, inviting visitors to stand in the gap between them and feel the profound rumbling of a deep bass-note.
Finally, Footwork, a retrospective of some of rave’s most iconic footwear curated by size?, presented 12 sets of sneakers in an immersive 360-degree display. From original ’80s Puma States to the “Acid House”-inspired adidas Yung-1 from 2018’s Footwork, each item underlined the influence of British music culture on global fashion trends.
The crown jewel of the exhibit was a pair of extremely rare adidas Y-3 “FAC51” – a commemorative sneaker from 2007 that marked the 25th anniversary of the opening of Haçienda. Head here to see the full range of rave sneakers in more detail.
As the private launch of the exhibition drew to a close (before opening as a free public show from Sunday December 8 – Wednesday December 11), two main stages began to heat up in the other vast spaces of the cavernous depot. The Archive, a tunnel-style room with immersive sound-design, was home to a line-up of experimental DJs and hotly tipped live acts, including Lava La Rue, Jossy Mitsu, Teki Latex, hometown heroes Children of Zeus, and a stunning audio-visual set courtesy of the artist, animator, producer, and DJ, Murlo.
On the main stage, leaders of the new-school p-rallel, Bakar, and Flohio took turns in bringing the atmosphere inside the warehouse to a fever pitch, before performances by critically acclaimed rapper/poet Kojey Radical and the elusive UK rap stalwart, CASisDEAD. Tiffany Calver, the country’s undisputed DJ of the year, then stepped up for a set of pure energy, setting the stage for Fredo, the chart-topping breakout star of the UK drill movement.
At the evening’s peak, man-of-the-hour (and recent Supreme model) slowthai took to the stage for his biggest headline performance to date. Flying into Manchester directly from an ongoing US arena tour with Brockhampton, the Northampton-born sensation arrived sporting a one-of-a-kind Union Jack mohair sweater. He then, of course, swiftly stripped-down to his signature look of own-brand underwear, as he raced through a succession of tracks from his Mercury-nominated debut album Nothing Great About Britain, debuted his latest single with Mura Masa, and then treated the crowd to a surprise medley of local anthems by The Verve and Oasis.
Closing the night out for the thousands of ravers (who seemed to want to make the Warehouse their permanent new home) were high-energy sets by Places+Faces’ +Sounds collective, and, fittingly, Mike Skinner – the creative tour-de-force behind The Streets is regarded as one of the most iconic British musicians, who single-handedly drew a much-needed connection between sweaty inner-city clubs and the huge open-air raves of the suburbs.
Read more about the exhibition here, check out a selection of shots below, and stay tuned for what Highsnobiety Soundsystem has in store for 2020. Trust us – you won’t want to miss it.