Review: WHP x MIF – Bonobo Presents Outlier

Manchester International Festival & the Warehouse Project have teamed up for a special week of events in one of the most unique spaces in Manchester – Mayfield Depot.

The series began last weekend and included a stellar line up consisting of Bonobo, Palms Trax, George Fitzgerald (live), Gilles Peterson and Josey Rebelle.

Stepping into Mayfield Depot we couldn’t help but feel in complete awe. The room was a vast, ethereal space that felt part of Manchester’s industrial revolution and the impeccable production values that WHP have consistently delivered were plain to see. A festival sized sound and lighting rig were installed in the cavernous main room that could have hosted more than five thousand people. This was exciting.

Photo Credit: Rob Jones

Arriving to the sounds of Gilles Peterson, known for his eclectic style, he delivered a set that didn’t disappoint. The only way to describe it was like a soundscape trip around the world, which included soul, latin, afrobeat, house and jungle. He covered rare groove to contemporary folk, jazz to atmospheric samples and of course, crowd-pleasing funk and disco.

Next up, it was the turn of George Fitzgerald. If you haven’t seem him live then, basically, you should. There’s a lot of DJ’s at the moment who are trying to make the transition to live music, however George is one who’s managed this perfectly. He’s a DJ and live act that is suited to all types of venues & stages, and Mayfield Depot was no different.

Photo Credit: Rob Jones

One thing that was so special about his set on Saturday was the manic energy he was able to summon from the crowd – the atmosphere of Mayfield was amped by his presence which had everyone dancing. It’s not often you see a live act that can mix fit-for-purpose dance-floor tracks to get people moving with more emotional, melody-driven numbers and George does this so well.

At around 9:30pm Jay Donaldson, AKA Palms Trax, hit the decks. He can’t seem to put a foot wrong at the moment, and the current hype surrounding him was felt in the room. He typically began his set with some relaxing yet upbeat house. Then, of course, things went a bit crazy. The next hour and a half went by in the blink of any eye, as we found myself dancing to slow jams and techno tempos at the same time.
Photo Credit: Rob Jones

Last up, it was the turn of UK producer, musician and DJ Bonobo. His wide sound range allows his sets to go many directions, from soul-soothing intimacy that makes you want to hug the person beside you, to crunchy tribal house beats that you can’t stand still to and Saturday night was full of both, and a bit more, as Bonobo took the crowd on a musical journey. The crowd transitioned into the planet of sound that Bonobo created.

As his set continued, he began to go into uncharted territory as he played a lot of what seemed like unreleased tracks. The tempo progressed and slowed down. Overall, the set embraced a signature take on not just the house music aspect of Bonobo, but also his depth and execution in DJ’ing that leaves an unforgettable mark on a crowd.

The night ended with a bittersweet goodbye, as we could have stayed for at least another 5 hours dancing the night away. The sound system was ace, there was so much room to dance and the visuals were on point. Nonetheless, Manchester International Festival & the Warehouse Project remain a strong reminder that electronic music is alive and well.

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