On the train back to Brum from Manchester, so I thought now is as good a time as any.
Superb night. Probably the best 'huge' one-night event I've been to.
A doddle. Pretty efficient system with friendly staff. We pitched up around 9pm to a pretty sizeable queue, but it moved forward smoothly. COVID passes checked, we were waved through the ID check - I mean, would it have hurt them at least to ask me to verify my age? They seemed to be filtering off some of the lads lads lads to go through metal detection arches. The rest of us just carried on through the barriered lanes. Brief stretch of no-man's land with a couple of Springer Spaniels, and on. One of our guys got dogged, conceivably for showing interest in the dog (will they never learn...?) but was fine after a cursory pat down. Ticket scanned and we were in. Top marks for processing that many people in a reasonable and safe manner.
In by just before 9.30, I was slightly twitchy as my first promised set was Cleric in the Concourse at...9.30! We all had loads of layers given the cold, and so getting a locker was mandatory. Joined THE BIGGEST locker queue I've ever seen, and pals who have been to quite a few WHPs this season said it was usually, say, five people deep. Must have been everyone's need to wrap up warm. After 25 minutes we were almost at the locker desk when we started to get genuine concern that they would run out (they did not long afterwards), but we were ok and stuffed our stuff. Apparently a couple of people paid the Merch stand a fiver to store their coats, which I thought was a nice touch. And so off to the Concourse.
As luck (for me, at least) would have it, Blawan had had to cancel, and so a set time shuffle meant that Cleric started half an hour later. So we were in five minutes after he started. He was a great warm up for us. At the start, a little generic, lots of kick, not a lot else, but the sound in there was excellent, with great separation and very crisp percussion. After 45mins he hit his stride and the place was banging. We were on the floor, dead centre (Moi?) around five rows back and even at 11 there was already a good vibe. There was also the inevitable gone too early-ers too, including a girl pissing on the floor and another vomiting quite close to my feet. Ah well!
We left Cleric around 11.15 for a quick pit stop and to be ready for Stingray (313 with his reclaimed moniker) at 11.30. The boy from Detroit did not disappoint. 90 minutes of balaclava'd blistering electro, with his customary forays into techno a couple of times in the set. Towards the end of it, it thinned out a little (still packed, but 'nicely' so) as the sheeple trotted off to see Amelie. That left us with great space to see out the end of a great set. 2/5 set boxes ticked.
We stayed in Archive for Hector Oaks who was on excellent form, and the only vinyl set of the night. Met some top people in there, including a young lad who opened for Jeff Mills in Leeds a couple of weeks ago. He seemed to have exactly my philosophy about techno and set building so I bored him to death. Apart from a trancey section mid set that could have benefited from losing 5-10 mins, Hector was brilliant. 3/5 ✅
Next back to Concourse for the legend that is Ms Hauff. Bloody hell. Absolutely blistering, intelligent flowing techno, with nair a hint of her trademark electro until an hour and a quarter into the set. It was busy, but easily danceable in the same floor position, the crowd-pleasing Amelie into Charlotte de W proving our friend. 4/5 done and, at that point, Helena had one hand on the set of the night trophy.
And then it happened. Oh my sainted trousers. I've waited a long time to see Jeff Mills, and the only inexcusable thing was that he only played 90 minutes. He could have doubled that and not shed a single raver. One of the best sets of techno I think I've ever seen. Flawless. A masterclass. Every transition made complete sense. Variety all over the set, but with invariable quality. A clearly identifiable narrative from a real DJ who clearly puts in so much effort to create a set, with not one of the cheesy tropes that befall 'lazier' artists. It was astonishing, albeit over so very quickly and people were looking around at each other as if to say "is this really happening?" It was so good that I'm going to say that I ticked all 6 sets of the 5 that I had planned to see.
Compared to my only other WHP to date, a perfectly enjoyable, predictably somewhat formulaic Drumcode from 2019, this was another level. Sound in all three rooms was truly excellent, the Archive much, much better than last time. Visuals were very good too.
Crowd was excellent. Once the usual suspects only there to get twatted ("oh, do they do music here as well?") had shuffled off to...presumably the poster names in the big room, it was a knowledgeable and appreciative crowd, with lots of communal love and respect. Etiquette on the floor was remarkably well observed for such a huge venue. Staff were friendly and inconspicuous, save for one moment half way through Jeff when, possibly after a fight close to us, a guy was raised above 6 security guys' heads and marched out with considerable robustness, followed by a trail of about 20 people - presumably his crew.
So, I had a spectacular night and, though it will never replace an intimate venue of truly like-minded souls, it restored my faith in the ability of über-events to deliver. It did, in spades.
And did I mention that I saw Jeff Mills...?