Considering how many tens of thousands of people have been through the door at Manchester's Victoria Warehouse in Old Trafford this year, the team behind the dominating Warehouse Project were always going to be the crew to beat in the Best Club Series category. But as we know, they're not just about scale, and never have been.
In covering the year the WHP has had, it would be remiss of us not to mention the tragic death of clubber Nick Bonnie, who died on the opening night of the club's three-month season after taking an ecstasy-like substance at the venue. Several others were also taken ill. The incident knocked co-founders Sam Kandel and Sacha Lord for six, but they've learned much from it. They've since embarked on a Home Office-aligned pilot scheme which sees drugs confiscated or handed into amnesty boxes tested in real time on site, so that any word of potentially dangerous substances can be circulated via social media and through the club's LED signs.
“You have two choices,” says Kandel. “You either bury your head in the sand until it goes away or you pick a responsible line through it.” The latter proved to be the best way, and it's been taken to their credit. But onwards. “It was a huge risk, moving from the city centre and a 2000 person capacity venue, just like it was the first year we ever did the Warehouse Project,” he says. “Last year we were getting to grips with what was possible [in the venue], and this year we've had the most extensive line-ups of any year.”
That's something of an understatement. It would be easier and considerably quicker to list those DJs and producers of high repute who have not played at the venue. Four Tet and Caribou curated in November, presenting Thom Yorke and Madlib among a stunningly underground line-up. A few weeks later it was Disclosure, with the likes of Breach and Bicep. By the time this goes to print, The Prodigy will have held court for three sold-out nights. No one does what they do at the scale in which they do it.
This will most likely be their last year at Victoria. Kandel hints that they will be revisiting 'an old stomping ground' in the city centre for some parties around the Easter weekend before finding another semi-permanent home. Next year will also feature half the number of parties of this year, so they can gear up for their 10th anniversary in 2015.
“We want to do less, some carefully presented shows,” he says. “Every year things have got bigger and bigger at the Warehouse Project, and now we want to slim it down.” Making what has become one of the biggest clubbing brands in the country a leaner proposition will no doubt present its own challenges. But if anyone's up to the job, it's them.