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Going underground with the Warehouse Project

The 'pop-up dance venue in a car park' concept will be the subject of a seminar at PLASA Focus tomorrow, writes David Davies.

The ‘pop-up dance venue in a car park’ concept will be the subject of a seminar at PLASA Focus tomorrow, writes David Davies. Funktion One, Midas and MC2/XTA equipment heads up the main audio spec for the temporary club, which takes up residence in the vaults under Manchester Piccadilly railway station at weekends for three months each year.

Driven by the vision of Sacha Lord-Marchionne – a legend on the Mancunian clubbing scene and the former co-owner of Sankeys Soap – the Warehouse Project (WHP) has enjoyed sell-out nights ever since it debuted in 2006.

Overseeing the overall event and product management for WHP is Ear to the Ground, whose live director Jon Drape tells PSN-e that the pop-up club concept has its roots in the warehouse party scene of the early ’90s. “The idea was to do an underground-type warehouse party, but completely legally, above board and with all the support of the relevant authorities,” says Drape, a former production chief at iconic Manchester club The Haçienda. Having staged the first run of events in the former Boddington’s Brewery, the WHP relocated to a space underneath Manchester’s main rail hub – a location praised by Drape for its “very good noise insulation; the walls are over a metre thick in places.”

But as the club’s temporary nature might suggest, its home space is not simply poised and waiting during off-days. In fact, the week-time finds it pressed into service as a fully operational car park, meaning that a team of approximately 20 is required to achieve a four-hour turnaround on a Friday evening to ready the club for the first events of the weekend. “The flown equipment – PA, lighting, main staging – stays in place, and then each Friday we build the FOH mix position and wheel in the toilets and bars. We have got it down to a fine art now,” says Drape.

Providing audio for the WHP since relocation to its current venue is Audile, whose favoured brands for the club include Funktion One, Midas and MC2 Audio/XTA. The main PA comprises six Funktion One Resolution 5s, three per side, flown with Res 1.5 horns as downfills on the main hangs. A total of ten F218s provide the low frequencies, while two Res2 horns handle delays. Power comes from MC2 Audio amplifiers, which are deployed in conjunction with XTA DP448 processors.

“With the event primarily being a dance music event, we felt Funktion One was the only choice,” says Audile project manager Stev. “Also, with the ceilings being so low and metal extractor system pipes dissecting the ceiling space, there is no room to hang a line array of any decent length.”

Midas consoles are favoured for all kinds of event, with the standard spec including a Heritage 3000 at FOH for live performances and, for DJ-only nights, a Venice 320. “The Heritage is a great-sounding desk that almost any engineer will use, and everyone knows how to use one,” says Stev. “The problem with having a digital desk is that some engineers will not use certain desks and everyone has their preference. Most people would rather use an H3000 than a digital desk they are not familiar with.”

Stev says the experience of working on the WHP “can be very challenging”, and no wonder: not only is there a hectic turnaround time to contend with, the host space is also less-than-hospitable from an acoustic POV. “You sometimes find yourself saying ‘when it’s empty it sounds like an empty car park’,” he admits. “The floorspace of the whole car park is huge – we only use about quarter of it as ‘club space’ – [and] getting tight bass can be a bit of a struggle.”

Technical obstacles notwithstanding, a multi-year record of sold-out nights, appearances by dance royalty such as 2 Many DJs and Carl Cox, and live sets by Groove Armada and Faithless attest to the resonance of the WHP brand.

“Lots of people are envious of the way that the Warehouse Project has done it,” says Drape, who will discuss the event’s production challenges during the PLASA Focus session tomorrow (April 28, 12-1pm). “You just wish you had had the idea first!”

PLASA Focus: Leeds 2010 takes place at the Royal Armouries Leeds from today. Attendance at all seminars is free, but spaces are limited so visitors are asked to register at the first link below.