It’s hard to shake the feeling that tonight’s Bicep live show at Mayfield Depot is a dry run for where the Warehouse Project might be heading next year. It’s no coincidence that the duo’s live debut is being promoted by both WHP — who are in need of a new home next year — and MIF. MIF is, for the uninitiated, the Manchester International Festival, a bi-annual city centre soiree which isn’t happening until next year, with tonight’s show billed as something of a rave-centric amuse bouche.
Bicep, tonight’s main course, don’t really need an introduction; they’ve arguably soundtracked a generation of shitty student house parties. Their debut album topped many of last year’s end-of-year lists and tonight they’re debuting their new live show in Manchester for the first time. It’s easily a sellout (well, it’s not really, as Mayfield Depot could easily house a small city). That’s actually the most striking thing about this often overlooked leviathan of a venue. The old train station, as it’s known to the locals, has been dormant for quite a few years until recently, where it’s dusted down every so often for the odd arty endeavour from the likes of Massive Attack, or as a makeshift food hall for a street food event. The sprawling space is the exact opposite of The Warehouse Project’s current home, Store Street. There’s plenty of space to mooch around, in fact, there’s so much mooching space you could feasibly get lost and end up in Carlisle on a mad one.
It’s bang on 11:45pm as Bicep take to the stage, facing each other across a large table housing a glowing sea of machines. If you’ve seen the duo DJ before you’ll know they don’t exactly go bonkers on stage. Instead, they let the music do the talking, standing almost motionless nodding along to the wide angled soundscapes of their opening hitters, including the duo’s epic remix of Isaac Turner’s ‘Higher Level’. Swaying gently amongst a sea towering LED screens, the Northern Irish duo has the crowd in the palm of their hands as they unleash fan favourite ‘Just’, teasing the track’s now iconic riff over and over again before its long-awaited breakbeat kick drum rears its head; bathed in blue light, like a scene from Cocoon, it draws out a joyous roar from the crowd, one of many throughout the night.
The duo weaves through their debut album’s best bits with aplomb, including the dense, trippy rave fog of ‘Glue’ and which then segues neatly into ‘Opal’, as the duo stretches its mesmerising melody to almost breaking point. For us, it’s when the duo deviates from their usual four-on-the-floor fare that the magic really happens. The final goodbye comes in the form of ‘Aura’ which is sped up and then fed through the duo’s machines coming out as a bonafide future rave classic. Before our eyes, the track’s main hook is dancing along on a sea on lasers that are strafing the crowd in front. It’s a quite a finish, so much so as we leave, one punter declares, ‘that was the best three minutes of my life’. While he may have peaked way too early — it’s hard to argue with his critique of tonight’s show, which proves to be an excellent dry run for what might be coming in 2019 in Manchester.
Photo credit: Manox.