Another weekend has passed and with it, the dust is settling after another highly anticipated return to the rave. The slightly delayed summer has brought a myriad of events back to the fore. And whilst the struggle for many has been real, in times of turbulent rescheduling and cancellations, the fire has well and truly been relit. Nowhere has it been burning more brightly than the North of England, specifically in and around Manchester. Two weeks since our debut Trommel stage hosting at the Summer Of Love, it was Hide & Seek who had picked up the baton.
When the festival first launched in 2019, it was the beginning of its kind in the encompassing areas of Manchester. Nestled in the stunning surroundings of Capesthorne Hall, the idyllic setting had been best known for hosting car shows and weddings. But with 100 acres at its disposal, the venue has proven to become the perfect spot for a royal celebration of all things house and techno.
Although still relatively in its infancy, the crew behind Hide & Seek are far from amateurs. Josh Baker, Kurt Hurst and the rest of the team at You&Me have taken Manchester’s underground scene by storm, rapidly becoming one of the biggest brands in the region. And although the 2020 edition of the festival had to be cancelled, it has certainly returned bigger and better than could have been imagined.
A 7000 strong crowd descended on the five-stage setup, enticed by a sublime lineup that covered just the right bases. Healthy doses of minimal met groovy deep house, with a bit of disco thrown in for good measure, all alongside a handful of Manchester’s finest own up and coming artists.
But with such a selection comes difficult decisions. Following the set time release a few days prior, those attending turned their conversation toward meticulous planning. Sorry, not possible. There was too much good stuff and that can only mean one thing – go with the flow.
Seeing attendees arrive at the gates, it was clear that Hide & Seek was the firmest of fixtures for the UK underground scene. People flocked from Leeds, London, Newcastle, Birmingham and of course, Manchester. Some came from as far as New York (albeit for a 40-person sized stag do) and friends of old were reunited in their droves. Familiar faces were round every corner – if they weren’t stuck in the painfully long bar queue that is (in the grand scheme, the only gripe of the day).
Dance floor families basked in the glory of a chance to dance together again after the long hiatus. And the soundtrack to the occasion was top draw, all day. Early party starters dropped classic bombs. As DMC joined Just Jam on the Fantasia stage, Chemical Solider’s ‘Beautiful People’ bellowed its twisted groove through the bold sound system. The large covered terrace celebrated daylight through its clear roof and open feel.
Josh Baker honoured his own efforts with several sets across the day. Relishing the opportunity to warm up on The Contour, Baker worked through a series of house classics and deeper cuts of his own groove. Affection for the artist was obvious – through his own tracks, his eye for bookings, his personal vlogs and his interview series The Syntho Podcast, his familiarity with fans and friends is strong and infectious.
Sweely followed on to a packed-out crowd that spilled out and around The Contour. The production really was second to none across all five areas, but the main stage received a lot of love. Sweely had been the name on many people’s lips. His signature sound has calved his name brightly into the lights and today he delivered a full demonstration. Rapid, smooth and full of groove, measured with euphoric synth and cosmic breakdowns that interjected craftily between the heavy hitting. The crowd was riled.
The suitably named Lovers Paradise stage brought disco to the party. The circus style tent would host Black Loops, Dam Swindle and Jeremy Underground. As inviting as it sounded, it was well enclosed and a little too far away from the daytime outside. But when the sounds of Knights of Tomorrow’s ‘Fade II Black’ carried across the field, we had to run in for a quick shimmy and a shake.
Next on the field was The Dome, sporting sets from Laidlaw, Youandewan and The Ghost. Our intention had been to make it for some of the Berlin based record magicians. However, as it transpired, we spent most of our time at Tentree.
Tentree might have been described as the minimal stage, looking at the line-up. It might also have been described as the most picturesque. Surrounded, as the name suggests, by trees, a feeling of green wilderness that never fails to provide an added magic to the dance floor.
Dutch duo Ferro & Reiss (aka Spokenn) warmed us into the afternoon with a mixture of floaty chuggers of deep house before much loved lady of minimal Sonja Moonear whizzed passed on a golf caddy ready to take the reins. Always one to impress and delight, she moved us through powerful tech-fuelled house, energy led synth highs and the downright dirty. Shonky’s ‘Olympia’ echoed through the elements, leaving a lasting impression on all.
Speaking of the man himself, French trio Apollonia were due to close out the Contour. Raresh was the one settling in to see off the night down in the trees and before we got stuck, we took a trip back up the field. It was a chance to see the full spectrum of the site in darkness and the art of the production became even more apparent. As we passed the bay hales, moving across the winding hills, lights shone bright around us. Warm projections of purples, blues and pinks bathed the trees. Capesthorne Hall itself was flooded with light. And the stages pumped bets through the air, flashing wildly in radiance.
We were drawn back to Raresh for the closure. The enchantment of the forest continued to call and the Romaninan master of minimal worked through an upbeat selection of melodies, percussion and groovy basslines. What could have been a wind down became a barrage of blissful beats oozing with energy and flickered with class. He playfully manipulated his finest rollers for three hours. And as the inevitable conclusion loomed, we were left wishing it didn’t have to end. A stunning finale to a truly stunning day.