Coronavirus update: View cancelled events here

Portal with Jamie Jones and Skream at CRANE Birmingham review

Kristian Birch-Hurst lapped up everything CRANE had to offer, and found out why it's considered one of the UK's most impressive new spaces.

Skiddle Staff

Last updated: 8th Dec 2017

Image: CRANE (Credit: Here & Now)

CRANE - a whole new party entity - has been generating something of a buzz, in and outside of the Birmingham area. Opening back in September, the venue has already hosted a diverse line-up of not just music, but everything from food exhibitions to light festivals. But words and critique can only achieve so much; experiencing the venue in full rave swing, it’s fair to say the hype is justified.  

A towering old Victorian warehouse that boasts over 12,000 square feet in the main hangar. The additional height and accompanying mezzanine add a staggering, multi-level dynamic. Although walkways at times could become congested, the space itself maintained its cavernous immensity, with audience members often surveying their surroundings with an innate sense of awe - very few venues stand to match the sheer size and scale of this singular ‘room’.   

Another defining feature came not just from the space itself, but in the complex levels of light production and FX. Sheets of light delicately balanced on plumes of smoke, complex meshes of multi-coloured lasers, all united with intense audio-visual choreography, each sequence seeming unique and thoughtfully deployed.  

This was further enhanced by a devilishly tech-centric playlist, orchestrated by event founders John Reidy and Andy Bell. Portal residents Paradox City and Roth$tein joined forces to bring 3 hours of suitable warm-up. A mix of mellow refinement, choice build ups, and the occasional segue into more punchy bass rollers, the stage well prepped for the prime time selectors.


With a rep for eclecticism Davide Squillace unpacked a deep, diverse selection of tracks; disco infused anthems and tropical, lyrically driven balearic sounds imbued with dark and distorted nods to the industrial end of techno. ‘Alto’ by Better Lost Than Stupid (Squillace’s side project alongside producing heavyweights Matthias Tanzmann and Martin Buttrich) perfectly encapsulated the sets overall aesthetic - progressive, delphic, and diverse - much to the delight of the crowd. 

Jamie Jones seemed quite at home. His original productions, and those of the other Hot Creations stalwarts, resonating through the mighty CRANE expanse as if made for each other. The anthemic big room tech and more minimal breakdowns crafting a pseudo-summer indoor experience, made all the more complete by the piano chorded euphoria from tracks like Deetron’s ‘Photon’ and the sensual upbeat of KiNK’s ‘Perth’.   

In the cellar, the Victorian-industrial aesthetic really bursts to life with exposed brickwork, hanging ventilation, and thick concrete pillars emphasising the raw, stripped back underbelly. The room, low ceilings and narrow, creates an unmistakable vibe of underground intimacy, a fitting contrast to the vastness above. This is the unrestricted sweaty basement that Skream was always meant to play. 

The Funktion-One soundsystem allows music to pass thoroughly through the dense yet elongated expanse. It’s clear that the acoustic set-up has been carefully considered and mapped; sound quality is seldom lost when moving further away from the front-central booth which at busy times can be difficult to access. The perfect setup for Skream’s open-till-close spectacle. 

The all-night maestro did not disappoint, going above and beyond expectations. A waning journey through the genres of house, disco, techno, breakbeat and everything in between. The crowd enraptured by Skream’s poise and dedication, each twist methodically deployed informed by his ongoing embrace of the shifting needs of the room. The hardcore mass of basement dwellers gave it their all in parallel with the performance, spurred on by key tunes of transcendence like ‘Motions’ and ‘Settled’.    

Outside and adjacent to the warehouse lies a welcome oasis from the carnage within; a smoking area turned outdoor terrace. A greenhouse style structure offers some protection from the elements with the Pro-ject DJs (another West Midlands brand) providing a far more relaxed playlist. However, as has been done in the past, this understated space also doubles up as an ideal sun-rise after party destination, overlooking the nearby canal for those extra scenic brownie points.

Considering that this is only ‘phase 1’ of the ongoing development plan the detail strewn throughout, and the vision of those behind it, is impressive. The immensity of the space opens up seemingly endless possibilities, some of which have already been demonstrated by the rich tapestry of past and upcoming events. This is a venue that leaves you begging for more, reflected in the swathes of positive reviews and experiences documented all over social media.  

As those behind its inception continue to lead and innovate, CRANE is already turning the right heads, presenting itself as a key site contender within contemporary UK dance culture - and a crucial asset to Birmingham’s (now threatened) underground scene.