I’m in The Thunderball Room at Southport with DJ Silly Boy!

It’s Friday night, and the atmosphere out on a packed dance floor in The Thunderball Room is electrifying.  The music is blasting out of the speakers, with the bass turned up to the max, and every note of ZZ Top’s Sharp dressed man is resonating through my body.  It’s been like this for a full hour now, and it’s so hot out on the dance floor, that one more full on track will surely see it catch on fire.

There are few places like the main Thunderball Room at the Ceroc Southport Weekender – over four hundred dancers all ready to rock the night away.  It’s a great DJ gig, and it not surprisingly attracts some of the best DJs from across the country, and in their sixty minutes slots they play a set packed with their top floor fillers.

Who is that behind the decks?

I look up to the stage to see which one of them has just set the floor on fire.  Tony Riccardi perhaps, Hayley Epps or the wonderfully named Tiggerbabe, or is that Tim Sant?  Who ever it is, they know their dance music, and they follow ZZ Top with one of the greatest dance anthems of all time – McFadden & Whiteheads Ain’t no stopping us now.

But who is this master of the decks?  Surprisingly I’m struggling to put a name to the face.  Then it comes to me.  The person who has been rocking the floor is none other than Silly Boy Wrighty, the alter ego of Radio 2’s Steve Wright who takes to the decks on Friday afternoons, wearing his baseball cap backwards, to rock the nation with some Serious Jockin’ (no G).  I’d better explain.

I’m actually at Kelham Hall near Newark

Friday night actually saw me back at one of my favourite freestyle venues – Ceroc Heaven’s Kelham Hall, near Newark in Nottinghamshire.  This is surely one of the most iconic venues to dance in the country.  Dancing under its Romanesque temple-like domed ceiling is an experience I would wish for everyone.

Of course a great night’s dancing needs a little more than a great dance hall – it needs a great music playlist too, and an atmosphere out on the floor to match.  Friday night had all this and, if anyone had made their first visit, they would not have been disappointed.

This image from Tel Jenkin’s album of Friday night shows part of the high dome roof that gives Kelham its unique atmosphere

Ceroc Heaven create a Thunderball Room Vibe

Ceroc Heaven, who run the Kelham Hall freestyles, have invested in a great sound system, which came in to its own on Friday night, when Mark O’Reilly and DJ Ashley Davis successfully managed to create a wall of sound just like the aforementioned Thunderball Room.

There is no doubt that the volume was turned up, but it was the way the bass resonated around the room, that impressed.  It was as if some magic dial had been turned to a frequency that meant that the bass was connecting directly with the dance muscles in your body.

Add to that a set of non stop thumping dance tracks served up by DJ Ashley, and it really gave the dance floor a Thunderball Room style  vibe.  I’ll try to explain how Ash created the vibe out on the floor throughout this review, but first here’s a flavour of his great music.

It’s a brand new reworking of Whitney Houston’s I wanna dance with somebody, by Ralph Felix and SDJM, that uses all the latest music production techniques to create a vibe that kicks ass with a capital K A.

Ash pays tribute to Silly Boy Wrighty

On Friday afternoon I’d been working on a new article about the forthcoming Southport Weekender.  While I was writing I was listening to Serious Jockin’ (no G), the regular Friday afternoon fix of dance music, on Radio 2 Steve Wright’s Show.  It’s a great way to kick start the weekend, and it particularly sets you up for a Friday night freestyle.

On this Friday, as on every other Friday, Steve Wright morphed in to his alter ego DJ Silly Boy Wrighty, to try to explain what Serious Jockin’ is all about.  Though I listen most Fridays I still don’t understand it.

As always Wrighty was all over it, the rig was fully cranked and peaking at 11 (what ever that means).  The volume was pumped to the max out of speakers the size of a double decker bus.

Silly Boy Wrighty will invariably mention that he has put his baseball cap on backwards.  Guess what?  Yes, Ashley did the whole of his fabulous set with his baseball hat on backwards.

Modern Jive Blogger with DJ Ashley, doing his impression of Silly Boy Wrighty, the star of Radio 2’s Serious Jockin’

Please excuse the Serious Jockin’ puns

I can only hope that Ash forgives me for likening him to DJ Wrighty, and that you’ll all excuse the odd Serious Jockin’ pun dropped in to the review.  So how did Ash create this incredible vibe out on the dance floor?  He played it just like the Thunderball Room DJs.

It seemed he’d pieced together a series of twenty minute slots each packed with fabulous floor fillers.  One by one he slowly cranked up the energy levels until they peaked at 15 – sorry, sounding like DJ Wrighty there.  Having hits the highs he’d then calm it down with a gentler paced track, and then crank it up all over again.

ZZ Top ticks so many boxes

The aforementioned ZZ Top track was one of those that Ash placed towards the end of one of these slots.  I love his selection of this track for it ticks so many boxes.  First and foremost it has so much energy, and you can’t help but connect with the thumping bass drum and gutsy fuzz guitar licks.

Play this track at the beginning of a set and it will fall flat, but position it where Ash did, and it is likely to set the floor on fire.

Ash’s playlist was dominated by contemporary tracks from the last 5 years, but he used older tracks like Sharp dressed man to inject a variety, that gave his playlist maximum appeal to the all the dancers out on the floor.  This is one hell of a standout track, and gets another tick because its just perfect to reignite the inner rock demon or rock chick that rests below the surface of so many of us.

A great mix of modern and old classics

I love modern dance music – it makes me feel young again.  If they ever found the secret to eternal youth it would include a great big dollop of current club music you could dance to.  Ashley knows his contemporary music well, and he was careful to make sure he picked out tracks with a variety of styles, so there was no danger of them sounding samey.

Take these three tracks, from Ash’s playlist, which are all from the past three years.  – The Disciples On my mind, Galantis & Hook N Sling’s Love On Me, and Walk The Moon’s Shut up and dance.  Everyone is a floor filler and no one could say they were similar in their production.

In to this great mix of modern tunes Ash slipped in the occasional disco classic, like Earth Wind & Fire Boogie Wonderland, or a cracking modern versions of a well loved Motown songs, like Freischwimmer’s 2016 reworking of Ain’t no mountain high enough, and Craig David’s tribute to Stevie Wonder – Signed, sealed, delivered.

Ash surprises me as he hits another high note

One of these older tracks really impressed me.  Once again Ash was cranking up the vibe out on the floor, and I couldn’t help wonder what track he would use to finish the run of tracks off on an exhilarating high.  His selection really surprised me.  It was a track that I’ve only occasionally heard on the Ceroc dance floor, but it proved the perfect way to climax another full on slot.

I suspect that the thumping sound system gave the track an added boost, but it just seemed the perfect track to play at that moment.  So turn up the volume as loud as you dare, and hit the play button on Bon Jovi’s Living on a prayer.  Hopefully it will give you a flavour of the amazing vibe created on Friday night.

It seemed everyone else was loving the mix too

I know that we all approach our dancing in a different way  – not everybody wants to work up a sweat in the same way that I do.  The way we connect with music is a personal thing, and I know I have to be careful in my reviews not to assume everyone will share my enthusiasm for a DJ’s playlist.

In the interest of balance I’ll always take care to ask around.  I know that not everyone appreciated the wall of sound that Mark and Ashley conjured up, but the consensus seemed to be that this was a fabulous night of dancing, and as ever Tel’s images captured the joy people experienced out on the dance floor.

Tel’s camera captures the joy as people dance to Ashley’s great music mix

Tel’s images will be all over Facebook

Tel’s full album of photo’s is now available on the Ceroc Heaven Group Facebook Page (see link below).  As always there are some fabulous photos and I have no doubt that many of them will be shared and posted all over Facebook.  I’m a great advocate of Ceroc and these photographs are a great way of spreading the word.

Sue O’Reilly, one of The Ceroc Heaven’s Top Team, tells me that many people will come to their first lesson because they’ve seen the fun their friends are having on Facebook, and want to have a taste of it themselves.

So please everyone, share as many photos as you can, and also include some of the general shots, like the one below, which really captures the great atmosphere out on the floor.

Tel used a telephoto lens from the back of the stage for this shot.  The result compresses the image and captures the great atmosphere out on the floor.

There were ‘What was that track?’ moments too

Regular readers of my DJ’s set reviews will know that I always appreciate a ‘What was that track?’ moment, and Ashley delivered several.  One really stood out.  I recognised the song immediately from my student days – T Rex’s Get it on – but it was obviously a new reworking with  a rap style delivery of the verse.

Turns out it was by London Bus Stop (the name is almost as good as the song), and it uses the original T Rex backing track – fabulous find Ashley!

Ashley freshen’s up a track I’m fed up with

What I love about Ash’s music is that he’s always looking to freshen it up – hence all the reworking’s I’ve already mentioned.  Here’s another.

Bruno Mars and Mark Ronson’s Uptown Funk was one of the best, if not the best, dance track of the last three years, but I’m fed up with it now.  In fact I’ve been known to run off the dance floor to avoid dancing to it.

Ash breathed new life in to it by playing an acoustic version by Tyler Ward & Two Worlds.  I’m pleased to say that I didn’t run off and hide in the loo.  Perhaps Ash, while you’re at it, can you find a new version of DNCE’s Cake by the Ocean, because that is getting boring now.  Here’s Tyler Ward with his fresh take on Uptown funk.

Ash knows how to slow it down

Ash proved his chilled-out credentials by getting a gig in The SILC Zone at last September’s Southport Weekender, and I understand he’s back DJing there in February.  After each of Ash’s Thunderball Room style slots he would slow the tempo down, to give everyone a little respite before he started cranking up the energy levels again.

One of these more relaxing picks was a current must-play track, that I and it seems everyone loves – Havana by Camila Cabello.  Sadly I didn’t dance to it, as previous to slowing it down with Havana, Ash had played a run of hi-energy tracks that culminated in Safri Duo’s Played alive (The Bongo Song).

I was lucky enough to dance The Bongo song with my regular dance partner Jo, and if I can use what is becoming an over used phrase in my reviews – we smashed it.  Sadly it nearly finished me off, which was a reflection of just how many of Ash’s hi-power tracks I danced to.

Ash slows it down with another real favourite

For the final thirty minutes it was time to slow it down and give those that wanted to chill out, or even do a little SILC, their time on the dance floor.  It was now that Ashley played another gentle track that I really love.  Thankfully I got to dance to it this time.

The David Guetta mix of Bruno Mars’ Versace on the floor is a delicious piece of chilled music and just perfect to SILC to.

One last hurrah amongst a chill fest

But Ashley wasn’t finished with the hi-energy and, as is now his tradition, he provided one last hurrah for the likes of myself by making his penultimate track one in the mould of Safri Duo’s The Bongo song.

Darude’s Sandstorm is perhaps slightly faster than The Bong Song, but it has its phases where you can take a rest, and prepare yourself for the next explosion of energy.  From somewhere myself and Jo found one last burst of energy and had one of the best dances of the night.

It won’t be long before Ash gets his slot in the Thunderball Room

Come twelve o’clock I knew that I’d witnessed a masterful performance behind the decks.  The thumping sound system had played its part, but it was the way the playlist had been put together that really impressed.

A playlist of floor fillers and standout tracks will always go down well, but there is a skill in getting the sequencing right, so that an atmosphere slowly builds out on the floor.

It’s Southport in less than three weeks.  In the Thunderball Room DJs like Tim Sant, Hayley Epps and Tony Riccardi will set the floor on fire.  They will be helped by the sound system, and the fact that the dancers out on the floor, will do their own bit to create an uplifting vibe, but these DJs will still need to mix together a concoction of music that will lift the roof off.

These guys and gals have had to pay their dues and learn their craft at local freestyles – at venues not dissimilar to Kelham Hall.  On this showing I’m sure it won’t be long before Ash gets his big break to play the Thunderball Room.

Tel’s video captures the essence of a great Kelham Freestyle

This wonderful night of dancing was also captured on video by Tel Jenkins.  It gives a great sense of what it was like to dance at Kelham on Friday night, and I hope it will encourage people who’ve never been to make the trip there.

It just remains for me to thank the whole of the Ceroc Heaven Crew.  It takes some time setting up the room, and even longer to pack it all away, so thanks to all of you.

While I was driving home, still high on Ashley’s fabulous music, I thought about emailing the Steve Wright show next Friday:

Oi Wrighty, loved the music tonight.  Thought the sound was terrific – must be the speakers.  They were enormous man – the size of a double decker bus.  We danced to every track.

One more thing, Tel did some Serious Video-in’.  You’ve got to watch it – there was some Serious Cerocin’ (no G) going on.

 

View the full album of Tel Jenkin’s photograph here