I give myself a night off

In the same way that I advise First-timers to take care not get all danced out at Southport, I have to pace myself too.  There is so much going off that I could spend all weekend gathering information on DJ sets, classes and aspects of the social side.  But that’s not why I have to be careful with what I take on  – the problem is the time it takes to write it all up.

I love the writing bit, but if I’m not careful the two weeks after a weekender can feel like I’m back at work, with a stack of deadlines to meet.  This blog is my hobby – I don’t ever want it to feel like a job.  So you can understand why I decided to give myself a night off on Sunday.

Sunday night has a special vibe

There’s another reason to put my notebook away on Sunday nights.   For some reason this last night of a weekender has a special vibe.  It’s as if none of us want to go home.  We’ve looked forward to Southport for so long that we just don’t want it to end.

We’ve given our all.  We stayed up until silly o’clock the previous two nights and still found the energy to attend classes in the following mornings and afternoons.  We’ve spent the last forty-eight hours socialising with friends old and new, and quite honestly we should be exhausted.  But we aren’t, and it’s as if we want to celebrate the fact by dancing one more time with an even bigger smile on our faces.

The DJ’s love it too

The DJs love it when they have a Sunday Night slot.  From their advantage point, high on the stage, they can see and feel for themselves the great buzz out on the dance floor.  It must be wonderful to be able to play music for an audience, who are so up for having one last good time on the dance floor.

Mark O’Reilly must have been really pleased to get, what is possibly, the best slot on Sunday night – the one either side of midnight.  The floor is noticeably less busy on Sunday night, as sadly some people have had to leave on Sunday afternoon, to be back at work first thing Monday morning.  Also after one o’clock people do start to drift away.  In theory we are supposed to be out of our chalets by ten in the morning, so no time for a lie in like the previous two mornings.

Time to simply enjoy some great dance music

With my note book left behind at the chalet I entered the dance floor just after ten.  Hayley Epps already had the floor rocking, and it wasn’t long before Tony Riccardi took his turn behind the decks, and jacked the atmosphere up another notch.  Now it’s Mark’s turn.  Even though I had no intention of making a note of his track list, I couldn’t help but smile when he launched in to his set with Schools out by Alice Cooper.

As well as being a DJ, Mark is also the joint holder of the Ceroc Heaven franchise in The East Midlands and South Yorkshire.  This year the groups fancy dress theme was St Trinians, and as usual the Ceroc Heaven faithful had really gone to town, so it was fitting that Mark played Alice Cooper’s end of term anthem to kick off his set.

Schools definitely out for this group of unruly school kids

So why have I ended up writing a review

So why am I now, for the fourth time this week, sat at my computer writing a review.  Well Mark’s set kind of crept up on me.  I was out on the floor enjoying some wonderful dancing, when I kept thinking that he had just played another cracking track.  Then suddenly he played what is for me one of the best pieces of ’70s dance music ever produced.

It’s a track that I have to give credit to Mark for re-introducing me to last year at a Kelham Hall freestyle.  It’s a track I lost myself in back in 1978, and The Thunderball Room, with the volume and bass turned to the max, was the perfect place to recreate that sense of euphoria I felt back in the day.

I looked around me, and everybody else seemed to be feeling the same sense of well being as myself.  This was a track that needed to be celebrated.  Here was my chance to remind every one about one of the greatest dance anthems from the so called Disco Decade.  You’re going to have to wait a little before I unveil it, as I need to try to recreate the vibe that Mark created out on the floor or the track is going to fall flat.

Mark hits the spot with one of the greatest Main Room anthems

Now I need to warn you I’m going to use the phrase ‘Dance Anthem’ quite a lot in this review.  I’ll also certainly over use the word ‘Thumping’ and if I use the word ‘Greatest’ it’s because I just can’t find another superlative with the same no nonsense meaning.

So, three tracks in, Marks plays one of the greatest thumping dance anthems ever created.  It’s a track I’ve written about so many times, and it constantly appears in my top Ten track listings (see link below for more details about this amazing track).  It’s Safri Duo’s Played alive (the Bongo Song).  Enough said – just listen, and if you are in the kitchen, Bluetooth the track to a speaker and dance your heart out.

The start of a fabulous Triple

I often talk about how DJs use a run of tracks to set the floor on fire, and my reviews are littered with Triples that do just this.  The Bongo song is usually the track that climaxes a Triple, but Mark used it to start one off.  He followed the Safri Duo track with what I think is one of the best pop tunes from last year – The Kungs More Mess featuring Olly Murs.

This track has so much energy.  It’s got a thumping (there’s that word again) beat, and I just love the way the horn section is used to create uplifting passages, that make this track perfect to build the atmosphere out on the floor.

Track Number 3 Hits the spot

The dance music vaults are packed with great dance anthems (yep, there’s ‘Dance Anthems’ again), like The Bongo Song or the track Caroline Houlton used to set the floor on fire on Friday night – Last Night by Chris Anderson and DJ Robbie.  But DJs have got to keep finding new ones, and Mark picked one out from last year that hit the spot perfectly to finish off his triple.

From the minute this track starts you know its going to be a cracking dance tune, but prepare yourself for forty-eight seconds in, because one of the loudest bass line of the weekend is going to hit you in the face.

Mr DJ please slow it down

No one can can keep this pace up for too long, and Mark rightly slowed it down a little with Izzy Bizu’s more gentler I’m talking to you.  Then Mark played a track that is in pole position to be my top track of the year.

Now and again you just need an uncomplicated dance track.  Something that doesn’t require too much thinking.  A steady four-four beat – 120 bpm should do it, and a vibe that’s allows you to connect with the music in a zen like way.

Dance teachers will often talk about the need to listen to the music so you can change your style of dancing accordingly.  The Bongo song is a good example, for it has several interludes where you can take a breather, and compose yourself for its explosions in pace.  During the slower phases you can almost dance in a chilled out way, but the real joy is hitting those moments when the song explodes with your own expressive musicality.

It helps if you know the track

It’s sometimes difficult to know when a song’s going to change its pace and mood, and to be prepared for any pauses and accents, so it really helps when you become familiar with a track.  One of the reason this particular song is so high on my ‘Best of Year’ list is because I’ve come to know it quite intimately.

I first came across We are the people by Empire of The Sun, when I visited DJ Kerry Bayley’s Engine Shed freestyle at Wetherby.  Kerry always delights me with dance music that has passed me by, and I’ve been listening to this 2008 track, ever since on headphones picking up its wonderfully staged instrumentation.  Fortunately Mark then picked it up and has been playing it occasionally at Ceroc Heaven class nights.

We are the people is not a track that has changes in pace, or accents that you have to spot in advance.  This track has a consistent 123 bpm rhythm that is so perfectly pitched for a lovely dance.  What it has, that makes it special, is the way layers of instrumentation are slowly built up to make a bigger and fuller sound.  It starts off with a simple acoustic backing , but one by one a drum is added, and then a bass line and then a stronger base line, and so it goes on adding more and more layers of instrumentation.

Sometimes dance music is a personal thing

After careful listening to the track, it means that I can now anticipate the exact moments when these new layers are introduced.  It’s this anticipation and recognising the exact moment the new layers of instrumentation are applied, that gives me a connection to the music that makes any dance to this track a real joy.

I couldn’t expect my dance partner to understand my own appreciation of this track – sometimes you have connections with dance music that are personal to you, but I hope she now understands the joy I expressed during those four minutes.

Mark ramps up the vibe with a ’90s classic

After the more relaxed tempo of We are the people, it was time to ramp up the vibe out on the dance floor again.  This time Mark chose a ’90s classic to get the hearts pumping again.  I’ve recently rediscovered the ’90s and have been reminded that there was some wonderful dance music created in that decade. – Ce Ce Peniston’s Finally, C & C Music Factory’s Gonna make you sweat (Everybody dance now) and Technotronic’s Get up (before the night is over) are all thumping (sorry can’t help using that adjective) club classics from that decade.

One of the reasons I’ve taken an interest in ’90s club music, is because I’m a great believer in the DJs need to take us back to the days we first set foot on the dance floor, and there are an increasing number of people out there, who got the dance bug in the ’90s.  When you start to look in to the development of this music you quickly see that it was mainly produced in Germany and Italy.

Mark picked out Freed from Desire which was written and performed by Italian artist Gala and recorded in a German studio.  The track has all the features of the decades techno tracks that replaced real instruments with drum machines and synthesizers.  It’s sparse on lyrics and high on instrumental trance inducing sections.

Another ’90s classic with a Tropical House twist

Played at full blast in The Thunderball it’s little wonder that Freed from desire had the floor rocking, and Mark kept the vibe going with another ’90s classic – albeit a modern version.  Show me love from Robin S is my current top ’90s dance track, and Mark really impressed me by finding a modern version with a Tropical House flavour.

As I said above, it’s important to play tracks that people back to a time when they first set foot on a dance floor – that’s why at times I’m an advocate for more Motown and Disco tracks, but I also believe that you are ‘Only as old as the music you dance to’, so I love it when I get to dance contemporary tracks.

Mark’s selection of Sam Feldt’s Show me love featuring Kimberley Anne was a top contemporary choice.  The track has a slow intro, but as the beat builds you sense that its going to explode, and sure enough it does with an energy that is as uplifting as the original.  There’s another mellow interlude but once again it delivers a strong drum and bass finale that was loved out on the dance floor.

No wonder Mark felt the vibe

With a combination of one rockin’ tune after another and a dance floor wanting to lap up every last thumping (oops used it again) track, it was no wonder that Mark felt the vibe up on the stage, and it was nice of him to show his appreciation for the part the dancers played in all this, in a posting on his Facebook page:

Sunday night was epic, the energy and warmth in the main room (on the coldest night outside) was phenomenal.  During my set there was a great buzz between tracks, and thanks to the people for their cheers.

Mark went on to say that the whole of Sunday night was special:

The buzz  wasn’t just around my set – it was all the DJ sets.  I’ve said many times that Sunday night is the best, and it certainly was.

I couldn’t agree more.  So that leaves me just to explain how Mark used another Triple to really set the floor on fire.

Two ’60s tracks set up The ’70s Floor Filler

Mark set up my ’70s classic floor filler, not with two thumping tracks (I promise I won’t use that word again), but with two feel good tracks.  There is no better feel good music than the bouncy rhythms of Rock ‘n’ Roll.  Sadly much of this well loved music is just too fast for Ceroc, but Mark played Stuck on you by Elvis that was pitched perfectly.

Mark then followed it with another well loved piece of ’60s music.  That afternoon Tim Sant had left the crowd wanting more, as he fired off a fabulous Motown and Soul Hour.  As I said in my review (see link below) there is so much love for Motown out on the Ceroc dance floor and it was great to see Mark find space for a track that Tim just couldn’t squeeze in to his own set.

Surely there is no one who loves dance music who doesn’t have an appreciation of Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell’s Ain’t no mountain high enough.  Written by husband and wife team Ashford and Simpson – as well as writing many Motown hits, they also wrote Chaka Khan’s I’m every women – this track gave Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell their biggest UK hit.

Marvin and Tammi set up the dance floor for a Southport highlight

You can’t help but dance to Ain’t no mountain high enough with a smile on your face.  Isn’t that the joy of dancing, that we can leave all our world worries behind and loose ourselves in the music.  And if there is one song that you can’t help smiling all the way through its surely the track Mark finished his Triple of with.  The track that had me in Dance Heaven and then some.

Before I reveal the track, I want to tell you something about its background.  In a way it just adds to the pedigree of this wonderful track, and explains the joy it exudes on the dance floor.  Remember the Weather Girls and their fun filled ’80s track It’s raining men.  The Weather Girls were two singers called Martha Wash and Izora Armstead.  Martha Wash is some singer and is also the voice behind C & C Factory’s Gonna make you sweat (Everybody dance now).

Well these two ladies started out as Sylvester’s backing singers and in fact their voices were used to fill out Sylvester’s own vocals.  OK you know who Sylvester is, yeh?  So here is his You make me feel (Mighty real), one of the biggest dance floor hits of 1977, and one of my top Southport dance highlights.

Mark wasn’t finished, but I am

Mark still had a few tracks left, that kept the wonderful vibe going right until the end of his set, but I’m going to finish on the high of Sylvester, Martha and Izora.

I’ll be exploring Martha Wash’s contribution to dance music in a future posting, but in the meantime I’d like to thank everyone for reading my Southport DJ reviews.  They have already had the best readership of any previous trips to this amazing weekend dance fest.

Other Southport Reviews now available

Caroline Houlton’s Friday night Thunderball Room Set

Ceroc Heaven Angels at Play

Nicola Di Folco’s Sunday night SILC Zone Set

Tim Sants Motown and Soul set

Coming next: The Southport Weekender – a First-timers viewpoint

Related articles

Safri Duo’s Played alive (The Bongo Song)