I’m in need of a main room fix

I’ve been writing a lot lately about chill-out venues.  As I sit writing my reviews I’ve been listening to the delicious contemporary music that I’ve heard at these venues, to help me get the right vibe for my writing.  I have to say that it’s been a joy listening to all the new music that is around, but I desperately need a fix of some thumping main room sounds.

You see I’m a full-on dancer at heart.  The Disco and Club beat keeps the blood pumping round at times.  So it’s about time I wrote about some main room dancing – time then to write about one incredible night of dancing in The Thunderball Room at Southport this September.

Sunday night can be the best

Sunday night dancing in The Thunderball Room can be the best of the weekend.  Sadly some people have had to leave so that they can be back at work on Monday morning, but this gives everyone a little more space to express themselves.  Also those who remain know this is their last night and are really up for a final fling out on the floor.  The resulting atmosphere can be quite electrifying.

It’s one of the reasons that the DJs love getting a slot on this final night.

The lucky ones this time round were Nicola Di Folco, Hayley Epps, Tony Riccardi, Mark O’Reilly, Caroline Houlton, Kevin Hyde, and as always Jon Gammon to round it all off in the early hours.

As each DJ took to the decks for their one hour slot, they built on the vibe created by their predecessor.  I, along with everyone else, enjoyed dancing to some fabulous music as the atmosphere out on the floor built towards the climax of the night.  At half past midnight Caroline Houlton took to the decks.

Caroline rocks the floor, but lets give credit to Nicola

Perhaps Caroline had the best slot of the night, but that shouldn’t take anything away from the craft that she showed behind the decks, and the fact that she blew me away with some thumping top tracks.

Before I talk about Caroline’s time spinning the tracks, it’s important to recognise one other contribution to what was a memorable night of dancing – Nicola Di Folco’s set that kicked the evening off, some four and a half hours earlier.

Nicola had the unenviable task of starting it all off at eight o’clock, when many people were still thinking about getting ready, let alone making their way over to the dance zones.  When I walked in to The Thunderball Room at 8:15, not only was the floor empty, but the room itself was devoid of any sign that it might liven up in the near future.  My heart sank for Nicola.

Nicola sadly gets the graveyard shift on her debut

I’d first reviewed Nicola’s music when she’d done a fabulous SILC Zone set back in February, but it was at the Ceroc Perth Fresh Weekender that I first recognised her main room credentials.   On both the Friday and Saturday night I experienced for myself how Nicola worked the floor and set it on fire with perfectly timed knockout tracks.

I was really pleased for Nicola, when I saw that she was to be given her Thunderball Room debut in September, but a little disheartened that she would in effect be doing the graveyard shift.

I don’t think I was that surprised when I saw how empty the room was.  There was however one bright point.  The DJs usually get an hour slot to make their mark.  Thankfully Nicola had been given an hour and a half – time enough perhaps for the room to fill up and so give her a chance to show the DJing craft I’d witnessed in Perth.

Nicola took this picture from the stage fifteen minutes in to her set.

The Scottish dancers turn out to support Nicola

One of the things I love about Southport is the support that people give to their local teachers and DJs.  My own home grown DJ Ashley Davis, also made his Thunderball Room debut this Southport, and the large Nottingham Massif (that’s what Ashley calls the travelling Ceroc Heaven crowd) was out in force to support him.

Their is always a large contingent of people who come down to Southport from Scotland, Nicola’s home patch.

I’ve made a few trips north of the border in the past year, including two visits to Glasgow as well as the one to Perth, and as the first people took to the floor I recognised a few of the faces, who were obviously there to support Nicola.

Two of those supporters were Amanda and Christie, and it’s these two Scottish dancers that Nicola captured in her image of the empty dance floor.  It’s actually quite a thought provoking picture, and I find it quite heart warming to see these two dancers showing their support.

Needless to say the floor soon started to fill up.  Amanda and Christie had kick started the most fabulous night of dancing, and it wouldn’t be long before Nicola got her chance to show her skill on the decks.

Northern Soul Dancing to a fab track

Reviewing DJ sets in The Thunderball Room gives me an opportunity to embed videos of some of the cracking tunes the DJs serve up.  I know that there are people who follow my blog just to get to know the names of the fabulous tracks they hear on the dance floor, and hopefully they’ll enjoy the tracks I’ve featured from this top Sunday night.

Interestingly the first track I’ll feature was one that Nicola played to the empty floor.  That there were few people in The Thunderball Room was never going to stop Nicola playing her top tunes, and it wasn’t going to stop me dancing either.  I instantly connected with this track’s fabulous beat, so much I did a little individual Northern Soul dancing to it in the corner near the stage.

We first got to dance to German recorder producer Freischwimmer’s music, when he released a great new version of The Motown Classic Ain’t no mountain high enough featuring the vocals of Dionne Bromfield in 2016.  Here’s his version of the Mama and Papa’s ’60s classic California dreaming.  The result is a delicious song with a thumping dance beat.  Not your classic Northern Soul track, but I couldn’t not dance to it.

I get to dance with the fabulous Scottish Dancers

As the room filled up slowly I was able to ask ladies to join me on the dance floor.  I mentioned earlier the large number of Scottish dancers that had come out early to dance to Nicola’s music.  Now I know I run the risk of being accused of showing favouritism, but there were some fabulous dancers from Scotland in the room, who I’d met on my previous travels over the border.

When we talk about having memorable nights of dancing, its not just about the vibe the DJs create, it’s also about the dances we have.

Southport of course attracts wonderful dancers from all over the country, and they contribute to a great nights dancing as much as the DJs.

Now I’m not in the habit of naming the people I dance with, and I’m not going to start now, but back in March I’d had the most amazing dance in Glasgow, that I did my best to describe in my review of the Ceroc Glasgow Party Night at Woodside Hall.  This fabulous dancer was part of crowd supporting Nicola, and we enjoyed yet another full-on dance.

I love hearing new tracks

I mention this dance because it gives me an opportunity to mention the track we danced to.  I love it when DJs play tracks I’ve never heard before, and so it was with the track that Nicola served up for my dance with the lady from Glasgow.

Let you go by Bvd, Kult & OT is a track that typifies the contemporary way of making dance music.  Every so often a thumping bass kicks in accompanied by Tropical House instrumentation.  No wonder we had such a fabulous dance to it.

Still plenty of room to express myself to the full

Even as the room was slowly filling up, there was still plenty of room out on the dance floor. When I’m dancing full-on I criss-cross back and forth, travelling to the full arm lengths of myself and my partner.  You can cover a lot of ground, but it’s asking for trouble on a crowded floor.

When a floor is busy, I will often caution my partner to stay close and do my best not to get too carried away, least I barge in to someone.

It can happen, and I am very mindful of that when dancing full-on.

There was no such space restrictions early on Sunday night, and I felt a little bit spoilt by the fact that here I was dancing to some fabulous music, with top partners and plenty of room to express myself fully.

As the floor continued to fill, Nicola was building a vibe with one great track after another.  On the line another new to me track by Julian Perretta was another that had me writing in my note book ‘GREAT DANCE’.  But Nicola also pulled out some classic modern tracks that got a great response out on the floor.

One of these tracks was Counting stars, the 2013 dance floor smash from One Republic.  This track has a deceptive intro, but it soon explodes in to life with a thumping backing track behind a vocal as catchy as hell.  The result is a guaranteed floor filler, and as I danced to its spirit lifting pulse, I sensed that Nicola was now cutting loose.

Nicola gets ready to push the button

What followed was a series of carefully ordered tracks that built a vibe out on the floor that belied the fact that it was still sparsely populated in places.  As the atmosphere out on the floor built, I got a feeling that Nicola was going to succeed in setting the floor on fire at any moment.

Most Thunderball DJs, worthy of their salt, will set the floor on fire two or three times during their sets, but remember Nicola had started out with no one on the floor.

The Thunderball Room is vast, and three hundred people won’t even fill it.

To set the floor on fire so early would be some achievement, but Nicola was working the floor with her playlist, and she eventually built the vibe to a point where she was ready to push the button.

I missed out on the Trance Club Boom of the 1990’s, but there is a wealth of tracks from that era that DJs use to heighten the vibe out on the dance floor.  Tim Sant lists Freed from Desire by Gala as one of his favourite trance inducing tracks, and Mark O’Reilly has used Show me love by Robin S to great effect.

Nicola picks a favourite Club Anthem

Nicola brought out a Club track from 1999 that worked to perfection.  Looking back I still can’t explain why I didn’t dance in the ’90s, but fortunately Ceroc DJs have given me a second chance to dance to these Club anthems.  When I first started dancing some nine years ago the DJ at my local Ceroc Class would regularly play the track that Nicola used so effectively.

I remember loving it every time it was played, but eventually the DJ dropped it as he freshened up his playlist.  Like so many great dance tracks it faded from my memory, until back in March Franck Pauly played it at the aforementioned Glasgow Party Night.  The recognition was instant, within a few bars I remembered that this was the type of track I was born to dance to.

Ready? Then let’s smash it

The track is The 3 Jay’s Feeling it too.  As Nicola pushed the play button, my dance brain instantly recognised the intro.  Next a series of buttons were pressed that triggered a sense of elated anticipation.  I needed the right partner.  Dancing full-on is not everyone’s cup of tea, and if I might dare to say, some tracks need a certain type of dancer to do them justice.

I looked around the dance floor anxiously for a partner.  I got lucky.  One of the Scottish dancers I knew was free.  As we walked on to the dance floor I could sense that my partner was also feeling the trance inducing vibe.  I checked that she was up for what I had in mind:

Can you do this?

Yes Paul, let’s smash it!

I don’t think we actually said that to each other, but we knew what was in each other’s head.  What ever was said we danced for Scotland and England and we finished the dance with a massive smile.  Did we smashed it?  Absolutely!

Are we all feeling it too?

Did everyone else feel the same vibe as I and my partner did as we danced to Feeling it too?  Is my notion of a DJ setting fire to the floor just a personal feeling?  It might be, but you can’t help sometimes sensing that the people dancing around you feel the same excitement.

The DJs will all tell you that they can sense when one more record will set the floor on fire, and they always have the Light-the-Flame track on standby for when the vibe feels just right.

As Feeling it too faded out Nicola still had one more track to play, before she handed over to Hayley Epps, and having built the atmosphere to a peak, she kept it there with another belter – the Dave Aude remix of This is Me by the Cast of the The Greatest Showman.  I featured this track in my Spirit of Southport in Ten Tracks, where I paid tribute to Nicola’s role as the person who kick started this great night of dancing (see link below).

I get star struck sometimes

You’ll have to excuse me my little indulgence, but I get star struck sometimes.  I know that playing to The Thunderball Room is not the same as playing to two thousand people at an Ibiza Rave Party, but the DJs who get the gigs at Southport are some of the best in the country, and so now and again I ask if I can have my picture taken with them.  Thanks Nicola.

I know I shouldn’t be up here, but that was one hell of a climax.

Hayley, Tony and Mark build on Nicola’s vibe

It must be wonderful to take over the decks when the floor is rocking, knowing that the hard work has been done by your predecessor.  Even better that the room was fast filling up with Sunday Night revellers wanting one last chance to boogie.

Hayley Epps has built an enviable reputation around Weekenders and, as is always the case, she built on the vibe that Nicola had created.  Tony Riccardi was up next.  I’m a great fan of Tony’s and he never disappoints. and like Hayley, he edged the vibe up just that little bit higher.

By the time Mark O’Reilly took to the decks at 11:30 the atmosphere out on the floor was everything you expect for a Sunday night.  I do wonder if DJs ever have any nerves when they come to take over the decks, with the vibe out on the floor pumped to the max.  It must be hard sometimes to maintain the heightened feelings out on the floor for a whole hour.

Mark sets the floor on fire with an ’80s classic

If Mark was nervous it didn’t show, and it wasn’t long before he set the floor on fire himself with a track that is getting a lot of plays at the moment.  Lionel Richie’s Dancing on the ceiling was a monster dance track in the ’80s – a decade I did a lot of dancing in (still can’t work out what happened in The ’90s).

Again, like many great dance tracks it seemed to have disappeared in to the ether.  I know I wasn’t hearing it on the Ceroc dance floor, but  a couple of Southports ago Tony Riccardi gave it a spin.  He ensured he played it at just the right time, and once again the dance floor lit up.  Ever since it seems other DJs have picked it up and it has featured in many of my reviews.

I still can’t get enough of it, and neither does it seem can everyone else.  As I recognised the opening refrain I looked up to the stage and gave Mark the Thumbs Up.  To be part of four hundred people connecting with its spirit lifting beat is some experience.  Sunday night was proving to be another life enhancing bundle of joy.

It’s Caroline’s turn to rock the floor

Next up was Caroline Houlton.  I’m a great fan of Caroline, and she was the first Southport I took note of.  I’ve danced to her music so many times, and her Thunderball Room music mix and style has influenced my own ‘Fantasy Guest DJ’ playlist.

It was now half past midnight.  This would be the last set before people started to drift away in the hope of getting enough sleep, so they could check out before the cleaners moved in to their chalets in the morning.

Caroline took to the decks with the hundreds of people still in party mood

I felt compelled to write about Caroline’s set

It had never been my intention to review Caroline’s set.  I now ration myself to just one Thunderball Room DJ review per Southport, and my sole focus was to have been Nicola’s debut set earlier.  But this Sunday was turning out to be one of the best.  Hayley, Tony and Mark, along with Nicola of course, had all done their bit to put me in Dance Heaven and I was not ready to come down just yet.

There were two other reasons that I had to include Caroline’s set in this record of a wonderful night of dancing.  The first was her music.  It kept hitting buttons in my dance brain that had me running to my notebook to write all manner of superlatives.  The second reason was due to one of the tracks she played.  It would mark this Thunderball Room session down as one of the best ever, at least in my dance addicted mind.

The sound system was made for this track

The Thunderball sound system is made for certain dance records.  It’s ability to amplify the thumping bass lines of many contemporary tracks with out distortion is what makes it perfect for tracks like MK’s 17.  This track has one of the heaviest bass lines of any record I know.

Caroline warmed the floor up with a few tracks and then let rip with this.  The beat kicks in straight away but you have to wait a full 40 seconds before the pulsating bass kicks in for the first time.  It eventually fades out, but you soon learn the structure of the song and know just when its coming back.  It’s this sense of anticipation combined with the moment of delivery that knocks me off my feet every time.  Well not literally of course.

Caroline keeps the bass at the Max

I was paying attention now, and without warning Caroline pushed the bass up to the max on the next track too.  If 17 had set the floor on fire, then Gangsta walk by SNBRN Featuring the vocals of Nate Dogg stoked the flames.

Gangsta walk has another thumping bass line, but it has added attitude woven in to the delivery of the chorus.  But what I love about this track is the way that it builds to a rousing climax before the third chorus.  The way the layers of instrumentation build up, is another great example of how record producers put these tracks together with the dance floor in mind.

Caroline plays the greatest Motown dance track ever

Surely Caroline would take her foot off the pedal?  So it seemed at first.  Caroline’s next track was from the Motown vaults.  Now I’m a great lover of these ’60s dance anthems.  While they are all very dance-able, they do however lack the modern production techniques that make 17 and Gansta walk such great club anthems.  So a bit of Motown was just what was needed to cool me down. WRONG!

Caroline’s Motown choice was not only the best dance track to ever come out of Detroit, but it is sung by the second greatest soul voice to ever sing a dance track (The greatest is Levis Stubbs of The Four Tops).

What’s more I have an emotional connection to Edwin’s Starr’s SOS (Stop her on sight) that brings a lump to my throat every time.

You see Edwin Starr came to live in my home town of Nottingham.  It’s as if we are Soul Brothers.

I don’t expect people to understand my connection with Edwin Starr, but SOS (Stop her on sight) is a well loved record and it seemed that the dance floor lapped up every second of its joyous vibe.

Caroline keeps the vibe at The MAX

This was all getting too much.  Can you turn the excitement down a bit Caroline?  No chance!  KDA’s Turn the music louder featuring the vocals of Tinie Tempah & Katy B was another full-on track.  I some how got through it, but I was desperate for a breather, and decided what ever the next track was I’d sit it out.

But Caroline had no intention of easing up and the next track was Ricky Martin’s Latin rocker She bangs.  Now I recently featured this track in my second volume of Modern Jive Classics because of its hi-energy delivery.  Could I actually miss out dancing to yet another thumping track?  Sadly I just had to, so for the first time ever I sat She Bangs out.

I was looking to sit the next track out too, but the hypnotic opening bass line of the intro compelled me on to the dance floor once again.

The bass line and guitar lick to this ’80s Disco Classic is so infectious.

The song itself is naff to say the least, but my dance brain is never going to let me sit out one of the most famous dance hooks of all time.

I can’t remember actually modern jiving to this track before.  Which is a surprise, because it’s a joy to dance to, and everyone it seemed was happy to lose themselves in it.  By following Ricky Martin’s She bangs with Indeep’s Last night a DJ saved my life, Caroline had set the floor on fire yet again.

Yes, Yes, Yes!  It’s that Club Anthem again

I returned to my seat.  I had just written the words FLOOR ON FIRE when I recognised the opening to the next track.  I found a partner as fast as is politely possible and I was back on the dance floor.  This surely was the best track of my weekend, and I was getting a double dose of it.

When Nicola played her set I suspect Caroline was putting her feet up, and had no idea that Nicola had earlier set the floor on fire with The 3 Jays Feeling it too.  I suspect if Caroline had immediately followed Nicola, she would have swapped it for another track, but fortunately for me it remained in her playlist.

I’m tempted to embed the track again, in an attempt to replicate the high I experienced again, but I think that would be a little self indulgent.

Instead here’s the track Caroline followed it with.  It’s a track I’d not heard before, but it had a beat that compelled me to stay on the floor.  Sadly Groove Armada’s Superstylin’ finished me off.  I’d got through three quarters of Caroline’s set dancing to just about every track, and I was exhausted.  I think that tells it’s own story.

Two different sets, but two equally crafted playlists

I didn’t dance much more in The Thunderball Room after that.  Best to leave on a high.  Instead I spent the last hour in the SILC Zone.  When I did get time to think about Sunday’s main room dancing I realised that there was a strong link between Nicola and Caroline’s sets.

Their DJ slots were at the opposite ends of the night, with very different vibes out on the floor, but they had both been crafted with the same desire to give the dancers a joyous end to their Weekender experience.

But then there was another strong link – the track they had both played – The 3 Jays Feeling it too.  This had given me the best dance of the night on both occasions.  It would be a little corny to say that great minds think alike, but great DJs play great tracks, and in the context of this outstanding night of dancing, these were two equally top drawer sets.  Right on Soul Sisters.

What a set Caroline – you finished me off

Related Articles

The Spirit of Southport in 10 Tracks inc Nicola’s final track This is me

10 Classic Modern Jive Tracks Vol 2 inc Ricky Martin’s She Bangs

Other Southport September 18 Articles

Planning my Southport Reviews

I enter the Lucky Dip dance competition