Nicola puts together a Top DJ Team

To really enjoy your dancing you need fabulous music and Ceroc Perth’s Fresh Weekender had it from the word go.

In her preparations for ‘Fresh’ Nicola put together a top team of DJs to provide music for two main room late night sessions, a chilled second room and a Sunday afternoon Tea Dance.

My first ‘Fresh’ music review

I’m a great fan of dance music, and I always knew that I’d want to write about the musical offering over the weekend.  In the end I plan to write three articles about the DJs’ playlists.

This first one is based around Nicola and Sheena’s main room sets on the Friday and Saturday nights.  The second will concentrate on the chilled Sunday Tea Dance where four DJs were in action.

My ‘Fresh’ Top Ten Tracks

A third review will list my Top Ten tracks from the whole weekend.  I’ve already made the list and it includes tracks from all the DJs who shared the duties over the three days.

As always I’ll embed plenty of the music that made an impression on me over the weekend, and hopefully it will provide everyone with musical memories from what was a wonderful weekend of dancing.

Nicola gets the party started

Any one who has read my article 20 Things we loved about Fresh will know what a great success it was (see link below).  It fell to Sheena to kick it off with music for the Welcome Meeting, where people got to meet the teachers and catch up with friends.

But it was Nicola’s set, from ten until eleven, that really got the party started.  This was a cracking set of contemporary dance music that had me on the dance floor from the off.

In fact Nicola’s music had everybody else on the dance floor too, and I felt the party atmosphere kick in almost immediately.

People were here to party

There had been a great deal of anticipation about this first ever Ceroc Perth Weekender, and I suspect that it wouldn’t have taken much to get everyone into party mood on the dance floor.

But Nicola was leaving nothing to chance.  Sheena had set the floor up nicely, it just needed Nicola to light the touch paper, and she did that from her very first track and never let the energy levels drop for a minute.

The most memorable of tracks

Before I get stuck in to reviewing Nicola’s music picks I want to mention Sheena’s last track.  I said that Sheena had set it up nicely for Nicola, and she did it with a track that I’d like to think will be a lasting memory of Fresh.

Sheena finished her set with Niall Horan’s On the loose.  This is a new track that has made a real impression on me, and I was really pleased that Sheena gave it a spin.

Sheena’s fabulous track accompanies the video

So much did I enjoy dancing to it, that when my friend Tel was looking for a track to accompany his video of the dancing at Fresh, I suggested On the loose. 

The resulting video shows dancing mainly from Friday night, and much of it during Nicola’s set.  There is a lovely cameo of Nicola sharing the stage with Sheena.  Tel worked on the video late into the night and when it went live on Sunday morning it soon went viral.

In the past week it has had two and a half thousand views, and has been viewed all over the UK with almost as many people watching it in London as in Glasgow.  It didn’t take long for the word to get out just how good this Weekender was.

Relive the joy of Friday and Saturday night

Here it is again.  Once more it shows the joy on people’s faces as Nicola, Sheena and all the DJ Team created a great vibe on the Friday and Saturday nights.

The video may open with the sound muted – just click the un-mute icon.

It's Party time in Perth!

It's party time on the first ever Ceroc Perth weekender at the Salutation Hotel in Perth.

Posted by Modern Jive Dancer on Sunday, 29 April 2018

Nicola shows her craft as a DJ

The previous months had been filled with hours of planning, and I suspect a little anxiety as to how things would pan out.  However the time for worrying was long gone.  Sheena had warmed everyone up – now it was time to deliver, and Nicola did just that.

I couldn’t help wonder if Nicola had planned her track list weeks ago, but I soon got the impression that she was reading the floor, selecting her tracks on the hoof, taking the vibe up and down in a way that showed her craft as a Top DJ.

Nicola kicks off as she means to go on

Nicola’s first three tracks show a craftsmen at work, and I’ll feature all three of them as a way of illustrating this.

The first was I can change by Brandon Flowers.  After a slow start this tracks really gets going.  Listen carefully and you hear the backing track from Bronski Beat’s ’80s hit Small town boy.  Here’s Nicola talking about the choice of this track:

I wasn’t planning on opening with this track, but I really loved Sheena’s last track.  I must admit I hadn’t heard On the loose before.  I chose the Brandon Flowers track because it had a similar beat.

That Nicola switched her opener is impressive, what’s more impressive is that she appeared to use this track as a stepping stone for the even more energised track that would follow.  But first, here is Nicola’s opening track.

A Club Classic that cuts loose

Nicola’s second track was The 3 Jays’ Feeling it too, which I would describe as one hell of a club track.  Released in 1999 it has a real trance-like feel, and over the years it’s become a real favourite of mine.

This is the type of track that is just inviting you to give yourself up to it – and I did, and so it seemed looking around the floor, did everyone else too.

Now Nicola slows the tempo but ups the funk factor

After a track like Feeling it too, you can understand a DJ slowing it down, but Nicola wasn’t ready to ease of the pedal too much.  Now Nicola played a track that allowed the dancers a little respite with it’s gentler beat, but kept the energy levels up with a funk infused groove.

Feels like saving the world  by Outlandish is a wonderful piece of contemporary music, that has plenty of energy in its cool funky vibe.  With these three tracks Nicola set the tone for her main room set.  There would be variety, the beat would go up and down but there there would be no let up in the energy levels.

This was not the Nicola I knew

Nicola kept the energy and excitement levels up with more modern tracks – Paloma Faith’s Picking up the pieces, the Filatov & Karas remix of Imany’s Don’t be so shy and Ofenbach and Nick Waterhouse’s Katchie, all kept the dance floor in party mode.

Nicola was playing it like a Thunderball Room set at a Southport Weekender.  Hey, and why not. This was Perth’s first weekender – comparison’s with Southport were not going to do any harm, surely.  The thing is though, this is not how I perceived Nicola.  Let me explain.

From Medfest to Fresh via the SILC Zone

I’d first come across Nicola when she DJed the Chill-out Room at Medfest.  I wasn’t actually at Medfest, but I worked on a review of this premier Ceroc holiday with my good friend DJ Sue Astle who was fortunate enough to have got a ticket.  Sue would send me notes that I would build in to the review.

Here is one such note about Sue’s late night visit to the Chill-out Room:

One of the DJs was a lovely lady from Scotland.  Nicola Di Folco is a very talented lady, who knows just how to read the floor and plays some really great music.  I went and had a chat with her to compliment her on her wonderful set.

From a fellow DJ that’s a nice endorsement.  I got in touch with Nicola to ask about her music, so that I could include some of it in the review.  Nicola was happy to oblige and the resulting review was one of the most popular of last year (see link below).

I’m impressed by Nicola’s Southport set

As a way of thanking for her help with Medfest, I reviewed what was Nicola’s Southport debut in the SILC Zone.  Once again Nicola was cast as a Chill-out Room DJ, and her playlist impressed me as much as it did the dancers who packed the floor of her late night set (see link below).

I couldn’t help wonder about the level of Nicola’s main room credentials.  Of course the people who regularly attend Nicola’s lessons and freestyles in Stirling and Perth would have no such thoughts, and I suspect they weren’t surprised just how skilfully she created the party vibe at Fresh.

Here’s Annette one of the dancers from the weekend who knows Nicola’s music well:

The monthly Perth party nights are always well attended and Nicola never disappoints as a DJ.

That’s some recommendation, because not all DJs show a the same consistency every time they get behind the decks.

This was almost exclusively a contemporary set

Another thing struck me about Nicola’s hour long occupation of the decks.  Here was a playlist that was almost exclusively contemporary.  None of the tracks I’ve mentioned are more than twenty years old.  This wasn’t a set with ’60s Motown floor fillers or ’70s Disco favourites mixed in with Ceroc Classics.

Here’s a track that was so typical of Nicola’s set.   Get ugly by Jason Derulo is from 2015.  It’s as contemporary as they come, with the most wonderful ‘put a smile on your face’ chorus that has hip hop funk oozing from every note.

Was I bovvered by the lack of variety?

When I write my DJ reviews I’m looking for variety of musical genres so that there’s something for everybody.  Even making allowances for the fact that this was only a sixty minute slot, the lack of any real number of non-contemporary tracks was soon clear to me.

So was I bovvered?  No.  In fact when Shaun and Kirstie took over for the last two hours, they continued the contemporary theme and I was lovin’ it all.  I think if any one of them had veered from the mainly modern vibe I might have complained.  Here’s Annette again:

Nicola has a reputation locally and nationally for playing a good mix of music with great contemporary tracks.

Nicola though did play one Soul Classic that gave a slice of variety I really appreciated.  We all know Percy Sledge’s tearful soul ballad When a man loves a woman.  Less well known is Cry to me.  I didn’t recognise it immediately, but I was soon transfixed by it’s soulful feel and I marked it down in my note book as one of my best dances of the night.

One last funky highlight from Nicola

Before I move on to review Sheena’s Saturday night set, I have one more track I want to feature from Nicola’s.  It wasn’t easy selecting just one – there were so many great tunes.  I thought about the raunchy slab of rock that is Gin Wigmore’s Black Sheep, but in the end I settled on another contemporary track that I loved dancing to on Friday night.

Get my name by Mark Ballas is as funky as hell, but what makes it stand out from the crowd is an instrumental break that pays respect to the soul funk of the ’70s. Think Stevie Wonder’s Sir Duke and then some.

How does Sheena follow that?

Nicola’s Friday night set was the perfect way to start the Fresh Party, and Shaun and Kirstie kept the vibe going all the way to the one o’clock finish.  On Saturday it was Sheena’s job to get the party atmosphere going.  So how would she fare?

I’ve danced to Sheena’s music many times before, and I had little doubt that she would deliver the goods on the Saturday night.  Sheena has long been a regular Thunderball Room DJ at Ceroc’s Southport’s Weekenders, and I have been there with four hundred other dance crazed people as she has rocked the floor in the early hours.

Here’s a quote from my June 2017 Southport Diary on one of the best nights of dancing I’ve ever experienced:

Can this night really keep getting better. The answer is yes. Tiggerbabe (real name Sheena) is next up, and I’m lovin’ every one of her picks. Top track is the second of Soul Brother Edwin Starr’s monster ’80s hits ContactThis track lights up the floor, and still it gets better with the follow up – Blondie’s thumping Atomic.

Sheena is also the regular DJ for Southport’s Saturday afternoon top attraction – Swingers Hour.  It all adds up to a pedigree perfect for Saturday night.

It’s about the dancing remember

Before I give my thoughts on Sheena’s set, I’d like to add a little perspective that’s very relevant to this particular review.  When I’m picking out tracks to feature I’ll refer to the comments in my note book.  Against the title of a track I’ll often put a couple of stars or the words ‘great dance’.

As well as noting the track, I’m also rating the connection I make with the music, and how much I feel the vibe.  I’m not alone in this, though of course most people aren’t writing this down, but they can’t help but show the joy they feel on their faces.

Remember Ceroc is a partner dance

A great dance needs a great track, but it needs one other important ingredient, and that is a comfortable connection with your partner.  You can’t enjoy a great dance on your own.  You have to share the joy with the person you are dancing with.

As I mentioned in my 20 Things we love about Fresh article I noted that most of the people knew each other.  This is a great help when it comes to enjoying your dancing.  You know the people you like to dance with, and you know the people who will best connect with the different styles of music.  You have an idea of the people who will give you your best dances.

Why we love Weekenders

For anyone who came to Perth from outside of Scotland, like myself and my friend Tel, we were at a slight disadvantage on the first night simply because we didn’t really know anyone.  More to the point we didn’t know who we would make a good connection with on the dance floor.

Thankfully we were made to feel very welcome from very early on, and it’s a credit to all the ladies that we were both asked on to the dance floor from the word go.  By the end of the first night we had got to know a few people and this added to our enjoyment on the dance floor.

Of course the great thing about a weekender is that you get a chance to dance with everyone again the following day.  What’s more, you have the opportunity to break the ice with new people in the lessons that are on offer.  By the second night you know a lot more people, and you are a lot more relaxed about asking people to partner you on to the dance floor.

The Saturday night DJ slots are a lot easier

Now you can enjoy your dancing even more, and that’s going to show on your face – something the DJs are going to pick up on.  I’m sure that the shifts behind the decks are a lot more enjoyable for the DJs on the second night too.

Sheena remember had the first shift on Friday.  Her job was to warm everyone up on that first night.  We were all still getting to know each other, but come Saturday night it was a different story, and I sensed that Sheena was going to really enjoy herself.

I wasn’t wrong, and this was reflected in her music.  Sheena got the music mix spot on and played a joyful set, and the dance floor loved it, and so did I.

Sheena plays it differently to Nicola

Half way through Sheena’s set I realised that this was a very different one to Nicola’s Friday night contemporary one.  But then, isn’t that the point of having a selection of DJs doing one hour slots.

Sheena showcased her own DJ craft by thrilling me with a mix of tracks that were both great to dance to and included some gems I’ve never heard before.  There were contemporary tracks, but Sheena visited the dance music vaults more than Nicola had.

A contemporary belter

Before I explore some of the Sheena’s cracking new-to-me selections here’s a belter of a contemporary track that proves her main room credentials.  Emergency by Icona Pop will be familiar to many people.  Released in 2015 it’s thumping beat has made it a Ceroc favourite.

Two tracks I couldn’t wait to tell you about

I mentioned in the review of Nicola’s set that I’m looking for variety, but there’s something else I appreciate even more than music from different genres, and its cracking dance music I’ve never heard before.  This is one of the things that marked Sheena’s set out for me.

This first track is so original.  So much so I wonder what paths Sheena had to go down to find it.  Ten out of ten by Paolo Nutini is basically a reggae track that has a wonderful joyous beat to dance to.  I bet you can’t dance to this without breaking in to a warm smile.

I think Sheena’s choice of this track also reflects my earlier thoughts about the difference between the vibe on Friday and Saturday night.  It would have been a waste for Sheena to have played this track so early on Friday night.  This was definitely a Saturday night track when we were all a lot more relaxed.

A Latin instrumental that crept up on me

That last track grabbed me instantly, while this next track took a little while to connect with my dance brain, but once it did I was in Dance Heaven.  Porto by Worakis is all instrumental, and opens with a Spanish guitar solo that doesn’t hint at what is to come.

Then at 1 minute 15 a drum and bass kick in, and the track morphs in to a dance track that had me hooked.  Again I’m wondering where Sheena found this track, but then that’s what makes her the DJ she is.

Like all top DJs Sheena must spend a lot of time trawling through the dance music vaults, and finding a track like this, and seeing people expressing their musicality to its wondrous rhythms must be reward in itself.

A massive Tropical House hit that passed me by

I’ll explain the Tropical House thing in a minute, but let me first talk numbers.  The Porto Spanish Guitar track has had only three million hits on YouTube.  That tells you how little exposure it’s had.

This next track, Mama by Jonas Blue featuring the vocals of William Singe, has had nearly half  a billion views, yet still it’s passed me by, and remember I spend so much time reviewing dance music.

Tropical House is a wonderful genre of modern music characterised by its use of so called tropical instruments, such as steel drums, marimba, guitar, saxophone and even pan flutes.  You’ll soon recognise the musical style when you listen to this track, but if you need any further education listen to any Kygo remix.  You’ll soon get it.

You are only as old as the music you dance to

I believe that you are only as old as the music you dance to, and that’s why I love dancing to Tropical House tracks like Mama.  Occasionally though, I want to revisit the dance halls of my youth, and Sheena took me back twice to that wonderful time before my young family took away my freedom to dance all night.

The second time was with the track I mentioned in my Southport Diary extract – Edwin Starr’s ‘8os monster and all time Ceroc favourite Contact.  But Sheena trumped that track with a full on Disco one that became a Northern Soul favourite back in my home town of Nottingham.

The sound system at Fresh was top draw

That track was Hold back the night by The Trammps.  I wonder whether I could request that Sheena plays it at her next Southport gig.  It’s a track that’s made for the Thunderball Room in Southport, but I have to say that it also sounded great in The Salutation Hotel Ballroom.

A good quality sound system can make all the difference to the vibe created out on the floor, and it seems that Nicola and her team took care to make sure the sound was top drawer, and as a result Hold back the night sounded fabulous.

Sheena spins a Swing favourite

Here was another track that differentiated Sheena’s playlist from Nicola’s.  Robbie Williams Swing tracks quite rightly get a few outings on the Ceroc circuit.  Have you met Miss Jones is one of the best, and I found myself writing ‘great dance’ against it in my note book.

I mention this concept of differentiation for a reason.  Nicola’s contemporary set on Friday night was top drawer, but it was important that all the DJs didn’t follow suit.  We do need variety in the music we dance to, and as I mentioned above giving a team of DJs hourly slots is a sure fire way to ensure just that.

I also suspect that the DJs want to play a different type of set to their peers.  It’s how they build their reputations.  Sheena’s exciting journey’s in to the different genres on Saturday night goes some way to explaining why she is given her DJing slots at Southport three times a year.

A Double A-Side of DJ Talent

There is no doubt that Nicola and Sheena are up there with the best of Scotland’s DJs, and Fresh got the very best of them.  The image I used to head this review was devised with the help of my friend Tel.

Tel, I need a photo of Nicola and Sheena together on the stage.  Can you have a look through your photos.

Tel came up with a photo that had missed being included in the album we published as a souvenir of this fabulous weekender.

It’s perfect Tel, now we just need a strap line – any ideas?

It was Tel who came up with the Double A-side idea.  Of course people reading this article who have only known CDs and downloads might wonder what we are talking about, but I think they’ll understand exactly what we mean.

Related Articles

20 Things we love about Ceroc Perth’s Fresh Weekender

My review of Medfest in Calpe, Costa Blanca 2017

My review of Nicola’s Southport SILC Zone set