Tony Riccardi in The Thunderball Room – Friday Night

When the Southport Scorch programme was published on line, the first thing I did was to look up the DJ line up in the main Thunderball Room. Looking through the list I recognised many of the names, having reviewed or mentioned their top tracks in my diary from February’s Blush event. My plan was to do full reviews on two of the main room DJs. I’d already decided to focus on Tim Sant, but I needed another. I looked through the programme to see names I didn’t recognise, and randomly picked Tony Riccardi from the Friday night set list.

12:30 on Friday night is a Big Gig

Standing behind the decks, high on the stage in the Thunderball Room is no easy gig what ever your slot, but Tony had one of the biggest slots of the weekend. By twelve thirty, any late arrivals have swelled the numbers, and there is an air of anticipation – we have all been looking forward to this for some time. My guess is that there are about six hundred people in to the room and about four hundred of these are on the dance floor.

Tony sets the place on fire

I suspect you don’t get the top slots unless you have already proved yourself, and Tony soon showed why he’d been trusted with the Big Gig. From his first track I just sensed I, and the whole room, was in for a top draw dance music experience. I wasn’t wrong. Tony set the place on fire. How did he do it? Well playing three of the best hi-energy tracks from the entire weekend was a start, but more of these later.

The Thunderball Room is for no nonsense dancing

Let’s remember the main Thunderball Room is for full on, no nonsense dancing. At regular freestyles DJs have to mix in a bit of everything, but at Southport there are other areas set aside for more sophisticated dancing. By 12:30 Marc and Rachel were offering the perfect fix for the Blues junkies in the Cyclone Room, and the SILC Zone was packed with those wanting something a little smoother.

That freed Tony up to play the tracks that are easy to connect with, the ones we can all dance to. Remember amongst the dance junkies of all ages there are Southport first-timers – there are even people who have been dancing for only a few months. The Thunderball Room is where all these people come to dance and experience that ‘Thank god it’s Friday’ feeling.

Tony’s first track sets the tone

Remember one other thing. I, like a lot of Southport devotees, want to hear some fresh new music, but we want to connect to it with little problem. Tony’s first track told me I wasn’t going to be disappointed. Don’t Worry by Madcon Feat Ray Dalton was a perfect track to start the set. Its got everything. A thumping beat that anybody can instantly connect to, and a great catchy chorus that had me hooked. Had I heard it before? May be, but I hope to dance to it again, because it’s just fab.

The floor is rocking and then it explodes

Tony soon had the whole floor rocking with tracks that we all love, like Jess Glynne’s Don’t be so hard on yourself, and then he played a track that will have to make my Scorch Top Ten. It’s a track that I have danced to before, but I don’t remember it having such an impact. I suspect it was the fact that Tony had cranked the atmosphere up before hand and I was a little high on the buzz coming off the dance floor. From the thumping drum and bass intro I was gone. Word Up by American Soul Funk group Cameo is from 1986, but its funky energy hasn’t diminished one bit. The track has some outstanding musical elements – I just loved it when a brass section was layered on top of the drum and base as the song fades out. It kept me connected to the very end.

Now Tony how do you follow that? Easy

Having set the floor on fire with the Cameo track, I wondered how Tony would follow it up. He then played another thumping track that will also have to appear in my Scorch Top Ten listing. Living by Dutch record producer Bakermat broke through last year, but I don’t remember hearing it recently. It’s a fabulous piece of club music, and it uses a technique that guarantees it’s place in any list of great contemporary dance music. The song builds up to a climax by way of a series of increasingly intensive steps. Even when the chorus kicks in, and you sense you’ve reached the climax, the next instrumental section takes you to an even higher level of dance intensity. Then the whole climax thing is repeated again and again. Great play Tony.

The power tracks just kept on coming

Tony was not letting up. The power tracks just kept coming. Next up was Confident by Demi Lovato.  This was another track that was new to me, but once a gain I found it very easy to connect with, and I loved its high energy production. Was there a heavier bass line all night? This is another track that has sections with different intensities – love the transition from A Capella to where the track explodes again.

Hey Tony, can we take a break

You can’t dance with this kind of intensity for too long. Even the fittest of us need a break, and Tony slipped in a Motown and Soul Double that was just what was needed. I understand that the DJs are asked to throw in a few archive tracks into their sets, and it was interesting that Tony chose to show his Soul Boy credentials by playing Ain’t no mountain high enough from Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell, and one of the greatest dance tracks to come out of the legendary Stax recording studio in Memphis – Soul Man by Sam & Dave.

I love every chance to give a plug to Steve Cropper, the Stax house guitarist and member of Booker T and The MGs, who helped create some of the greatest soul music in history. It’s Cropper who wrote and produced Otis Redding’s Sitting on the dock of the bay. Cropper’s guitar playing is immortalised in Soul man when Sam sings the line ‘Play it Steve’ to highlight the guitar riff that is famously characteristic of this track.

Tony gets the floor rockin’ again

After the gentler Soul Boy interlude, Tony soon got the floor rockin’ again. Sigala’s latest Came here for love, was followed by Walk the Moon’s Work this body with its thumping beat. The energy levels were rising again as Tony span the Ryan Riback remix of Starley’s Call on me. With the atmosphere on the floor back to the max, Tony played what I consider to be my favourite track of this Southport weekend.

It’s a track that passed me by when it was released in 2013. I think it got missed by a lot of DJs too, because I can’t remember dancing to it until DJ Sue Astle played it at St Neots back in May. On first listening to DIMMIs Dizzy, it sounds like any other club track, but like Bakermat’s Living it treats you to a rollercoaster ride of dance intensity. The saxophone instrumental break, with its thumping drum and bass, is one of the best bits of music I’ve danced to all year.

Something different always impresses

One favourite track from last year was Galantis’ Peanut Butter Jelly by Galantis. It was a real favourite of East Mids DJ Mark O’Reilly and I enjoyed dancing to it every time it was played. DJs can not just play ‘the same old same old’, and I was impressed that Tony chose to end his set with the Moska remix of this great song. The remix has a slightly harder edge, and when the bass kicks in it’s turned up to the max. This was a thumping climax to what had been a truly outstanding set of main room dance music.

Click the links to read my other Southport Scorch Reviews

Motown & Northern Soul Freestyle: John Baker’s Friday night opener in The Cyclone Room

Simply Slotted: Caine and Danni’s very helpful class in dancing on The Slot

Double Trouble: Matt & Chloe help Lyndsey Bennett with a fun filled class

Tim Sant Set: DJ Tim Sant’s set from Sunday night

My Southport Diary: Includes the live blog from Sunday night