Friday, November 24, 2006
UK Soul Weekender 2006
Friday 9th to Sunday 11th June.
Sun, sea, soccer, scintillating sixties and seventies soul with still more sun -- that was Cleethorpes 2006. Cleggy veterans stream into the Beachcomber Centre from early afternoon even though the music rooms don’t kick off until 8pm on the Friday. This year, the sea was actually in view during the drive along the resort’s front en-route to site and an unrelenting sun shone down. Assumptions were quickly drawn that the sun’s attendance would be purely fleeting but this was not to prove the case as it hung around for the full duration of the event.
Proceedings kicked off in the main room at the allotted time. Despite his squad of DJs being veterans now, Ady had decided to yet again stick with his long serving established players. Roger Banks opened proceedings, with the likes of Ginger, Butch & Mick Smith also making an early impact. Midnight came and went, by which time the strong second team were also making a good impression in the modern room. Before the dance competition commenced back in the main room, an intrigued group of spectators took their places on the balcony overlooking the rear of the room. Carl Carlton, Darrow Fletcher and their travelling partners were in the arena getting their first feel for a Northern Soul event. After absorbing the atmosphere they headed back to their hotel, by which time the third music room was also up and running (R&B ruling the roost here). The massed dancers enthusiasm and high energy antics engendered a stimulating ambience in the rooms. Only after dawn had broken and that relentless sun was once again climbing into the sky did the crowd start drifting away towards their accommodation.
The Saturday afternoon session is usually a low-key affair but with England playing a world cup game, most males headed straight for the upstairs bar area where a giant screen TV had been set up. The plucky endeavours of the international DJ line-up therefore went largely ignored and the wares on offer in the record bar also garnered little interest. As the under attended afternoon record sessions drew to a close, the backing band arrived to set up in the main room. Instruments were plugged in, sound levels balanced and the initial run through commenced. As is usual, proceedings were running behind schedule and a major problem became apparent at 7.30 when Darrow and Carl arrived to add their vocal input. Carl had put his back out earlier in the afternoon and was now in so much pain, he could hardly move. Because of this, Darrow took first turn but a more cursory run through than is usual was all that could be managed. Carl was then assisted onto stage and at least finished rehearsing one number before the artist entourage headed out to get him sorted out.
The short sound check meant that the main room was ready ahead of its 9pm opening time and so the queuing hoard was promptly allowed access to claim seats in readiness for the long nights proceedings. With an exuberant spirit in the rooms, the midnight hour soon arrived. The best of the modern room DJs were Ivor, Mark Randle (who played Beverley Skeete’s “I Have A Dream” & Jasper St Co “Till I Found You”), Fish (Maysa “Runnin”), Terry Jones (Chantay Savage “Don’t Let It Go To Your Head”) & Cliff Steele (Village Choir “Sweet Hot Lips”) but hardly any brand new releases lit up the dance floor. In the main room, Ginger (who even played the Hamilton Movement’s “Shes Gone”) finished a good spot and handed straight over to the night’s live entertainers.
Carl was up first and showed no signs of his earlier problems. Looking resplendent in a bright yellow suit, he launched into an energetic and vocally near perfect show. “Nothing No Sweeter Than Love”, “So What”, “I’ll Love You Forever” and his 70’s outing “You Can’t Stop A Man In Love” were all delivered with immaculate showmanship. The biggest crowd reaction however came as the backing band struck up the opening chords to “Competition Ain’t Nothing”. How Carl so closely reproduced the vocal performance he had committed to vinyl whilst still a teenager I don’t know, but reproduce it he did. The song was given an extended treatment as he segued into “Uptight” before switching back into “Competition..” to close. Overjoyed with the crowd’s reaction, Carl jumped down into the audience to greet many fans personally. Once rescued from the floor of the room, he gave a final wave before disappearing from the stage he had triumphantly dominated during his all too short show. Darrow Fletcher was quickly introduced and he launched straight into his songs; “Gotta Draw The Line”, “Changing By The Minute” and “My Young Misery”. His first recording and biggest hit “Pain Gets A Little Deeper” followed and then it was his final release from 1979, “Rising Cost of Love” and the mid 60’s “What Have I Got Now”. All were more than adequately delivered to a good reception, but it was evident that (unlike Carl) it had been some time since Darrow had performed before a live audience. Despite looking dapper in his white jacket, he struggled to maintain the electric atmosphere that Carl had just generated. For the finale, both singers returned to the stage as “Competition Ain’t Nothing” was performed once again. Carl, who had changed into casual clothing, was far more at ease but this was partly because they were singing his song. At times Darrow struggled to make much impact, but both guys deservedly received tumultuous applause from the ecstatic crowd. All too soon the live show was over and after a brief spell backstage to change and unwind, both singers were escorted upstairs for the ‘meet the fans’ autograph & photo session.
Sunday was once again hot & sunny, so personal energy levels were now down in the red zone. The ‘Autograph Hunters’ team from Macclesfield won the afternoon’s soul quiz and their determined efforts were partly in support of team leader Glen who still felt aggrieved over the way the early hours artist autograph session had been run. By Sunday evening the stamina sapping sun and relentless pace of the event had caught up with most of the crowd. Some had already exited the arena and were heading home but most season ticket holders were steeling themselves for the Sunday night anthems party sessions. It was after 10pm when the final stragglers dragged their weary bodies into the music rooms and by then proceedings were already in full swing. The fancy dress competition had come and gone but had assisted in breaking down the barriers to ensure everyone entered into full celebration mode. At 1am, as the bar closed in the modern room, the DJ pairing decided an appropriate track to play was Maze’s “Joy & Pain”. This resulted in the dance floor quickly filling up and as L.J. Reynold’s “Key To The Word” followed, no floor space was freed up. The anthemic theme continued in both rooms. As “Independent Woman” and “Don’t Send Me Away” pleased dancers in the modern room, “Hand It Over”, “In Orbit” and “Gotta Have Your Love” did a similar job in the main room. “Nine Times” was played in both rooms in quick succession but no one seemed to mind. The popular choices spun helped persuade tired feet to stay in action right up to 2am when proceedings were finally drawn towards a close.