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Southport Weekender Festival

Venue: Finsbury Park, London

Date: 10th June 2017

By Andrew Kay | 12 June 2017
When the organisers stated that Southport 52 a couple of years back in Minehead, would be the last one, it certainly seemed to be the case that Southport would be no more. Well, moving it to London’s Finsbury Park for an all-dayer, but keeping the ‘Weekender’ branding seemed to be a positive power move. Which, judging on today’s results, seemed to have worked.

The DJs were the usual suspects - Bigger, Ronnie Herel, David Morales, Paul “Trouble” Anderson, CJ Mackintosh, to name but a few.  The crowd were mostly over 25s and the vibe was right - people came to enjoy themselves - and the weather complimented that warm, fuzzy and musical atmosphere that pervaded the entire area.

The priority VIP entrance was welcome- it saved schlepping. The toilets were a bit nicer; there were places to buy cocktails and to sit on bales of hay, and even a VIP-only tent with the cream of House music blooming from inside.

Taking an initial overview of the various music arenas, eateries and bars was a good way to get the lay of the land, and to sample a smorgasbord of grown folks' music.  As the weather was so balmy, each tent had its own way of dealing with the heat. The Sounds of Detroit arena seemed humid and stuffy, whereas Mi Soul ‘s arena was a lot cooler - it had a lot to do with the material that covered the area, not so much measured by how many were in each arena at any one time.

After sampling a bit of everything including the famed Powerhouse, Liverpool Disco Festival and Funkbase, I decided to take a punt on the first live performance of the day: Amp Fiddler in the Detroit arena.  Usually accompanied by a live band, today Amp was flying solo to a subdued, but quietly appreciative crowd. Syncopated rhythms of melodic funk, piano-tuned and computer-knob tweeted spewed forth, with Amp’s vocals enveloping the instrumentals as and when the song’s bridge demanded. He played his own compositions, often stretching the chilled-out funk to epic lengths, whist also covering soul standards like ‘Glow of Love’ by Change. It was an idyllic brook of slow and steady funk, a great palette sorbet for the main course to follow. The lack of pressure playing to an early crowd of punters meant Amp had the advantage of free reign to play what he wanted and how he wanted to do it.

Off to Mi Soul’s arena for a combination of Melvo Baptist and Booker T. This arena was much cooler than the Detroit, especially as it was pretty warm outside on the grass.  The atmosphere inside was one of overwhelming wellbeing. People just kept smiling at each other; there was no static; no macho posturing or selfishness and ‘Incredible’ by M.Beat featuring General Levy got four middle-aged punters dancing credibly in unison. There was plenty of selfie-directed dancing with Iphones to accompany the Afrobeat soundscapes, and when the hype man directed the crowd to “hug a stranger,” people did just that, and it was a beautiful thing.

Pacing myself in the VIP area in the heat was probably a good idea. A pit-stop to have my phone charged in the cocktail lounge whilst sitting outside on a bale of hay was a necessary evil. It was £10 to charge otherwise, unless you had a famed ‘green’ wrist-band.

Melon Bomb in the VIP tent kept things going and my energy levels from sapping.  20-minute sprung-out House jams were the order of this juicy, refreshing duo. Not my kind of bag, but I got on fine with it, and the arena participants were of an older persuasion, so only had enough level vibes for anyone else inside. I stayed for a bit of CJ Mackintosh, who handed over from Melon Bomb, before I headed to the main evening's proceedings - a bit of this, much more of that.

Roger Sanchez and David Morales were playing to a less-than-sardine-packed crowd. Usually the Powerhouse is the main event at Southport, followed closely by the Funkbase, but this was actually the other way around. Still, I compromised my indifference for Deep House, even though a brilliant reworking of ‘Din Daa Daa’ by George Kranz, (which was the only good thing about ‘Breakdance 2’ as ‘Tour de France’ was the only good thing about ‘Breakdance’,) kept me curious and intrigued. Always a good way to leave an arena.

The Funkbase, not the biggest arena, but the most hectic, was where I spent most of the evening. Ronnie Herel, (not sure what happened to Jazzie B, OBE?) did an enjoyable and energetic set concentrating on his laptop like a chemist with a beaker filled with a toxic liquid, whilst hype man Butch Cassidy amped the crowd. 90s hip-hop morphed into 90s RnB, ending his hour on a two-step classic.

The sweat dripped from the heat-absorbing material, and tribal, macho- posturing, snaking, pushing and shoving was in utter effect as we all waited for the main event: DJ Jazzy Jeff. Of course, as the shape of the tent changed with all the short-attention span changes-of-mind individuals inside, it was harder and harder to see the intricacies of his set. His hype man added accompanied energy, but it didn’t really matter. It was all about the musical journey he took the crowd on. Everything from ‘Easy Like Sunday Morning’ by the Commodores to ‘Toto’ by Africa, to a Latin boogaloo remix of Stevie Wonder’s ‘Superstition.’ Even a folksy reworking of ‘Can I Kick It’ featuring the exasperated horse sample from Mel and Tim (‘Good Guys Only Win in the Movies’) used by Cypress Hill on ‘Insane in the Brain,’ amongst many other snatches of sounds and samples played out to the packed crowd. It was like he was making the music geeks wild out whilst educating others. Some of the choices were a little too safe, but, overall, it was an inspired musical journey, proving that good music comes from all kinds of genres, and when they’re melded the way Jeff did this evening, your  appreciation of music goes up several octaves.

Judging by the happy, chilled-out, spliffed and smoking, munching and drinking crowd of music connoisseurs, Southport is set for a remix and revival all of its own. Apparently dead two years ago, it’s come alive again, for loyal fans and a whole new generation of people who really know what’s going down: the complete antithesis of other alldayers and festivals like Wireless.

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