Do you own more than one Roy Ayers LP? Do you know your Donald Byrd from your Bobby Byrd? No, this is not an advert for Jazz Funk Addicts Anonymous. I'm describing the type of person that might go to Southport Weekender: a three day event that crammed the best black dance music from the last 30 years into Butlins, a usually sleepy British seaside resort.
An event for the "heads," Southport often sells out before any acts are announced. It's the place to go if you're into the more soulful side of the electronic music spectrum: a fact that seems to be acknowledged by the DJs as much as the crowd. Where else might you see D&B mavens Fabio & Grooverider play a set of vintage boogie, or Derrick Carter trading in his trademark jacking house for a selection of strutting, early morning disco? There's a sense of occasion that comes with a set at Southport Weekender and DJs consistently seem to bring their A-game.
As you might expect with an event that features veteran jocks like Frankie Knuckles, David Rodigan and Danny Krivit, much of the music on offer has a revivalist feel. However, if you were so inclined, you could sniff out plenty of music that was unmistakably current. Friday saw the likes of Julio Bashmore, Floating Points and tech house aficionado Andre Lodemann take to the stage. In fact one of the first night's highlights came from Robert Glasper Experiment, a live jazz improv group that climaxed their set with an insane talk-box-soaked cover version of Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit." It certainly wasn't the kind of thing you'd expect to see at your stereotypical soul weekender, and all the better for it.
Obviously, when attending an event that spans three days and five arenas you're always likely to miss something great. Highlights that I saw included Jazzy Jeff's inimitable hip-hop set, an excellent soulful house workout from Kerri Chandler and a scene-stealing slot from Greg Wilson: who managed to sum up the feeling of bleary-eyed love that was in the air when he dropped "Could Heaven Ever Be Like This?" by Idris Muhammad at 8:00 AM. In fact, almost everything I saw over the weekend was of a really high standard. (Apart from David Morales' questionable choice in fashion. Skin-tight white jeans are not a good look for a man over 50.)
The regulars who help sell Southport out every year probably won't appreciate me telling you this, but the Weekender really is something special. If house, soul and disco are your things, then you should certainly give this a try.