Monday, May 15, 2006

Hi-De-House!

Just completed a pretty hectic week that’s taken me up to Liverpool and back to down to Lord’s; so here’s the low down… not terribly humorous but we are talking about house music and sport – two forms normally fun pursuits that I seem to take rather seriously. This will merely serve as a historical account of how I misspent my *cough*youth*cough*; while providing a detailed backstory in case I ever become a character on Lost.

It began last week with the Southport Weekender… no quite in Liverpool but, as I’m sure you can guess from the name, it’s in Southport – a beachside town about 30 minutes from the ‘Pool. It’s pretty difficult to describe the Southport Weekender other than it’s a three day/three night dance music festival with the advantage of staying in chalets onsite. Kinda like Band Camp… but with Soul, Hip-Hop, R’n’B and House Music and not so much of the flutes. It was a a dream come true for me to make it to Southport – it’s been going twice a year for almost 20 years now and I’ve known about it for probably five years and figured by moving to London I’d get a pretty good shot and making it along to one or two of them. If I were to conjure up a fantasy music festival Southport would be it: all my favourite house DJs and funk/soul/jazz acts playing over the period of some 28 hours.

I should consider myself very lucky to have got there as tickets sell out months in advance. Thankfully my mates, Ben and Cookie, have a show on Ministry of Sound Radio so I managed to “win” a ticket through them. Everyone I had talked to about going to Southport had told me things like “It’ll change your life”, and “You’ll have the best weekend of your life.” Needless to say that expectations were high as I took the train north of London to Watford where Ben and Cookie live; and from there a couple of cars convoyed their way up the M6.

Don’t be fooled by the accompanying photo – my chalet-mates were sound. I'm guessing it's a traditional Watford trait to flip the bird when some yells "cheese". You’ll also notice in the photo our humble abode. When the Soul Weekender isn’t held at Southport each May and November it is otherwise known as Pontins – one of those dreary holiday camps the Brits migrate to across their fair country each summer. Yes, think Hi-De-Hi and you’re getting the picture. Although that sitcom was set at Butlins, whereas, Pontins is ranked second - to Butlins - amongst Britain’s chain of holiday resorts. Again, I’d like to say the accompanying photo doesn’t do Pontins justice but unfortunately that wasn’t the case. This was no sunsoaked bach in Takaka or Whangamata… but the harsh reality of how the Brits spend their precious few weeks off each summer.

Of course, we weren’t there for a summer holiday – we came for a good old fashioned knees-up. And thankfully the organisers knew a thing or two of how to run a dance event; thusly the dinning hall was converted to the Funk Base, the pub was converted to the B-Bar, and Pontins’ main entertainment hall was converted to the Powerhouse – where I, amongst 2,000 others, spent a good deal of my weekend.

My mates who had hyped up Southport weren’t half wrong. I kinda knew I was going to have the time of my life but it’s always nice experiencing said time-of-your-life rather than predicting it. I could’ve spent my 40 years in Auckland and not seen this many world class DJs… and here I got them all on the same weekend. And what stood out most to me is that all the visiting US DJs knew it was a special occasion, too. Instead of taking the money and jetting back to the States like they normally do; they also stayed on site for the weekend… they hung out in the DJ booth or sat on the speakers watching their comrades play, lapping up the atmosphere. Hell, some of them even had a boogie on stage as evidenced by NY’s Quentin Harris in this clip: http://www.davidgroove.com/quentin.wmv. They don’t call him Queertin Harris for nothing!

One of the many things that makes Southport unique is that you have the best weekend of your life clubbing safe in the knowledge that your “house” is situated literally 300 metres from the “club”. So when your legs finally turn to jelly you needn't worry about catching a night bus or shelling out for a taxi - you just wander back to your chalet and sneak in a couple of hours sleep. That said, I was roughing it more than most. Because I was a last minute tag along with the Watford massive there wasn’t a bed for me. I didn’t let that deter me as I took my roll mat outside and slept on the pathway. Summer had just arrived and I couldn’t think of a smarter way to catch some rays and some winks all in one hour. The fact our neighbours tip-toed over me, dropping their spare change into my upturned cap, would suggest they don't understand my logic.

Sleep-time is a valubale commodity at Southport. With the DJs playing the night sessions, on Saturday and Sunday afternoon there are live acts and other special performances to rouse you from your slumber. And Saturday produced my highlight of Southport – the Sounds Of Blackness. They’re a 40-person gospel group who have performed at the opening ceremonies of the 1994 Football World Cup and 1996 Atlanta Olympics. Over the years they’ve also done private performances for a couple of American bigwigs with the last name Bush. I would’ve loved to have been a fly on the wall when Bush Senior and Junior saw Sounds Of Blackness because this troupe managed to whip 2,000 jaded clubbers into a complete frenzy and minutes later would have the majority of the Powerhouse in tears.

But that was just the halfway point of the Southport Weekender and the good times kept rolling. Time for a spot of namedropping for those in the know: my highlights, aside from Sounds of Blackness, were sets by Frankie Feliciano, Dennis Ferrer, and Una doing a live performance of “Sanctuary”; all on the Friday. On Saturday night Kenny Dope played a two hour hip-hop set, followed by Carl Craig playing music I never knew existed let alone you could dance to! While in the Powerhouse Terry Hunter and, especially, Kerri Chandler both had me with my jaw on the ground. And it wound up on Sunday afternoon with live PAs by Monique Bingham and the legendary Byron Stingily.

But the comedy PA award has to go to the equally legendary Alexander O’Neil who, whilst having technical difficulties, started filling the silence as if he were Eddie Murphy with stories of when he was a shoes salesman. He finished with the memorable quote that: “'Nobody can tell me sh*t about shoes… if those muthaf*ckers hurt in the shop, they're gonna hurt ALL the time!”

Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end… unless it’s the Southport Weekender where people refuse to let the good times finish. So, on Sunday night you can head along to any number of pubs in Southport town and there you’ll find parties, followed by after-parties, followed by lock-ins. And excpect the odd guest appearance by the US DJs who, like the patrons of the Southport Weekender, can’t bring themselves to go home. On this occasion it was Kerri Chandler who played a free, unannounced set over the road from Pontins at a lazy watering hole called The Sands.

On a completely different note to the Southport Weekender I managed to get along to Lord's for the first test of the year. Again, like Southport, this was a dream come true - after all, this is the home of cricket. Similarily to my Southport experience I had a big stroke of luck getting a ticket. You see, cricket is awfully popular in England of late because last summer they beat a nation called Australia which won them a trophy called The Ashes. Face value for tickets to Lords these days are around the £40 mark. And given the sport’s current popularity the ground sold out on the day tickets went on sale; meaning Matt and I had to resort to ebay. And given the scarcity of tickets they were going for around £80 - £100 each on ebay. But we managed to put in a bid for a pair of tickets that went on sale a week before the test. We started off with a very conservative tenner each knowing that things would escalate faster that Willy Wonka’s Magical Elevator as the deadline neared. But strangely ours was the only bid and we got the £40 tickets for £10 each!

I’ve got to say that Lord’s is an amazing venue. Its grandstands are a world away from the dilapidated stadiums I’m used to in New Zealand. But the playing field itself holds all the quaint charm you expect of an English cricket ground.

Not only could you feel the history and reverence this ground holds but the patrons that come to watch cricket here are a different breed from that in New Zealand. They drink maturely, clap politely and cheer only when it is warranted. In fact, when Kevin Pietersen brought up his century every single person inside the ground all stood and clapped at the same speed, same volume, for 45 seconds and then sat down as if they’d rehearsed this kind of celebration before. It was amazing to the point of being eerie. This was all the more staggering when you factor in that you're allowed to bring alcohol into the ground!

The action wasn’t thrilling, in fact I fell asleep at one point which was jointly due to my pervious weekend at Southport and the fact the English and Sri Lankan teams have about as much appeal as a pair of dirty undies. So, during the lunch break Matt and I went for a walk around the ground and where I spied the special banner they’ve put up to commemorate Dion Nash’s 11-169 bowling figures for New Zealand in 1994. I was also surprised to spot a banner celebrating Daniel Vettori’s 5-30 – the best bowling figures in a One Dayer at Lord’s.
I've already got another day of cricket lined up at Lord's in June. And I can't see myself missing another Southport Weekender so long as I'm this side of the equator.

6 Comments:

At 9:08 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My skin colour has changed to green, not about the cricket (couldn't think of anything worse) but Southport sounds incredible. Sure beats the Bus Conductors at Spy on Saturdays.
Anyway bootilicious, keep up the gingerness.

Respect
Tors xxxxx

 
At 5:51 am, Blogger Bee said...

Hi Dee Hi

Pleased you have had two dreams come true.
We never got email to say there was a fresh blog, but I found it by fluke.
Keep up the story telling adventures and "stay cool till after school"
Love
B,M,I & D

 
At 9:20 am, Anonymous Phantom 48 said...

Hi De Ho
Looked more like a concentration camp than a holiday resort, but then with all the music and stuff going on I guess a lot of concentrating was needed.
Next time you run out of money you can do what came naturally (sleep that is) and still earn a few $$$ (sorry but I don't have the pound sign on my 'puter).
Doesn't sound like you're coming back to this side of the world anytime soon, so as always, take care.
Luv - Mum xxx

 
At 9:19 pm, Anonymous Anita said...

I think it's amazing to read your stories and get a real sense of the excitement and wonder you've experienced.

I think I'm jealous. I can't say I've had that many experiences in my life that I could describe with such joy and facination as you have.

I'm so pleased you've had these opportunities.

I'm sure you'll have more.

Take care
Love
Anita

 
At 1:20 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gr8 yet again 2 c anothr update. Wot wonders u get 2 c & do. U tell it all so well 2.
Luv hearing yr xploits, keep them coming!
Sending our love across the world,
NLCJC

 
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