Soul Grooves @ The Gateway Hotel, Saturday 31st May 2008
Review - T2 Bad
Why is it always me who attracts the pub loon? Why does the mad-man on the bus always sit next to me? Why do the tramps sat in the doorways in the City Centre............
Because of circumstance, Saturday 13th presented me with only my second chance of attending Soul Groove. I was looking forward to the night because the last time I attended, I thought the music was good and the event provided an overall value-for-money night out. My old Gallery sparring partner and Groovers legend Dean Johnson was on the bill for the September offering, and if anyone knows a thing or two about Soul music, then Dean does so off I went to see what was in-store for me.
It was a mild, dry Saturday night (for a change) and on my arrival I was greeted by the usual throng of smokers gathered outside the main entrance which has now become synonymous with the smoking ban at most venues across the country. I negotiated my way through the public house part of the venue toward the stairway and to where Soul Groove is held on the first floor.
Before I got to the staircase, I was called over to a table full of pub regulars who asked me if I was going to the Soul Night upstairs. I told them yes and one of them asked me if there were any ‘fit women’ in there who were ‘Up for it’!!!! I looked at the bearded desperadoes in front of me, (admittedly with a grin on my face) and replied, ‘It depends what you mean by up for it mate’?
I continued, ‘If you mean up for the music, well that’s what they’re here for….I think, unless you know you know something I don’t’. He then replied; ‘You know what I mean mate’!
At this point I’m thinking to myself, why is it always me who attracts the pub loon? Why does the mad-man on the bus always sit next to me? Why do the tramps sat in the doorways in the City Centre always want to strike up a conversation with me about the meaning of life, the mating habits of the Galapagos Turtle or who do I reckon would win a race on grass with football boots on, Thierry Henry or Usain Bolt? I must have one of those, ‘He looks like he’s up for a bit of intellectual abuse’ faces!!!!!! Anyway I told them they’d just have to try their luck like the rest of us, wished them all the best and beat a hasty retreat upstairs.
The entrance to the function room where Soul Groove is held was like the Marie Celeste when I finally got there, I could hear the music but there was no-one about!! After a minute or so of waiting, I went into the function room and some dude bounced over toward me from the dance-floor area and ushered me back outside!!! He said it was £5 in and I hurriedly explained to him that I wasn’t trying to sneak in, it was just that I was stood there for a minute or so and there didn’t seem to be anyone about so I just walked in. I think what had happened was that the main body of people had already arrived so the ‘Tax Collector in Chief’ on the door had decided to shake his booty whilst watching the door from the dance-floor.
The first thing I noticed was that Soul Groove was sparsely populated. Dean was on at this point and he was dropping some serious connoisseurs’ Rare Groove. As I said earlier, Dean knows his stuff and I was relieved to see that there were enough people there who were musically educated enough to appreciate his efforts. All the same in this day and age it’s a risk to play such deep classics especially if the night hasn’t been billed as such, but herein lay the problem for Soul Groove: What is the night about?
Obviously it has something to do with Soul music, but there are so many genres of Soul, I personally think its best that promoters make it abundantly clear what the clubber can expect once there. As a case in point, Dean explained to me that he’d never been to Soul Groove before and he was under the impression that it was an upfront Soul night. However on the night he explained that the place only livened up once he started playing 80’s classics and Rare Groove’s!! Dean was experienced enough though to cover himself for any eventuality which to his relief he did!!!
It was a difficult night for a DJ. Because of the numbers, one mistake meant that a full dance-floor became an empty one in an instant, and this seemed to be the order of the night. After a solid set, Dean departed to a round of applause and Nick Flight took over. Nick continued with the Rare Groove theme which was a smart thing to do as this was now the groove that the Soul Groovers were in, so it wouldn’t have made any sense to upset the equilibrium. A couple of friends of mine left early because they said the music was too pedestrian for their liking, but I don’t know at this point what else the DJ’s could have done.
The ‘Pleasure Seeking Pub Regulars’ had now come upstairs and were busy trying to get a dance with anyone without any success!!! But God loves a tryer!!! *LOL* They weren’t doing any harm and to be honest with you, if they hadn’t spoken to me earlier, I probably wouldn’t have noticed them or been aware that their collective copping-off techniques were in serious need of an upgrade!!! I spent the majority of the evening speaking to friends Emma, Gaynor, Maxine, Lisa, Kerry and Sue to the utter disgust and jealousy of the pub regulars who then approached me to ask what my secret was!!!
Whilst laughing my arse off, I told them that I was working for Soul Control and just gathering opinions on Soul Groove for a website review and the people I’d spoken to were just good friends. I just had to tell him that with the look of desperation that him and his mates had on their faces that I didn't reckon they were gonna get too far in their copping quest, especially the ones who’d forgotten to remove their wedding rings!!!! Straight up, just imaging the Marx Brother's with Trigger, Del Boy and Rodney Trotter going out on the pull, they wouldn't be a patch on the pub lot!!! But it was all in good fun.
Nick ended the night with a surprising Lover’s Rock ensemble which had a good proportion of people smooching away on the dance-floor until 3am. It was a really nice and surprising way to end the evening, because this Lover’s set wasn’t just the usual token Janet Kay’s ‘Silly Games’, it was a full-on 30 minute set right until the end of the night and a perfect way to end this different type of Soul event.
Soul Control Verdict:
All in all Soul Groove is what it is; it’s a value for money night out with decent connoisseurs’ music. You won’t find more reasonable bar prices with this type of music on a Saturday night out anywhere else in Manchester. Nick & Leah who run the night are a lovely couple and I wish them all the best on this Soulful journey. But if I could offer them a word of advice and this is something that was repeated to me by many people throughout the evening, is that Soul Groove needs to find its niche in the Soul spectrum and promote the night as such.
There are enough people crying out for this type of music, but the Soul Groove publicity doesn’t seem to adequately convey this. If they can get this aspect of the Soul Groove marketing right, I’m sure the many people in our vast conurbation who yearn for this type of night out, will find their way to the Gateway in future.
Soul Control Rating: