Soul Night @ King George’s Hall, Blackburn 27th September 2008
Review - T2 Bad
"I’d heard many conflicting reports about Blackburn from ‘It was the best thing since God invented the super-padded Wonder Bra’ to......"!!
For one reason or another I haven’t been to the Soul Night at Blackburn for over a year, so I was absolutely determined to go to their September shindig if anything just to gather a personal view of how the event was doing.
I’d heard many conflicting reports about Blackburn from ‘It was the best thing since God invented the super-padded Wonder Bra’ to ‘it was brown, long and curly and had gone down the proverbial toilet U-bend’!!!! Because the true taste of the dumplin’ is in the eating, the only way I was going to settle the wildly differing opinions regarding Blackburn in my own mind was to go myself, so go I did.
Blackburn is one of those places that you don’t think about unless your team is playing theirs at football or until the quarterly Soul Night comes along. I arrived at 12am and was thinking to myself that for all the years that’ I’ve been going to this event, that I’d never actually driven there myself or with anyone else for that matter who hasn’t had to stop and ask directions or got lost!!!! As mentioned before, apart from football, the Soul Night at King Georges Hall is the only other reason I can think of for going to Blackburn, so making a mental note of how to get to the venue doesn’t seem to be a priority on most people’s list of things to do in life!!!
Anyway on my arrival I was greeted by the door-staff and immediately went to where the Soul room is located only to be told that it had been moved downstairs!!!! I went into Blakey’s bar anyway where DJ Colin Curtis was playing. This arena was nicely packed and had an intimate feel to it and everyone seemed to be having a good time. Colin was playing a menagerie of up-tempo 80’s Funk classics like Joyce Simms - All in all and Atmosphere’s – Dancing in Outer Space etc. There were no surprises here, but it was a good, solid, albeit predictable performance from a DJ legend.
After 30 minutes or so I descended the stairs and headed into what has now become the Soul arena. When the Blackburn Soul nights first started, Blakey’s bar wasn’t used and the Funk room that Colin would have been in up until the Last Blackburn had now become the Soul arena which is hosted in the main by DJ Mike ‘The Red’ Stephens. As I was descending the stairway I could feel the heat that was being generated from the Soul room increasing in intensity the closer I got to the bottom. I wouldn’t say the Soul room was packed but it had reasonable numbers all the same. The only thing I would say was that on the dance-floor which was packed, it was too darn hot and the air conditioning was wholly inadequate.
I can’t have been stood there for more than two minutes and I wasn’t even dancing and I felt the sweat starting to trickle down my spine. Before too long the sweat was rolling down my face which prompted me to head toward the back near the DJ booth for some respite!!!! Mike Stephens was playing at this point and his set consisted of what I’ve come to expect from him with one or two new gems thrown in for good measure.
Since I started doing reviews for this website I have become used to having a steady stream of people who are only too eager to express their opinions regarding the events Soul Control cover and Blackburn was certainly no exception!!!! The original Soul Room started life on the basement level of St. George’s Hall in a room further down the corridor from what is now the new Soul Room and which used to be the original Funk room which is now being held in Blakey's (I hope you’re still with me here)!!! For whatever reason The Soul room was moved to the more bar-like Blakey’s which is on the ground floor and by all accounts all this move has achieved is to provoke a furious debate as to whether the Soul room was better situated where it originally was or in Blakey’s. PHEW!!!!!!!!!!!!!
It’s like a case of musical chairs!!!! Personally I didn’t mind the Soul room being in Blakey’s and I didn’t mind where the Soul room originall was and I don’t mind where it is now, but bloody hell some people seriously do mind and have certainly made their views known!!!!! Talking to the promotions manager, he claimed some people felt so strongly about this issue that they threatened not to come back again unless it was changed back!!!! I hated having to tell him them that I’d spoken to loads that night who said they hated it where it now was even more!!! But to be honest with you, you can only accommodate people’s views and opinions up to a point, because before long the situation will descend into playing a game of rock, paper scissors to settle the issue once and for all!!!!!
Anyway most of the people in the Soul room seemed to be enjoying themselves and I suppose that’s what matters most. Mancunian DJ legend, (or should that be leg-end?), Leaky Fresh & I went for a wander back to Blakey’s bar which was just as packed as earlier and was still playing a similar selection of 80’s Funk, so we thought to ourselves, let’s have a leap of faith and see what’s happening in the Northern Soul Arena!!! As expected the geriatrics were body-popping on the talcum-powder strewn dance-floor. Apparently talc allows them to spin for longer with less friction!!! Our Grand-Parents still know best eh!!! I commented to Leaky that I always wondered why at these types of events that the Northern Soul music is always in the biggest arena, which is generally the least packed and why the sound-systems always sound so ‘tin-pan’? (squeaky to those not from South Central Manchester)!!!!!
We stayed in the Northern Soul arena for 15-20 minutes before deciding to return to the Soul room for the last part of the evening. But just as we were leaving, four security staff rushed past us, ran over to the bar area and gripped two pissed-up Grand Dad’s who’d just had a scrap!!!! This was definitely the highlight of the evening for me because the two old geezers looked like they were at that time of life where they were ready to be fitted with pine overcoats, not training to get in a boxing ring!!! This is the only altercation I’ve ever witnessed in a club that didn’t have people fleeing but actually drew a crowd!!!! It must have been a Blackburn versus Burnley thing!!!! As the two blokes were being ‘escorted’ out by the security, they both looked in need of an oxygen tank….poor things, they should have known better!!!
Neither I nor Leaky knew what to make of it to be honest, so we just went downstairs as planned contemplating if we’d actually just witnessed the oldest set-to since mankind began compiling crime statistics!!! …..Weird! When we got back to the Soul room, it was much the same as we’d left it. Having said that I wondered if they’d pressed the pause button and waited for us to return? The thought would have been nice!!
I was amused to hear a female clubber having a go at Mike Stephens because she spent the majority of the night upstairs in what she thought was the Soul room before she realised it had been moved!!!! The music in the Soul room was still a blend of 80’s/90’s/Y2k Quality Soul grooves and to be honest what I’d heard throughout the night so far wasn’t any different to what you can get anywhere else.
It was at this point it finally dawned on me that I’d finally sussed out the point of the Soul Night at Blackburn!!! The music was the same as most other Quality Soul events and the people were mainly the same too, but Blackburn is where they all come together three or four times a year to do what they do in lesser numbers on a monthly basis at TSOP, Soul Out (Mint Lounge), Seductive Soul, Soul Groove, Unique Soul Vibes, Groove On, Soul Underground etc……. They are all essentially the same type of event; it’s just that their God and idol Richard Searling does it bigger and better than the rest of them put together!!!!
Soul Control Verdict:
I’ve been on a musical journey across many events over the last 12 months and I think I’m better for the experience of it all. Blackburn made sense of what I’ve witnessed at all these other events over this period and I now understand the ethos of Blackburn.
Has Blackburn lost its appeal or not?
I think the vociferous debates that have raged on about all things Blackburn just go to prove that any event is in the eye and ear of the beholder and it’s what the night means to the individual that ultimately matters!! Personally I can take or leave Blackburn, but in fairness I can say that about every other event that is currently running as well.
To those who think that the world of musical entertainment begins and ends at Blackburn, think again because there are other events that can also provide a decent nights entertainment. Blackburn is certainly the king of them all, but to those who doubt this, just remember that familiarity breeds contempt, could you image if there were no Blackburn?
Blackburn is well worth the journey and is a night I would personally recommend. If you've stopped going, give it another go, it might not be everyone's cup of tea, but I've been to a lot worse and there are very very few events on the Quality Soul scene that can claim to be better. If you've never been before, Blackburn is well worth a look.
Soul Control Rating: