Southport Weekender 50

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  • I might as well get this out the way: this won't be the most objective review. I'm a Southport fan. But then again lots of people are. The event has a serious cult following; most years, tickets sell out before a single act is announced. Southport bills itself as the "the world's friendliest party," a bold claim that feels totally legit. Most attendees look forward to the festival all year, and as such there's a continual air of celebration about the place. Unlike almost any other big dance event, there's a truly wide range of ages in attendance. Southport's been going for 27 years and seems to attract as many 50-year-olds as 20-year-olds, which makes the atmosphere all the more remarkable. Music across the weekend covered everything from R&B anthems to Ben UFO's raw take on techno. Moodymann, Gilles Peterson and the legendary Brazilian singer Marcos Valle were all highlights, but the best reactions were saved for DJs playing soulful house. Phil Asher's set had people losing their shit to records that might soundtrack a chill-out room somewhere else. The buzz from the crowd often made the music seem more exciting than it actually was, so particularly good music seemed mind-blowing. People dance at Southport, with proper, good-old-fashioned moves. Legend has it that Southport dancers even inspired Masters At Work's Nuyorican Soul album. Motor City Drum Ensemble's set was one of the best I've seen in years. The German producer and crate-digger deftly spliced disco and acid cuts with new music from the likes of Seven Davis Jr., keeping the crowd totally engaged throughout. At one point he smashed in the jazz guitar solo from George Benson's "The World Is A Ghetto," the same way other DJs would drop a big bassline, and the place went off. EZ's performance was also one to remember. The garage icon dropped bomb after bomb, provoking one of loudest crowd reactions I've ever heard. Most impressive was his mixing, which, quite frankly, was not human. You know it's a good set when cheesy Daniel Bedingfield records are fueling football-style chants.   Chaka Khan went down well on the Saturday. Any set that starts with "I Feel For You" and "Ain't Nobody" then finishes with "I'm Every Woman" is sure to be a crowd pleaser, but Chaka's skill as a live performer really took things up a notch. She's lost none of her vocal powers or enthusiasm over the years, and spent the entire performance wearing a huge smile, one that seemed to be matched by everyone in the audience. Fatima's live show on the Friday was another winner. Backed by The Eglo Live Band, she transformed her introspective songs into something totally danceable. It was all delivered with the kind of onstage confidence that makes it hard to believe she's just now released her debut album. In fact, it's hard to think of a truly bad moment all weekend. This may not have been an objective review, but Southport is, objectively speaking, a great party.