You're A Melody at St John-At-Hackney

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  • The 225-year-old St John-At-Hackney church is one of London's most spectacular venues. When I entered on Saturday there was still enough light in the cold February afternoon to illuminate the stained-glass windows behind the DJ booth. Coloured beams streamed onto an empty dance floor while the sound of gospel reverberated around the church's stone interior. It's hard to imagine a more evocative way to start a day of dancing. You're A Melody began at Plastic People in 2013. The first party was a humble affair—the only flourish was the pound-shop party balloons hanging from the ceiling. But the recording of the night attracted widespread attention. It's been played nearly 250,000 times since then, and has helped introduce a young, club-going crowd to deep soul and disco. More than 1000 people attended on Saturday, which shows you how far the party has come. It's not impossible to get small crowds to dance to soul ballads, but convention demands that larger audiences require something more thumping. You're A Melody showed that, in the right circumstances, almost anything can move a large room. Slow jams, like Brief Encounter's "Human," were played at peak time. Brazilian, calypso and African rhythms featured regularly. People were incredibly receptive to unknown records and when the song that inspired the night appeared, Aged In Harmony's "You're A Melody," it was greeted with joyful recognition. That felt poignant. (Some context: Aged In Harmony were an act known only to a handful of collectors just a few years ago. Without Floating Points and the You're A Melody night, there's a good chance that record would never have been become widely known.) The crowd's dance moves evolved with each new selection, as the the DJs moved freely between styles and tempos. At certain points, the vibe was almost romantic. All that said, the party literally took time to warm up. I arrived as doors opened at 4 PM and the venue was only marginally warmer than outside. I bumped into Sam Shepherd, AKA Floating Points, who described feeling "cold to his core." It was roughly another three hours before the temperature had risen to comfortable levels. At that point, the party took on a remarkable energy. The DJs performed back-to-back and from where I was standing you could barely make out who was playing. Occasionally I'd spot Antal's much larger silhouette, but most of the time I was too busy dancing to care. What I liked most was that it presented the five DJs, who are all at different stages in their careers, equally. It emphasised the music over who was playing it. Frankie Knuckles often talked about the power of the message—that by selecting the right records you can impart a feeling or communicate an idea. The music played at You're A Melody was full of earnest messages of love, passionately sung. Likewise, the DJs are obsessed with the records they play. All this emotion somehow translated into the night itself. It's perhaps one of the reasons that You're A Melody felt like a genuine celebration. As the final record played out—Alicia Myers' evangelical anthem "I Want To Thank You"—it was hard to shake the feeling that this party had been something truly special.