Southport Weekender 49 came and went in a flash and it was quite simply MAGNIFICENT!! Three years in the bag at Butlins and Southport Weekender is officially settled at its location in Minehead. Dealing with a new venue and trying to maintain the same atmosphere, standard and quality cannot have been an easy task for the Southport promoters and team. The Southport family can happily pat themselves on the back and say WELL DONE! Now we can reflect on SPW49, that absolutely delivered, and prepare as the countdown begins for the BIG 50!
There's no doubt the vibe this year was really reminiscent of many epic weekenders of the past. The environment at Butlins is far more luxurious than Southport's previous home and with the compliance of a stricter music policy on site ensures punters can actually get some sleep throughout the weekend if they want to. It was great to see so many Southport 'virgins' this year of all ages, as well as, of course, the veterans in force who still can't get enough of the unique magic you receive at a weekender. It was pretty obvious that the SunceBeat dome was probably one of the best places to be throughout SPW49 with great performances from Kerri Chandler, Exist (AtJazz & Karizma) and many others who really transported the sound of the beautiful Dalmatian coast to the UK. Of course, one can't always be there and there were an obvious few missing this year; particularly Gerry Calderhead, whose contribution to the weekender received a special mention in the brochure. The spirit of Southport Weekdender lives on and the anticipation this year has been unprecedented and Southport Weekender 49 sold out in record time!
Due to Southport Weekender having upgraded to a better venue it certainly creates a more relaxed feel. The promoters certainly improved the experience by focusing on reducing queuing issues and introducing the MixCloud Dome. Also the lighting, sound and aesthetics were certainly back on par with how Southport has always rolled, QUALITY! There's no doubt the last three years have been a great test of getting everything right for allowing the promise of SPW 50! There was no Skyline gig this year but there's no doubt something will be lined up special for that space next year. New artists on the bill at SPW49 certainly brought a refreshing element to the mix; for example, Black Coffee warming up the Powerhouse on Friday night, whose contribution this year was very much appreciated. Other notable debut performances were from Sadar Bahar, The Mighty Zaf, Move D and Andres, who provided some great gigs over the weekend and it's fair to say there were others who may have found it difficult to capture the spirit of SPW with their sets on this occasion. Most notably Yasiin Bey aka Mos Def surprisingly didn't win the Funkbase crowd, although I have heard from a few other punters that they did enjoy the gig. However, bringing Arrested Development to SPW49 was a great move and absolutely captured the one love, unity spirit that is the heart of the weekender.
Of course, there were many highlights this year! The power of Dennis Ferrer and DJ Sneak in the Powerhouse Friday night was slamming and Ferrer's cool drop of 'Rock The Kasbar' by the Clash woke up the crowd and brought the influence back to the UK! Jose James' increasing popularity created an excellent gig on Saturday afternoon in the Beat Bar. Hot Creations signing Miguel Campbell and label owner Lee Foss warmed up Saturday night in the Powerhouse perfectly for Adeva who absolutely smashed it! Black soul is absolutely at the heart of Southport Weekender and with great performances from Meli'sa Morgan, Melba Moore, Natasha Watts, Dwele and Monique Bingham, who certainly stood out at the After Parties, it all added to an inspirational delivery of vocals. Indeed, for those wanting to party through 'til Monday morning, the After Parties had some great artists to enjoy such as Trevor Nelson, Ralf Gum, AtJazz and Grant Nelson. Other great live acts such as Chris Dave & The Drumhedz and Mala in Cuba certainly added to the creativity and uplifted the Beat Bar and there's no forgetting the legends in the house such as Spen & Karizma on Saturday night in the Powerhouse, Giles Peterson in the Beat Bar, Bob Jefferies and Paul 'Trouble' Anderson in the Connoisseurs Corner Friday night, DJ Cash Money showing us all how it's done and last but not least, the mighty David Rodigan whose return to a packed Funkbase on Friday truly brought the spirit of soul, reggae and choice classics to the mix. Big Up Rodigan!
However, Sunday afternoon was set for the legendary 'Body & Soul' bringing the soundsystem of New York to Southport Weekender and was definitely the highlight of the whole weekend for many people. The great Danny Krivit, Francois Kevorkian and Joe Claussell provided the uplifting soulful house and groove sounds on Sunday afternoon to provide a truly blissful experience. Hearing Gregory Porter's '1960 What' that afternoon reminded me that the party doesn't have to stop here this year, as there's SunceBeat 4 in July and as Gregory Porter is playing live outside in the sun to the same like minded people, I'm sure will be exceptional, no doubt! There were many people at SPW49 who I had met at SunceBeat and it's truly a great addition to the Southport Weekender vibe. There's no doubt SunceBeat is establishing itself integrally to the heart of the weekender.
Other noted performances were from Recloose, Ron Trent, Rich Medina, Horsmeat Disco, Dimitri From Paris, Firin' Squad and of course DJ EZ who's appearance at Southport Weekender is always match perfect! We can't forget the brilliant Southport Weekender residents. Ronnie Herel, Steve Wren and Bigger provided some great memories as always as this year - as did Phil Asher, Kev Beadle, Steve Butler, Gavin Kendrick, Sean McCabe and the legends Terry Jones, Souldynamic, Luis Radio, Andy Ward and Andy Davies.
So as the vibration of Southport Weekender 49 comes down, it is right to add some reflection to the response from the 'Twitter' generation that has manifest this year. Much feedback and comments have been posted on social networking sites regarding SPW 49, some good and some bad, especially related to the 'chalet' parties held at Minehead. Due to the restriction on sound levels, the cult of the chalet parties has been stopped, to the extent that the continuation of such events could even jeopardise the event as a whole! Certainly, a lot of the dialogue has occurred this year between the conformists who are embracing the rules of the new venue and those rebelling against the rules by trying to maintain the vibe created at Pontins. However, the majority of comments have been purely about how much of a good time everyone had this year.
Personally, I think this kind of dialogue is great. Ultimately, one has to remember how crucial the switch to Minehead was. At the time no one was certain what would happen and three years on and having courageously, albeit unknowingly, adapted, it appears the worries are over and Southport 50 is on!
There's no denying what makes Southport Weekender a credible black music event is the crowd as a whole and this synergy is what makes the atmosphere unique and brilliant. The Funkbase was especially created at Southport Weekender later on down the line to cater for this loyal, fun loving and discerning crowd. The Southport family is created to include all people and the unity derived from this collective is what sets Southport Weekender apart from any other festival on Earth.
As for myself, coming from Leeds it was great to see Miguel Campbell on the line up. Seeing the youthful enthusiasm of so many veterans this year and new emerging talent, my thoughts really wondered what talent was out there in the crowd awaiting to be realised. Someone amongst the crowd is still learning and expanding and that for me personally means the longevity of the weekender is here to stay.
One thing is for sure, everyone that makes the Southport Weekender live and prosper have managed to keep its spirit alive! There is definitely room for other additions at Minehead, however. There's a pool there waiting to be used and loads of space for other things. The bottom line is: you can only really get a true understanding if you experience the event yourself. I think many will agree Southport Weekender is absolutely worth the wait each year. BRING ON THE 50th!!!!!
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