Some thoughts on trying to run a little suburban club night with good music

Ultimately, as humans, I think we're all seeking to recreate the experiences we've had when we've felt most alive. We want the feeling to come back. We want the good stuff to happen, again and again and again.

I've been into music and dancing like an eejit for my whole adult life, but particularly over the last five or so years I've got into the... what, shall we say 'niche clubbing' scene around Newcastle? Little nights, generally early-starting, put on by enthusiasts that are heavily focused on the music.

The much-missed Funky Butt Club was the best night, and in some way, the one I'm always looking to recreate. Why? Good, varied music, a good vibe, some mad dancin', the right venue; objectively it wasn't anything particularly eye-catching, but dancing is magic and the feedback loop there was super effective. Plus, subjectively, it was the right thing I needed at a particular point in my life.

I ended up being lucky enough to play guest spots at it a few times - the first times I'd properly DJ'ed in public. Since then I've played a number of parties, launches, guest slots, etcetera. And, over the last couple of years, I've tried to run my own nights.

They were the lowest of low-key, but it was a thing. Found a venue that seemed amenable, I didn't really care about money so played for free if they let me use their PA and play what I want, printed some flyers, played some choons.

There were moments where that sense of life felt like it was igniting. I'd tried advertising (flyering, The Crack, Facebook word of mouth) but that's a load of boring nonsense, and never really seemed to make much difference; just sometimes, if I was lucky, in addition to a small fluctuating group of long-suffering pals, occasionally there'd be a few other folk in the bar who happened to get it, and were drunk enough, and some dancing occurred and the sense of something supra-mundane was, if not summoned, then at least glimpsed.

But, after a while, without growth, it's hard to keep doing it, y'know? The venue seemed to become a little wary of the music pushing out their regulars, and their schedule got booked up with events with wider appeal. My mates, bless 'em, have turned up pretty frequently (and for some nights, I roped some of them into DJing too), but sometimes the atmosphere's just not there and dancing just doesn't kick off.

As with most things, it's the hope that kills you - it's when you think you've flyered enough folk who'd dig it and you've really got some corking tunes and it's gonna be good, it's gonna be magic. And then... the vibe's just a bit flat, the venue are a bit ambivalent, friends are late or ill or tired, and some other little local event has accidentally scheduled itself on the same night, splitting the minimal inherent audience further, and some folk you don't know who you met when you played more populist stuff for them on another night have come along.... but are disappointed because you're playing less recognisable tracks.

And you think: what am I doing? And realise: it's pointless and you are not having fun and you are an egotistical idiot for thinking you could do the thing.

You think you know good music, and maybe you even do, maybe you can put on the exact night that you'd want as a punter, but that's not enough.

Anyway, yeah, I know this sounds like wannabe-DJ whinging, but that's not really what I'm aiming for. It's a more general point, and one which I've felt in virtually every creative endeavour I've attempted. And the point is:

Doing stuff that is good is difficult. And you've got to try your best to make the thing that *you* would dig, and hope other people dig it. And if you're lucky they will, but realistically, they probably won't, but that's okay, you tried. It happened.

You might feel a kind of sad disconnection with your fellow humans, a melancholy at their lack of the same taste as you, their lack of willingness to break from the apparent herd, but you've got to reject that assessment, because the same thing is probably happening to them.

Everyone tries to do things they think will make communal magic in their own life, and mostly, it won't - because everyone is different and it's hard to encourage humans to do things.

Here's the track-list from August. With the slight exception of resorting to Billy Jean (good but a bit mainstream) near the end as a last gasp attempt to lure folk to the dancefloor, I'm pretty solidly happy with it as the kind of thing I intended to do when I started. No one can say it didn't happen.

Fleetwood Mac - Man Of The World
Quincy Jones - Summer In The City
Bob Thiele Emergency - Head Start
Cymande - Bra
Stranger Cole - Rough And Tough
Basil Cabbidon And Buster's Group - Warpaint Baby
Tabby Thomas - I Don't Care
Mad Dog Sheffield - Cool Cat
Sugarman Three - Chicken Half
Don Sebesky - Guru-vin
Basic Sounds Of Pittsburgh - Down Beat
The Mach 5 - If I Could
The Sonics - Boss Hoss
Shirley Bassey - Light My Fire
Nicola Conte - Bossa Per Due
Roy Hargrove's Crisol - Afrodisia (Snowboy remix)
Melvin Sparks - Get Down With The Get Down
Bobby Womack - I'm A Midnight Mover
Frankie & The Classicals - What Shall I Do?
Syd Dale - Down In Soho
The Fatback Band - (Are You Ready) Do The Bus Stop
S.O.U.L. - Express Yourself
Little Sonny - Eli's Pork Chop
Icewater Slim & The Fourth Floor - I Don't Understand
Derrick Harriott - Reach Out I'll Be There
Don Drummond & The Skatalites - Garden Of Love
Laurel Aitken - Boogie Rock
Chuck Berry - Come On
The Detroit Cobras - Can't Do Without You
Barrence Whitfield & The Savages - I'm A Good Man
Milt Matthews Inc - Disaster Area
The Meters - Hand Clapping Song
King Curtis & The Kingpins - Whole Lotta Love
The Beatles - Why don't we do it in the road?
Sam & Dave - You Don't Know What You Mean To Me
Luther Ingram - Oh Baby Don't You Weep
Bettye Swann - The Heartache Is Gone
Nancy Wilson - The End of Our Love
The Olympics - The Bounce
Robert Parker - All Night Long (parts 1 & 2)
The Jim Jones Revue - Shoot First
Aretha Franklin - The Weight
Bob & Earl - Harlem Shuffle
Martha Reeves & The Vandellas - Nowhere To Run
The Capitols - Cool Jerk
The Len Price 3 - If I Ain't Got You
The Prisoners - Nobody Wants Your Love
The Bamboos - Eel Oil
Michael Jackson - Billie Jean
Rufus Thomas - Walking The Dog
Hubert Laws - Let Her Go
Gene Harris - As
Taj Mahal & Toumani Diabate - Queen Bee
Billy Preston - Go Now


Been meaning for years to compile a list of good little nights you should check out if you like dancing in and around Newcastle. May still do that at some point, but, briefly, a few fairly regular nights you should consider: That Beat 'n' Rhythm (northern soul), Terminus Northern Soul (northern soul), Mini Mayfair (classic rock), Jumpin' With Stagger Lee (mixed soul, ska, r&b, etc).

Cheers to anyone who came to the nights I've put on (and/or may put on in the future), hats off to everyone who has played any part in running any of the excellent little local nights I've flailed about at over the years - you rule, keep at it, what you do is appreciated.

See yous on the dancefloor.