Northern Soul Sydney Australia
"THE OPENING NIGHT" SOUL BISCUITS NORTHERN SOUL CLUB SYDNEY, NSW, AUSTRALIA - 28th JANUARY 2004 I am lugging behind me a box of 100 precious vinyl 45's as I climb the stairs leading to the entrance of Bar Cleveland, the venue for the big opening night of the Soul Biscuits Northern Soul Club in Sydney, NSW, Australia. As the owner and moderator of the Australian Yahoo Group "Northernsoulinoz" and having around 2000 Northern Soul 45's I have been asked to play a couple of sets to help the night along by the event's organiser "Keith "Keefster" Miller. It's 7.30pm and once inside I finally get to meet "Keefster" and his fiancÃÆ’©e Amy, I didnt recognise Keith at first as he has shaven off his beard. There is a little tension in the air, Keefster has been planning this night since he first came to Australia from Scotland several months ago, some said it couldn't be done and now it's the time of reckoning. We are the only three people in the place and are very nervous, is anybody going to turn up? Has all the effort been worth it? Will they like what we have to offer? Oh shit!, this is the moment of truth, this is it!! I look around at the empty venue, it is a great looking place, good sized wooden dance floor, basically three rooms with the bar being the centre of the middle room, with the DJ booth positioned right behind the bar. The place reminded me a little of The Duke of York in Adelaide but with an extra room on the side. I check out the DJ gear, 2 Technics SL1200MK2 turn tables and a three channel Pioneer mixer with one touch cueing. All good so far. We put on the first record to try the sound, its Martha and the Vandellas "No where to run", the haunting lyrics of Martha Reeves echo around the empty rooms, sounds brilliant, 6 large speakers across the three rooms, two not working, find switches on wall, what a fantastic sound, all we need now are people and preferably soul lovers, but right now we'll take anyone! Its 8.00pm the advertised starting time and still only the three of us in the cavernous club, starting to feel lonely and apprehensive, we all look each other in the eye, and without saying anything we all know things are not going the way they were planned. Keefster cranks up the decks and starts to play some tracks, what else can you do? Dave Cutler comes in, four of us now; we talk about old times and old places and hope a few more are on the way to join us. Several people wander in from the stairs and buy drinks, then a few more, followed by Alex White one of the Sydney Soul Sisters, we have a beer at the bar, discuss how its not looking too good, Alex assures us there is a crowd of Sydney Soul regulars on the way and theyd better be here by 9.00pm or shell kill them, somehow I believe her. It's now 8.30pm and things still very quiet, about 10 people and in a place this size thats empty. Keefster is still plugging away on the decks, what else can you do? A few more wander in and then just after 9.00 a good sized contingency of Sydney soul regulars arrive as Alex had promised, well not too bad at least the night wont be a total disaster. Dave Mac and his wife then arrive and at around 9.10 Dave is on the decks spinning some modern. A few more soulies come up the stairs and things are not looking too bad with around 35 in the place. 9.30 pm around 45 in now and a few of the local scooter boys arrive looking the part in their Parkas, we are glad to see them and three of four people are dancing to Daves modern now, the place is filling up nicely with about 50 in, we start to breath a sigh of relief, this could be a reasonable night after all. 9.45 and people pouring up the stairs, where are they coming from? Who cares? Its looking good. Dave has warmed the crowd nicely, about 60 in now and a good friendly atmosphere building, the crack is good and the Sydney Soul scene far better than I expected. More people streaming up the stairs about 80 in now and its time for my first set. I am nervous for a different reason now, not because no-one is in the place, but will they like what I am going to play? I had my set all carefully planned and prepared, now at the last minute I have doubts about it and I am changing my mind, I tell myself too late, your on now son, go to it. It's 10.00pm and time for my first track, its Martha&the Vandellas "No where to run" for the second time of the night, this time with around 85 people listening to it, I am relieved, it goes down well about 10 on the dance floor, well that's OK for a start. Next I play Buddy Sigler "Follow your heart", the big trumpeting intro calls a few more to the dance floor and the place is starting to swing. I stick to a good thing, and follow up with "Run for Cover" - The Dells, "Determination" - Dean Parish and then as the into of JJ Barnes "Please Let me in" swirls around the room the dance floor becomes alive with about 25 on there. We are all feeling good now, Keefster comes into the DJ Booth with the biggest grin I have seen all night, we eagerly shake hands, a fantastic job all-round, the night is better than we could have expected. The crowd are appreciative off the music, I am more relaxed and at last beginning to enjoy the night. I follow up with some of my favourites: "This old heart of mine" - Isley Brothers, "Right Track" - Billy Butler, which is supported by the sharp crack of many hand claps from the dancers, the floor is packed, people have continued to drift in, the place is rammed with about 110 in now, and a few of the Sydneysiders are livening the place up with back drops, spins and other dance floor gymnastics (see photos). Its easy and enjoyable from here on in, just keep the dance floor packed with Northern Soul classics such as "Girl across the street" - Moses Smith, "Let her go" - Otis smith, "Angel Baby" - Daryl Banks, then its Brice Coefields "Aint that right". I follow these with Ace Spectrums "Dont send nobody else", plenty of hand clapping to this one and the crowd are having a great time, even the bar staff are swinging along to it, what an atmosphere, this place is brilliant! Every so often locals enter the DJ booth, they are keen to show their appreciation and also ask for requests, I tell myself this is what Northern Soul is all about. The sounds keep coming and as the intro to "A little togetherness" from the Young Hearts booms around the room, the dance floor is heaving, my two last tracks of this set have come all to soon, slowing things down a little now, but the floor still rocking and clapping to Bobby Paris - "I walked away" and then Timi Yuro - "Itll never be over for me". The place is alive, the dance floor packed, George Coumbis, aka "Agent OO Soul, who is known to have one of the best record collections in Australia enters the DJ booth as he has the 11.00 - 12.00 spot, a soulful handshake and George is at the decks, a brilliant start with "You shoulda held on" from the 7th Avenue Aviators and then "Strange Change" - Herb Ward and "I can't help myself" - The Volumes, the dance floor is alive, the bar sales are brisk and the Sydney Soul Biscuits Northern Soul Club is in full swing. Plenty more great tracks follow from George, he keeps the dance floor busy for his whole set and finishes with "We're acting like lovers" - The Spellbinders and then "Call on me" from the Dynells, great set George, the crowd loved it, Agent OO Soul hands over the decks to Keefster, its another soulful handshake and smiles all around, the Sydney soul scene has been kind to us, they have turned up to support the opening night of Soul Biscuits in droves, all credit to them, a great bunch of people are the Sydneysiders and how they love their Northern Soul. Its Keefster on the decks now, the whole Soul Biscuits Club was his idea and as the clock ticks midnight he has the place jumping and is in fine form. He starts with some old favourites, Jay&the Techniques - "Make your own sweet music", "Working on a building of love" - Chairmen of the Board and then Patty and the Emblems - "Mixed up shook up little girl". Its Johnny Johnson and the Bandwagon - "Breaking down the walls", then the Temptations with "Aint too proud to beg", and then perhaps the bravest play of the night and one of the most successful with Keefster playing "Under my thumb" - Wayne Gibson, the crowd love it and even sing along, the dance floor stays packed all through Keefster's set, no Happy Lappy now, just pure vinyl magic, what a night for Northern Soul. After Keiths amazing set the Bar Manager pulls him aside, and says great job, good crowd, big bar takings, come and see me next week Keith, we need to talk about a regular gig. I am then back on the decks for the last set 1.00 - 2.00pm, again plenty of dance floor action and a good number stay till the very end, including Sydney Soul Sister Alex White who helps with some words of encouragement and advice regarding the next gig. The die hards didnt want to go home and wanted more at 2.00am the official closing time. I am able to squeeze in 4 more before being asked politely by security to call it a night, and what a night, it was suddenly all over, the feeling was one of relief combined with great happiness, the night had worked, the venue was good, the music was brilliant, the sound system and equipment made it all sound great and best of all the Sydney crowd had turned up in style to support the opening night. On behalf of Keefster and myself, we THANK YOU SYDNEY, 120 people came on a mid-week night, you are a great bunch of soulies, thank you for making us welcome, it is very much appreciated and yes, we WILL be back. THANK YOU SYDNEY and thank you KEEFSTER you made it happen. Regards Steve Bardsley PS The next Soul Biscuits Northern Soul Night has been confirmed for the 25th February 2004, same place, same DJ's.