I get my Nicola-fix after all

Back in mid-February, when I got my first look at the DJ listing at the forthcoming Ceroc Southport Weekender, I noted disappointingly that one name was missing – Nicola Meechan di Folco.  Nicola has long been a regular in the SILC Zone and since 2018 she’s also had Thunderball Room DJ slots too.  I’m a great fan of Nicola’s music as it always includes lots of new-to-me tracks that are instantly danceable.  I reviewed Nicola’s first-ever Thunderball Room DJ slot and have enjoyed her music on my many trips to Scotland (see links below).  Thankfully I was not to miss out on a Nicola-fix as I was due to dance at her Perth Party night the weekend before.

It’s a long way from my hometown of Derby to Perth but it was a journey I wanted to make.  Let me explain.  I’ve done a lot of dancing in Scotland since I started my blog and made many good dance friends in the course of my visits.  I was looking forward to catching up with them all at Nicola’s Christmas Ball at The Stirling Albert Halls but sadly it fell foul of new Covid restrictions north of the border over the festive period.  To show my support I promised Nicola I would come as early as possible to one of her Party Nights.  Hence my visit to the Salutation Hotel in Perth.

The dance hall at The Salutation.  Photo by Tel Jenkins of Fresh Weekender class

Never before featured tracks

What I love about Nicola’s playlists, whether it’s at Southport or her Scotland venues of Perth, Stirling, or Aberdeen, is the fact she mixes in plenty of tracks I’ve never heard before.  Like any top DJ, Nicola will play the current round of dance favourites but mixed in with them will be a lot of fresh music for me to dance to.  I think it’s so important to offer dancers new music and not the same old, same old.  It keeps the dancers interested and people like myself, who dance three or four times a week, appreciate the different sounds that are served up for us.

As ever there were tracks I can’t ever remember dancing to.  Some I may have heard a few times, but I’ve ensured that every track I include in this article has never been featured before in any of my reviews.  Hence the heading ‘Fresh great tunes from Perth’.  I know amongst the many people who read my blog are DJs who will sometimes pick up on the tracks that I feature.  Recently I was dancing at a Burton upon Trent Town Hall freestyle when I heard a track that I’d featured in my last review of Nicola’s music.  DJ Mark Emmans-Taylor was happy to acknowledge that he had lifted it from my review.  I know DJs love sharing their great finds and hopefully, my blog helps facilitate this.

Burton Town Hall rocks to one of Nicola’s tracks.  Photo courtesy of Mark Emmans-Taylor

There’s always a place for our favourite tracks

As I mentioned above, Nicola’s set included many of the current favourites.  For all I love fresh new music it’s still important that the songs we all love get plenty of plays.  So Nicola included One Kiss from Calvin Harris & Dua Lipa, the Kygo remix of Whitney Houston’s Higher love, Jess Glynne’s All I am, the Filatov & Karas remix of Imany’s Don’t be so shy, the VIP remix of More than friends from James Hype & Kelli-Leigh and a whole lot more.

Nicola also found room for Elton John and Dua Lipa’s Cold heart.  I think I’ve heard this track every time I’ve been out dancing but I still love it.  DJs do have to be careful not to overplay tracks but Cold heart still seems to have a lot of life left in it.  Thankfully Nicola didn’t play a track I think has outstayed its welcome Walk the Moon’s Shut up and dance.  I know some people love this song but I think it has become a bit same old, same old.  There I said it.

A no-nonsense dance remix

After that mention of the same old, same old I’d better mention a track I can’t ever remember dancing to that I loved.  It’s such a joyous piece of dance music that I’m surprised I’ve seemingly not danced to it before.  The track is the Love to Infinity remix of Faith Hill’s 2000 worldwide hit The way you love me.  Faith Hill is one of the most successful Country Music singers of all time and when you listen to the original version you can hear all the elements of a Country music song.

When Love to Infinity remixed the track they turned down some of the Country music instrumentation and added a no-nonsense dance beat that I could instantly connect with.  Sometimes it takes a while to get your dance brain tuned into new music and this is what makes this version of The way you love me such a great choice as it’s instantly danceable.

A lockdown track everyone is playing

Take you dancing by Jason Derulo was released in the middle of Lockdown.  All the DJs must have been waiting to play it and it has become a post-lockdown favourite.  I’ve featured quite a few of these Lockdown releases in my reviews since we were allowed back on the dance floor but this is the first time that I have featured this track.  Jason Derulo is one of the biggest contemporary R&B stars and Ceroc & Modern Jive DJs have picked up on many of his tracks since he burst onto the scene back in 2009.

Perhaps his most recognised tracks are the 2011 offering It girl and from 2015 Get Ugly, but take a listen to In my head from 2009 and Talk dirty from 2013.  I love that DJs pick up on tracks from Derulo.  It just proves how ‘down with the kids we all are.  My kids will cringe when they read that, but I have a saying that you are only as old as the music you dance to, and dancing to music from artists like Jason Derulo keeps you feeling young.

A remix of a pop classic

One of my favourite main room sounds is Always have, always will by Ace of Bass.  However, Ace of Base won’t be remembered for it but they will be remembered for their biggest hit All that she wants.  It’s a track that failed to cross over to the Ceroc scene unlike the aforementioned Always have, always will, however, Nicola came up with a reworking that really worked for me.

The Sound of Legend 2019 version of All that she wants works because it has a contemporary sound and feel running all the way through it and a beat that is so easy to connect with.  I love these contemporary reworkings.  It helped that I recognised it – I couldn’t help but pick out the saxophone lick from the original –  but it’s the modern production that makes it exciting.

As the track goes into an instrumental break I can easily imagine Nicola behind the decks in the Thunderball Room at Southport and it pumping out of the Thunderball Room speakers.  Some tracks are just made for the Thunderball Room.

A fabulous Motown and Soul Triple

I love Motown.  At Southport, my must-dance-at Specialty Hour is the Motown & Northern Soul slot.  Look out for my upcoming review of how DJ Tony Riccardi rocked the floor with his selection of Motown and Soul tracks.  What I love about Nicola’s playlists is that she visits lots of different genres and she put together a Motown & Soul Triple that had me in Dance Heaven.

She started with The Isley Brothers’ much loved This old heart of mine (Is weak for you).  She followed it with the lesser-known but to Soul Boys like me an even better track, 25 Miles from Edwin Starr.  I consider Edwin Starr to be the greatest of all the voices that graced Motown records and this track with its thumping beat is pure dance joy.

Nicola then played the third of her triple – Knock on wood.  Now any Soul Boy will know every note of the Eddie Floyd original but sadly it’s just a little slow for Ceroc.  For this reason, Nicola played a more modern reworking by Seal.  The beat was just perfect for the third of a fabulous triple.  Needless to say, I had to sit down after three full-blown dances.  Even seasoned Soul Boys have to sit down now and again.

You can’t help but feel the emotion of this vocal

Sometimes all we want is a straightforward dance and tracks like my first Nicola pick, The way you love me, with their easy-going beat and lyrics are just perfect.  However, now and again we want to dance to something with a little more feeling.  Nothing ever hurt like you by James Morrison is one such track.  Before Morrison starts singing you find yourself easily connecting to the beat but get ready because a lot is going to happen.

We then hear some wonderful ’60s style Memphis Horns backing (straight out of the Stax Studios where the original Knock on wood was created).  This horn embellishment adds elements of Soul to the track and it’s not long before Morrison adds his own soulful voice to the lyrics creating some wonderful uplifting emotions.  Now you have something extra to connect with and if your partner feels the same vibe you are in for one hell of a dance.

I’ve heard this track many times on the radio but never had the chance to dance to it before.  It’s a mark of Nicola’s understanding of what makes a great dance track that she found a place for it in her playlist.

A remix freshens up a post lockdown favourite

Nicola certainly knows what makes a great full-on dance track and one of the best is Feeling it too by The 3 Jays.  This hi-energy club anthem is one of Nicola’s favourites and I’ve enjoyed so many great dances to it at her events.  I’ve featured this track many times before in my blog reviews and while this article is about new music I still had to give it a mention.

If there is one track that made its mark after dancing resumed in July last year it’s Ed Sheeran’s Bad habits.  It seems we are not tired of it because it’s played as much as Elton John’s Cold heart.  We will eventually tire of it but I suspect that remixes will keep the interest alive.  Not surprising then that Nicola played a reworking where Sheeran collaborated with British rock band Bring Me The Horizon.  Reading the comments on YouTube it seems that Ed Sheeran re-recorded the vocals for this version and when added to the more excitable vocal sections from Bring Me The Horizon recreated this track as a rock anthem with a slightly faster beat and a whole lot more energy.

I love that Nicola found space for this reworking, but that’s what she does well – creating an eclectic mix that keeps you interested throughout the night.  That’s why I wanted to see her at Southport again.  Maybe in June.

Nicola dips into the Country dance vaults

American Country Music occasionally finds its way into DJ Playlists, but recently it seems to have had an uplift in popularity and now has its own specialty hour at the Southport Weekender – Vince Silva’s Buck ‘n’ Boots Saloon.  Nicola has long been a fan of Country Music and its associated line dancing.  Not surprisingly Nicola included a fabulous new-to-me Country track.  Turn the night on by Kaleb Austin has a driving rock beat that is so easy to connect with and little wonder I was able to have a fabulous hi-energy dance to it.

I love contemporary dance music and so do all the top DJs but they have to be careful not to do a modern music overload and that’s why I appreciate the DJs who trawl around the dance music dance vaults to give us something a little different and that’s what Nicola does every time and her inclusion of this fabulous Country track is a great example of her DJing craft.

Eurovision throws up a funked up vibe

Here is another example of Nicola digging around and finding something a little different.  Abu Dhabi was the 2019 Czech  Eurovision entry sung by Mikolas Josef.  Have I danced to this before?  Well, I can’t remember but I hope it gets picked up by other DJs because it has a funked-up vibe that would rock any main room freestyle.  Its funk credentials might even get it a spin in a Sunday afternoon tea dance.

When the track opens, you have no idea what you are in for and then suddenly a drum and bass backing takes hold of your dance brain.  The vibe is straight out of Funk Central and you are invited to show some funked-up musicality.  Again I can see this being played in an afternoon Boudoir set at Southport with all the trendy young things giving it some and more.  While I’m definitely not a trendy young thing, I might just sneak in too.

Something so contemporary

I mentioned above that I love contemporary music and Nicola served up a track that has modern production techniques running through every beat, Where are you now by Lost Frequencies & Calum Scott.  This track has one other aspect that I love – changes in tempo and instrumentation.  I can’t help thinking how different this type of music is from the Motown dance music of my youth.  Motown took over the dance floors because of its four-four beat that was so easy to dance to.  It’s a style of music that has proved timeless and retro Motown nights pack dance floors every weekend.

Much modern dance music has the same easy dance beat but a night of dancing to a simple four-four beat would be boring.  It’s why including tracks like Where are now into playlists is so important to keep the dancers interested.  That’s what I love about Nicola’s music choices.  In amongst all the regular favourites I know I’m going to dance to something a little different with a great contemporary feel.

A late-night chilled fix

I first enjoyed Nicola’s fabulous music in a late-night session in the SILC Zone at Southport (see link below) and I always know that I’ll be treated to some relaxed vibes as the night draws to an end.  Nicola played two chill-out favourites of mine, Gravity by Leo Stannard & Frances and Breathe in by Daddy was a Milkman.  I can’t get enough of Breathe in but this article is about fresh music and so I want to feature a chill-out track that was new to me and right on cue Nicola served one up towards the end of the night.

Like wine by Jordan Marcotte has been around since 2016 but Nicola tells me that she’s only just found it.  I can’t say I’ve ever danced to it before, so I’m happy to feature what is a gorgeous piece of chill-out music.  The track also has a wonderful change of pace in the middle section where it slows even more.  Just perfect for that late-night chilled fix.

I mustn’t forget Morag

As with all events, there is a team of people supporting Nicola and I’ve promised Morag who always gives me a warm welcome on the desk a mention.  My thanks also to Nicola for sharing her thoughts with me about the Scottish dance scene and her passion for great dance music.  Without people like Nicola showing their passion for what they do our dance scene would be a lot less exciting.

Enjoy another dance fix with my novel

If you enjoy reading my dance blogs, I’m sure you’ll love reading my novel, Would you like to dance?.  It tells the story of how Ellie and her friends discover the joy that is partner dancing and find the confidence to enter an amateur dance competition.  The story is full of the excitement and passion that I feel dancing and I’m sure many people will recognise themselves in the ten characters that make up Ellie’s Newbie Dance Gang.

Why not visit the website I’ve designed to support the novel.  It is packed with background information on how I came to write Ellie’s story and reviews from the people who have already enjoyed it.  You’ll also find whole sections dedicated to the joy that is Modern Jive dancing including photo galleries and videos showing the fun we all have on the dance floor.  Simply click on the image below and you’ll be taken straight there or click this link and go straight to the Amazon book store where you can download it.

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