A look back over this new fab new weekender

It’s some time now since I experienced the fun and dancing at the first-ever Ceroc Thrill Weekender, run by Nicola di Folco at The Jury’s Inn, close to Aberdeen Airport, but I always promised myself a retrospective look back over the music.  Music is a great way to tell the story of a weekender, after all, it’s the hours and hours of dancing that draws us to them.

Hopefully, my selection of twelve tracks, and two bonus ones will paint a picture of the fabulous music at this brand new weekender.

Thrill was a more intimate affair than the large scale gatherings of Ceroc Escape weekenders held at Pontins holiday camps, but that’s not to say that the music and dancing weren’t well worth the trip to this outpost on the North East coast of Scotland.  I’ve drawn these tracks from across the entire weekend. They range from music heard in the main room, and the second chill-out room and also the Sunday Tea Dance, that gave me some of the best chill-out dancing from my whole year.

An impressive DJ line up

Of course, the music served up at any weekender depends so much on the DJs who take their turn behind the decks and Nicola had put together a team with an enviable weekender pedigree.  Nicola herself, Sheena Assiph, Ashley Davis and Tim Sant-Turner are now all regulars in both the Thunderball Room and SILC Zone at Southport, but her line up also included four other DJs who showed the same expertise of creating a great vibe out on the floor – Kerry Slater, from Ceroc North East, Fraser Meechan and Calum Martindale who DJ for Nicola’s Scottish events and Weekender debutant Ben Davies from the West Midlands Ceroc Groove franchise.

It’s perhaps unfair of me to pick out my favourite sets, but I have to give a mention to Kerry’s Friday night main room shift and Sheena’s last hour of the Sunday Tea Dance as being one’s that were standout examples of how to create an exciting and memorable vibe out on the dance floor.  In my listing, I’ve also tried to present a cross-section of the different musical genres.  Having said that the music over the whole weekend had a very contemporary and fresh feel, and that was one of the reasons why Thrill is in pole position to go down as one of my best weekenders of 2019.

3 of the impressive DJ line up – Sheena Assiph, Ashley Davis and Kerry Slater.  Photo courtesy of Mike Smith

1: Caracao – Jerry Ropero & Dennis The Menace & Sabor feat Jacqueline: DJ Ashley Davis, Main Room

It was the job of DJ Ashley Davis to get the party going and he did it with one of this years top main room tracks.  Though first released in 2005, it’s only in the past year that I’ve become aware of this hi-energy track.  This is something of a surprise because it’s a belter and no wonder that Ashley used it to start building the vibe out on the floor at Thrill.

The track, like many club anthems, has its origins in European electronic house music.  It’s not hard to imagine this track rocking the clubs across Europe and it’s a great example of how Ceroc DJs have picked up on so may club anthems to liven up their sets.  Ashley tells me that he’s had the track a while but has only just put it back into his main room playlist:

I remember dancing to it during one of Hayley Epps Thunderball Room sets at Southport.  It rocked the place, so I started playing it myself again.

Like so many DJs, Ashley has an equal passion for dancing and it drives his desire to create the best vibe out on the floor.  I love that he, and other DJs, recognise the potential of tracks they enjoy themselves to rock the floor at their own gigs.

2: Eastside – benny blanco, Halsey & Khalid: Fraser Meechan, Chill-out Room

While Ashley was rocking the floor in the main room DJ Fraser Meechan was kicking off the dancing in the second chill-out room.  What impressed me was just how busy this second room was throughout both night sessions.  The Scottish Ceroc dancers have embraced the smoother and funkier vibes of contemporary dance music.  This has a lot to do with Nicola’s own passion for chill-out music, the time she finds in her class nights to teach a smoother slotted style of dancing and that she provides plenty of slower music at her venues for her dancers to indulge their inner relaxed dancer.

I’ve picked Eastside from Fraser’s playlist, as it has everything you would expect from a contemporary chill-out track.  It is underpinned by a relaxed pulse and features two of the most distinctive voices in modern R&B music, Halsey and Khalid.  In researching the background to this track I discovered that benny blanco (he doesn’t use capitals in his name branding) is one of the most influential songwriters and record producers on the planet – and I’d never heard of him!

benny has contributed as song writer or producer to 100 million albums.  He’s worked with just about every artist you can think of (Ed Sheeran, Rhianna, The Weeknd) and is behind so many great tracks we dance to from Katy Perry’s I kissed a girl to Maroon 5’s Moves like Jagger.  Amazingly I can’t remember dancing to Eastside before, yet it has received half a billion hits on YouTube.  It just goes to show the wealth of music out there and I appreciated that the whole Thrill DJ team dug lots of it up for us.

3: We Got Love – Sigala: DJ Kerry Slater, Main Room

On Friday night it was soon the turn of Kerry Slater to rock the floor.  Kerry runs Ceroc North East based in Newcastle and this is one area I’ve yet to dance in, so this was my first time dancing to Kerry’s main room music.  It wasn’t long before I wrote these words in my notebook:

Kerry is creating a great vibe out on the floor.  Very contemporary.  Lots of new-to-me tracks.

I love the Ceroc Classics, and plenty were mixed into the two main room nights of dancing, but I’ve become a bit of a junkie for the latest dance sounds with their contemporary instrumentation and production details.  Kerry had put together a playlist of mainly modern tracks and I was lovin’ it all.  So much so, that I’m going to mark out her Friday night time behind the decks as the best main room set of the weekend.

That guy Sigala does it again

I’m going to feature one of the brand new tracks that Kerry played, We got love from Sigala.  This is now established as a main room track but, back in November, Kerry gave me the first opportunity to dance to its energy-infused vibe.  Sigala has provided us with some fabulous dance music over the past few years.  Here are a few: his breakthrough track Easy Love, Just got paid, Came here for love, and Give me your love – his collaboration with Niles Rodgers.  We got love is up there with his best.

I love that DJs are on top of the latest releases and Kerry obviously takes pride in providing her dancers with all the latest sounds.  It’s a reason I snapped up a ticket for her sell-out gig at Newcastle’s Baltic Arts Centre at the end of March.  Bring it on.

4: Waterbed – Hearts & Colors: DJ Nicola di Folco, Main Room

Even though there was a chill-out room next door, the main room DJs still found time for some down-tempo tracks, and Nicola served up a current favourite that again shows the contemporary feel of Thrill.  I love up-tempo tracks and the way the DJs use them to set the floor on fire, but now and again we need a bit of a break and tracks like Heart & Colors Waterbed provide a perfect opportunity to stay on the floor while you rebuild your energy levels.

Another track that is currently being used to provide a bit of downtime in main rooms is Kygo’s reworking of Whitney Houston’s Higher love.

This wonderful Tropical House version of Steve Winwood’s original was featured several times over the weekend and was a great example of how the DJs crafted their sets around these mid-tempo favourites.  Here though is Waterbed.  It has some wonderful modern instrumentation but what makes it a standout track is its catchy sing-a-long chorus.  Listen to the relaxed backing track.  Just perfect for a smooth dance with plenty of opportunities to express some joyous musicality.

4: Little by little – (Lulleaux & George Whyman Remix) – Ulf Nilsson: DJ Nicola di Folco, Main Room

I know we all have our own favourite tracks, and I love that I have the opportunity to share mine with you in my reviews.  I love this track, and since first hearing it at The Ship last year – the Ceroc Evolution super event held under the Cutty Sark –  I always look for a partner who will share my joy at dancing to it’s uplifting and sometimes emotional mid-tempo rhythm.  I got lucky.  I got one of the best dancers in the room.

Those readers, who have followed my visits to Scotland will know how impressed I am with the level of dancing up there.  In several reviews I have featured two of the best – I call them the M&Ms.  I got to dance with one of them to Little by little.  As I came off the dance floor on a dancing high I walked straight to my note book and highlighted these words.

‘Little by Little’ – great track, fabulous dance with Margaret.

One of the joys of weekenders is that they attract the best dancers and this was certainly true of this event.  I don’t doubt for a moment that everyone had dances like the one I had with Margaret to the wonderful Lulleaux & George Whyman remix of Ulf Nilsson’s Little by little.

6: Click, click, click – New Kids on the block: DJ Calem Martindale, Chill-out Room

Chill-out DJs are known for constantly introducing new tracks into their playlists from all the latest releases and digging around in the music archives of the last few years.  It means that few tracks hang around to become classics.  This is in marked contrast to the main room playlists that are packed with tracks from every decade.  However, there are a few tracks that are so good for chill-out dancing that they are always making an appearance.  Click, click, click by New Kids on The Block is one such Chill-out Classic.

What I love about this track is the pulse that underpins it’s laid back vibe.  It hits you from the very first note and it gives you something to connect with in an instant.  Last year I put together a playlist of twelve classic Chill-out tracks and was pleased to give this track top billing.  In my list (see link below) I also included Out of goodbyes by Lady Antebellum and Maroon 5, a track suggested by Sheena Assiph.  I’m pleased that Sheena gave this delicious track a play in her standout Tea Dance set (more of which later).  Here then is Calum’s choice of Click, click, click.  Everytime I play it I want to be instantly transported to a chill-out room.

7: Something About You – Elderbrook & Rudimental: DJ Nicola di Folco, Main Room

No apologies for featuring a third Nicola track.  Nicola has built an enviable reputation as a weekender DJ, and I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing both her main room and chill-out room weekender sets.  It’s a reputation built on her ability to keep her playlists fresh and mix them up to maintain a great atmosphere out on the dance floor.  No wonder that her venues consistently sell out.

Elderbrook & Rudimental’s Something About You is one of those tracks that works well in both chill-out and min room settings and is another example of a track that DJs use to cool the temperature out on the floor.  But if the track’s tempo is a little laid back it has an electronic pulse that pushes so many buttons in my dance brain that it’s more than capable of taking me to Dance Heaven all on its own.

8: Ticket to Ride – Eight to the Bar: DJ Nicola di Folco, Main Room

Oh dear, another Nicola track, but I had to have this one in to give an example of the different styles of music that was served up for everyone.  I was torn between featuring this and one of Sheena’s retro tracks – 25 Miles the House Music treatment of Edwin Starr’s Motown ’60s floor filler by record producers The 3 Amigos.  I’d recently featured this track in my music selection from the Breeze Weekender (see link below), so to avoid duplication I decided on Eight to the Bar’s  Rock ‘n’ Roll inspired version of The Beatles Ticket to ride this time.

You may think you have never danced to Eight to the Bar’s music, but you would be wrong.  They are responsible for the swing classic The Walk of Shame with its opening line of This is a little song for all you bad girls out there.  Needless to say that Nicola also found space for The Walk of Shame but I’ve chosen to feature Ticket to ride because of its rock ‘n’ roll flavour.

Like many of the tracks I’ve featured in this listing, it gave me and my partner a fabulous dance.  This version of Ticket to ride is fast, and whenever I get such a track I try to select moves that are suited to the fast pace.  So time to bring out the Hand Jive.  I’m surprised that this move is rarely taught now, as it’s great for bouncy Rock ‘n’ Roll tracks.  Here then is Eight to the Bars take on a ’60s Beatles hit.

Calum does his bit for the Aberdeen dancers

One of the reasons that Nicola and her partner Fraser put on Thrill was to bring the Weekender experience to their local Aberdeen dancers.  Though I have met a couple of the local dancers on my frequent visits to Southport, Aberdeen is a long way from anywhere.  I know a few more make the journey to the Perth Fresh weekender and The Stirling Balls but I thought it very admirable that Nicola and Fraser took a weekender to them.  What was even more gratifying was that the Aberdeen dancers showed their support for the event and ensured it was a sell-out.

The Aberdeen class is run by Ceroc teacher and DJ Calum Martindale and it’s a sign of his success in building a loyal following to his lessons that Thrill had such a  wonderfully sociable atmosphere.  Calum had a big part to play in the proceedings and was responsible for one of the  best fun elements of the entire weekend when he led the Ceilidh (that’s a Kay-lee to any non-Celtic speakers).

As well as his classes over the weekend, Nicola also gave Calum both main room and chill-out room DJing duties, and he would play his part in providing the music for the Sunday afternoon Tea Dance, which provided a perfect musical climax to the whole event.

DJ Calum Martindale provided music over the whole weekend.  Photo courtesy of Mike Smith

9: So in love – Jill Scott feat. Anthony Hamilton: DJ Tim Sant-Turner, Sunday Afternoon Tea Dance

Several of Nicola’s DJ team also doubled up as teachers, but Nicola was also able to call on the services of Ceroc Head of Dance Tim Sant-Turner.  Tim put on three very well attended classes including the top-level SILC Development class.  Tim is, of course, one of the very best Ceroc Weekender DJs and I’ve regularly had the pleasure of dancing to both his Thunderball Room and SILC Room sets.  I was also lucky to be in attendance when he did his first-ever Camp Attack party hour at Southport and one of my greatest Southport memories remains his inauguratory Motown and Soul Speciality Hour slot.

What pleased me was to see that Tim was asked to kick off the Chill-out Tea Dance on Sunday afternoon. This particular afternoon provided, in my opinion, the best music of the whole weekend and Tim showed all his skill behind the decks to create a relaxed vibe that just got better and better as Calum, Ben and Sheena took their place behind the decks.

A track with a joyous vibe

As always Tim showed the depths of his musical knowledge by finding some wonderful and delicious tracks I’d never danced to before.  I’ve picked this track from 2011 as it has soul running through its veins.   When we dance to music we primarily connect with the beat or pulse – and this has an infectious one – but every so often we connect with the way the song makes us feel.  So in love features the emotion-filled voices of Jill Scott and Anthony Hamilton at their soulful best.

The result is a track you can easily lose yourself in.  I must admit I’ve been listening to this track over and over, as I write this article, and every time I’m bowled over by the key change as Scott appears to give a nod to Al Green’s vocal style as she delivers the line I’m so in love with you.  Perhaps we don’t hear the subtleties of songs the first time we dance to them, so I hope that Tim brings this one regularly because there is a joyous vibe to discover in its soulful delivery.

10: Only you – Parson James: DJ Ben Davies, Sunday Afternoon Tea Dance

Ben Davis was making his debut as a DJ at a major event.  Ben had been providing the Blues teaching at Thrill and I was pleased to see that he was given a slot in the  chill-out room on Saturday night, where he was able to put some Blues tracks into his set.  I think it’s important that the music variety of a weekender allows people to practice the techniques that they have been shown, so Ben was a thoughtful addition to the DJ team.

On Sunday Afternoon Ben took his place behind the decks as part of the team that provided the wonderfully relaxed vibe for the chill-out Tea Dance.  I’ve picked this track out from Ben’s set on that Sunday afternoon.  Only you by Parson’s James has a very gentle beat and an understated musical score.  This makes it perfect for a Modern Blues dance.

Only you’s slow pace and James’ at times emotional vocal delivery also makes the track suited to an Expressive dance.  Most Modern Blues DJs are now introducing Expressive music into their sets and once again many of the dancers at Thrill were up to the task of showing their musicality to the Bluesy and Expressive tracks like Only you, and I’ll feature the thoughts of one such dancer later.

11: Party is a groovy thing (DJ Prince remix) – People’s Choice: DJ Sheena Assiph, Sunday Afternoon Tea Dance

Chill-out Tea Dances aren’t just about slow grooves.  The best have a fair chunk of funkified music too.  Many contemporary R&B tracks have a funky vibe running through their instrumental layers, but sometimes you can’t beat playing a good old fashioned ’70s or ’80s funk classic, and Shenna played one of the best.  People’s Choice’s Party is a groovy thing is a great example of ’70s funk.  It has a laid back groove but it’s driven along by a funked-up electric piano backing track.

I’ve embedded a 2013 remix – to be honest, I’m not sure if Sheena simply played the original – but I love this modern reworking by DJ Prince.  Listen carefully and you’ll hear how Prince adds the backing track to The Fatback Band’s Spanish hustle to take the track to a higher layer of  funkified dance joy.  There’s even a sample from The O’Jays For the love of Money in the introduction.  Add the way DJ Prince ups the bass level and you have a modern dance track that proves just how much today’s record producers owe to the ’70s funk masters.

12: Sweet lie – Max Jury: DJ Sheena Assiph, Sunday Afternoon Tea Dance

For the last hour of the Tea Dance Sheena Assiph gave a masterclass of chill-out music.  It was all there.  Retro funk tracks like the People’s Choice track above, and  Wild Cherry’s 1976 chunk of funk Play that funky music mixed in with contemporary funk tracks like John Lee Huber’s Tosca (I would have featured this serious funked-up track but I had to keep the list down to twelve).  In her set were smoother chill-out classics like Out of goodbyes – the collaboration between country act Lady Antebellum and Maroon 5.

Sheena never allowed the vibe to get too mellow and found time for contemporary tracks like Aaron Carpenter’s Attitude which slaps you in the face with its modern funk credentials.  There were obscure tracks mixed in with monsters like Burak Yeter’s Tuesday featuring vocals from Danelle Sandoval, but I’m going to feature  a track that had Sunday chill-out written through it.

Max Jury’s Sweet lie is a 2019 track that has a gentle beat, with a great big piano chord pulse, that instantly hits the Chill button in your dance brain.  Gorgeous strings give this track a joyous feeling and if that wasn’t enough a Niles Rogers-esque guitar lick kicks in to take you to where ever it is you want to go.  Uplifting, relaxed and joyous all in one delicious composition.  Like I said, Sunday chill-out running through every notes.  What a way to end a most wonderful weekender.

Two Bonus Tracks

13: Breathe in – Daddy was a Milkman: DJ Nicola di Folco, Main Room.

Good music is at the epi-centre of any good weekender, but there is one more ingredient that is needed for an event to be labelled GREAT – people who share your connection with the wonderful music.  I’ve said it so many times that Scotland is blessed with some wonderful dancers, both male and female, and time and time again I found myself thanking my lady partners for some quite exceptional dances.  It was with one of these ladies that I would have one of the best expressive dances of the weekend.

On Saturday night, Nicola was once again on the decks in the main room.  Towards the end of her set, she played just about everyone’s favourite chill-out track Breathe in by Daddy was a Milkman.  I’ve had the most wonderful dances to it in the past, and always selfishly look for a partner who I know will do it justice.  I think a lot of us are picky about our partners when we recognise our favourite tracks – I’m no different.

Over the previous two nights, I’d danced with several ladies who shared my love of chill-out music and the opportunities it offered us to express ourselves to the music.  One of these ladies, who I now know as Ashley, was free for Breathe in.  This track is, on one level of connection, a delicious piece of music perfect for a relaxed dance, but on another, it can ignite a sense of well-being that encourages you to lose yourself in its warm embrace.  Remember, both yourself and your partner must feel the same connection to the track to lose yourselves in equal measure – this we did.

14: Now and later – Sage the Gemini: DJ Ben Davies, Sunday Afternoon Tea Dance

The subsequent visit to the dance floor remains one of the best expressive dance memories of the weekend.  Ashley’s dancing suggested that she had an equal passion for music and so I asked her if she would give me her thoughts about the music served up by Nicola and her DJ team;

We knew that Thrill would be amazing, as Nicola never disappoints with her playlists, and picked fab DJs to join the team.

It was good to hear a local dancer agreeing with my own thoughts about Nicola’s DJing skills.  Ashley went on to describe the music she had loved:

Lots of slower, funky tracks (old and new) to dance to.  Add in some fun, go mad ‘Dance Monkey‘ vibes, and top with beautiful tunes like ‘Breathe In’ to get lost in.

Ashley also mentioned the Tango and Blues music and then this wonderful accolade:

The music at Thrill was the perfect recipe for a wonderful weekender.

I gave Ashley a list of some of the tracks that had been played at the Tea Dance, which I know she enjoyed immensely, and asked her to pick out one that she had particularly enjoyed dancing to:

Sage the Gemini please – soooo much going on in that song.  I loved dancing to it.

This track from 2016 is certainly something different, and as Ashley says there is so much going on.  I suspect that this was one of her ‘Go mad Dance Monkey vibes’.  Now and later is a great track to complete the picture of the variety of music served up by Nicola’s top DJ team.

Related Links

The tracks featured in this article are now available as a Spotify Thrill Weekender Playlist

20 Things we love about Ceroc Aberdeen Thrill Weekender

12 Classic chill-out tracks inc Out of goodbyes

Music from The Ceroc Breeze Weekender inc 25 Miles