It’s New Year and that can only mean one thing, not a return to work not a set of un-assailable New Year resolutions but for me and over a thousand other people THE soul music event of the year. For the uninitiated let me set some context to this claim.
Now in to a fourteenth year the Luxury Soul Weekenders are set to celebrate their 22nd event at the Blackpool Hilton over the weekend of the 6th/7th/8th January 2017. Luxury Soul as a concept was thought up by Richard Searling – legendary UK soul DJ and promoter and Ralph Tee co-owner of Expansion Records alongside Richard.
Along with initial support from Jazz FM and Smooth FM before becoming solely partnered by Expansion the Luxury Soul Weekender was conceived as an alternative to the holiday park weekenders that the Soul scene had become associated with. Instead of the out of season holiday and caravan parks attendees were normally used to the focus switched to four star opulence to go with the music. Initially twice a year at the Hilton Blackpool and Hilton Birmingham Metropole Luxury Soul now focuses on the one event a year at the Blackpool Hilton.
So for three days and nights across a cold weekend in January well over a thousand people descend on the Blackpool Hilton for unlimited hours of the best in Y2K and classic Modern Soul, Salsa, Jazz Funk, 60’s and 70’s Soul, Rare Groove, Reggae, Lovers Rock and virtually anything else that falls under the black music umbrella.
As a format some would say it shouldn’t work, but as Luxury Soul fans from across the country get set to diverge on that small piece of the Fylde Coast this weekend you can’t help but stand back and admire the event. Especially now the event is in its 17th year with attendances as strong as ever before.
I’ve been lucky enough to be part of the DJing team at the event from the start and although work and family life has meant I have had to take a step back from any regular involvement in the Soul scene the Luxury Soul Weekender is still the event of the year I can’t help but be involved with. It’s testament to the promoters Richard Searling, Ralph Tee, Ian Tolley and all involved with the event of it’s enduring strength.
Since the first event in 2003 live acts from across the USA and Europe have been central to the event. Those who have graced the LSW stage reading like a who’s who of Soul acts. From Glenn Jones, Howard Hewitt, Phil Perry to Incognito, SOS Band, Atlantic Starr to the late great Bobby Womack, Ashford and Simpson, Chapter 8, Kenni Burke, Rashaan Patterson and literally dozens more. 2017 sees two classic 70’s Soul and Funk groups perform in the UK for the first time.
Breakwater were formed in Philadelphia in 1971 and released two seminal albums for Arista Records– the self titled Breakwater in 1978 which featured ‘You Know I Love You’, ‘Work It Out’ and ‘No Limit’. Splashdown two years later featured ‘Let Love In’ and ‘Love of my Life’. The Pockets meanwhile were known as protégés of Earth Wind and Fire – formed in California in 1975 they appear in the UK backed by a huge body of work including the under-rated gems ‘Come go with me’ and ‘Nothing is Stronger’.
The DJ line-up is un-rivalled at an event of this kind with the likes of Bob Jeffries, Colin Curtis, Baz Maleady, Bigger, Roger Williams, Jim Hargreaves, Chris Box, Mark Grice, Paul Clifford, Ralph Tee, Andy Davies, Pete Haigh, Gary Dennis, Glyn Thornill, Chris Alexander, Tony Cooney, Fitzroy, Jon Jules, Norman Halley, Paul Goldsmith, Flanny, Soul Sam, Simon White, Mike Stephens, Vivvy B, Mike Vitti, Steve Woomble and many more besides.
Four distinct rooms provide the musical entertainment throughout the weekend.
The Lounge – acting as the focal point of the event The Lounge features the best in Nu and Classic Modern Soul along with the best new music and Luxury Soul anthems.
The Lancaster – The alternative room at the weekend, featuring a melting pot of 60’s and 70’s Soul, Reggae, Lovers Rock and Rare Groove anthems.
Queens – Featuring the likes of Bob Jeffries, Colin Curtis, Andy Davies and Pete Haigh Queens is Jazz Funk heaven. Add in the blend of Soul House and Jazz it makes it the most bouncing room of the weekend.
Springs – The Hilton’s on-site night club features the best in classic 2 step soul and R&B anthems. London and Manchester take the lead in this basement room thanks to the cities respective sons Bigger and Mike Stephens.
The action gets underway on Friday afternoon when myself, Jim Hargreaves, Chris Box and Mark Grice get the weekend started with our traditional opening party in the Lounge.
So if this whets your appetite and you fancy getting yourself across to Blackpool this weekend there’s a couple of options left open to you. All weekend entertainment passes are still available from the official website – www.luxurysoulweekender.com most accommodation packages have already sold out but there may be some late availability by calling – 01253 754403. The 22nd Expansion Luxury Soul Weekender takes place at the Blackpool Hilton across the weekend of Friday 6th January – Sunday 8th January 2017.