We joined Kerri Chandler and Chez Damier for the final Southport Weekender
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Walls of ever-changing lights run down both sides of the room, creating a psychedelic effect that’s enough to stop you dead in your tracks. But the crowd shows no sign of stopping: several thousand of them, enraptured by tonight’s DJs, Kerri Chandler and Chez Damier.
One of the most diverse audiences to be seen on a UK dancefloor, they are variously black, white and brown, range in age from mid-20s to late 40s and if mainly British, also feature pilgrims from all corners of the globe. They are united in the width of their smiles, the glint in their eyes, when they sing without prompt and when they dance as one. Arms aloft, they reach for a spirit that undoubtedly inhabits this room. If it wasn’t for the skillful visual machinery, not to mention the pounding disco, vocal and deep house, this would feel like being in the midst of some evangelical church.
This is Friday, the first night of the 52nd Southport Weekender, and the 5,500 people here have just embarked on what will be an emotional experience. Many are longstanding attendees who have met and made lifelong friends, or even partners, at the event. But amid the joy runs an element of sadness: after 28 years, the organisers have announced that this Southport Weekender will be the last.
“I can’t believe it,” one dancer, a mother from Manchester tells us. She’s here this weekend with friends and her daughter. “There’s nowhere like this place. I’ve been coming for over 15 years, I’ve introduced friends to the event and many have then introduced others. What’ll we do now?”
Thankfully the sadness is forgotten, for a while at least, as Chandler and Damier start to channel that special Southport Weekender feeling. “He has so much energy, he’s amazing,” Damier tells us as he admires the evergreen New York producer/DJ, close friend and back-to-back DJ partner for the next four hours. “I just have to remember to not talk much to him because he’s in the motherfucking zone,” he laughs.Indeed, Chandler is constantly on the move; when not DJing, he’s adding live keys to Damier’s selections. When David Morales arrives on stage unannounced, Chandler invites him to EQ the version of ‘Lovin’ Is Really My Game’ he’s playing.
Such is his popularity, Kerri has become practically a Southport Weekender resident, almost ever-present in the last decade’s line-ups. An engineer at heart, he is often seen running between rooms, tweaking the sound for other DJs– always beneficially. Damier kicks things off with a remix of a 1980s African dance track, ‘Yembele’ by Samba Mapangala. It’s a curveball for a 2,000-capacity room used to house and disco.”That’s the fun part of playing back-to-back,” says Chandler, delighting in his friend’s bold selection: “not knowing where it’s going to go.”Damier quickly moves into the room’s comfort zone with the Tedd Patterson mix of Black Science Orchestra’s ‘Where Were You’, its fathomless bassline an echo of the material released on Prescription Records, the deep house label Damier ran with Ron Trent in the 90s. Trent, who plays the night after, can be seen by the side of the stage, smiling and nodding approvingly as Damier drops the François K mix of ‘Go Bang’ by Dinosaur L. Later, Chandler moves through more techno-edged selections that recall relatively recent collabs with Dennis Ferrer and Jerome Sydenham. Ancient deep house cuts such as Marshall Jefferson Presents Truth ‘Open Our Eyes’ get audible yelps of approval from the crowd.
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