Craig Charles Funk and Soul Club at Thekla in Bristol, feat. Levanna Mclean

WHEN I was about 10 years old (18 years ago) my parents started going to Northern Soul nights in the area again. They tell me they used to go to these mythical nights, when they were teens and I’m not sure if it was a midlife crisis but around the time they turned 40, someone invited them to an event and they went and fell in love with the experience all over again.

This led to my Dad moving from the dance floor behind the decks which he did for about 10 years and said he’s still open to!

During this time, my Mum and Dad would play soul music at home and would even dance around the kitchen.

My twin Sister and I even had a dedication from Richard Searling for our 13th birthday!

The music was foreign to me and epitomised my parents’ young lives so I wanted to distance myself from it. I wanted my own identity. My rejection could only hold out so long though as the heart-wrenching music grabbed hold of me and made its home somewhere deep inside.

I was hesitant to go to a Northern Soul night due to preconceptions and because none of my friends wanted to but I started watching ‘Northern Soul Girl’ Levanna Mclean‘s videos on YouTube and my interest in the world of soul piqued again.

When she’s dancing to these fantastic tunes Levanna beams like she’s in heaven and I wanted a piece of that experience.

It was time to go to a soul night and after letting a few great local nights pass me by, I saw Levanna was going to be part of a major event at Thekla (a former cargo ship moored in the Mud Dock area of Bristol’s Floating Harbour). Now that I live in Cardiff after moving down from Cheshire, I had no excuses. I booked a ticket and on Friday, March 25, as soon as I finished work, I’d be driving down the M4 for a dance.

When I arrived at the venue, I was surprised that most people seemed to be under 30 years old! Preconception no.1 defeated. It was a chilly night and the lights from the ship flickered out over the undulating water. While waiting in the slow-flowing queue I could smell someone smoking weed and there was a young man having every pocket searched at the door. He was clean though…

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I was eager to get inside. I didn’t want to miss a second. I finally got in and went upstairs for a drink but I still had to wait half an hour to go in to the main room in the lower deck of the ship.

As my excitement and impatience bubbled away I had time to headbutt a low-fixed ceiling speaker which I thought, from the corner of my eye, was a red balloon. This was after no more than half a pint…

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Levanna Mclean bossing the decks in her second set

At last the main event began downstairs. There was a long bar that stretched along one wall with the stage at the back. The dark, atmospheric room was still filling and there was a smattering of revelers on the dance floor. The main woman Levanna Mclean was on stage behind an impressive sound system, wasting no time getting in to playing a mix of soul, Motown and a few well-known floorfillers. She looked like she’d always been a star DJ and no doubt that is something that will come to light. One of the reasons Levanna was at the event was to promote her new Northern Soul compilation CD that you can buy at various places, such as Amazon and HMV. I’m happy to say it’s doing very well and deservedly so. She also does a Northern Soul show on Bristol radio station BCfm on Saturdays from 7pm-8pm.

It was such a good feeling to be there with people who had the same love of soul music as me and who just wanted to enjoy themselves. Everyone was dancing and smiling.

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Soul dancing

It was great to watch Levanna playing songs she clearly loved. There were moments where you could see the electricity of an amazing voice or beat spark in to her and she wanted to pull away from the decks, lose the headphones and glide in to dance steps. She kicked off the night with a classic, There’s a Ghost in My House by R. Dean Taylor. Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell’s Ain’t No Mountain High Enough and a Northern version of Feeling Good by Jean DuShon got everyone moving and singing. I felt like I was where I was supposed to be and I wondered why it took me so long to be there.

After Levanna’s first set was over I had a bit of fun dancing to another DJ but I’d come for the Northern Soul so soon headed back up deck for Levanna’s second set. This time I’d get to enjoy an hour of her spinning some of her favourite soul sounds.

I have to admit, I wasn’t familiar with half of the songs played but that simply highlights my lack of knowledge. And it didn’t stop me dancing for the full hour!

We were joined on the floor by a fantastic dancer who seemed to know every move in the book. He was spinning and kicking despite the narrow dance floor and although it wasn’t a pure Northern Soul event, he and the music Levanna was playing, gave me an insight in to what could be in store for me at future nights.

Levanna wrapped up her wonderful set with Bobby Womack & The Brotherhood’s Home Is Where The Heart Is and although my untrained legs were almost dead I didn’t want to go home – I was having a great time.

But I said my goodbyes and thank-yous and looked forward to next time!

Find me on Twitter @jbriscoe26

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