Jack went to the South London Soul Train to catch the Dutty Moonshine Big Band live in concertIt Is a pretty cool time in the UK vintage remix scene right now. With the release of the new Captain Flatcap album just over a week ago, any concern that the scene might be turning in on itself that I may have had started to dissipate. Add to that the imminent prospect of new music from Electric Swing Circus and reports from the festival scene that Jenova Collective are going from strength to strength, plus the arrival on the scene of Tuxedo Junction, and things are starting to look really interesting.
If ever there was an act that I felt could potentially develop a following outside the vintage remix scene it is the Dutty Moonshine Big Band. Having played sets on some pretty massive festival stages (Glastonbury’s Shangri-La and Boomtown’s Town Centre), they have had the sort of exposure that they’d need. But perhaps more importantly their music is varied enough to create an hour-long set that feels at one and the same time part of a unified concept but with enough variety that it doesn’t get repetitive.
I had the chance to put this theory to the test this weekend past as I headed along to the South London Soul Train at the CLF Art Café in Peckham. As you might guess from the night’s name, this ain’t no vintage remix night. Now, Dutty Moonshine might not be the easiest thing to come to terms with if you’re not familiar with them, so I was interested to find out what the crowd would make of them.
As I often do when I’m attending a gig for journalism reasons, I went by myself. This is a great way to ensure that a) I don’t get too hammered, meaning I don’t have to make up half of the review, and b) it forces me to talk to other people at the gig, which helps to get an impression of what people make of it.
I’d been to the Art Café before for a Correspondents gig a few years ago. It really is one of the coolest venues in town. Set over three floors, it is a far cry from the trendy clubs in Shoreditch that often host Vintage Remix nights – no snazzy sofas, no quirky light fittings, no overpriced cocktails. The concept is simple: put a stage and a bar in, and let the people dance. The bare concrete of the stairwells helps to create an underground-y vibe. Furthermore, it is conveniently close to my house, so that’s a big tick.
The next thing to say is that the crowd is undeniably cool and sexy. I lost count of the number of times I had to double-take as some vision of loveliness sashayed past en route to bar or dance floor. The style is very relaxed: unlike many vintage remix nights, I was the only person in the place wearing a trilby, so far as I could tell. What’s more, everyone was super-friendly, being more than happy to chat to me. Of all the people I spoke to, maybe six or seven in total, not one had heard of the Dutties before, and no one was there specifically to see them.
When the band came on stage shortly after midnight they got a warm reception, and if there were any doubters, once they’d played their first couple of numbers the doubts were banished and the dance floor was jumping. There’s no doubt in my mind that if you really want to make a vintage remix night pop you need MCs, and in HypeMan Sage Dutty Moonshine have one of the finest. His delivery and presence on stage are fantastic, as is his appreciation for the original sound. Tracks like ‘Caravan’, ‘Bonklet’ (for which Captain Flatcap stepped out from behind the decks, where he was deputising for Dutty Moonshine’s regular disc-botherer, and gave his flute a tootle) and ‘SuperSharpSwinger’ were definite favourites with the crowd. My personal favourite Dutty track, “Yeah, Yeah” was received with similar enthusiasm. By the end, the chant of ‘one more song’ shook the floorboards, and for an encore the gang delighted the crowd with a Game Of Thrones / Mary Poppins medley that was weirdly heavy and amusing at the same time.
Once the set was over I hung around for a short while. If you’re a vintage remix fan and you’re in London but can’t find a specific vintage remix event, the South London Soul Train is as good an option as anything. It has a certain griminess to it that’s very appealing, and if you like old tunes in modern contexts like I do you’re laughing. It’s a welcoming, fun crowd, the drinks aren’t stupidly expensive, and getting home (at least, if you live where I do) is easy. The atmosphere is similar to one found at a vintage remix night – no aggro, no posing, just people dancing and having fun together. The next Soul Train pulls in on 17th December with a James Brown special… I’ll be there with (Crimbo) bells on.