Summer kicks off in London with the first ever Brixton Disco Festival
To kick off festival season, a number of venues across Brixton (The Prince of Wales Club, Rooftop, & Hotel Room, Electric Brixton, Ritzy Cinema & the Windrush Roller Disco) played host to the first ever Brixton Disco Festival....
We started off at The Prince of Wales where the music got us immediately in the mood for a 12 hour disco sesh. After making the most of their “Happy Hour” we headed to the Ritzy Cinema for a screening of ‘Love is the Message’ with a Q&A from disco DJ legend Nicky Siano. This was a great addition to the festival and felt like a unique insight into the world of the first legendary disco clubs in New York - The Gallery and The Loft (David Mancuso took the word house party to another level), with a taste of what was to eventually arrive in the shape of Studio 54. The rare archive footage and images from the days of partying, DJing, boozing, and drug taking made us, for the first time, really get a feel for what it was like.
The following Q&A with Nicky provided us with some hilarious stories and encouraging advice, “the soundsystem should be your first priority”. After the sad passing of David Mancuso last year, Nicky Siano is one of the last surviving founders of NYC disco DJing, they were the people to put it on the map - so the man knows what he is talking about. Siano is still playing some of the best records and spreading disco love...which is the message after all. So you should checkout Nicky Siano’s Hallelujah Disco show, featuring Jenna G (of Jenna and The Gs) on lead vocals (we saw her way back in 2016 at Glastonbury and she is phenomenal) backed up by a full gospel choir.
After grabbing some damn tasty food, there were superb local food stalls on the line-up (food is an essential part of a festival), we headed over to The POW Club. It’s a sexy space with the Absolut Vodka blue mirror themed bar as an open side room to the boogie area. Love Come Down were playing a mix of classics and rare grooves, they take their name from the Evelyn “Champagne” King song, so you can always expect a tasty dose of disco funk from the likes of Narada Michael Walden and Patrice Rushen (checkout our playlist TLGs Early 80s Disco Funk). Up on The POW Rooftop Bar, Crazy P were playing a DJ set filled with electronic disco and cosmic dance tunes, built for summers in the sun, thankfully the rain held off while we got involved.
We, along with half of Brixton, crammed into Electric Brixton for a performance by Disco Queen and legendary vocalist Jocelyn Brown, with a full band. DJ Yam Who? was on before Jocelyn, playing tracks like Dimitri From Paris’ remix of ‘Saturday’ by Norma Jean Wright, which is one of my all-time favourites, a re-edit of both Prince’s ‘Uptown’ and MJ’s ‘Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough’. The man was obviously slaying it on the decks, so we could have happily boogied with him all night.
However, nothing can beat a live band at a festival and Jocelyn Brown brought a big sound with both her voice and punchy band. ‘Keep On Jumpin’’, ‘Always There’ and ‘Ain’t No Mountain High Enough’ are all huge classics in their own right, so the crowd were loving the set. Having wonderful backing vocals and some prominent jazz-funk keys (featured in most of Brown’s songs) makes for an impressive live sound. The crowd obviously went wild for ‘Somebody Else’s Guy’, you could hear the whole room singing along to the intro, ready for the tasty drop into the classic disco funk number. We could see the mass groove sesh from the first balcony, much more room up there to throw some shapes - we adore the Electric Brixton venue but please invest in some more toilets and crowd control, it gets dangerously busy in there.
This live performance was followed by another disco legend, DJ Joey Negro (who we had the pleasure to chat to at last years Love Supreme Festival), the perfect mixing maestro to bring the crowd into the late night party. There was confetti kicking off all over the place, both drag queens and a roller disco dancer (she was spinning around with loads of light-up hula hoops, it was damn impressive), and Joey Negro’s renowned disco remixes pumping out across the venue, such as my personal fave ‘Bourgie, Bourgie’ - the sound system in Electric Brixton is insanely good.
Crazy P followed on the Soundsystem and they were smashing it too, sadly we had thrown enough dangerous shapes for the evening and had to duck out. This whole event was a spectacular example of disco's ability to spread euphoria across a dancefloor, these things usually attract a friendlier and liberal audience so the atmosphere is always wonderful. In a climate where nostalgia holds a great deal of power, and the mainstream has become the mundane, it's a refreshing thought that this is just the first of many more disco festivals come, we'll see you at the next one...