All aboard the Soul Train

Review by Lily Carr-Gomm


If you are heading out to a ‘Soul Train’ night you are guaranteed a good time. I’ve known this for a while, as it’s pretty much a legend that gets passed on from friend to friend, but boy I was not expecting to have as good time a time as I did last Saturday.

On the first, second and third Saturday of each month the CLF Art Cafe takes over Bussey Building in Peckham and holds one of the most spectacular, largest soul nights in the country. Spread over multiple floors, each a slightly different vibe, the levels of serotonin pumping through each room are utterly unparalleled. When I got a call from my friend telling me that the upcoming Soul Train night was in tribute to A Tribe Called Quest, there was no doubt that we were going to be on that dance floor. The day arrived and nothing could shift my mood, not even travelling from Earls Court to Euston and then from Euston to Peckham beforehand… if anything this made the suspense build and the wait even more exciting. I would usually recommend going in a large group to a Soul Train night because there’s no better feeling than seeing a different mate every time you look around the room, usually when I go I know roughly 20/30 people there but this time it was different as I was in a group of about 8… it was even more fun.

Most of our time was spent on Level 1 with Jazzheadchronic and DJ BOBAFATT on the decks. This was by far the most buzzing room in the building. The sheer excitement that flooded our bodies after hearing the first few beats of each song was absolutely relentless. From James Brown to Sly and the Family stone to Dr. Dre & Snoop, right back to the Jackson 5, no matter what the DJ put on, the crowd reacted with yelps and cheers and dance moves like I’d never seen before. Not only was the music selection perfect, but everything else about the night was up to parr. Enormous industrial-looking fans were dotted around each room, meaning the familiar ‘I’m about to pass out-I’m too hot, let’s go outside for a fag’ line was pretty much completely absent the whole night. The drinks were about average price but the bars were seemingly un-crowded and peaceful, unlike any other club where you spend most of your night trying to get the barman’s attention. Above all, the element that really tied it all together was the lights and projections on the ceiling and walls. This was something that all of my friends picked up on and a really important factor of the night. The vibrant colours and soulful patterns flooded the rooms and completely changed the mood of each level, making the environment even more magical.


After about an hour of non-stop grooving we decided to check out the other floors so made our way upstairs. Admittedly, I was so infatuated with the first floor that I didn’t properly give the second floor a chance, yet I heard that it was similar to the first floor but just on a smaller scale with a different DJ. However, what caught my attention on this floor was a small room at the back… I wandered through the crowd to find the most magical microcosm of intense Northern Soul lovers. The unique 70’s high-kicking dance is a wonder to behold and being vaguely un-educated on the genre I assumed I would be shunned away as a newcomer, but instead the proper Northern Soul dancers warmed to us idiots aiming to imitate them and took us under their wing, showing us various steps and egging us on. The room was about a quarter the size of the other rooms, making the space feel much more intimate and personal, which was a lovely contrast to the other larger rooms.

My night was spent running between intimate Northern Soul step classes and mass euphoria, grooving to Tribe. Just when I thought it couldn’t get any better, Level 1 brought out a new MC. British rapper and Mercury Prize nominee, TY just pumped up the energy to the next level. I read somewhere that he has ‘the intellect, talent and ferocity of an MC destined to become a legend’ and I could not agree with it more. His infectious energy spread through the room, resulting in his having the audience completely in his palm, going crazy when he went crazy and being silent and respectful when he was talking. He was totally magnetic and the perfect MC for the night.

I’m not sure if you can tell by my hyperbolic language but this was one of the best nights I have had in a long time, so as a piece of advice from me to you, if you ever get the chance to tag along to a Soul Train night, accept the invitation without hesitation. Do it and I promise you, you won’t regret it.