The Story behind MoveOnUp at HiFi

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MoveOnUp started in November 1995, and is now the longest running Soul night up North. One of the longest running weekly club nights in the UK, it plays a range of Soul, Tamla Motown and Sixties beat music. Coming up to its eighteenth birthday, ‘The Gryphon Clubs’ takes a look at the night and explores the Soul scene today.

Tired after a busy day at uni, we turned up to HiFi on a crisp, quiet Leeds Wednesday night and after being welcomed by wonderfully friendly bouncers, we entered a room filled with warm, soulful, feel-good sounds; that was the entrance to my first and certainly not my last MoveOnUp. The resident MoveOnUp DJ, Matt Bolton, playing the likes of Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, The Supremes and Marvin Gaye kept up the stream of good vibes throughout the night. He played all the tracks off seven-inch vinyl singles of the tracks, giving each track excellent sound quality and added to the night’s authenticity, and might possibly be the key to the nights longevity. Singing along with the strong soulful voices of each song, you could almost forget the day you’d had and as I eased myself onto the dance floor the night begin to warm up. Once you got moving and shaking you could almost have been in the sixties for the night, with everyone in the club had a smile on their face and doing their thing, really showed how everyone there was genuinely having a good night. And of course when Curtis Mayfield’s ‘Move On Up’ played, a collective ‘whoo’ followed, capturing the essence of the night, not only in sharing the name of the night with the song, but a collective positive vibe along with the upbeat, energetic yet relaxed atmosphere of the night.

The Gryphon spoke to MoveOnUp’s resident DJ of fourteen years, Matt Bolton, about his time DJing the night:

‘I was a punter at MOU before I was ever a DJ. First in, last out. Every week. It informed many of my tastes over the following years. But to have held residency now for nearly fourteen years is a real honour. I get as much joy from seeing one person giving it their all as a whole room with their hands in the air singing along to Marvin & Diana. To be able to pass on wonderful new music to fresh ears is what I love the most. Last week I dropped a wonderful obscure gospel record by Jackie Wilson & Linda Hopkins and by the end the whole crowd was singing along. I’ll take moments like those any night of the week.’

The Soul scene has a rich history particularly up North, with the Northern Soul Movement of the late sixties, which brought together Soul fans in dancehalls to dance all night long to Soul and Motown. However, The Northern Soul movement was quite exclusive, with people in the movement dancing in certain ways, taking amphetamines to keep dancing all night and wearing a Northern Soul patch.

How would you describe the Soul scene as it stands today?

‘The soul scene today is as strong, if not stronger, than it ever has been. And that’s a strong claim for a movement which formulated in the early 70’s. There are so many different facets to it that it constantly evolves and shifts in terms of taste and demographics. I help promote the 6t’s Allnighter at the 100 Club in London too and that’s now in its 35th year! We’re lucky to have had a core of vinyl and label diggers pulling up records that never cease to put a smile on your face.’

Do you think the history of the Northern Soul scene plays a part in the night still being popular in Leeds?

‘I’ll be honest and say no. Though there are the odd exceptions. Some youngsters come [to MoveOnUp] intrigued by what the Northern Soul scene is about or their parents may have used to listen to it. The venue [Hifi] has a distinct history of soul events having held the legendary Central Soul sessions there in the 70’s. But MOU has never traded off that heritage and for the most part many of the clientele of the night may likely never step foot inside a bonafide northern soul club. We try and shy away from making it a traditional northern soul club in that it’s a very inclusive environment. There’s a different atmosphere at MOU that isn’t hung up on labels and dancing correctly but rather about creating euphoria from the music.’

What do you think is the secret behind Move On Up’s longevity and success?

 ‘Musically, MoveOnUp has always sought to make that perfect balance between the wonderful soul music that continues to resonate through popular media and the fantastic wealth of records which went criminally under-appreciated, or often even undiscovered. We try to play a delicate mix of heart-wrenchers and soulful dynamite, but first and foremost it’s about creating an atmosphere of collective warmth and joy. There’s a distinct euphoria in the joint appreciation of soul music. That’s what we tap.’

What are some your favourite soul tracks to play on the night?

‘There are hundreds of records that I love seeing reactions too. Often the ones you don’t expect. Isuppose there are three records I really love to drop, firstly Diana’s version of Ain’t No Mountain’ because that never fails to cause mayhem. An undeniable record in any setting. Secondly is a record that I was lucky to be given as a test pressing which was Sharon Scott’s ‘It’s Better’. A personal favourite that seems to have translated well for an unreleased track. It’s just beautiful. Lastly is the final record I play now, a big hitting Philadelphia record by Archie Bell & Drells called ‘Where Will You Go When The Party’s Over?’. Such an apt record for the end of the night but mostly because of its power to have you hooked by the first line.’

Are there any nights whilst DJing MoveOnUp that are particularly memorable?

‘There have been some particularly memorable nights when we’ve played and played because people refuse to go home. They’re always humbling. But the best was when one of my Hip Hop heroes, DJ Einstein from Ugly Duckling came up to me in the booth and asked for a mix CD. Felt like a king…’

MoveOnUp is one of the rare and few mid-week club nights that does not disappoint and will not leave you feeling the same as when you came in, you leave aglow with the sound of Soul and full of the feel-good vibes that the night has to offer on a weekly basis, and will hopefully continue to do so for years to come.

[Stephanie Uwalaka]

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