The city of Liverpool has long been associated with a series of 'firsts' - the kind that change the way we do things and make us wonder what on earth we did before their inception. The first library, public wash baths and automatic telephone exchange for example. Liverpool Disco Festival can now be added to that impressive list – which started with a bang last weekend as thousands of sequin-clad revellers descending upon the city's Baltic Triangle to enjoy an alternative Halloween celebration.
As the glitter dust settles following the inaugural event, it becomes clear that this may very well be the next cultural gem to put the city on the map for those who share a passion for the music, history and inclusive community that the disco movement created back in the 70s.
Walking into the Great Baltic Warehouse on Saturday was in itself a jaw dropping experience, the vast industrial space now transformed into a rainbow adorned dancefloor, ready for 12 hours of dedicated disco antics, and just after midday, things were already bubbling.
Natasha 'Kitty Katt' Probert had the privilege of opening the proceedings in the Great Baltic warehouse – a job only too fitting for her, whose rare sets took Suncebeat 7 by storm earlier this summer. Feeling every little beat she delivers, her sets are always guaranteed to start cooking up a dancefloor storm. Fresh from ADE, she did just that – treating us in to some funky, soulful sounds.
Crossing over to Constellations' Garden, the sociable, community atmosphere was already radiating as we were greeted by the smiling crowd – all eager for us to join straight in with the party. Looking around, the venue was already bustling, with Shaun Samuel's set providing the ideal welcome soundtrack.
The Constellations set-up was impressive, a beautiful gin garden with a roaring barbecue and intimate seating, the sound had obviously been ramped up or the event – something that perfectly complemented the fact that we had already started on the Martini Espressos by lunch time and were dancing like our lives depended on it.
Wandering into the 'House Room' indoors, we immediately experienced that 3am feel as Red Rackem's 'Wonky Bassline Disco Banger' was twisted out across the floor by the Afro Co DJs. Surrounded by happy people and a flowing tinsel backdrop, this felt special and intimate – if not a little bit naughty – there were no boundaries here, no conforming to 'stereotypical daytime sets' with the energy in the room pulsating out into the Observatory Bar where people were being adorned with glitter as they entered the disco dungeon.
A highlight of our early afternoon shenanigans was Phil Rose's phenomenal set out in the garden. Having whipped the crowd up into a frenzy, things were now moving up a level. Phil served up T Connection's 'Do What You Wanna Do' in all it's glory – a feast of bass, synth and piano providing all the elements of original, innovative disco. To our delight, he follows with DJ Spen's sensational creation, 'Love is the Respect' – a wonderful concoction of Aretha Franklin and MFSB which was to feature in many a set over the course of the day.
The temptation to want to skate, to feel free with the wind flowing through your hair as the groove vibrates across the floor was something you could actually achieve over at Hanger 34. Feeling more like Studio 54 – this was a jewel in the festival's crown, and such a true representation of the recreational culture of disco enthusiasts in 1970s America.
The floor was slick, and the moves were stunning, with pro skaters inspiring the slightly wobbly newcomers to have a roll along to some legendary tracks. Such an interactive experience bonded people on the floor, helping each other, laughing together and promoting a show of high-fives every time you managed to do a full rotation back to your mates.
With all venues in such close proximity, navigating the festival site was a logistical dream. Armed with a handy map and timetable, we knew exactly where to find the artists we wanted to see. The only issue was trying to decide who we were going to watch, as the quality of the line up was exceptional.
John Morales was not to be missed. Obviously still beaming from his Glitterbox appearances in Ibiza this Summer, this epic DJ and producer delivered a set beyond all expectations. John had already started to stir things up with Aia & Gallo's 'Who is He and What is He to You?' as we entered the Great Baltic Warehouse once again, but he was about to turn up the heat even further.
All of a sudden, the Buddha Records classic 'Mainline' by Black Ivory filled the room, the delicate yet powerful string section sound making hairs stand up on the back of your neck. We were there. This was disco. Eyes closed, we envisioned the dance floors of the past and could really feel a connection as Morales took us on a journey through the classic sounds that define this genre. Chaka Khan's 'Ain't Nobody' raised the roof shortly before we all lost our disco marbles to Dan Hartman's 'Relight My Fire'.
Odyssey received a rapturous reception as they took to the stage – a live performance from them has been on our wish-list for a while. Glued to our spot at the front, they exceeded our expectations, delivering a stunning performance of their most-loved hits. Opening with 'Native New Yorker', Steven Collazo and the band had us spellbound with their unique afro-disco sound.
They surprised us with a funk-fuelled rendition of 'Boogie No More' by A Taste of Honey, along with a Chic-inspired version of Sister Sledge's 'I'm Thinking of You'. The live arrangement for 'Use It Up and Ware It Out' was rhythmic and infectious – they had us attempting the limbo, samba and various ridiculous dance combinations, as we embraced this once in a lifetime experience.
The highlight of their performance was 'Back to My Roots', which left the entire room on an absolute high. Looking around, Odyssey were embracing the smiles from the Halloween inspired crowd who had formed a connection with the band over the last hour, it felt like we were singing together. The realisation that this festival had created something special was now upon us.
After a well earned break and some fantastic festival food, we returned to the dance floor to witness Louie Vega's three-hour Paradise Gararge set. Obviously this was hyped as being a bit of a festival winner, however once again, our preconceptions were exceeded as Louis blew us away.
Having meticulously prepared this set for us, he threw out an immense selection of iconic tracks, including Stevie Wonder's 'Do I Do' and Geraldine Hunt's 'Can't Fake The Feeling'. The cherry on the cake was without a doubt Louis' own mix of John Davis & The Monster Orchestra's 'Bourgie Bourgie' (relive the moment below). In 20 years of attending dance events, this set is up there with one of the very best we have ever witnessed.
Closing the show was Dimitri From Paris - phenomenal is the only word to describe the quality of his delivery. For those who were new to disco, this would have been the pivotal moment where they fell in love with it. For those of us already deeply immersed in the genre, it reinforced the power it has to ignite a room when delivered by a DJ with such experience and skill.
Dimitri continuously ups the game and takes you higher by the track. You experience an array of disco melt-downs along the way – just when you think things can't get any more intense, he knows exacly what to drop to fuel the inferno.
Diana Ross' 'Upside Down' straight into The Jacksons' 'Blame it on the Boogie' was a real treat, and things got really intense to 'Long Train Running' by The Doobie Brothers. Selecting a poignant last track in the form of his own epic re-edit of 'I Wanna Be Your Lover' by Prince – the crowd would not let him leave until we heard one more track. He finally signs off with a divine encore in the form of Sister Sledge's 'Thinking of You' - a resounding way to end 12 hours of history in the making.
As the after parties continued well into Monday morning, we can now reflect upon the overwhelming success that was Liverpool Disco Festival. The vision and passion behind this event translated on the day into what was a beautiful celebration, attended by some of the nicest people we've had the privilege of sharing a dance floor with.
This event has the potential to become something legendary, and we can only wait with eager anticipation to hear that they will be back for another installment next year. For us, Halloween weekend is never going to be the same again.