Sunday Afternoon at Dingwalls
Dingwalls, London | 11 May
Over 25 years ago now, Sunday Afternoon at Dingwalls, with Gilles Peterson and Patrick Forge, was a weekly ritual for the capital’s cool kids, providing audio vitamins for those who did not want the weekend to end. In the dim, red-lighted venue in north London they would dance, prance and twirl, while jazz, funk and Brazilian tunes would be administered in an attempt to ward off the impending Monday blues.
Either side of the turntable sessions a band would feature, and artists like Galliano, Courtney Pine and Brand New Heavies were catapulted to stardom on the back of their gigs in the dark, dank building. That was until the curtain came down in March 1991.
Nowadays, due to the ever-growing commitments of BBC 6 Music DJ, record boss and general man-in-demand Peterson, these famous nights happen only once a calendar year. They serve as a reunion for the old acid house family, and newer groovers, so it’s flat caps ahoy and also a safe harbour for Peterson to play his most eclectic, out-there vinyl records in his vast collection.
“Where else in the world can you play the 17-minute version to 700 dancers,” the 49-year-old later asked his 102,000 Twitter followers, rhetorically, with a picture of the sleeve of Art Blackey and the Jazz Messengers’ A Night in Tunisia.
Peterson showed his commitment to the event, touching down from the Southport Weekender and then hotfooting to Dingwalls, where the doors opened at 1pm. An hour later the multi-tiered venue – which underwent a revamp a couple of years ago but still retains its musky charm – was already filling up. Former Kiss FM DJ Forge, asked to warm up for Peterson at the old jazz haunt in Camden almost three decades ago, took to the decks first, as per tradition.
“Despite coinciding with Southport and quite a few dancers being absent this time, Sunday lifted me in a way that only this session can,” Forge later wrote. After thanking all the main cast Forge added he wished to praise “all the people who came down, [as] it’s your energy and love of the music that really creates the magic. Bless you all!”
On Sunday Forge, an excellent, erudite crate-digger and tastemaker in his own right, introduced Sam Shepherd, also known as Floating Points and the driving force behind Eglo Records, who impressed with his own diverse selections, joining the dots from soul to house without treading on anything too hectic.
Next Peterson took to the stage, looking relaxed and happy, back at the place which proved so formative in his career development. Even if you are not a fan of Peterson witnessing him at this venue is special. Alongside him stood the ebullient – and seemingly ageless – blonde maître d, Janine, who has been such an important member of Peterson and Forge’s Dingwalls family for so many years.
It was a touching, warming afternoon of exceptional, educational selections. While there may not be quite the looseness of limbs and dexterous dancing which became synonymous with Sunday Afternoons at Dingwalls, old revellers temporary forgot their age and partied hard.
Kaidi Tatham and his Allstars band took the stage later on and the 10.30pm finish – an extension of two hours on recent years – ensured that knees and dancing feet, old and young, will have ached on Monday morning. And the lucky few who made it to the sold-out gig woke up thinking: “Doesn’t it feel good?” Oh yes. Bring on next year.
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Words: Oliver Pickup