Any Pittsburgher who's visited the White Eagle club for Soulcialism has an inkling of what "northern soul" looks like: DJs spinning rare soul 45s, dancing and drinking into the wee hours -- and the odd feeling you're on a movie set. But in a weird way, it's the opposite of a nostalgia night: It's more like playing catch-up with the British scene, which is (sorta) still playing catch-up with us.
"Northern soul's a pretty strange concept," says U.K. DJ Des Parker, a guest at the upcoming "Never Souled Out Northern Soul All-Niter" in Braddock, co-sponsored by City Paper.
"Back in the late '60s, people in the north of England were still listening to the Motown style of record, where down south in London, they started getting into the James Brown, funkier sort of stuff," says Parker. "People up north, rather than moving forward with the times, as it were, started looking for more and more obscure soul records, and it's just continued."
While it's an English institution, the underground scene has really only picked up stateside in recent years.
Parker has made three trips to Pittsburgh already this year, scouring Jerry's, Attic Records and other spots for those increasingly elusive soul 45s that haven't been heard yet in England -- a ritual he began nearly a decade ago. "There seems to be more records in Pittsburgh than any other city," he says. "A lot of people in your town collect records and look for records, which you don't necessarily find in places like Detroit or Philly, where the records were actually made. Which is quite bizarre."
Equally bizarre -- at first -- is the concept of an "all-niter."
"People didn't really want to travel to listen to two, three hours of music," Parker says. "So they started putting on all-niters that went from 8, 9 o'clock at night to 6, 7 in the morning. And it became a way of life for people, especially around the mid-'70s."
"Never Souled Out," in Braddock on Sat., May 12, is Pittsburgh's first such event. In addition to Parker, the U.K. guests are Johnny Beggs ("one of the originators") and Karl Heard ("one of the real up-and-coming DJs ... a lot of people really rate what he plays"). Joining these and hosts Justin Hopper (Soulcialism) and D.J. Riel (Restless) are Philly soul aficionado Dave Brown, Floridian Jazzy Jas, Grover from Cinci and Amerigo of Baltimore's Charm City Soul Club.
"There's no dress code, or anything like that," Parker assures, but says with a laugh, "it is an awful lot of two-minute songs."
Never Souled Out Northern Soul All-Niter. 9 p.m.-6 a.m. Sat., May 12.www.neversouledout.com First Presbyterian Church, 416 Library St., Braddock. $8 ($10 at the door). BYOB.