Reach out. He’ll be there.

DJ Mod Marty brings a spin on a soulful and storied dancing tradition

DJ Mod Marty’s Red River City Soul Club brings “northern soul” to the ‘Peg. (Photo by Keely Braunstein Black)

Summer’s gone, which means the time is no longer right for dancing in the street. But that doesn’t mean the party’s over. One special Thursday of every month, groovy folks can get their fill of swingin’ down at Red River City Soul Club, hosted monthly at The Good Will Social Club.

“We’re not talking about deep soul. We’re not talking about Barry White. We’re talking about the Temptations, the Four Tops, the Motown-based stuff,” Marty Emmanuel, who performs under the name DJ Mod Marty, says. Marty is a DJ, promoter and radio-show host who created the event.

The club is a part of a larger, international model of soul clubs that persists to this day, more than half a century since the end of the Swingin’ Sixties.

“I’m talking everywhere in the world, from Milan to Nova Scotia, everywhere, and they’re soul nights. It’s based on the model of the northern soul nights in England,” Marty says.

When mod and swing culture hit the mainstream during the late ’60s, the youth of England sought novel countercultural reprieve in clubs playing hardto-find soul and R&B records from the United States. Originating in the north of England, the music and dance movement of “northern soul” was born.

“Toronto has theirs, Montreal has theirs, and I wanted to do something that was for Winnipeg, hence the logo with the grain, being Winnipeg’s export,” Marty says.

An ardent nostalgist nowhere near old enough to have ever coexisted with the music of the era he cherishes, Marty is fascinated not just by the tunes, but also by the storied history.

“I absolutely love soul and R&B, but I also love what England did with it, which was to reinvent and feed it back to England in the form of the Beatles and the Stones and the Kinks and all those bands,” Marty says.

“The music speaks to me … It’s all these sad tales, stories of struggle and poverty and heartache and all these things put to really uplifting music.”

A testament to the authenticity of the event, Marty exclusively employs vinyl records in his DJing, all of which are sourced from his extensive collection.

“Part of collecting these and buying them is wanting to share them with everybody. There’s no point (to) buying them and keeping them in a box in my room,” Marty says.

“People will come up and say, ‘My mom brought me up on Etta James. Do you have any?’ Yeah, absolutely, I’ll play that, and it’s all they needed to get up on the dancefloor. From there on, I just keep on leading them down the path.”

Keeping with the participatory nature of the night, the Soul Club has a phone number and QR code through which attendees can request music.

While an eclectic fan of music past and present, Marty laments the current state of music and a culture looking backward more and more for its music.

“I feel as though, right now, music is not at its prime. The ’80s are so huge. Why? Because the music that’s coming out now is not cutting it,” Marty says. “Go back a little further, that’s all I’m saying.”

“The music speaks for itself, and that’s what I’m trying to get out to everybody. If you come, you’ll love what you get, but you got to come.”

The Red River City Soul Club plays at the Good Will Social Club (625 Portage Ave) on Oct. 27. No cover. 8:00 p.m. till late.

Published in Volume 77, Number 06 of The Uniter (October 20, 2022)

Related Reads