Lindy Hop

Online Events in May – Rent Party and Rhythm Relief: The Swingtacular Show

While all of my in-person events are slowly being canceled amidst the pandemic, I am excited to report that there are two upcoming virtual events you can watch, enjoy, and interact with!

On May 9, 2020, I’ll be making a cameo in a virtual Rent Party, which you can find on Facebook under the event An Old-School Fundraiser for Swing Artists.  The idea is that we will create a virtual Rent Party, with dancing, live music, shenanigans, and we hope that you’ll contribute to the “rent” with donations that will go to the Pacific Swing Dance Foundation’s relief fund.  Our cast includes Jonathan Stout, Gordon Au, Keenan McKenzie, Nick Williams, Lauren Smith, and Peter Flahiff.  Thanks to our hosts, dancer and author Jodi Daynard, who conceived this event and will emcee, and the Pacific Swing Dance Foundation.  Tune in from 6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.!

On May 23, 2020, I will be a part of Rhythm Relief: The Swingtacular Show, a large scale virtual swing dance and swing music live show, featuring a cast of some of my favorite musicians from the US and dancers from around the world.  My fellow virtual band-mates for this show are Keenan McKenzie, Josh Collazo, Jonathan Stout, Paul Cosentino, Gordon Au, and Marquis Howell.  The show will run from 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. EDT.  Rhythm Relief is spearheaded by Nick Williams and hosted by the Pacific Swing Dance Foundation.  For information about the relief fund, how to donate, and how to apply, visit the Pacific Swing Dance Foundation’s website.

April 2020 COVID-19 Update

It’s amazing how time has seemed to stand still, yet fly by.  I have remained busy, as my day job is deemed essential, but I have also been busier than I thought I would be with various music and other projects.  Here’s a recap of the past month’s projects:

Gordon Au’s Tribute to Louis Armstrong and his All-Stars – Live at Lindy Focus was released on April 15 – this was such a special night of music and we are all very pleased with how this album came out, particularly since none of us had anticipated releasing the recordings from that night and we had only really run through half the tunes in rehearsal that day before performing Gordon’s wonderful arrangements.  This album is full of joy, so if you need some of that in your life right now, this would be a great investment in happiness.  Visit Bandcamp to download this digital release.

Keenan McKenzie put together a virtual collaboration of video/recording of his lovely song The Dwindling Light by the Sea, with yours truly reprising vocals, Lucian Cobb on trombone, Jonathan Stout on guitar, James Posedel on piano, William Ledbetter on bass, and Dan Faust on drums.  Here’s another recording, this time with visual, to add some joy to your day.  If you’d like to see more collaborations organized by Keenan, please consider donating to his virtual tip jar at VENMO: @keenanmckenziemusic OR
PAYPAL: paypal.me/keenanmckenziemusic

On another musical note, Bandcamp is doing musicians affected by the pandemic another solid and reprising their waiver of the revenue share for all sales on Bandcamp – this is in effect May 1, June 5, and July 3 (the first Friday of each month) from midnight to midnight PDT on each day.  If you’ve been planning to buy music, you can do the most good for musicians by purchasing on these particular dates.

On April 9, 2020, I DJ’ed (along with several of my fellow swing band leaders- Jonathan Stout, Michael Gamble, Brooks Prumo, Jonathan Ng, and house DJ Rickard Johansson) for the Global Online Social, a DJ’ed virtual dance party on Zoom and Twitch organized by Paul Riding that features new DJs every Thursday, playing swing music for a good portion of the day.  Maybe you dance, maybe you just need some swing music to keep you motivated as you work, but it’s a lot of fun – consider tuning in!

Finally, I’ve released three more episodes of Lindy Shopper’s Closet, the YouTube series spinoff of my Lindy Shopper blog, covering the topics of moth prevention, my favorite swing dance shoes, and dance undergarments, all posted below – please subscribe to my YouTube channel (I’ll eventually get back to posting music, too) and enjoy!

Lindy Shopper’s Closet Episode 2: Canceled Gig Outfits

Lindy Shopper’s Closet Episode 2 is up and I talk about the pandemic’s effects on the swing dance community and what I would have worn to canceled events for which I had already planned outfits. We’ll call this the learning curve episode, I talk too much, I tried to wear too many outfits, and there are some things I would change and realized I forgot to do, but if you want to hang out with me and talk about clothes and how the pandemic has impacted life and the life of your music/dancer friends, you’re probably going to appreciate it.  I’ve also posted a ton of links to things I mention in the episode – pandemic relief resources, events and musicians affected by the pandemic, and resources for the clothing and accessories I talk about in the episode.

Lindy Focus XVIII Videos

Always a huge highlight on my calendar, Lindy Focus did not disappoint this year.  I performed at each main dance with the Jonathan Stout Lindy Focus All-Star Orchestra, but also did two late night dances – one with Michael Gamble and the Rhythm Serenaders and another with Gordon Au‘s tribute to the Louis Armstrong All-Stars.  Dance performances kicked off each late night social dance, with the performers having the option of doing a routine with the live band of the night.  I was delighted to be a part of three of these late night performances: first, with the Rhythm Serenaders performing Mildred Bailey’s “Lover Come Back to Me” with Peter Kertz and Elze Visnevskyte dancing; second and third with Au’s Armstrong tribute, performing “Squeeze Me” and “All That Meat and No Potatoes” with co-vocals by Jim Ziegler and a cast of Lindy Focus instructors and performers.

I’m posting the three late night performances below.  If you’re looking for a nice, long listen, you can revisit the live stream broadcasts for each of 5 nights of big band music (Basie, Ellington, Webb, Hampton, and anything goes on NYE) on the Lindy Focus YouTube channel.

A Bull City Holiday

75126698_10104799216927851_801859686809731072_nA Bull City Holiday, an album of Keenan McKenzie’s original holiday swing and jazz music featuring 30 Triangle area musicians, will be out on November 25!  You can pre-order the album on Bandcamp and check out one of the tracks as a preview of things to come.  If you will be at the Keenan McKenzie and the Riffers show in Richmond on November 16 or at the International Lindy Hop Championships over Thanksgiving weekend, you can also pick up a copy there.

I am one of seven vocalists on this album, check out the incredible list of album personnel on the Bandcamp page – you can find me singing on four tracks: Santa’s Cap, You Can’t Lock the Chimney, As the Nights Grow Longer, and A Charming Winter Town.  Enjoy!

Live at Jammin’ on the James

Now that we’ve recorded A Bull City Holiday and can look forward to that release in November, 2019, I’m on to the next recording project!  Looking forward to recording a live album with Michael Gamble and the Rhythm Serenaders at Jammin’ on the James in Richmond, VA over the weekend of October 18 and 19, 2019 – we’ll be working with sound engineer Rob Moreland (who we’ve worked with at Lindy Focus and the Nevermore Jazz Ball) to capture the energy of this band in a Craftsman era ballroom that will be filled to the brim with dancers.  Thanks so much to the Jammin’ on the James organizers for conceiving of this project and going above and beyond to make it a reality!

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Late Night Eats and Cocktails at the Bull City Swingout

Bull everything, Bulldega in the background.

For all of you coming into town for the Bull City Swingout who are unfamiliar with Durham, NC, we are a food town – a foodie town, if you will.  You will have the utmost advantage because much of Durham’s foodie food is located within walking distance of all the venues for this workshop and swing dance weekend.  I’m not here to tell you where to eat because it would take too long, there are too many good options – pull up Yelp and figure out what type of food you want to eat and just go.

Three pro tips: 1) If you want to eat at Dame’s Chicken and Waffles, you need to make a reservation in advance and prepare to either have leftovers or be destroyed in the best possible way.  2) Get the ribs at Blue Note Grill on Sunday night for John Dee Holeman’s show from 6-8 p.m. 3) There’s a small grocery store a block from the Armory called the Bulldega if you need to grab drinks (regular and alcoholic), snacks, or something quick to eat.

Late night food can be hard to figure out and I’d also like to highlight some of my favorite cocktail places within the walkable area, so let’s take a little jaunt around downtown Durham to some of my favorite haunts:

The neon sign lights the way to the Jack Tar Diner, named for the original hotel chain that built this building.

LATE NIGHT FOOD

Jack Tar Diner (202 Corcoran Street) – this is a 1/2 block from the Armory and they serve food until midnight.  Both main dances end at 11:30 p.m., so you’d have to go directly there to get seated and fed, but it’s worth it if you need a full meal after the dance.  The menu is diverse and delicious, they serve breakfast all day, and the cocktails at their adjoining bar, the Colonel’s Daughter, are excellent.  This is a two-for, since it’s also a cocktail recommendation – say hi to Kenny Smith the bartender for me, we went to college together.

Pie Pushers (117A W. Main Street) – the restaurant space itself isn’t open, but on Fridays and Saturdays they have a pizza window on the street level that’s open from 11 p.m. to 2 a.m. where you can buy slices.

Parts & Labor (723 Rigsbee Avenue) – serving until 2 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, this is the restaurant attached to Motorco Music Hall, which used to be an automobile dealership.  They offer a number of small plate style to-go foods (1 for a snack, 2-3 for a meal), everything from poutine to Bahn mi to vegan tacos to cheeseburger sliders.  Step up to the bar and order, opt to dine indoors or outdoors on their picnic table patio (or they may have the doors open and really everything becomes outdoor eating).  This is across the street from the Living Arts Collective.

The bar at Hutchins Garage.

Hutchins Garage (402 W. Geer Street) – serving pizza and beer until 2 a.m., large table seating.  I am less familiar with this place because it’s the newest, but the pizza I had there was good!  It’s also next door to the Living Arts Collective, just walk past the Crossfit place and the unoccupied portion of the building, which also used to be an automobile dealership.

The Accordion Club (316 W. Geer Street) – maybe you need a little cocktail and a late night snack and want to do it like a local?  Several of my friends claim this as their favorite bar in Durham, but what sold me on recommending this place is the Frito pie.  Open until 2 a.m.

If you’re looking for something outside of downtown, go to Cosmic Cantina (the one on Perry Street, open until 4 a.m.) for delicious burritos and nachos or Cook Out (3 locations in Durham, open until 3:00 a.m. or 3:30 a.m., depending on which one) for burgers, BBQ, and epic milkshakes.

I love sitting on the right side of the corner of the bar, you can watch the magic happen…

COCKTAILS

Bar Virgile (105 S. Mangum Street) – this is my favorite cocktail bar because it’s the total package for me – classic cocktail menu, seasonal cocktails, a bar staff that can make me anything I throw at them, excellent food menu ranging from bites to entrees, cool and cozy decor, and it’s 3 doors down from my office. 🙂

Alley Twenty-Six (320 E. Chapel Hill Street) – my favorite chef, Carrie Schleiffer, presides over the kitchen at Alley Twenty-Six, which is a cocktail-focused bar and restaurant with an excellent cocktail program and Carrie keeps things seasonal and adventurous with the food menu.  If you are looking for a stellar dinner and cocktails before the dance, this is my recommendation and it’s just around the corner from the Durham Armory.  Would recommend making a reservation just in case, but even if you forget you still may be able to get a table or a seat at one of the dual bars.

The Roof at The Durham Hotel (315 E. Chapel Hill Street) – the cocktails are good, but I’m recommending this for the decor and the view.  The Durham is a renovated bank building turned into something out of Mad Men, with impeccable MCM exterior and interior.  Take the elevator up to the rooftop bar for one of the best views of Durham and recline on the couches with your cocktail as you take it all in.

Can I just hang out by the Unscripted pool all day?

The Unscripted Hotel’s poolside bar (202 N. Corcoran Street) – this is another one I’m recommending for the experience, which is also straight out of Mad Men, perhaps even more overtly since they have left the second floor poolside/balcony area pretty much intact from the 1960’s.  There’s a cocktail hour planned here as part of the Bull City Swingout festivities from 6-8 p.m. prior to the Saturday night dance, but I’d also recommend coming here for a poolside cocktail and swim during the day if you’re not taking classes.  You don’t have to be a hotel guest to use the adorable pool.  Grab a Frosé (rosé and strawberry slushy) and don’t forget your sunscreen.

There are even more incredible restaurants serving wonderful cocktails downtown, so feel free to explore and make your own decisions.  Also, feel free to weigh in on your favorites in the comments.  Cheers and enjoy!

Lindy Focus Live Streams

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Chick Webb night 2018, thanks to the fab Hilary Mercer Photography

My biggest recurring gig of the past few years is definitely Lindy Focus – five nights of big band music with the Jonathan Stout Lindy Focus All Star Orchestra, with new songs added each year and, for the past three years, an entirely new bandleader’s night of music is performed, thanks to crowd funding from our stellar community of swing music supporters.  This year’s lineup from start to finish was Jimmie Lunceford (crowd funded in 2017), Benny Goodman, Lionel Hampton (crowd funded in 2018), Chick Webb (crowd funded in 2016), and “Kitchen Sink Night” on New Year’s Eve, featuring an array of swing era arrangements.  All of the main dances are Lindy Focus are live streamed on YouTube, which means you can always go back and listen to the music from each night of dancing later!  Here are all the live streams from December 27 through December 31, 2018 – I’m featured, in some way or another, as a vocalist on each night, with a vocal trio on Lunceford night and as a featured vocalist on the other four nights.  Put some on while you’re doing chores or on a long drive for some toe-tapping tunes!

Jazz Lives – Michael Gamble and the Rhythm Serenaders at the San Diego Jazz Festival

One of the most delightful human beings and ardent jazz fans is also a prolific blogger – Michael Steinman of the blog Jazz Lives covers the news and music of early-jazz performers of today and yesteryear.  I was fortunate enough to be at the San Diego Jazz Festival on all accounts, but particularly because Michael is a delightful conversationalist and happened to be in same space with his video camera.  He caught Michael Gamble and the Rhythm Serenaders‘ first set and persevered, in spite of the dance noise, dancer chatter, and a herd of children in tap shoes, to capture 10 videos from the set and write this lovely blog post.  Check it out and spend a set at the San Diego Jazz Festival in the comfort of your home.

The Michael and Evita Show

Last year at Lindy Focus I recorded a podcast interview with international swing dance instructor and human of effervescence and light Evita Arce for her podcast The Michael and Evita Show, which she shares with her dance partner Michael Jagger.  The episode (#28) was just released this month, so take a listen!  We talk about clothing, jazz, copyright law, and more – tune in on their website or subscribe on Apple podcasts.

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