Neo-swing?!?!

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yedancer
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Neo-swing?!?!

#1 Post by yedancer » Sun Mar 23, 2003 12:36 am

We recently had a neo-swing night at one of our clubs. It was like traveling back in time to 1998. There were about 8 regulars, and 30-40 newbies, mostly high-school aged kids. The club was not packed, but it wasn't empty by any means. I didn't play all neo-swing, but I definitely busted out all the old songs and CD's I'd be embarrassed to admit I own, the ones that most lindy hoppers would groan if they heard. I tried to mix it up by playing one neo-swing song, and then one "regular" swing song.

Interestingly, it was a really fun night, one of the funnest in a while. The energy was very high, and everybody in the place was having lots of fun. The kids were having a blast just kicking and jumping and and goofing off. Nobody showed up for the beginning lesson, so I ended up loosing my voice while teaching a beginning lesson at about 10:30 for 20 or so beginners, in the secondary room of the club.

I honestly think that this particular crowd was demonstrating the spirit of swing a lot more than the "lindy" crowd has been lately, at least here in San Diego. I'm just curious as to everyone's thoughts about this, and whether you've had similar or even completely opposite experiences.

I think sometimes "lindy hoppers" get so caught up in what kind of music they choose to like, the technique of their dancing, the politics of the scene, that they lose the spirit of fun, energy, and wildness that IS lindy hop. I'm not saying that it doesn't matter what kind of music you dance to, or how good your technique is, but I just think it's sad that so many of the lindy venues/events I've attended lately have been just plain dull. Where is the fun?
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WarrenWright
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#2 Post by WarrenWright » Mon Mar 24, 2003 10:53 am

I haven't been involved in the day to day running of the Dallas Swing DAnce Society in over a year now (we have a baby girl to be involved with instead!), but in that time the leaders have made great effort to broaden volunteer DJs to include those that play percentages of neo swing as well, and they have seen a dramatic increase in new dancers, and in the crowds in attendance.

I think there is a pretty strong link here in Dallas. When I more or less left the scene over a year ago our crowds were growing quite small, focusing more on experienced lindy hoppers and the intricate music we tend to really enjoy.

-Warren

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Lawrence
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Re: Neo-swing?!?!

#3 Post by Lawrence » Mon Mar 24, 2003 12:56 pm

yedancer wrote:I think sometimes "lindy hoppers" get so caught up in what kind of music they choose to like, the technique of their dancing, the politics of the scene, that they lose the spirit of fun, energy, and wildness that IS lindy hop. I'm not saying that it doesn't matter what kind of music you dance to, or how good your technique is, but I just think it's sad that so many of the lindy venues/events I've attended lately have been just plain dull. Where is the fun?
I agree completely, with both the message and the qualifications you put on it. I keep about five CDs of Neo Swing compilations I put together in my collection for that very reason, and keep developing more as time goes on. Just because *I* got sick of it five years ago does not mean that *they* all got sick of it. Plus, I get a bit of a vicarious kick out of their newbie enthusiasm. :D (<-- "swing face")

Part of what was so refreshing about the "Groove Swing" movement over the past few years was breaking out of the complacent (and boring) patterns people had set during the fad years. (Also, the Groove Swing music IS generally better). After a few years, some of the Groove Swing stuff is getting as old and boring as the Neo Swing stuff. Poser DJs have caught on to the new fad and are just replaying the Groove Swing "Essentials" that they hear other DJs play across the country, which only adds to the redundancy.

Now that some time has passed to dilute the memory of "Walkin Blues" or "Swing Lover" being played at EVERY DANCE, the Neo crap stuff is not all as bad as it seemed when it was overplayed by every DJ and his brother. And your timing could not be more ironic because--I can't belive it, myself, given how sick I once was of Neo Crap--I actually bought a Cigar Store Indians CD a few days ago. :oops:

Moreover, Neo Swing is the reason we all got started, either directly by going to a RCR/BBVD/CPD/MBK/IS show and asking someone where they learned to dance, or from taking lessons from someone who did so. I wouldn't want to go back to the way it was, but I also don't want to just stick in the current rut.

The evolution away from Neo Swing was understandable, for the right reasons, and served a good purpose, but now that the evolution has occurred, playing a few of the better Neo Swing throwback songs each night is also a good thing.
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main_stem
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#4 Post by main_stem » Mon Mar 24, 2003 3:59 pm

NEO DOG!!!!!!
"We called it music."
— Eddie Condon

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#5 Post by daryl » Tue Apr 01, 2003 8:35 am

I haven't been playing any neo except for a couple of the newer SNZ songs from Bedlam Ballroom which were never overplayed. But, I think I may have to start throwing some in every once in awhile. Except maybe for some of the IS that some of the teachers still use for every beginning lesson.

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Re: Neo-swing?!?!

#6 Post by KevinSchaper » Tue Apr 01, 2003 3:03 pm

yedancer wrote: I think sometimes "lindy hoppers" get so caught up in what kind of music they choose to like, the technique of their dancing, the politics of the scene, that they lose the spirit of fun, energy, and wildness that IS lindy hop. I'm not saying that it doesn't matter what kind of music you dance to, or how good your technique is, but I just think it's sad that so many of the lindy venues/events I've attended lately have been just plain dull. Where is the fun?
it's also just people burning out, I think.. Portland's had a lot of that, and it's really energizing now that we've got an all ages venue with lotsa high school kids and beginners and stuff who get really excited about dancing. Though, mostly without the neoswing - a little bit of rockabilly or jump here and there, but not too far off from the kinda mix I'd play for hardcore dancers..

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what the?

#7 Post by mousethief » Tue Apr 01, 2003 3:22 pm

what is hey hey warren wright doing on this board? i see more of fugitive chachi than him these days.

i think you could capture that same feeling without using neo music, just reexamine your collection and stick to a theme. people don't like to be challenged or uncomfortable and that's too damn bad for them.

play something that inspires you, work the crowd and be powerful with your selections within your theme and you will have a full floor.

kalman

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Lawrence
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#8 Post by Lawrence » Thu Apr 03, 2003 1:26 pm

The point is not just to play Neo Swing, or that doing so is the ONLY way to make things better. The point is merely to revisit it, realize that it is not all Neo Crap, and play some of it sometimes. Also, again, most of us got into it with Neo Swing. So there is a sentimental thing. I certainly would not want or would not enjoy a night full of Neo Swing, but I'm slowly dropping my staunch anti-Neo attitude, recently, in large part because it is not such a "threat" to take over the vibe at every dance. I think that was the original point of the thread.
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#9 Post by Toon Town Dave » Thu Apr 03, 2003 5:36 pm

I was just started refreshing my live365 programming which I haven't touched in over a year. I noticed with their new rating system, some of the more popular songs were stuff like Colin James and stuff like Basie was less popular. It caused me to re-think my format.

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#10 Post by Downeastdancer » Sat Apr 05, 2003 7:25 am

I think we may find that, over time, some of the neo stuff will survive. (Probably some of the "old" swing died mercifully, too.) I've been using some of it sprinkled into the mix like a seasoning for some time. Also some - er - rockabilly from local bands (like King Memphis.) I still like Alien Fashion Show and wish they would come back! Anyone have a contact for them?
"Take A Train!"

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#11 Post by szarka » Tue Apr 08, 2003 10:59 am

I guess there's nothing wrong with mixing in a little neo-swing now and again. But if I want music that "fun" and has lots of "energy", I tend to look to Cab Calloway, Jimmie Lunceford, Harry James, et al., or a newer act like Bill Elliott, rather than to neo-swing groups. Playing nothing but "groove" music would be too much of a good thing, for sure, but I still want to hear stuff that swings, not warmed-over Ska and Rock.

(And if I want to hear Ska, I'm probably gonna whip out The Specials, The Selecter, or some other second wave group...)

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#12 Post by jmatthew » Tue Jun 01, 2004 7:01 pm

Feel free to shoot me down, because this theory is really tenuous, but the few times i've voiced it around here it's at least gotten a few nods, but I'm very curious to hear what the DJ's on the board think:

I've been wondering lately if a kind of musical drift away from even semi-neo swing bands is negatively impacting the lindy scene in a big way. The biggest weekly live dance event in Portland is probably dead (again), and I think one of the reasons is that a lot of dancers around here feel like the live bands that exist now are "beneath them."

I see a similar attitude on the boards, where Casey, Levay, Indigo Swing and other modern swing bands are tossed in the neo-crap category and trampled into the ground. Of course none of these bands are Basie, or Ella, or Billie, but then they're all dead, which makes them hard to dance to live.

Of course we get to dance to them DJ'd, which is great, but then when we only play classics, it means the dancers don't have any reason to think that the modern swing bands are worth dancing too. If the DJ's don't play it there must be a reason right?

I have a hard time believing that DJ'd dances have nearly the infectious power that a live band has. I seriousely doubt I'd be dancing if it weren't for those early forays to a packed Viscount to see the energy of dancers dancing to a live band.

I'm rambling a bit, but please forgive me and have a little more patience. I suppose it's theoretically possible that another Ella may come out of nowhere and we'll be gifted with swing music that's as musically rich and as danceable as the best of the classics. But I find it pretty unlikely. I find it much more likely that we'll get better bands out of supporting the best of what we have now, and supporting their innovations, even though they can't attain the heights of classic swing. I'm not sure they SHOULD be trying to reproduce classic swing. Rock would suck if everyone tried to be the Beatles.

Feel free to flame the shit out of me, but I have a strong conviction that live bands will keep our art form from becoming a dead one again.
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#13 Post by GemZombie » Tue Jun 01, 2004 10:29 pm

I won't flame you, except to say that the reason those bands are bad-mouthed probably is because they are overplayed, and kind of old news.

See the discussion on recording styles, and you'll see why some of those bands don't get much play anymore as well. I dig Lavay and the like, semi-neo never bothered me. In fact, seeing these folks live is usually a real kick. But in the neo days, these bands were overplayed.

I would also go so far to say that it's not the badmouthing of neo that is keeping the scene at bay, rather the (re) new-ness of swing wore out some time ago, and it's only us strange hard-cores and a few newbies from time to time that are left.

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#14 Post by LindyChef » Wed Jun 02, 2004 8:48 am

jmatthew wrote:I've been wondering lately if a kind of musical drift away from even semi-neo swing bands is negatively impacting the lindy scene in a big way. The biggest weekly live dance event in Portland is probably dead (again), and I think one of the reasons is that a lot of dancers around here feel like the live bands that exist now are "beneath them."

I see a similar attitude on the boards, where Casey, Levay, Indigo Swing and other modern swing bands are tossed in the neo-crap category and trampled into the ground. Of course none of these bands are Basie, or Ella, or Billie, but then they're all dead, which makes them hard to dance to live.
I'm not pretending to be an expert here, just voicing my own opinion.

I think you've answered your own question with your statement "I have a hard time believing that DJ'd dances have nearly the infectious power that a live band has."

The reason that I pretty much don't DJ any modern swing band is because the sound is so much different. Time and time again you see threads on this board that talk about the differences in modern vs 30's/40's/50's recording techniques. There are some bands that I would play a lot more frequently, Duke Heitger for example, if the sound had been done with those 30's/40's/50's recording techniques (I think of the song "Watch Out" where the trumpet is so harsh at times that I wince). I would much rather listen to a Basie or Ellington recording than that.

Live is a different story. For example, Lavay Smith is a completely different ball game live as compared to recorded on CD. On CD she feels kined of flat and artificial, but seeing her live, it just jumps out ... and I think that can go for most of the live bands that you actually see live. Honestly, I don't know the details of their recording process, but I would be willing to bet that they didn't go through the effort to reproduce that rich sounds that we've become accustomed to listening to those 30's/40's/50's recordings.

i.e. There's no way to capture a live performance on a CD, but you can come close ... however, most modern "swing bands" albums don't ever get anywhere near capturing the feeling of a live performance. Who wants to dance to something that feels canned, put away in a studio with no energy, no vibrance?

There are modern "swing bands" that get plenty of respect in my book, in part, because they do their recordings right ... just look at Albert System's posts in the New Big Band Recordings ... thread or pull out a copy of Barbara Morrison at the 9:20. The warm sounds on that album never feel tinny or harsh to me, and I'm always glad to spin them.

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#15 Post by Kyle » Wed Jun 02, 2004 11:04 am

LindyChef wrote:There are modern "swing bands" that get plenty of respect in my book, in part, because they do their recordings right ... just look at Albert System's posts in the New Big Band Recordings ... thread or pull out a copy of Barbara Morrison at the 9:20. The warm sounds on that album never feel tinny or harsh to me, and I'm always glad to spin them.
.
dude, you cannot bring barbara into that statement, she plays a completely different sound, and should/would never be brought into a discussion of neo-swing music.

jmatthew wrote: I suppose it's theoretically possible that another Ella may come out of nowhere and we'll be gifted with swing music that's as musically rich and as danceable as the best of the classics. But I find it pretty unlikely.
NOT unlikely, you just have to look for them. Clearwater Hot Club, from Minnesota. Do some research on the guitar player, and you will find stories comparing him to Django, and only after one year of playing "gypsy" guitar. There are plenty of great bands out there with great music, both live and recorded, ask around here for some suggestions:

I suggest:

Clearwater Hot Club

for great Django guitar (warning, not all songs are dancable songs)

Mora's Modern Rhythmists

for a more vintage feel with great arrangements and musicians

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