the loud bassoon concert scene

Jumpin' Jive @ Liquid, Chicago, USA
11 December 1998

I was more than somewhat-reluctantly dragged out to go (wince) swing dancing recently, and while I can vouch for the fact that the dancing itself can be very fun, I must say that the whole "swing culture" is SO tired. This was my first trip to Liquid, a bar that attempts to recreate the atmosphere of a 50s ballroom/nightclub where you'd go to lindy along to the zippy sounds of the in-house band. I was expecting a whole lot of pretentious idiots in neo-"swinger" type clothes, all showing off their newly-acquired moves.

I was surprised to find the crowd I least expected to see anywhere: nerds. I couldn't believe it … my party was by far the least dorky in the whole place, and that can be said of very, very few places.

The crowd seemed to consist mainly of people who didn't get out much, and for whom swing dancing lessons were probably the primary social movement in their lives. Lots of suspected newlyweds and/or engaged couples getting ready for their wedding, plus plain ol' nerd couples skittishly enjoying an awkward night out. This to me was further proof that the swing trend is on its last legs, although it will probably survive in the mainstream for another year or so before everyone realizes how stupid it was to begin with.

Needless to say, we had no trepidation about dancing in front of these fools. Many of them had some serious moves, but it's pretty easy to fake swing dancing – just bop around and twirl a lot, and be sure to have a preening smile on your face. I felt sorry for those who had obviously been taking lessons and who still looked as stiff as Fred Gwynne (either during "The Munsters," or now in his coffin).

I shamelessly invented new moves such as the one where I slap my partner with my tie twice very quickly to the beat, but none of my brilliance seemed to wear off on the others, who stuck to the conventional steps. Who needs steps!

The band, Jumpin' Jive, was approximately 200% LESS original than their name. This was about as perfunctory and unmemorable as a band can possibly be without actually having Billy Bragg on stage with them. They were obviously current or former marching band kids cashing in on a craze with barely-passable chops and extremely weak stage presence.

Special mention goes to the frontman/guitarist, who managed to make his non-presence utterly unknown on every level, be it playing very basic chords (I sensed he was new to the instrument – possibly bought a guitar after buying the Brian Setzer album) or providing extraordinarily wimpy vocals. And what charisma! Wait, I meant: What charisma?

Low point would be the "funnyman" trumpet player (every swing band has one; this one looked like a bulldog and wore a bowler hat *shiver*) trying to rile the crowd up with a pitiful swing version of the "Spiderman" theme (an earlier attempt at a swing song about Wookies was equally ill-advised). The band played the standards okay, but had a bad habit of clearing the floor after every two songs with a badly paced number that deviated too much from what the crowd wanted for dancing. (Biggest floor killer was a polka late in the set right after "Jump, Jive & Wail.") I mean, if you're going to be a mediocre swing band, at least stick to it.

I still had about as much fun as I can possibly have in a place like this, which admittedly is not my cup of tea, or my cup of anything for that matter. Ah, to be of the moment rather than ahead of it … ah, who cares. As for the Jumpin' Jive: get ready to hang it up, boys, because unless brass quintets are the next big thing (Next up on VH1, our artist of the month, the Canadian Brass!), you're gonna have to sit the next few trends out. Actually, you should be sitting this one out too, but evidently no one cares how bad the music they dance to is, as long as they can still dance to it. Which, with you guys, is BARELY the case.

Review by Stubbs