Thursday, March 30, 2006

New Wave of Swing Reinvents Timeless Music

dj craig
The Brian Setzer Orchestra

The new rise of Swing and Martini Culture explodes into the mainstream.

Big Band music is as popular with today's 20 and 30 year olds as ever. Perhaps as a reaction to today's disposable Pop music and transitory yet ubiquitous fame, a new generation is reaching for cultural substance and heritage.

A few years ago, Rock & Roll's "Grunge" era stormed the world with its thrashing guitars and flannel covered angst. The Seattle sound seized the airwaves like an irritated Pitbull with lockjaw. Radio programmers were quick to jump on the bandwagon, piling up their playlists with one abrasive, Nirvana influenced band after another.

Curiously, during this onslaught of primal scream "Rawk", an unexpected resurgence of sophisticated, Big Band music began appearing under the radar. An explosion of young, new bands playing Swing music quickly turned into a widespread movement.

What used to be your father's music was reinvented by artists like Brian Setzer, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, Squirrel Nut Zippers, Royal Crown Revue, Cherry Poppin' Daddies and The Blue Hawaiians. They led the New Wave of Swing and quickly jumped to the head of the list of cool culture.

Many of these bands mixed a bit of rock with Swing and scored Top 40 hits. Songs such as "Zoot Suit Riot" and "Go Daddy-o", rocketed up the charts. MTV began playing videos by New Wave Swingers, while big budget movies incorporated the revamped sound into such box office hits as the aptly titled, "Swingers". Brian Setzer's updated cover of Louis Prima's "Jump Jive An' Wail", became a massive crossover anthem.

Traditional Swing music experienced a resurgence in the 90's as well. Natalie Cole's rerelease of "Unforgettable", as a duet with her late father Nat, became a smash hit. Tony Bennett's long dormant career took off again after his appearance on MTV's "Unplugged" series. Etta James' bluesy ode to romantic perseverance, "At Last", became one of the most requested love songs at weddings. 1993's surprise hit movie "Swing Kids," payed homage to the original 1940's Swing Era, featuring music from Benny Goodman, Louis Prima, Count Basie and others.

As a result of its reentry to the forefront of pop culture, Swing music has experienced a surge in popularity among 20 and 30 year olds. Trendy nightclubs have incorporated "Swing Night" into their weekly promotions. Generation X is learning to dance the Lindy, Jitterbug, West Coast and East Coast swing dance styles. Places like Hollywood's Derby, an original Swing hotspot, have experienced a rise in popularity not seen since their heyday in the 1940's.

The meteoric resurrection of Swing continues to have wide appeal. Many dance clubs offer Swing dance lessons and music to both eager newcomers and seasoned veterans as a weekly promotion.

In Orange County, Tia Juana's Restaurant and Club offers Swing night every Wednesday. The Atomic Ballroom in Irvine features Swing dancing each Friday. And on Friday and Saturday evenings, Newport Beach's Avant Garde Ballroom transforms into the "hottest Ballroom Night Club around!"

Swing and it's sophisticated martini culture has grown steadily since the 90's. It's an anachronistic irony that the once seemingly invincible Grunge movement has been reduced to a relic of a bygone era faster than you can say, "Yowza!". The younger generation is learning what their elders already knew. That the classic sound of Swing never goes out of style.

For more info. on So Cal Swing venues, check these sites:

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