The concept behind the Electro Swing Club might, at first, seem a little confusing.
Is it swing music? Is it a band? Which countries are involved? Who brought the burlesque performers?
For the uninitiated: the ESC has chapters around the world of DJs who combine swing music from the 1920s and beyond with modern-day music to create a bizarre, danceable and pretty compelling new genre of music. Sometimes the DJs also play instruments or bring along musicians. Often the performance will include local talent, ranging from circus performers in Nelson, B.C. to burlesque dancers in Vancouver.
"It takes samples from all different music ranging from the 20s to the 40s and remixes them into different bass music of today," says Bryant Boesen (a.k.a. Spry Bry), co-founder of the Vancouver Electro Swing Club. "There's swing glitch tracks and ghetto swing and electro swing and swing house."
The tracks essentially refurbish those old songs of decades past and breathe new life into them for a modern audience. "(The genre) was almost natural. With the sounds people are using today and what technology is allowing, it should be used to enhance what we already have as opposed to leaving it behind. It has the same sort of rhythm, but it updates it," Boesen says.
A lifelong fan of swing music, he recalls hearing a story about how he reacted as a three year old when Ella Fitzgerald came on the radio in the car. His precocious assessment of the queen of jazz: "No one sings it like Ella."
Years later, Boesen was exposed to the genre's modern day incarnation at the Burning Man festival. He says he was instantly drawn to it. "I was like, 'Wow this is accessible bass music that is still music," he says. "I ended up studying DJing and producing more. I found out about the network shortly after. I realized that there was this massive network already established and contacted them and decided to bring it over to Canada."
There are 22 Electro Swing Clubs across Europe and North America — with the Canadian chapters starting only a year or two ago — and members of the network are vetted and welcome to perform at shows in other cities.
"It's insane," Boesen says. "The genre (in Europe) has absolutely exploded. A lot of the big electro swing acts of the world are from Paris and London. Our events range between 250 and 500 people and out there the night I played Paris it was just under 1,000 people. It was off the wall. They're there to see a show and they're so stoked to see international people play."
While equally vibrant, the electro-swing scene varies from city to city, he adds. "(In London) it was more like we were providing music for people to get drunk to, but they were cool too," he says. "Then Berlin was huge. It's funny how the genre will differ. In Berlin it was all minimal (music). The set I was playing, you have to cater to that more."
Locally, the performances have been time-consuming with the club serving as a production company, agency and act all rolled into one. Right now it's Boesen's full time job "but I don't make money," he laughs.
On the day he spoke to Pique, for example, the recent film school graduate was running around Vancouver picking up vintage décor for a show at Vancouver's Rickshaw Theatre March 22. I'm going to UBC to pick up a confetti cannon," he adds.
In Vancouver they put on monthly shows and, around every three months, travel up to Nelson. They will also be making the first of what they hope are many trips up to Whistler to perform at the GLC on March 16.
Here the performance will feature a burlesque show, circus act, violin player Michael Fraser and Whistler's own Chili Thom.
"We figured it was something we should definitely do because there's an awesome little music scene there," Boesen says. "We will definitely be back regardless of whether (the show is) good or not!"