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Jump, Jive and Gone...

Whatever happened to Swing?

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As far as fads go neo-swing was a doozy.

The era was ripe. The ’90s were lurching toward a new millennium and the dying growls of grunge were dispersing like the gun smoke from antihero Kurt Cobain’s suicide in 1994.

Coast-allied Gangsta rappers were posturing each other to death. The looming millennial changeover was inspiring prophecies of doom from cyber-nihilists and fanatical crazies of all religions.

Pop culture was awash in dread.

People needed swing. They needed to dance with each other again. They needed to dress up spiffy, put on a little lipstick and dance, dance, dance like they did back when the world teetered on the brink of its second all-out war.

Swing sprung after a winter of discontent. It was time for some romance.

It was time to dance on the apocalyptic post-grunge graves.

So swing nights sprouted up wherever there were able-bodied hipsters and a record player.

Templates for the trend came from flicks such as the 1930s-set Swing Kids and the charming 1996 indie hit Swingers, which revealed a hip L.A. scene of retro fashion, nouveau swing bands, old-school cocktails and slick partner dancing. The film’s hero, a downtrodden wannabe actor named Mikey, got the girl in the end because he could jive.

Swing revival bands like Big Bad Voodoo Daddy and the Cherry Poppin’ Daddies flaunted Zoot suits, fedoras and horn sections and were rewarded for their retro cool with major recording contracts.

Even the classic crooners were seeing their sound come around again. Sinatra hadn’t been this hot with twentysomethings since his two-year marriage to barely legal Mia Farrow in 1966.

Closer to home, the Vancouver area’s swing scene blossomed at the Blue Lizard Cocktail Club, the Hotel Linden and other venues. Students flocked to swing nights at both UBC and SFU.

Whistler had a nouveau swing scene of its own in the last years of the decade – an initiative of local music promoter Rick Flebbe who presented nights at the Garibaldi Lift Co. and Buffalo Bill’s.

Blue Lizard dance instructors came to town regularly. Hipster California bands Acme Swing, the Royal Crown Revue, Steve Lucky and the Rumba Bums, and neo-cabaret act Lee Press-On and the Nails all made the trek up the Sea to Sky Highway, along with more homegrown acts like Vancouver-based lounge-swingers The Colorifics.

Flebbe had embraced nouveau swing with vigour.

"When this little revival happened it was so cool," he said, recalling images of swing dancers in the street in front of Vancouver’s refurbished Vogue Theatre and a retro-styled capacity crowd at Big Bad Voodoo Daddy’s show at the Commodore.

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