The thing I love about DCLX (DC Lindy Exchange) is that it’s the kind of event that attracts dancers that appreciate quality live music. So much so that musicians that leave it all on the stage get treated like rock gods.
Writing about live music is very hard thing because in the end you have hear it to feel it. I can talk about the Boilermakers burning up their version of “Avalon” or Jonathan Stout & His Campus Five featuring Hilary Alexander (say that three times real fast) cranking the crowd up to a near riot with “Dark Eyes” or the Blue Vipers of Brooklyn breaking everyone’s heart with “Bringing it on Home to Me,” but that’s why events like DCLX exist; to give people a way to connect to something that they can’t otherwise experience.
Lindy Exchanges are events where people can just enjoy a great amount of quality social dance to quality music. No competitions. No workshops. Just dance and music. Musicians and dancers.
I personally consider DCLX one of the last national level exchanges. Maybe I’m more than a little biased since I helped birth this baby, but not many events can feature the two best swing bands of the modern era.
Yeah, I said that. What are you gonna do about it?
I’ve written at length about The Boilermakers in the past. Once they kicked off the Friday evening dance in the Bumper Car Pavilion, I remembered that they haven’t played in DC for quite some time. It didn’t take them long to feel that dirty thunk of Ernest McCarty’s bass in the blackest parts of my cynical soul. Together with drummer, Rich Strong and sharp witted pianist Mark Kotishion they form one of the best swing rhythm sections in the country if not the world.
Check out new blogger Jazzpirations (also known on YouTube as Floridave1) who has posted videos of the Boilermakers’ last two songs from that evening.
Determining who has the actual best rhythm section would be a hard thing to do, but DCLX got to experience the other contender later that evening as Jonathan Stout along with drummer Josh Colazzo made their case at the Friday late night dance before main eventing the big show in the Spanish Ballroom on Saturday night.
And they put on one hell of a show. At the end of the band’s second set, Jonathan sucked in the crowd with his acoustic intro on guitar before it morphed into the raucous “Dark Eyes” . There were jams a plenty this weekend, but that was the only one where the crowd instantly formed up around the band and gave them a reaction that 80’s metal cover bands only dream about.
The applause at the end of that song was so thunderous; you’d think there would be no way they could top it. But they got an even bigger ovation at the end their final set. The insistent crowd took Jonathan surprise and noted that it usually took tired dancers a little bit to build up into their “encore” cheer. We were right on them though, with the applause only getting louder by the second after they finished their “last” song.
We didn’t get to hear Jonathan’s complete band, so a full comparison in DC will have to wait. The rhythm section was rounded out by local bassist Pete Ostle and Craig Gildner on piano and occasionally guitar. In addition to ULHS pioneer, drummer Josh Collazo, and Camp Hollywood promoter Hilary Alexander as his lead vocalist, Jonathan brought clarinetist/tenor saxophonist Albert Alva and and trumpeter Jim Ziegler from LA. It was fun watching them as much as it was hearing them. During “Flying Home,” those guys played a little game of musical chicken as they challenged each other to sustain the last note of the opening chorus through the first half of Jonathan’s solo. Everyone sounded great but Alva was bringing on the heat all night with his solo’s especially during his mini duel with the drummer in the finale.
Craig Gildner has been an integral part of DCLX since the beginning. In fact he’s the only musician who has played every DCLX with four different bands. He was an iron man this weekend. In addition to playing piano and guitar for Jonathan Stout on Friday and Saturday, he led his own band, The Red Hot Rhythm Chiefs, at the Saturday late night. He played a total of nine hours this weekend, and six of them in one night.
Lastly on the live music front, the weekend was wrapped up by the Blue Vipers of Brooklyn. They have a fun sound mixing a little Fats Waller here, a little Bob Willis there, and an occasional Johnny Cash and even Sam Cooke. They completed the near riot trifecta this weekend by triggering a jam with a fast song towards the end of their second set that was so hot that the crowd urged them for another.
They’re classy guys too. A minor emergency stopped the dance for a few minutes during the last set, but they were able to uplift the stalwarts who stuck it out to the end with a sensitive selection of songs.
DJ’d music can’t really compete with the live stuff, but the DCLX crew did a great job of keeping the energy flowing when there weren’t any musicians playing. I know that’s a bit of a self serving comment since I was one of them, but what can I say? We’re pretty awesome.
DC has a fun and diverse group of DJ’s. So much that I don’t think DC has brought in an outside DJ since we pretended that Mike Faltesek lived here for a year after he left. This year featured including Corey Wright, Kate Hedin, myself, and Mike Marcotte, who is also the head DJ for ILHC later this summer.
This weekend got me to thinking a lot about DJ’ing, so I think I’ll post my set lists and talk more about some DJ observations in another post later.
I don’t want to detract from the all volunteer staff that made this year’s event. DCLX has the reputation that it does because it’s run as professionally as it can be without a being an actual professional for profit organization. Most of them are grizzled veterans with multiple DCLX’s under their belts, so they can deal with almost anything. I’ve known most of them for years and they are a hard and hardy people who are incredibly generous considering the amount of time it takes to plan and execute an event this size. That’s why quite a few of them also serve the foundation for DC’s other big time event, the International Lindy Hop Championships. DC: We don’t mess around with messing around.
If you can’t tell, I had a great time personally. I often find myself too distracted when I DJ at events, but for some reason this year, I felt I had enough space to socialize and dance with new and old acquaintances and friends as much as I wanted to this year. I even got to make a better impression on people who didn’t remember me from the first time we met.
I knew we were in for a good time when I stopped to look around in the middle of the first set and noticed that the dance floor was packed. That’s unusual because for the past couple of years, the Friday night dance has taken awhile to get going with people taking their time getting in from out of town. You knew it was on with so many early arrivals. I try to pace myself during these things, but I tired myself out the middle of the Boilermakers’ second set because there were so many people to dance with and so much hot music to dance to.
Luckily there was the whole rest of a beautiful weekend to dance with so many people both indoors and outdoors. In a time when many Lindy Exchanges are becoming more and more regionalized in terms of the audience they attract, it was great to see so many people coming from west of the Mississippi and even as far off as Germany.
The other thing that stood out that almost everyone I’ve talked to has also mentioned was the great energy of the event. It’s something that can’t be planned or forced. It just happens and it gave DCLX a super cool vibe this year. In the past its had an impersonal feel at times because of the sheer size of the event. It actually felt better attended this year than in year’s past, but it also felt much more intimate and laid back overall than I’ve experienced before.
Plans are already in motion for the 10th DCLX next year. Save your money kids because I think it’s going to be the most awesomer DCLX yet.