The Roxy, July 22, 1998

I had heard that Indigo Swing, my favorite swing dance band in the country, was going to open for The Brian Setzer Orchestra and my first reaction was, "Brian who?!?!". Why was Indigo Swing opening for someone else? Shouldn't it be the other way around? Who was Brian Setzer? (silly me). Anyway, the message I got figured that the dancers would show up for Indigo Swing and not so much for Brian Setzer and it made sense later on.

I waited until about two weeks before the concert and that turned out to be a big mistake. The concert was sold out; a lot of people had been turned away. I lucked out because I knew the opening band pretty well and they got me into this sold out concert. As I walked up Tremont Street, I saw a lot of lost souls begging for extra tickets; perhaps this concert was bigger than I thought.

I had heard the Brian Setzer CD the week before so I knew why the concert was so big. Brian Setzer, with the same platinum blond hair, was the lead singer for the Stray Cats in the 80's. The more recent rendition of Rock This Town seemed strange with a 13 horns backing up Setzer, but it was clearly the song I grew up with. The weird thing is that most of the people that I saw at the concert had to have been in elementary school when the Stray Cats were popular so I kept wondering how they knew this newer band.

The Roxy seemed much smaller after all these years; this is where I started swing dancing seven years ago. I even remember standing in this room when it was used for Chinese School graduations a generation ago. I was expecting it to be crowded and I wasn't disappointed, or rather, I was. About 3/4 of the reasonably-sized dance floor had pedestrians (non-dancers, that is) on it. A few couples did make the most of it.

It was clear that most of the crowd (again, non-dancers) did not know of Indigo Swing. The fab band from San Francisco came out in their 40's look and played about 45 minutes of music from their new CD, All Aboard!. Pianist William Beatty belted out some serious boogie woogie while leader singer Johnny Boyd (aka "The Swing Lover") played to the microphone. Having heard Indigo Swing, and this was confirmed by other people, I could tell that they didn't get as much attention by the stage help since they had to adjust the sound during Indigo Swing's first song with Johnny's signalling for more volume to his mike. This is a great band that didn't get to show their greatest potential since they were the opening band. They also didn't get to play music from their first CD which is where they were strongest. It was pretty clear, though, this was a good swing dance band that played real swing music. The dancers made the most of their space and gently forced people to give way to them on the dance floor.

Later on, Vance, the bass player for Indigo Swing said that the band was hoping to come back in September with their own sponsored tour that included their own sound system so they could get a big production like that night but without having to share the stage so they could produce the swing sounds that the dancers wanted.

Then the main act showed up.

Now I know why the Brian Setzer Orchestra had top billing. The outfits of the 16 piece orchestra probably cost more than what the opening act was getting paid. There were four trumpets, four trombones, 5 saxes, a drummer, a bass player, and the Man, Brian Setzer, the hair and the guitar. This was a full-blown production and Brian Setzer came out strumming the James Bond theme as he strutted around the stage. This was clearly what the audience was here for as the unwashed masses (non-dancers) swarmed the dance floor and we had to go running for cover and find some dance space.

Let me take a moment here to make note of a major difference between dancers and non-dancers. I think that non-dancers need visual input to drive their senses and emotions. Dancers, however, are able to make use of their other senses to get their thrills. Dancers can hear the band quite well and don't waste time watching the band because we're too busy dancing. Indigo Swing doesn't bother with a fancy stage act because they're a real swing dance band that understands dancers. We're there to dance so they're busy belting out the best possible swing beats to induce some serious dancing. The Brian Setzer Orchestra was a huge visual production that was trying to overwhelm the music. The crowd just surged over and took up every valuable inch of dance space. The music was fine! Why did they need to crowd up against the stage to "see" music?!?!?! I eventually had to pick up my street shoes that I had left near the stage and I had to fight my way through there. My dance friend and I found some clear carpetted areas off to the side under the balcony and behind a pillar and we danced without interference.

This was the same phenomenon as the Big Bad Voodoo Daddy concert at the Hatch Shell. Thousands of people had stood up on the Esplanade through the entire concert and just "watched" the performance. There was definitely no room to dance within 200 feet of the stage. The dancers moved towards the back of the crowd and found plenty of space to dance near the footbridge and were able to hear the music quite well while make extensive use of the cleared space.

But I digress...

The Brian Setzer Orchestra played some exciting music and even included a couple of old Stray Cats tunes, including Stray Cat Strut and Rumble in Brighton. I left before I heard Rock This Town but I expect they played that later on. They played some seriously swingable music throughout their concert. The dancing done to their music was worth at least one change of shirts. If you're thinking about it, their CD, The Dirty Boogie is worth investing in.

The entire evening was worth the ticket price, even if I had paid for it. Considering other concerts I've been to, it was a very good deal. There was plenty of music and plenty of dancing. I did wish the dance floor was cleared for the dancers.

I think there is a clear difference between the two bands. The Brian Setzer Orchestra was a performance band that played swingable/danceable music. Indigo Swing had their retro-swing look but their mission in life is to play real swing music for swing dancers. I can't wait for the next time Indigo Swing comes back; hopefully there won't be any distractions this time and we can get down to the serious business of swing dancing.


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Copyright © Benson Wong, 1998. All rights reserved by the author. This article are intended for the reading pleasure of the DanceNet On The Web readers. Duplication or use in any other medium, including but not limited to print publication, another web site, or downloading to a storage medium on CD, floppy disk, hard drive, zip drive, or tape, without the written permission of the author is prohibited.

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