Part seven of my Frankie Manning’s 95th Birthday Festival recap with a few grammatical edits from the original. You can see a compilation of videos from Sunday here on my site. This note was originally posted on June 24, 2009.
The rest of Sunday evening went pretty smoothly.
Sitting through the Jack & Jill semi-finals reminded me why these things are usually scheduled in the afternoon of most events. We were originally supposed to do it right after the show and before the bands took the stage to give people time to go eat dinner or otherwise freshen up. Unless you’re in it, prelims and semi-final dance contest rounds aren’t the most riveting things to watch. Thanks to Joel Domoe, Aurelie & Tony Tye and our DJ, Ryan Swift for moving things along as quickly as possible.
We were incredibly fortunate to be working with Jonathan Stout and Paul Cosentino that night. I usually get the impression from most bands that they feel like they’re slumming when they play a swing dance. However, Jonathan and Paul genuinely love playing for dancers, and they were incredibly accommodating for all the delays and changes that happened that evening. They were super generous by giving up playing time so everything could be done in a reasonable time.
That’s why it was a shame that we had to cut both bands from two sets to only one each. The Boilermakers bore the brunt of the punishment because they were up first, and probably half of the attendees never got to dance to them when they were on the stage for their first set. But the Boilermakers never complained and made the most of their opportunity.
Jonathan Stout also chipped in where he could, and even played the all skate of the Jack & Jill semi-finals which was not planned at all. That was completely his idea. This is what you get when you have musicians who like playing for dancers.
That’s why I think it’s a shame that we had to give the shaft to the musicians who wanted to play for us the most. Especially contrasted to the way some of the musicians from the night before behaved.
Once Campus Five wrapped up their set, we went on with our performances. We only had two because the other acts were involved with the show earlier, and didn’t have the energy to get out there again. We were only going to have one act, but Patrick & Natasha from Montreal came forward to do a piece. They were followed by Stephen Durham and Bethany Powell.
Bethany and Stephan’s routine was one of my favorites from the weekend. It’s especially interesting to see it after the Minnies’ Moochers performance on Friday. I think one of the more interesting storylines to follow over the past decade has been the move to reconcile a vintage dance to modern times. The Moochers’ “Love M or Leave Me” routine was one of the first, and most successful explorations of that theme for some time. Stephan and Bethany’s piece is the latest stop in that journey. It’s a tough line to tow between bringing a fresh perspective while still being respectful of the past, but I think they did a great job.
Shameless self promotion: This is one of the topics I plan on exploring in my brand new blog http://jsalmonte.wordpress.com/ [ed. note: Now you know the birthday of this blog]
The evening’s activities ended with the Jack & Jill final with live music provided by the Boilermakers and Campus Five. I thought this contest was more spirited and looser than the Hellzapoppin' Finals from the night before. Maybe because it was later in the weekend in, and maybe it was the format that discouraged use of choreographed mini routines. It made everything feel more organic and was generally more entertaining to me.
The winners were determined by audience applause. We started with seven couples and then narrowed it down to three couples when no clear winner could be determined after the first song. Marcus Koch and Moe Sakan eventually won. I think their win along with and Max and Annie winning the Hellzapoppin contest the night before really speaks to the international breath of our community.
After that, the Boilermakers and Campus Five traded songs and jammed out, even inviting the next band leader Evan Christopher to join them. Evan Christopher is a rising star, and his appearance was made possible by a generous donation by the Sydney Bechet Society.
Unfortunately, as with the other nights, I was too busy running around to really appreciate the music, which is why I’m glad people have been posting clips of the dances online. Check out this clip of a jam to "Lester Leaps In" towards the end of the combined Boilermakers & Campus 5 set. It’s not very clear because its some distance away (it was a huge ballroom) and the lighting is too dark. The fun part is towards the end as the jam wraps up with Peter Strom and Ramona Staffeld outlasting two other couples by swinging out 22 times in a row!
Christopher’s band closed out the night. It was advertised to the other musicians in the festival as an open jam, and Jake, the guitarist from the Cangelosi Cards, and the ever present Gordon Webster took us up on that offer.
Gordon was another musician besides George Gee who was all over our event from playing with his own band on Thursday night, then playing with the Cangelosi Cards on Friday night, playing for the Show on Sunday and finally sitting in on the late night jam session with Evan Christopher.
The jam was a decidedly mellow affair. I’d also like to thank Ryan Swift for being on stand by through the end of the night filling in for the next scheduled DJ. I think he was there for about 8 hours total.
Even after Day 4 of this festival it was apparent that 4 am was too early for a lot of people to go home. As they did the morning before, a bunch of dancers gathered outside and danced on the side walk, this time to an impromptu band of Peter Vawter on violin with Jake and Tamar from the Cangelosi Cards.
I actually thought about hanging out after we closed up, but then I realized that I hadn’t eaten in over half a day, so I bought some meat on a stick from the vendor on the corner and meandered back to the hotel.